cellulose insulation and dust?

dedtiredDecember 29, 2010

I am considering having cellulose insulation blown into the attic of my home. This house is already fairly dusty, largely sue to the forced air heating system, I think.

I've read that cellulose insulation can create an ongoing dust problem. Is that true and is it a big problem? I'm concerned that I will be solving one problem and creating another.

The other option would be blown-in fiberglass, although I understand that it is is somewhat less effective than cellulose. My house gets too cold in the winter and I really need to add insulation.

Has anyone had cellulose blown in and can you comment on the ongoing dust factor? I presume dust will be kicked up during installation and I can live with that, just not more regular dust than I have now.


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I blew cellulose into my attic. The entrance into the attic was in the garage. The garage got dusty - thats it. As long as nobody steps thru your attic ceiling and your light fictures are tight, it shouldn't be a problem.

I don't have air ducts in my attic. If you do, you might want another persons opinion. My garage wouldn't have been as dusty if the operator of the box that was pumping the cellulose had it outside the garage. It also would have helped if we closed the door going into the attic.

Blown cellulose and work miracles in your house. Its cheap and easy to do. You can do it yourself. I would get accustomed first to walking in your attic. You don't want to step thru you ceiing or on top of wires and damaging electric.

I used 2 pieces of plywood to maneuver in my attic. I would stand/kneel on one, and move the other in front of me. Than I would move my body on the forward piece of plywood and move the piece that was behind me infront of me. I was sore after this labor intensive project but it was worth it. Attic insulation makes a huge difference.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2010 at 10:20PM
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Thanks. The entrance to my attic is through a closet in a bedroom. I've already been through remodeling projects so I know how dusty the house can get and if it is a one-time cleanup, I can deal with it. I just don't want to create an ongoing problem.

Wish I could do it myself, but that is a bigger job than I can manage.

My attic also has old (very old) batts in it now. Did you have that, too, and did you remove them first?

    Bookmark   December 30, 2010 at 9:24AM
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insulation performs if air is not moving through it.
this is the same if insulation is conventional
insulation..fg batts,blown fg, or cellulose.
non conventional insulation like open cell foam
insulates and air seals in one step..thus the higher
cost to install.

if you do choose cellulose..make a sealed air barrier before installing. more than fg, cellulose by the very
material it is composed of and treated with (newspaper and borates) creates more dust because of the fine particles.
people call it dust..but it is actually not dust.

any open areas..recessed lights any cut in the sheetrock ceiling ..supply boxes, cuts at bath fans, stove vents
just in general allow this dust to enter the living space.
return air chases..attic accessses, all these areas need to be sealed.
this holds true for any insulation install. but IMO moreso with cellulose than other insulations.

I test homes and ductwork (including returns) with blower door and duct blaster to determine leakage.
this testing shows home owner where the leakage sites are
and hopefully the person doing the testing will show
home owner where and how to seal these areas.
It is a worth while investment before insulation is installed.

do all the air sealing..duct sealing (mastic materials only)
and return air sealing before installing insulation.
with batts it is easy to move the batt..seal the area and then replace the batts. any open bypasses like fireplace inserts you can see from inside the attic..any open plumbing walls..lots of thermal bypasses in attics.
depending on what the opening is..determines what you use to seal it. personally I use ductboard & fire rated caulks at fireplaces and ductboard & mastic in return air chases.

I think fg batts get a bad rep...but if the batts are properly fitted into the joist bays with no gaps or voids
cut to fit around wires and pipes etc it performs just as well.

Personally I do a lot of work in other peoples attic.
I don't do houses with cellulose. I can deal with the itch
of fg much better than the cough I get from working around
and in cellulose. I can not scratch..but can't not breathe.

In my house I tested and listed my leakage areas in the
air barrier from living to attic space. moved the batts
sealed the gaps and holes. put old insulation back added
unfaced batts on top of existing insulation batts.
attic hatch is also sealed and weather stripped.
I'm in the south so after the sealing I installed a radiant barrier. that worked well..and the next year I added the additional insulation.

