Pfft. Let me begin by saying that this whole blown-in insulation project goes down in Fixer-Upper history as one of our least favorite. Ever. Which is saying a lot. It wasn’t one thing, but a combination of lots of little annoying things that made it suck so bad.
On Saturday morning Teague drove out to Home Depot bright and early to rent the “blower” – a machine that blows the insulation through a long hose and into your walls. Only, that H.D. only had one blower and it was broken. Yay hoorah. So he drove in the opposite direction to the other nearby H.D., where they promised a blower would be waiting for him. It was, but that H.D. was out of cellulose. SO…. he made a third stop at Lowes to pick that up.
By the time he got home, the truck was jam-packed with insulating gear and it was nearly noon. We got to work immediately, unloading the unwieldly blower and dragging it out to a spot near a window. We hooked the hoses up, and duct taped them together since it was obvious they wouldn’t stay put for long.
We started by insulating a ceiling upstairs. It’s one that we left accessible when we tore the hallway apart; it had no prior insulation so it was an easy place to start. I fed the “hopper” (the blue part of the blower) with cellulose, breaking it up into little bits before putting it in. Teague manned the hose, and ran the remote on/off switch so that he could stop the blower when moving the hose between joists. Things went really smoothly, and we had that ceiling insulated in about half an hour. I’d heard this stuff was a pain, so I was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was. HA!
Next, we moved on the living room. It has 3 exterior walls, one of them north-facing. In the winter you can actually feel gusts of wind through them. Teague drilled holes (maybe 1.5″?) between each of the studs, which made a small but manageable mess. We dragged the hose in, making sure there were no kinks or sharp bends, and hooked up the wall attachment, a metal fitter with a small 1″ opening at the end.
By the time we got to the third wall cavity (out of approximately 25), the line was majorly clogged. We futzed, and emptied parts out, and tried again. Clogged. After futzing around for about a half an hour we got frustrated, started swearing, and generally lost patience. Teague called the store for tips, while I ran inside to do some internet research. We realized simultaneously that we had the hopper open too wide. We were sending too much cellulose at once, and the little nozzle couldn’t handle the pressure. Doh! We spent another half hour thoroughly cleaning out the hose again, set the hopper to the lowest width, and tried once more. CLOGGED. I was ready to cry.
Finally, we decided that the tiny little 1″ fitter they gave us was useless. Teague rifled through the shed and found a piece of leftover plumbing that had a wider opening. We duct-taped that to the hose, and VOILA. Like magic, that solved everything. Except that it was a little bit bigger than the holes we’d drilled, so we had to hold the hose up close to the wall and try our darndest not to make a giant mess. This resulted in major arm pain, but it worked.
We failed at the non-mess making. By the time we finished the living room and one other outer wall, it was getting dark out and our entire downstairs was covered in dust and cellulose debris. Every single surface. It was also scattered all over our driveway area, where the hopper was loaded. Obviously, we had not thought about how messy this stuff was going to be.
- Prepare for a big mess. Put plastic up in your doorways and tape the seams so you can keep the mess in one place. Put a big tarp under the hopper for easy clean-up outdoors.
- It’s more time consuming than you might think. We did 4 outer walls and one ceiling in about 8 hours. We had a major setback with the clogging, though.
- It’s definitely a two-person job. Three would be ideal, since it was hard to hold the hose in place and run the remote control at the same time. It took two hands to hold the hose steadily against the wall for that long.
- Don’t bother with the tiny nozzle! Start with something bigger, like 2″.
- Break your cellulose up into very small chunks, the smaller the better. The machine doesn’t agitate and break them up all that well.
- Watch your hose closely so you can catch it clogging before the whole thing is packed up. Once it’s packed, it’s a major pain to get cleaned out.
We ended up doing four walls and one ceiling in one 8-hour workday. We then spent the entire next day cleaning up the mess. The machine was $35/day to rent, and we used up 9.5 bricks of cellulose at $10/brick. So… not too costly, but a major pain. Hope it’ll be worth it when winter rolls around!