How to insulate in six easy steps


As I mentioned last time, we installed blown-in cellulose insulation in the exterior walls of our house this weekend. Here’s how it’s done.

Step one: Choose a room, empty most of your belongings from it, and cover what’s left with plastic or blankets.

Step two: Locate the studs in the wall with a stud-finder; the space between two studs is called a "bay." Drill a 2 1/2-inch hole in the top of each bay. Fish something down the hole to make sure that the bay goes all the way to the floor without any horizontal blocking. If there is blocking, you’ll be drilling another hole below it. In our case, some of our bays have three holes.

Chic, no?

Step three: Load a bale of insulation into the blower machine, a.k.a. the hopper, breaking up the big pieces with your hands. Wear a mask to keep the borate out of your nose (it’s nontoxic, but it’s an irritant; it’s there to keep moisture out of the insulation).

The hopper. It goes by "Dennis"

Step four: Start up the machine, with one person spraying the stuff into the hole and another ready to hit the "off" switch when the sprayer gives the signal. You’ll see the cellulose tumbling along inside the hose as it travels from machine to nozzle. The idea is to densely pack the insulation in the bays without letting the machine get backed up, so good communication is a must.

Step five: Vacuum up the stray bits of insulation that inevitably escaped from the nozzle and are now decorating your floor, walls and ceiling. A quick mop of the floor and a wipe-down of baseboards and window trim, and cleanup is done.

Step six: Put all your stuff back.

Of course, step seven will be to patch those holes (all 75 of them!). We certainly hope that step eight will involve remarking on how toasty the house is now, but we’re not running our heat yet so we’ll have to wait and see.

We got some tips on technique here (see comments) and here, by the way. Anyone want to chime in with your experience or questions?