Mastering the art of insulation

A person installing installation

Instead of relaxing on a sunny beach or watching hours of Netflix in the comfort of my home, last spring break I found myself in an unfamiliar city in New Jersey with 10 other people I had only just met. We spent the week living together in a community center, we traveled throughout the city in a crowded van reminiscent of Scooby-Doo's Mystery Machine, and with the help of Pinterest recipes and a little experimentation, we took turns cooking meals for one another every night. Though this may sound incredibly odd, it very well describes my experience with an alternative breaks program.

Many colleges and universities have alternative breaks programs that offer students opportunities to participate in volunteer and service trips throughout the country during winter, spring or summer break. The goal of my trip to New Jersey this past spring was to serve communities that were devastated by Hurricane Sandy back in 2012. My team and I got involved in many reconstruction projects and through it all we learned some valuable home improvement skills.

Insulation plays a leading role in keeping a house cool during hot seasons and warm during cold seasons. This protection from radiant heat and cold drafts helps you to save energy and money in the long run.

My favorite project of the week was insulating the walls of a house. Though it was outrageously itchy and rather uncomfortable, for whatever reason I found it to be irresistibly fun. It was also rewarding to know we had helped a family install an extremely important element to their home.

If you are interested in insulating your house, here are some useful tips from The Family Handyman that will help make your DIY project a success:

  • Use hedge shears to cut through the insulation.

    Hedge shears will allow for much faster and cleaner cuts. You will be able to work much more quickly and efficiently without spreading around loose tufts of fiberglass insulation.
  • Flatten the insulation with plywood.

    Using a piece of plywood to flatten the fiberglass insulation will make cutting much easier and will also provide you with a straightedge so you can make more accurate cuts.
  • Fit insulation batts tightly around electrical cables and boxes.

    When electrical cables get in your way, you can split the fiberglass insulation batt in half so that one half can be placed behind the cables and the other half can be laid on top. When it comes to electrical boxes, the batt can be split so some goes behind and the rest snugly fits around the box.
  • Fill empty spaces around windows and doors with insulation.

    To prevent air from leaking through thin spaces around doors and windows, these areas can be stuffed with thin pieces of fiberglass insulation. It is important that the insulation is not packed in, but rather fit in snugly with a precise tool like a putty knife.

In addition, here are a few tips that I learned from personal experience that will hopefully maximize the fun and minimize the itchiness of the insulation process:

  • Wear long sleeves, pants, goggles, gloves and a dust mask.
  • Tape down potential openings on your clothing, such as around your wrists and ankles.
  • Apply baby powder to your hands, arms and neck to protect from fiberglass fibers.
  • Have a work buddy, especially when climbing ladders and putting up long sheets.
  • Wash your clothes immediately after you are finished working.
  • Take a cold shower when you are done to flush the fibers out of your skin.

Having proper insulation in your home is essential for maintaining comfortable temperatures and keeping heating and cooling costs low.



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