Dense-Pack Cellulose Insulation Done Right
How to tell the difference between a good cellulose insulation job and a bad one.
My first weatherization job was helping my dad insulate and air-seal the attic of the old farmhouse where I grew up. This was in the early 1990s, when he was running a weatherization and affordable-homeownership program in Sanford, Maine. Shortly after I graduated high school in 2000, my dad decided to go out on his own. He offered energy audits to homeowners and introduced the Energy Star Homes program to builders and architects. Eventually his business moved to New Hampshire, where public utilities better subsidized residential energy services. With my dad as inspiration, I started my first weatherization company in 2008.
I’ve always liked dense-pack cellulose because it does an excellent job of stopping air movement, and its hygroscopic nature allows it to absorb and release moisture throughout the seasons. When it comes to customers who want a better insulation than fiberglass batts, I’m often competing with contractors who install spray foam. Spray foam installs faster, but cellulose costs less—plus, it’s made of recycled material, is non-toxic, and is highly flame and pest resistant (see “Cellulose: The Perfect Insulation,” FHB #268).
And unlike the VOC-heavy spray-foam process, which requires that the work site be completely evacuated, homeowners can live their lives and work can continue while we dense-pack. Dense-pack cellulose can also be installed in freezing temperatures without the expense of temporary heat.
In the beginning I wanted to follow directly in my dad’s footsteps, advising builders and homeowners on how to solve their home-performance issues. Soon it became clear that there were few folks who were willing to do the projects without shortcuts. With Dad ever supportive, I decided to buy the equipment and get to work. Unfortunately, most insulation contracts are decided based on price rather than who does the best job. Admittedly, a quality dense-pack job…