This may seem trivial, but to me as a homeowner it isn't. When it comes to blown-in or spray foam insulation in unfinished attics, does neatness count?

Just finished reading the Steve Jobs bio by Walter Isaacson. Job's adoptive father built cabinets at one point in his career, and always used the same care on the sides that would rarely be seen. Job's had that attitude about the inside of Mac computers.

Every time I climb into the attic at my house to change the filter on my furnace, I grimace at the lunar landscape of old fiberglass batt insulation, new cellulose insulation, wires, ducts, tops of canned lights, and of course cobwebs. It makes me question the effectiveness of the insulation.

Am I just being a Felix Unger?

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In short YES - as they say the devil is in the details & one can tell a lot about the care & quality of the work that went in just by taking a quick look. In your case it sounds like they simply blew in some insulation & didn't bother dealing with any of the air leakage paths which just cut the usefulness of your insulation dramatically. You also should not be able to see any can lights if the insulation was done properly.

For more on just the air-sealing portion -

Hi Jim, You know the old saying, "a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind".  Now, I have to defend my desk quite often with the retort, "so what does an empty desk say?" but that's the point, I have blown the first impression.  Not everyone is going to give me the chance to defend myself.

From a technical perspective, neatness in the installation of insulation is doubly important because the flaws will drag the average down and limit the potential of the improvement.  An extreme example is, if you leave the front door open, it doesn't matter how much insulation you put in the walls.

As Sean mentioned, what they missed is more important than what they did.  Air sealing the attic floor, sealing and insulating those ducts and checking those recessed lights to see if they are air tight and IC rated, then cover them. 

As for the cobwebs, not much you can do there :), but the good news is, there is lots of room for improvement.  Even if it doesn't make a huge difference in your energy costs, it will put a smile on your face with every filter change.

And yes, I'm working on my desk.


Sean and Bud, thanks for weighing in. The crew that worked on my house did do some air-sealing, focused mostly on the can lights. Come to think of it, that may be all the air sealing they did.

I tend to be neat outside with a cluttered mind—my wife is the opposite, but we've learned over the years to get along pretty well. I put up with a certain amount of clutter and she lets me meditate every morning without interruption.

The crew that worked on my house did lower my energy bills and make our home more comfortable, so I can forgive some clutter. But I have a hard time recommending them to others.

The shame of it is, when the crew is there it would only take 15 minutes to straighten the most of it. Those young guys and gals can jump in and out of an attic faster than I can climb the ladder to peak at what they are doing. If there are some easy things that could be done to get the big stuff either out of organized, I would try calling the owner and simply ask if someone could come back for half an hour. Sometimes the boss doesn't know and would be more than happy to accommodate.

Worth a call.

Something to think about...

No, I'd be twitchy about that sort of stuff too. It makes it feel like your house is less than you want it to be, even if the insulation is effective! Have you considered stripping it all out and redoing it with new materials?

Aye, there's the rub! Should I do it myself...

Leave it to Allison Bailes to study the problem in detail—and come up with the answer that neatness, in fact, does count. It counts a lot.


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