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Insulation Drama

October 12, 2009

So, let’s talk insulation.  Some of you may have heard this story before, but I thought I’d rehash it here because it’s one of my favorite DIY drama stories thusfar.  Jason and I have been lucky to not have too many DIY mishaps, and those that we’ve had could be remedied in a relatively short time span.  But, I thought I’d share this story, to participate in’s most recent contestThis post was written for as part of a sweepstakes sponsored by True Value (

Before we moved to Michigan, we lived in a wonderful old 1920s house in Minneapolis.  I loved everything about it – except the chill in our drafty house in winter and the escalating heating costs we incurred.  One of our first home projects was adding to the measly 5″ of insulation in our attic.  It’s only slightly less fun than it sounds, especially when you face the series of bloopers that we did, turning a 2-hour project into a 12-hour project.


First, we picked up 60 bags of insulation.  Keep this number in mind – it’s crucial to our story. We had to make 3 trips to the store with 2 cars each time to get all 60 bags + a rental insulation blower to our house.

In our first trip to the store, we asked for 60 bags of insulation, and an employee spent a good amount of time bundling the bags together for us.  We took one look at the bundle of insulation and decided that it was WAY too big to fit in either of our vehicles.  After he brought the bundle to the loading dock, the employee took one look at our vehicles and confirmed: the bundle is too big.  So he stood at the door and watched us load each bag of insulation into our camry and my cousin’s truck – one by one. We tried to convince him that he should re-bundle the big stack into two smaller stacks, and told him that we’d be back in 20 min to pick up the next load.

In our second trip to the store, we discovered that the insulation was still in one big stack. My cousins and I started carrying out insulation one bag at a time to the truck and camry. (note that we are all relatively wimpy-looking females).  About 4 (large, muscular, male) employees watch our struggle, until, finally, the original bundler eventually came out to the loading dock to point out (again) that the big bundle wouldn’t work in the truck. Ah yes, Mr. Hardware Store Employee Man! Thank you! I thought something may have been wrong with this picture…

In our third trip to the store, my cousins and I (again) carried bag after bag of insulation to the car as an audience of store employees watched us struggle.  By this point, we were laughing about the silliness of it all – the three of us carrying out bag after bag of insulation, the big, muscular men just watching it all…  If there’s one thing I know about home improvement, it’s that laughing is crucial.

Clearing the old insulation away from the soffits.

STEP 1: Make sure there is room for air to circulate into the attic.

Once we had all of the supplies at the house, we thought we were ready to insulate. A quick consult of the internets informed us, though, that we first needed to dig out the insulation that was jammed over the soffits so that we could allow outside air to enter the attic. That took a while – whoever messed around in our attic last did not leave room over the soffits for air to enter the attic (in fact, fiberglass insulation was jammed into all of the eaves).

Dumping bags of insulation into the blower.

STEP 2: Set up the insulation blower outside and run the hose up through the house and into the attic.  Blow insulation into the attic.

Once our vents were in place, we set up the blower.  The body of the blower was positioned outside, and a large hose ran up from the machine, through a hallway window, and up into the attic.  We began to blow insulation up in to the attic.  This is as easy as it sounds, requiring at least 2 people: one person on the ground, stuffing the insulation into the machine, and a second person in the attic, shooting the insulation out of the tube.  On our first try, I emptied a few bags of insulation into the machine, and Jason let the machine run for a while before sticking his head down the attic opening and shouting out the window that it wasn’t working.

We realized that the hose on the rental machine was broken, and instead of blowing insulation into the attic, it blew through our hallway.  Yikes!

After fixing the hose with duct tape and cleaning the mess in the hallway, it only took about an hour to blow the recommended amount of cellulose insulation into the attic.

Jason blows the insulation into the attic.

STEP 3: Celebrate and clean up.  (Or not).

Once Jason shouted that he had more than enough cellulose insulation in the attic, I shut off the machine.  Then, I turned around and observed THIRTY-EIGHT UNUSED bags of insulation.  Mmm…  Guess our math was a little off!

Lesson learned: always double (and triple) check your math before starting a project.

We spent a ton of time earlier in the day hauling bags of insulation that we didn’t even need!  How frustrating!  So, in trip #4 to the store, we returned bags 1-10 of the THIRTY-EIGHT bags we didn’t use  (I feel a need to draw attention to THIRTY-EIGHT because it’s ridiculous.  Who calculates that they need SIXTY bags of insulation, when they really only need TWENTY-TWO and have to spend hours of their life returning THIRTY-EIGHT bags of insulation?  It’s crazy.).

The finished product. We’re never going back into the attic again.

On our fifth and final trip to the store, we returned the rest of the insulation and the blower.  And then we high-fived.

Overall, it took us an entire day to complete this project. It should have taken 2-3 hours start to finish, at most. Once the machine is set up, blowing the insulation into the house was quick (and dirty!).  It was a fairly easy process, complicated only by bad math and a broken insulation-blowing hose.

Our total cost for the project was about $220.  We dramatically increased the house’s ability to retain warmth and our heating bills decreased by about 1/3 to 1/4 – a big savings when you consider that our heating bills approached $300/month last winter.

So would I undertake this project again?  Absolutely.  But I’d double and triple check my insulation needs math, and give the machinery a quick once over before turning it on!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 13, 2009 9:47 am

    LOL! Ugh…thank god that was over! I can’t believe no one at the store would help! What happened to customer service! Btw, I had no idea you lived in Michigan! I thought you were in on the other side of the lake!

  2. japortma permalink
    October 13, 2009 1:02 pm

    haha..ohh man i do believe that those guys broke a sweat while they watched us load all those bags into the car. its tough work WATCHING people (and i totally agree..3 wimpy girls) load the car. haha! I must admit, its a lot funnier now than it was at the time. 🙂


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