Removing blown in insulation easily?
September 21, 2011 10:47 AM   Subscribe

Removing blown in insulation easily?

I have an old house and need to remove the old blown in insulation. Are there any easy DIY methods?

I would like to avoid anything manual to as I'm wearing a lead/mold respirator which is hard to wear for extended periods of time. Plus I would like minimal exposure.

I have a shopvac but the capacity is only 5 gallons. I'd be willing to spend $100 or so on buying more equipment/parts but do not want to make a mess outside either.

Any ideas?
posted by wongcorgi to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Various questions:
- Is it in the attic, or between walls, __ ?
- Is it fiberglass, cellulose, or worse ? (ie contains asbestos? I think that's vermaculite, since you say "old house" that's a serious concern)
- How much is there ? (8" deep, 12" ?)
- Why ? You can put unfaced rolls of fiberglass batts over blown-in (in the attic) just do it perpendicular to the joists. Or do you want to remove it and spray foam insulation in ?
posted by k5.user at 11:01 AM on September 21, 2011

Sorry for not clariying -

- Attic
- Cellulose
- About 4" deep with fiberglass rolls above it
- I am redoing most of the electrical and drywall in the house so it needs to go.
posted by wongcorgi at 11:12 AM on September 21, 2011

I have a shopvac but the capacity is only 5 gallons.

Two things:

* Blown insulation compresses really easily. You may get more out of your 5 gallons than you think. Wouldn't hurt to test.

* My shopvac works like this, and yours may work the same: The vacuum is at the top of the bin, and the hose is at the bottom. In theory, the bin can be any size, provided it's airtight enough to actually create a vacuum. (OK, it can't be too big or else the vacuum will be underpowered relative to the distance from the vac and the end of the hose, but that's another issue).

In theory, you could get a 50-gallon plastic garbage can and affix the vacuum unit to the top. Then cut a hole in the bottom for the hose. Ensure everything is airtight with tape, caulk, etc. Voila! Giant shop-vac.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:17 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is going to be a fairly manual job. If you're not up for that, hire someone else to do it. If that's not an option, just look for the neatest, quickest way to get it over with so you minimize your effort and exposure.

I'd buy a cheap leaf rake with plastic tines. Cut off enough tines from the edges so that the remaining rake is ~14", i.e. one stud cavity, wide. Line a big trash can with a heavy duty bag(s). Rake together the cellulose and shovel it into the trash can. Compress as feasible, and close bags. Use the shop vac to gather the dregs.

If your shop vac is one of those smaller models with the ~1.5" hose, it might be worth buying a bigger vac.
posted by jon1270 at 1:26 PM on September 21, 2011

The only caution I would issue is that often blown in insulation becomes a haven for rodents, and their feces and urine can carry all kinds of stuff and it can become airborne when disturbed.

A shop vac may work but the professionals usually tyvek suite up and put on a qualified respirator + glasses and go in with a 6 inche diameter monster shop vac and get it done in a short go of it.

It is certainly doable manually but it may just be a miserable experience... I am thinking you'll want to do this with the largest vac motor you can find and possibly plan on it burning out if used for too long and then just writing the thing off..
posted by iamabot at 3:39 PM on September 21, 2011

I have a shopvac but the capacity is only 5 gallons.

I removed the blown insulation from my attic just last month as I was re-roofing. We used shop vacs, and let me tell you, 5 gallons won't cut it. It took three laborers (including myself) two days using two vacs (a 12 gallon and a 15 gallon) to clear about 1,750 square feet X 4 inches deep. So something like 48 man hours. Two workers operated the vacs while the third ran between them and collected bags/compressed them/deposited them in the truck/raked insulation into collectible piles (as suggested by jon1270). We filled over 90 Husky contractor bags (don't remember their capacity, but they were BIG). We filled a long-bed Ford F-250 modified with plywood walls to the brim.

Use a 3M Fiberglass Valved disposable mask. You'll be able to stand it longer.

There is no way to avoid exposure. You will itch. You have to use a shop a shop vac, and it has to be big. Make sure you get a hard extension on the hose. You have to account for the cost of your time, bags, masks, and dump fee. Do you have a truck?

If I were you, I'd hire a couple nephews or neighborhood kids to do the dirty work. It's unskilled labor. Don't hire a contractor.

My uncle, who is a life-long contractor, says the following: "If your attic is cramped and has limited access, trying to crawl through the whole thing is like going into HELL. I would (if the ceiling is textured drywall) cut 4'x4' access points in strategic positions throughout the house. It's easy to patch. Most people would think this is crazy-talk, and it definitely depends on accessibility, the layout of the attic, your athleticism, how skilled you are with drywall, etc. It's a solution that works for me because I'm an expert and can do it myself."

Keep in mind, our roof was totally ripped-off and exposed, allowing us relatively easy access. If you're crawling around in there, be prepared to double or triple your time estimate based on what I said above.

Yeah, it's a project.
posted by troll at 5:29 PM on September 21, 2011

Uncle: "Don't forget to tell him to wear a jumpsuit. Minimizes itching."
posted by troll at 5:32 PM on September 21, 2011

« Older Job offer help needed   |   "Hi! Next time you call your family, can you do... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.