Independent loft insulation advice

Can anyone please point me to a web site that will give me independent advice on loft insulation, both type of insulation and methods, pros and cons? All I seem to be able to find are sellers, who have axes to grind and Government sponsored sites that do not give advice to type and method. Thanks.
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Broadback wrote:

You have found it right here.
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Sorry, I can't answer your question but I know someone on this group either is, or was, involved in the insulation industry so I'm sure you'll get a good answer soon.
I'm sure you have your own reasons for wanting to do such research but I'm just curious as to why. You are aware that *anyone* can get discounts and/or grants from almost any utility company (npower, BG, Powergen etc., etc) under a government initiative - you just pay the vastly reduced fee and let them worry about what to use and how to do it.
About a year ago we had both cavity wall and loft insulation done through either npower or powergen - can't remember which one - and the total cost for both labour and materials was less than if I'd bought the loft insulation from Wickes - and both jobs come with a 25-year guarantee.
Dave
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Broadback wrote:

With respect, your query at this moment is like the traditional question about a piece of string.
Please come back with basic facts about your attic and house - approx size; depth of joists (and of the rafters holding the slates/tiles up), has it a boarded floor, any dormer windows or roof lights? Any insulation up there now - if so, what? Looking wider afield any unlagged hot water pipes? Solid or cavity walls?
With that info maybe we can focus on your specific needs.
BTW if your DHW ( immersion heater) tank is uninsulated that should be your no 1 priority. Sling a warm woolen blanket over it pronto (but don't cover the black top of the electric element where the leads enter) until you can buy a proper cylinder jacket.
All I seem to be able to find are sellers, who have axes to grind

common problem
HTH
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jim_in_sussex wrote:

What I was hoping is information on the relative cost and effectiveness of the various insulating materials, ease to lay. How effective it is to insulate under the roof as opposed to the loft floor. I live in a bungalow and have a combi boiler. All the cabling is in the attic and most of the central heating piping but nowt else. Most of the flooring is boarded but I am willing to remove all that as loft storage is not needed. There is no insulation whatsoever at the moment. Is it truly cheaper to have it done professionally with grants that DIY? We claim no income support or such like, though are both pensioners. Owt else needed?
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Broadback wrote:

/snip///
That's most of what I was after, but I was hoping you'd say how long the piece of string is ;-) ie how thick/deep are the joists & distance apart ( eg 75x45 at 600 centres)- both the ones holding the ceiling up & the ones holding the roof & the rough length & breadth of the attic. + approx age of your home.
Problem is your query is quite general & a book could be written about all the ins and outs of different insulation methods, so any response here needs to be focussed on your situation.
Is it truly

Suggest you divide your problem into 2.
Problem 1 What is the best method(s) for your home?
Problem 2 How and/or who is to instal your chosen method. This will involve looking around the sheds & maybe builders merchants at prices + you deciding if you are agile enough to do the job (I mention that as you say you are pensioners) + discovering cost of someone else doing it for you -possibly with a grant (I've heard it is free in some places or for some people).
But do check out problem 1 FIRST you will know what to ask potential installers AND the chance of being sold down the river is less.
Generally speaking attic insulation isn't a difficult job but there are exceptions..
Owt else needed?
Please come back with info as above & I'll try to respond.
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There is no insulation whatsoever at the moment. Is it truly

Absolutely - that's why, in my earlier posting, I wondered why you were looking at DIYing. My mum lives in a victorian mid-terraced house, pensioner like you and claims no extra benefits. The house doesn't have cavity walls so loft insulation only was needed. It was done about 14 months ago through Powergen (I think) and cost her 109 - yes, that's just 109. Superb job with 25-year guarantee.
My wife and I live in a 3-bed semi-det. dormer bungalow and got both loft and cavity wall insulation done for a few bob less than 400 (and we're both in full-time employment). If I can find the paperwork, I'll scan it in so that anyone who wants the details can see them.
Dave.
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Steve wrote:

