Attic Insulation, Ventilation Vital All Year Around


It is easy to overlook the importance of attic insulation during a warm Madison WI summer. After all, isn’t it just there to keep the house warm in the winter? Attention to insulation beneath your roof and the air circulation in your attic protects you all year around. In addition, it extends the life of your roof. Your insulation and ventilation work together to lessen the impact of both extreme cold and extreme heat.

The role of the roof is simple: protect whatever’s beneath it. The role of roof insulation and ventilation is to

Attic Insulation | adison WI | Sims Exteriors and Remodeling
Modern attic ventilation fits neatly with any architectural style.

protect the roof. Consistent air circulation throughout the house keeps summer’s heat from “cooking” shingles from the inside. It also keeps radiant heat from escaping to melt snow on the roof in the winter – reducing the risk of ice dams. In addition to protecting the roof, good insulation and airflow boost the efficiency of your heating and air-conditioning systems.

Before you order a new layer of insulation for your attic, take into account that in this case “more is not always better.” The more insulation you have in the attic, the more ventilation you have to have to make it work. Attic insulation must “breathe” to work efficiently. That means there has to be consistent air circulation to the outside at all times. Insulation should be open to the roof via a variety of vent options. But, there must be a vapor barrier between the insulation and the inside surfaces of the house. Walls and ceilings should have a water-tight seal.

Gaining the correct insulation/ventilation balance is a challenge.

A Good Time To Consider Attic Insulation

Any time is a good time to evaluate and address your insulation needs. A new layer of insulation can go into your attic without a new roof or repairing the existing roof.

Not all insulation will be ideal for your home. Some work best with steep sloped roofs while some perform better under shallow slopes. Vaulted ceilings require a different approach than traditional flat ceilings, for example. The key element in choosing the best insulation for your attic is the R-value assigned to the material. R-value measures the effectiveness of the material. The higher the number, the more insulation the material provides. In the Madison area an R-value of at least R-38 is recommended for ceiling installations while at least R-25 is good for walls and floors. Insulation that comes in rolls or sections that are tucked into the space between beams in the attic can be stacked to increase the overall R-value. Thus, adding a second layer of new insulation over existing layers will always help – as long as the old material is not wet or damaged.

Insulation and ventilation work in tandem to keep your home comfortable all year around. Building codes dictate the approach to ventilation – at least 1 square foot of ventilation is usually required for every 300 square feet of attic space.

Including a vapor barrier with any insulation project is a critical step. Moist or wet insulation is very inefficient. Moisture from inside the house from activities like showers, laundry and doing dishes moves into the attic. It can condense on cold surfaces. Without adequate venting, condensation means problems.

Increase Air Circulation Efficiency

Air Circulation | Madison WI | Sims Exteriors and Remodeling
The process is basic and simple – getting the right balance of insulation and ventilation is not.

You may think “when some insulation is good, a lot more is a lot better.” Following that logic, more ventilation is better, too. But do you really want to put more holes in your roof? Don’t vents invite leaks, pests and wind damage? The answer isn’t simple. Here are common misconceptions about air circulation and its role in attic insulation.

  1. Can I have too many vents? Because warm air rises people worry about attic vents robbing the home of warmth in the winter. The installation of quality insulation is more of a concern than airflow. With good insulation and proper venting your furnace won’t be heating the attic.
  2. If I have plenty of vents do I have plenty of ventilation? There is a difference between adding vents and creating proper ventilation. Studies show that ridge vents are an efficient style vent. However, installed improperly they easily clog and are of little use. Soffit vents can allow air to be trapped at the roof’s peak. Gable vents only circulate air to a limited area. One system does not work for every roof nor for every section of modern roofs.
  3. How much ventilation do I really need? The only way to really understand your home’s requirements is to have the attic and roof evaluated by roofing professionals. The rule of thumb – 1 square foot of venting for every 300 square feet of ceiling space – is hard to apply to multifaceted structures.
  4. Is ventilation more important in winter or summer? Appropriate ventilation increases energy efficiency in hot weather as well as cold. Taking steps to prevent moisture damage is the main goal in Madison. Moisture from condensation is a threat all year around.

Seek Professional Help For Attic Insulation, Ventilation

Even the most rigorous roof maintenance program only goes so far. While modern roofs come with extended lifetime warranties, all roofs wear out. If you think your roof, insulation or ventilation isn’t doing its job, contact a professional roofing company for a detailed inspection. Adding attic insulation and vents to improve air circulation can extend the life of the roof. The cost of additional insulation and vents can be weighed against the cost of a new roof.

When it is time for a new roof, consider one of the new lighter colors. Lighter colors provide increased thermal insulation because they reflect more sunlight. Darker colors absorb sunlight and heat. Light colors reduce the temperature of the roof both inside and outside. Durability is also a major consideration when choosing the right materials.

With so many variables to consider (R-value, square footage, shape and contour, etc.) it takes a seasoned professional to provide the right solution. Few roofing companies in or around Madison have the experience and roofing expertise that Sims has. A GAF-certified dealer, Sims is known for its professional products and reliable service.

Call Sims Exteriors and Remodeling at 608-825-4500 or email us to discuss all your roofing concerns. Our skilled professionals are ready to explain the technical requirements of air circulation and answer attic insulation questions for your Madison WI home.

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