I don't have ductwork or any mechanicals in my attic.
duct leakage will pull insulation particles into the system
and circulate it through the house..leaks from return air into attic will do the same thing.

with cellulose you will have 'dust' if you or anyone in the house has allergies it will mean more trips to the doctor,
more housekeeping.
imo cellulose in the attic is not a good choice.

best of luck.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2010 at 10:16AM
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I did have old fiberglass batts in my attic. I blew right on top of them. As long as there is only one-layer of craft paper and its on the bottom you won't have problems with moisture build up. I was the person doing it in the attic. Its not fun, but you can do it if you agile. There is no skill involved. Your just aiming the hose and watching the stuff come out. You put it everywhere and try to make it even.

If you want to get fancy, you can install baffles over your soffits inside your attic. Thats to prevent the insulation from clogging your soffitts so your attic can still breath. I did it. To be honest though, insulation still goes in there because the force at which the insulation is going from thehose.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2010 at 11:27AM
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I have blown cellulose in my attic and I also have insulated ducts up there too. I have cellulose in the walls too. The insulation is fantastic and no dust in the house due to that material. When they spray the cellulose there is a little glue mixed in with water that dries into a light cake form which helps hold it in place.

The only challenge with it was when I had to wander through the attic to repair a leak. I had to remove a 2' x 3' piece of drywall in a bedroom below. The work was messy but I got through it OK. I had to use a mask when I was working up in the attic. I bought a package of the green cellulose from Home Depot to refill the area I patched.

If you don't have one already, you might consider putting a plywood runner in the attic so that you can access critical areas without having to step into the cellulose.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2010 at 12:26PM
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Thanks. Al additional info is welcome! The first quote I got was from a company that will use fiberglass. I need to keep a small part of the attic clear for storage. He will make a "wall" of batts to leave maybe two square yards for storage. I'm hoping the cellulose people can do the same.

My house is small and storage is always an issue, especially because my son keeps stuff here from time to time.

I am not agile enough or handy enough to do this myself!

    Bookmark   December 30, 2010 at 1:05PM
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"Has anyone had cellulose blown in and can you comment on the ongoing dust factor? I presume dust will be kicked up during installation and I can live with that, just not more regular dust than I have now."

yes,i built this new house with cellulose in the attic. it is hard to keep up with the dust.even an aprilair 5 inch filter wont dent it. i suspect it is the cellulose since i have tried every thing else. would never use it again. if you do use cellulose use the wet blown stuff. i wish i had.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 6:42PM
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Hmm. The installer was here today to discuss the job. He said he is using something that he sprays after installation that makes it compact a bit, at least that is how I understood it.

He uses a product from Applegate Insulation. Stabilized cellulose, whatever that is.

Here is a link that might be useful: cellulose insulation from Applegate

    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 10:04PM
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I've had cellulose in my house since I bought it 17 years ago.

A few months ago I upgraded from what I estimate was an R 11 cellulose to an R-49.

I have noticed absolutely NO difference in dust levels, which were not that bad to begin with.

Most of the dust problem in my house is dirt that my dog tracks in on his paws and fur.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2011 at 12:56PM
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"This house is already fairly dusty, largely sue to the forced air heating system, I think. "

While a forced air system can move dust around, it does not create it.

Unless the insulation is disturbed repeatedly after installation, or there is a lot of air leaking though it into the finished space it will not give off any dust after the installation.

To clean dust from older houses every crack in the wood flooring may need to be cleaned out with a relatively high power shop vac.
It can take a couple of times if there is a lot of dust.

A crevice tool passed along every floor joint does the job, and some cost in time.

Use a CleanStream filter in the shop vac to make sure the dust stays in the vacuum.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2011 at 4:48PM
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Well, Randy, it's kind of against the rules around here to promote your own business, but your info may be useful to some.

It's now been a couple weeks since I had the cellulose blown into my attic here in Pennsylvania. My furnace has been churning away down in the basement. I have forced air heat. I haven't noticed any additional dust at all except for a fine film on the furniture close to the access point to the attic. Once I cleaned that up, it did not return.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2011 at 4:19PM
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I mean Rodney. Sorry.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2011 at 10:34PM
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I just had cellulose blown into my attic over very old fiberglass batts. I chose this method as it seemed the best way to fill in all the gaps and crevices and revive the insulating properties of the existing fiberglass with a non toxic product.

While its probably still too early to comment on the dust issue, I'm pretty sure its not going to be a problem. I haven't seen any change in dust levels yet after a few weeks, but the comfort level is significantly greater.