As I see it the professional installers will do it the cheapest way for them, that may not be the best way. Though of certain years thankfully I am pretty fit and still do all my DIY, at the moment I am completely refurbishing my daughters house. Ideally I would like to decide which material to use, even what materials are available. Experience tells me that my joists will not be the distance apart to fit standard rolls (sod's law)! What about loose insulation material or other than fibre glass, surely they do not all have the same insulation qualities, therefore need not all be the same depth. In my ignorance I had hoped there might be a source where all these type of things are laid out so that I can decide what is best suited for me. Judging from these answers, (do find them useful thanks) that is not so.
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Well you may be right there, I don't know. I'm not even sure that there is a *best* way as such - the regs dictate a certain outcome has to be achieved and so as long as it *is* achieved, what does it matter whether it's done this way or that. If it was a decorative job or something on view or used every day then fair enough but insulation is fit and forget - at least for the 25-year guarantee period anyway :o)
All I can say is that there are certain regulations and certain criteria to be met for insulation and the jobs that both we and my mum have had done have been done professionally (inspectors come out to check the quality on completion), efficiently, and very cheaply, with good quality materials.
Admittedly, we weren't given a choice of insulation materials and/or methods (even if we had, I know nothing about it so it would have made no difference anyway) but that didn't matter to us. We now have a fully insulated loft and cavity walls, professionally done to a high standard, that meets current rules and regs, and a 25-year guarantee, all for a shade under 400 and all without me even breaking sweat.

That's the installers problem, not yours. They are professionals, let them do the job they're being paid for :o) Having said that, I do appreciate that not all professionals do as good a job and I do admit that we've been lucky in having excellent workmen and a thorough inspection afterwards - so if you take my advice and it all goes wrong, you can't blame me <big grin>.
I like DIY myself but when we could get the whole job done for less than the cost of materials alone, it just seemed silly not to.

I wish you all the best whatever you decide to do, my friend.
Dave.
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Broadback wrote:

<begin rant> Very possibly, & some will come out to see how much you can afford, but with respect, you have been asked for a few very basic figures about your attic. Having those nos in hand would have made it far easier to visualize your problem and offer pertinent observations. Again with the very greatest respect, if you do indeed find simple measuring difficult (I'm not so nimble with the figures myself these days) then it might very well be in your best interests to turn the job over to a commercial firm. <end of rant>
Though of certain years thankfully

