5 insulation checks every homeowner must do

As a homeowner, when did you last check if your home's insulation was doing its job properly? From ice to mice, here are five things to examine to determine if your home's insulation is keeping you cool in summer and warm in winter.

5 insulation checks every homeowner must do

1. See if your walls are insulated

It's simple to check if your walls are insulated.

  • Remove a light switch plate or outlet cover on an exterior wall – meaning one that isn't situated on a wall between two rooms inside the house – and look for insulation around the electrical boxes.

Sometimes you can also use a hole saw to cut a small hole inside a closet and inspect from there.

  • If the weather is cold, you may actually feel a draft by holding your hand over the opening. This also tells you that insulation may be poor or lacking altogether.

2. Look for signs of critters

Insulation can make a cozy winter residence for mice, squirrels and even raccoons.

  • If you see droppings, disturbed fill or any signs of chewing, contact a pest-control specialist. Small rodents can potentially chew on electrical wiring, which could pose a fire hazard.
  • Ensure any service you hire will remove the animals and also eliminate their point of entry, which could be through the attic as much as near the ground.

3. Check the attic's airflow

Doing a periodic check to make sure that there's good airflow in your attic will ensure that the space is cool and dry all year round.

  • Make sure all vents are open and free of obstructions, and that insulation is not blocking soffit vents or impeding the flow of air into the attic.
  • If your attic is unfinished and the rafters and joists are visible, you can visually inspect the insulation that's there to see if it's thick enough to function effectively and in good condition.

4. Keep an eye out for ice

This task is readily done in winter when there's snow. Even if winter hasn't yet befallen you, do you recall seeing ice dams last year?

  • Ice dams can produce leaks that back up into your house to rot rafters, stain interior walls and ruin your insulation.
  • These ice dams occur along the lower edge of roofs as a result of the attic not properly "breathing" and also due to insufficient and/or inefficient insulation.

A well-insulated, properly vented attic is the best insurance against this type of damage.

5. Watch out for asbestos flakes!

Sometimes your investigations may uncover a  hidden danger in your house: in your exploration of your home's insulation, be very careful if you find vermiculite!

  • This lightweight, flaky grey mineral used for loose-fill insulation may contain asbestos.

If you suspect you may have discovered asbestos-based vermiculite insulation, do not touch or move it unless you've had it tested by an approved lab and you're sure that it doesn't contain asbestos.

  • By law, to remove asbestos-based insulation requires a licenced professional who is trained to handle and dispose of this dangerous material safely.
  • If you have any doubts about insulation that you come across, a certified home inspector can tell you what you're dealing with – and if it poses a danger to you and your family.
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