May 22, 2014

Before you hire a contractor for any insulation work:

  • Check references: Ask the contractor for references, including other homeowners for whom he has done work.
  • Ask trusted sources for a reference: The Department of Energy has a listing of resources for finding certified contractors. You can also check with the local Better Business Bureau for a contractor, or ask your bank to get a report on the contractor’s credit rating. Remember that you want good quality materials and labor as well as price. When you talk to a contractor, talk of R‑values. Don’t forget that R‑values are determined by material type, thickness, and, in the case of loose-fill insulation, by installed weight per square foot (or density), not by thickness alone.
  • Ask questions about how the contractor’s installers are paid: Does the contractor pay them by the number of square feet they cover or by the hour? If he pays them by square footage, they might do a hasty job on your house just so they can get on to the next one.
  • Check if the contractor has appropriate insurance coverage: Does the contractor have insurance to protect his own men if they are injured? Are you covered if one of his men damages your house? Ask for proof of current insurance.
  • Check bag labels: When you talk to a contractor or his salesman, ask him to show you a sample of the bag label for his brand of insulation and ask him to explain it to you. If a contractor uses insulation packed in bags that aren’t labeled, don’t hire him. The quality of the material will be unknown. Always deal in R‑values, not inches. Every type of insulation has a different range of R‑value per inch, and the Federal Trade Commission does not allow insulation to be marked by its R‑value per inch, except in very limited cases. You want a guarantee of a specific R‑value.

Managing Contractors

After you have hired a contractor, there are a few things to do to manage him:

  • Make sure the contractor gives you a contract or receipt for the insulation installed. This is required by law.
  • Check that the proper amount of insulation is actually installed. Ask the contractor how many bags of loose-fill insulation were installed.
  • After the job is finished, inspect your home to make sure the insulation was installed correctly.

Each item is described in more detail below

Check that the Proper Amount of Insulation is ActuallyInstalled

Each bag of insulating material used by the contractor should be marked with an R‑value. For loose-fill, the bags will tell you the R‑value for the area to be covered. It is important that you check that the proper amount is installed in your home. Ask the contractor to attach vertical rulers to the joists prior to a loose-fill installation in your attic to help you see that the proper depth was installed. Look for the R‑value printed on the batts, rolls or the facing.

Inspect the Insulation Work

Inspect your home to make sure the insulation was installed correctly. Demand quality from your installer and question anything that looks wrong. If this is new construction, ask if you or a professional can inspect the insulation before the drywall is put up. Some builder sand contractors do not want to do this, but after the drywall is up,it’s hard to tell if any mistakes were made, and much more expensive to fix. Don’t compromise. It’s your house, and you are the one that will have to live with any mistakes?