Good. I shall assume your 1960 built bungalow has a plan area 11m x 8m;the ceiling joists are 100x50mm on 400mm (aka 16ins) centres and the whole ceiling is normal 12mm plasterboard & there are no dormer lights, and there is no cold water cistern.
Answer first. Snags second. Alternatives third.
By far the most common solution would be 100mm thick rockwool/fibreglass rolled in to fill between the gap between the joists. Standard fibreglass rolls 400mm wide are an overfit which is actually a pro not a con - see below. Insert the roll to make a flat bottomed U - tight to the joist sides & a slight dip at the middle top, avoid squashing the material. For other joist centres fibreglass easily slices longitudinally with a sharp kitchen knife or carver, but keep to a tight fit.. Then another 100mm or 150mm thickness rolled across the joists (at right angles to the first layer).
Pros:the method is so boringly common that if & when you come to sell your home no one will bat an eyelid. It might even get extra ticks by being 200mm or 250mm thick. Plus the materials are readily available in almost every shed and builders yard, generally at reasonable prices. A further plus point is that fibreglass holds up well in fire - in marked contrast to some other materials (eg polystyrene).
Cons: You have CH & HW pipes and electric cables in the roof space and the space is partly boarded. Fibreglass type materials are decidedly itchy and I for one don't trust it. Handling it always leaves me itching especially around my cuffs and the dust leaves me with a ticklish cough for days or weeks on end. It is all too reminiscent of asbestos, which as you will remember, I'm sure, was never going to do anyone any harm. You are also missing a cheap money saving trick (see later). On top of that, not having an attic usable for storage might turn away potential buyers - me for one. You have also hindered maintenance access.
If you do decide to lay your own fibreglass (rockwoool etc are all just variants on a theme using different silicate sources) Get one of those cheap throwaway paper-ish coverall suits; a face mask; all enclosed safety glasses, gloves (no air gaps) & a balaclava style head covering. Use parcel tape or duct tape to seal up gaps in the outfit especially where bare skin shows through. Which gives another con: you'll be dripping with sweat after a few minutes in the attic, so maybe the job is best done on a cool day in Autumn, just before your CH comes back on. Chuck all the gear away when done.
---------------- So time to take a step back and see how things can be improved.
It helps enormously to understand 2 numbers called U (or U-value) and R. Of the 2, U is the simplest to understand. Using it you can work out immediately how much heat leaks out through the wall or ceiling & thus how much of your heating bill is going through that wall or ceiling. U x area x temperature difference = size of heater required in watts. The lower you can make U the lower your heating bills.
Example:if your bungalow has just half inch (12mm) plasterboard ceilings and nothing much else between you and the stars, it would have a U value around 13. On a temperature difference of 20deg C (eg inside =18, outside = -2) it will take 1150watts (1.15kW) (ie U=13 x 20deg x 11mm x 8m) to make up for the heat loss through the ceiling alone [ nb more goes through the outside walls]. An elec fire of 1150 watts on all the time would put about 250 on a quarterly elec bill. Make that 200mm of fibreglass and U drops to 0.18 and the bill drops to 4 or less.
You will see R=0.035 (or thereabouts) printed on the wrapping of many fibreglass rolls. R is thermal conductivity. R measures heat transmission through a 1m square block of material 1m thick. U can be calculated from R but it is a little tricky when there's several layers with different thicknesses and R values.
Some typical values for R from a table I've just consulted : fibreglass 0.040; polystyrene 0.035; timber 0.14; plasterboard 0.16. The lower R is, the better the material insulates.
How do insuulation materials work? Heat is lost upwards mostly by air convection and radiation. In most cases insulants work by trapping air (which is quite a good thermal insulator) in small bubbles and thus stopping it forming convection currents. They also form a mass block to heat radiation, but OTOH introduce material which conducts a small amount of heat. If you look at values of R for the common products on the market most are in the range 0.030 to 0.040. It's an indication perhaps that there are basic physical limitations to further improvement in R from trapped air insulation methods. ie you won't do much better insulation-wise by using a different material. The implication is that for more insulation you just have to pile it on thicker. There are some semi-rigid sheets (mainly meant for refrigeration use) about which go down to R=0.020, but you'd need to cut accurately and seal any air gaps. Perhaps a hybrid solution could be tried, but the sheets tend to be expensive and once you've piled fibreglass on top, there won't have been much saving in finished thickness.