I will say its very important to have a competent contractor install the cellulose. I would say that the contractors I used probably spent 90% (5+ hrs) of their time meticulously preparing the area for cellulose by boxing, marking and air sealing numerous recessed lights, installing soffit vent baffles and other items in the attic. They also built retaining walls around the air handler and attic access, left an access path and spray foam sealed around bathroom ducting vents etc.

I am sure that some dust will enter the ducting system, but I'm hoping is not more than was entering prior as it was already pretty dusty up there. It does look like it would be a very messy job to try and install or fix anything buried under the cellulose.

So far, I'm very happy with blown in cellulose as insulation, but I'm not in my attic very often.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2011 at 10:30AM
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If you are getting dust in the living space from insulation you have air leaks.

Fix the leaks and the dusting will stop.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2011 at 9:18AM
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and if the dust from the cellulose is blowing through
the ducts seal duct leaks supply boxes and return air.
insulation is worthless when air moves thru it.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2011 at 5:06PM
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I didn't realize this thread had come back to life. I had the cellulose blown in and additional dust is not a problem. I noticed the difference in my heating bills immediately. I had the contractor leave a little space for storage, so I have been up in the attic several times. The first time, some cellulose came spilling down near the hatch, but I put some sheets of plastic there and now that's not a problem. I am happy with what I got.

My house is no more nor any less dusty than before. The house didn't even get dustier during the installation.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2011 at 5:38PM
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If anyone is still reading this thread, my mom has been suffering for years with blown in cellulose insulation finding its way into her single story house. The HVAC system is in the attic. A fine film of insulation covers every horizontal surface in her house and after 2-3 weeks of foregoing her weekly dusting ritual, you can dust a surface with your hand and have a good amount to visually inspect. She's been there since the house was new, nearly 15 years, and the HVAC company who installed the unit (along with the builder) when it was new have been back countless times to try and figure out the problem. Everything that can be sealed has been sealed. There are a number of pocket doors in the house that were the latest suspects, but even after sealing the tops of those the dust continues. She's had the "dust" analyzed to be sure and it is in fact the same insulation as is in the attic. She lives in South Texas and is to the point now that she's considering having the entire mess vacuumed out of the attic and replaced with batts. It seems completely impossible but I've seen it with my own eyes. If anyone else has had a similar issue and solved it, I'd love to hear about it!!

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 4:08AM
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blower door test the house.
there are areas that leak that you don't suspect.

find the leakage areas, including places like
recessed lights, attic access, oversized cuts in
sheetrock around bath fans & supply boxes.
seal them up.
mastic seal ducts, make returns air tight.

if cellulose is in the attic you seal the pathways
for it to enter the house.

compare retrofit of house as compared to
vacc out of cellulose. companies don't vacc it all
out, and enough remains in the attic to still be
an issue.

its very common, but people in general don't
believe it until they've experienced it.

this is how I seal supply boxes:
hardcast brand 1402 mastic tape
see pic below.

best of luck

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 10:39AM
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anyone have anything new to add? I am thinking about doing the cellulose insulation and i am wondering if i should remove the 40-50 year old crumby fiberglass batts or spray right over them? I feel like it should be removed.

Thank you

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 8:50PM
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no need to remove fg batts. add blown insulation
over it.
air seal first...read posting by onabalcony above
for reasons why along with other posts about
cellulose entering house.
there is a reason why cellulose & dust
are often titles of threads.

consider blown fg.

install raised walkways to all mechanicals,
build damn around attic entrance to keep
insulation from falling out of attic entrance
each time it is opened.

best of luck.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2013 at 10:29AM
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i understand that i dont have to remove the old fg insulation, but being that it is very old, wouldnt it be a good ide to make sure that there is no mold, or anything else that would get sealed in there?

    Bookmark   October 13, 2013 at 9:16PM
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a better use of that time, energy & $$ would be to
air seal.

insulation over an air leakage site reduces the
insulation value, allows attic air, insulation particles
& attic temps into living space below.

with insulation that thin...probably aren't any moisture
issues. but ...to prevent future issues, add back draft dampers to bath fans & vent them out of attic.

best of luck.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2013 at 6:34AM
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