How to Install Ceiling Insulation
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How to Install Ceiling Insulation

This step by step guide shows how to install ceiling insulation batts in old houses. This will save a great deal in energy costs across the year and make your home more comfortable to live in.

The most important thing to remember when installing ceiling insulation is to make sure every gap between the timber is filled with insulation. This prevents the heat in the winter and the cold air in the summer from escaping.

In old houses there may be uneven gaps which means the insulation will need to be cut to size. An old hand saw is the perfect tool for cutting insulation however it is important to wear protective equipment as the fine fibers are hazardous to the lungs, eyes and skin.

Safety Precautions

  • Always turn the mains power off before installing insulation. You will be installing the insulation near electrical junction boxes and wires so it is always best to be on the safe side and turn the power off first.
  • Leave the man hole open to help with ventilation. If it is a hot day and you have a metal roof then consider unscrewing and propping open a metal sheet to improve airflow.
  • Make sure you have enough light from flashlights to see what you are doing.
  • If you feel dizzy, lightheaded or claustrophobic then immediately go back down into the house, cool down and drink. It is important to keep up your fluids especially on hot days.
  • Always wear the appropriate protective equipment.

Protective Equipment Needed for Installing Insulation

  • Dust Mask – Preferably an N-95 mask or make a mask with 3 layers of fabric which fits your face well such as this DIY Mask made from an old pair of jeans.
  • Protective Glasses – It is best to use the goggle type which fits to your face. These Anti-fog Goggles are highly rated on Amazon. (Paid link)
  • Gloves – Make sure they cover your wrist.
  • Long Sleeves, Pants and Boots – The least amount of skin exposed the better. You may also want to wear a cap or beanie to cover your head.

Types of Insulation

Some types of insulation are healthier to install than others. Some may only need the most basic protective equipment however you should always refer to the manufacturers instructions.

Fibreglass or Glasswool Insulation

This insulation is made from recycled binded fibers of glass which gives it a wool like feel. There isn’t actually any wool in the insulation however this is a budget friendly option with batts and loose fill available.

It is also available on a roll such as this highly rated R-6.7 Insulation from Owens Corning. (Paid link)

Polyester Insulation

These insulation batts are made from 100% polyester. These are non-toxic, non-allergenic and are good at reducing noise.

Extruded Polystyrene Foam Insulation

This is a versatile and durable product which has high compressive strength and they are moisture resistant. They are commonly used as underfloor insulation.

Reflective Insulation

This is a composite insulation with a reflective foil on one side of either fibreglass, polyester or foam insulation. It is designed to be installed with the foil on top so it can reflect the heat from the roof.

What is the R value in insulation?

The R value is the level of thermal resistance of the insulation. The higher the R value the greater the thermal resistance and more comfortable your home will be.

Which R value should I choose for ceilings?

It will depend on your climate. If you live in an area with very cold winters or hot summers it would be wise to buy the highest R value insulation you can afford. Milder climates can get away with a lower R value but it should be 3.5 or above for ceilings.

Insulating Walls and Floors in Old Houses

It may not be possible to get under the house or into the walls to install insulation in old houses. Most of the heat is lost through the ceiling which makes installing insulation in the ceiling the priority.

If you would like to install insulation in the walls consider doing it when replacing external cladding. There are also products which can be pumped into the walls however the holes made will need to be repaired and this can be expensive.

For underfloor insulation the only option would be to either take up the floorboards or if the floorboards are in bad shape you may want to install a new floor over the top with space for the insulation. This will reduce the height of the room.

How to Install Ceiling Insulation

It is a good idea to have a friend around to keep an eye on you and to help take the batts into the roof. Remember to walk on the timber and not the ceiling or your foot may go right through!

Getting the bags of insulation into the attic is challenging due to their size and weight. If your manhole is big enough you may be able to pull the bag of insulation through otherwise you will have to take a few up at a time.

Another option would be to remove a sheet of iron on a metal roof then take the bag of insulation through that way. The bags are heavy so care needs to be taken when carrying the bags up ladders.

You could also use a rope to tie around the middle of the bag then pull it up the ladder with your friend pushing from underneath.

Tools and Materials Needed

  • Ceiling Batts
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Hand Saw – This 15 inch Craftsman Hand Saw is great value and comes with a full lifetime warranty. (paid link)
  • Flashlight – This bright Rechargeable Searchlight has a long working time, adjustable brightness and long light length making it a great option for lighting up your attic. (Paid link)
  • Ladder


How to install ceiling insulation in old houses.

  1. Turn Off the Power

    First turn the mains power off then make sure it is off by turning on the lights and appliances.

  2. Personal Protective Equipment

    Put on your protective equipment then make sure the ladder is high and stable enough to get in and out of the manhole safely.

  3. Put the Insulation in the Attic

    Place the insulation batts in the roof. Wait to open the bag once they are up there as it will expand unless the whole bag won’t fit through the manhole then you will have to take a few batts up at a time.

    A bag of insulation batts in the attic ready to be installed.

  4. Install the Insulation

    Place the insulation batts between the timber. Cut with the hand saw to fit.

    Cutting insulation batts with an old hand saw.

  5. Cut the Insulation to Fill Gaps

    If the gap between the timber is wider than the batts then cut the insulation lengthwise with the handsaw to fit the gaps.

    Small gaps filled with insulation.

  6. Check Your Work

    Work your way from one side to the other. Double check all the gaps are filled before finishing.


Don’t forget the manhole. Cut a piece slightly smaller so the manhole cover will be easier to lift. Simply place on top of the cover before lowering into place.

Save even more on energy and prevent drafts with this guide to Installing Door Weather Seal Tape.

Do you love being at home? Get more from your home and garden with this Homesteading guide. You might also like this guide to DIY Projects around the home.

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