marketed (mica and perlite come to mind), but don't seem to stick around - perhaps due to cost? They do however offer a low irritant level. There might be a containment problem.
Polystyrene works by trapping carbon dioxide (that well known greenhouse gas) in small bubbles. It can be fire proofed though not very well in my opinion, indeed I'd rule it out due to its poor fire properties. Again you have the trouble of making rigid sheets fit tightly in the joists. OTOH it does offer low level irritancy.
Look at the R for timber - when you have done the first fill between joists, it is an indication that the timber joists are now the leakiest part heat loss-wise. That is why the top layer is rolled across at right angles.
---------
Next point is overall roof design. There's two basic types of insulated roof - warm and cold. If you want to use the space for an attic room then you need a warm roof and insulation must be put up against the underside of the roof. However, the predominant fashion now is for a cold roof. This means insulation lying directly on the ceiling and cold air is allowed to circulate in the atic space. The claimed advantages is that roof timbers do not dry out and are less liable to warp and rot. That seems to be what you'd like.
The disadvantage in your case is the presence of electric cable and water pipes. If you insulate this roof really well then sod's law says that some part of the exposed pipes will freeze in a cold winter (because you no longer have heat rising through the ceiling keeping your attic frost free). Remedy is to specifically insulate all the pipe runs prior to fibreglass installation with a good pipewrap. Climaflex (made of a semi-rigid foam - www.nmc.com) is perhaps the commonest in use at the moment and is easy to use. Paradoxically small diameter pipes need thicker insulation than thick ones, however don't stint on the thickness: thick climaflex is cheaper than a burst pipe and will repay with lower CH bills.
Ideally additional ventilation should be added to the roof - commonly cold roofs are vented at the eaves and near the apex. I doubt you will want to go that far, but by not doing so you run a small risk that your roof will distort.
Your other bugbear is the electric cables. These must NOT be covered by insulation. On at least one side they should lie on material (eg timber or plasterboard) with a high R. On other sides they need a clearance of at least 50mm (2ins) from any insulation material. The problem is that heat generated inside the cables cannot escape through the insulation and leads to the PVC insulation hardening. Also NB contact with Polystyrene rots PVC FTE cable. If you neglect this you will end up (sooner on an old house) with an expensive rewire needed. You should also check that cables are kept a distance away from CH & HW pipes.
Draughts in the roof space will generate dust from the fibreglass, which in the worst case could blow all your precious fibreglass into the world outside (and has been known to, though that does take a decade or 2). There was a suggestion in this news group a few years ago of spraying the surface with a dilute PVA solution to give a hard sealing coat. Could you make up the existing joists to 200mm with timber noggings & then put back the flooring? You'd have to run all the fibreglass in the same direction, but the up side is that you'd have an attic which remains usable for storage; and perhaps equally important you'd retain easy access for maintenance, plus the fibreglass dust is boxed in.
Almost done. Now, that trick that's been missed. You can cheaply reflect back some of the heat being radiated through the ceiling by laying ordinary kitchen aluminium foil on top of the ceiling plasterboard. Lay it shiny side down, avoid crinkling it, and hold in place by a few dabs of glue. The final insulation (fibreglass, mica or whatever) goes on top of the foil
If you can get all of that free (well not really - I pay Gordie Brown for it, & Gordie passes the money on, after commission, to your installer), why not try?
After it is done you can check that the pipework & cables have been correctly dealt with and improve the job if you wish.
Experience tells me

<begin final rant> But you asked for advice and are now making assumptions as to what that advice should be. Your assumptions are substantially incorrect. I'd wager you have joists on 400mm (16in) centres as that was more or less standard for decades until trussed roofs came in, but you do find exceptions. If you had provided the basic dimensions it might have been possible to suggest ways of mixing and matching standard rolls to your attic. Oversized fibreglass rolls tend to trap more air at joist/ceiling corners = better U. There isn't that much difference in R between materials it is the other physical characteristics + convenience + cost that decides the issue. For a given final U, depth of insulation will be much the same..<end final rant>
HTH
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On 12 Jun 2006 16:11:04 -0700, "jim_in_sussex"

Sorry to be pedantic but R is thermal resistance - so the higher the better. ;-)
Mark
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Put in counter joists to the existing joists, screwed where they meet. These need only be in the centre of the loft where you walk. Install Rockwool insulation in the now higher gap. Cover with T&G boards. In the part of the loft where there is no boards lay insulation thicker.
Take a silicon gun and seal around all cables and pipes entering the loft and any gaps you see. Make sure the loft door is sealed and insulated.
After installing the counter joists you may get the grant. Once laid, screw down the boards. The installer will just lay the insulation.
With a bungalow the largest area is the loft/ceiling. Insulate this well, eliminate draughts and you will gain in winter and summer.
If you want the best job, use Warmcell sprayed-in insulation. This seals all the air gaps and gives the performance of Rockwool which is 25% thicker. Not cheap but V good and effective.
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Doctor Drivel wrote:

Thank you all for your help. The biggest problem is going to be the cabling, some of it runs over the top of the joists and some is cleated onto the side of the joists, so it looks like I will have to spend some happy hours up there adjusting the wiring, I don't suppose the cables will have enough slack to bring above the level of the insulation. I have started the ball rolling on finding out about grants, however my local council do not seem to be among those listed on the relative web site. Subscribers to the "Loose fill insulation" thread do not seem to rate the paper based loose fill.
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