Put a lid on attic air leaks
By James Dulley from October 2013 Issue
I just had a house built and discovered no insulation on the attic opening cover. Shouldn't the cover be insulated and sealed? If I add folding stairs, how can I insulate them?—Mike M.
The simplest fix for a plain access door without stairs is to attach insulation to the attic side of the cover and add weatherstripping underneath where it rests on the lip of molding around the opening.
If the cover doesn't rest on the molding properly, you may have to make a new one for a better fit. A piece of 1/2-inch drywall works well and is fire-resistant. Next add some insulation on the top of the cover. Polyurethane foam sheets are easy to glue onto the drywall.
Before you add weatherstripping to the molding lip, place the cover over it and check whether it's even. If it's not, you may have to pry a side or two loose and reattach it so it is level.
Then attach the thickest adhesive-backed foam weatherstripping you can find to the top edge of the lip around the opening. The weight of the plywood and drywall cover resting on the lip will compress the foam weatherstripping for a tight seal.
Solutions for pull-down stairs
For attic access doors that include pull-down stairs, one of the least expensive options is basically a three-sided heavy-duty cardboard box. It's easy to assemble, and then you can attach your own insulation to the top and sides. It's very lightweight, so it's easy to lift and move when you enter the attic from the stairs.
Two other options are available. One is a lightweight, large, rigid-foam domed device that covers the entire door and folding stairs mechanism from above. It's strong, and the foam provides adequate insulation. Another design uses a flexible zippered insulated cover that is permanently attached to the attic floor for a good airtight seal. The zipper provides a large opening for easy access to the attic.
TogetherWeSave.com, an energy-efficiency Web site from the nation's electric cooperatives, has two videos about stopping air leaks as part of its Watch & Learn series. Visit http://energysavings.togetherwesave.com/watch-and-learn and click on the Sealing & Insulation tab, then scroll down to find how-to videos on insulating attic hatches and attic pull-down stairs.
Think about how often you use your pull-down attic stairs before choosing a prefabricated attic access insulation system. You can begin your search for the style that's right for you at these companies:
• Atticap, (781) 259-9099, www.draftcap.com
• Attic Tent, (877) 660-5640, www.attictent.com
• Battic Door, (508) 320-9082, www.batticdoor.com
Measure the clearance inside your attic to make certain the style you choose will fit properly.