How to insulate your ceiling space for under $150

Well, since I’ve had more spare time of late to make repairs to my portfolio, I’ve concocted various schemes to save a dollar here and there, some have worked really well, some not so well. I’m one of those people who can’t help but brag about getting a fab deal on something, so sit back and let me regale you. Let’s start with…..

Ceiling Insulation

Standard price = ~$1200-1500 supplied and fitted on a 100sqm house
Our price = $0 – 150 Per 100sqm house

Much ado has been made about this recently. All these awful landlords supplying these mouldy damp rentals. It’s a bit overblown in my opinion but realistically, you should be doing everything in your power as a landlord to make your tenants stay as enjoyable as possible. It pays you back in terms of not having the Tenancy Tribunal on your back come 2019 when ceiling and underfloor insulation become necessary, less damp and higher tenant retention and happiness.

The grants and insulation schemes work out to be something of a rort. What anyone can get from a normal quote or two with no discount and getting fitted, works out the same as if I get a government approved installer to do it with a 30% discount. They know they’ve got a reasonable demand, accelerated by the onset of the 2019 regulations. Even when people see the two prices are the same, the one with a discount feels more attractive, even if you know it’s a fake discount.

So you’ll need some basic equipment. You find that you end up reusing stuff again and again on different jobs so don’t fret about buying something of decent quality.

For this, you’ll need

  • Thick gloves – These $4.86 Mitre 10 gloves work great, the thicker the better
  • Respirator – $80 This one is a goodie. I’d recommend against the paper ones, they don’t work as well and they’re about as durable as toilet paper. You’ll reuse this on many future projects and they’ll save your lungs. Insulation fibres in your airways aren’t fun, believe me. You can get paper ones for $3 or so for 5 but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
  • Safety Goggles – Your eyes will burn without them, it’s nasty stuff insulation.
  • Overalls – $6 Disposable ones are better here, you won’t want to rewear overalls that have been used for insulation, you’ll itch if the overalls come directly in contact with your skin.
  • Light sources – Likely your loft doesn’t have it’s own lighting system. I’ve found a central work light along with some handheld LED’s work really well. If you can stretch to an LED central light, it gives off much less heat which you’ll be grateful for when you start working.
  • Craft knife and lots of spare blades

And a radio to keep you company. Don’t attempt this without the safety equipment here as a minimum.

So insulation comes by the roll when new and it’s insular qualities are rated by R value between 2.6 and 5.2 for ceiling insulation. Most installers use R3.6 and that is what we will most likely be using as a result. Incidentally, the higher the R value, the lower the square metreage covered per roll. R3.6 is good enough for most applications in NZ and at the price we’ll get it at is a fantastic return on investment.

The advantage of buying it new is that it’s easier to install and much less itchy. Not quite enough to warrant the extra $1000 in my opinion. Some say it stays in place better but I think that depends on how well you install the offcuts.

We’re going to use what the installers cut off when they put it in a house. The installers have no use for it other than dumping it so you’re not only doing them a favour but also the environment, doubly so as the inhabitants will use less power to heat the house up.

The best way to source it, go to trademe and search for ‘insulation offcuts’. I picked it up from this company, called them up and they saved a weeks offcuts for me for $200. It took 4 full trailer and car loads but so far it’s done 4 houses, 1 loft conversion, 1 dog kennel and I’ve still got about 10 bags left.

I’ve seen it in Auckland for free and even if it’s not advertised on Trademe in your area, call up your local installers and ask if they can help you out. Try to go for Earthwool or Greenstuf, the old Pink Batts are horrible to work with.

Once you’ve got it back, get on all your safety gear, set your lights up and get in the loft. Don’t step on anything that’s not a joist or you’ll have one leg sticking out of your kitchen ceiling.

Now, if you’re making a $1000+ saving, there’s undoubtedly a trade off. This one’s hard work, sweaty, itchy and cramped but ultimately financially rewarding and that’s what we’re all about here. It should take about 3 or 4 hours, or to put it another way, $250-333+ph tax free in savings Tax free as insulation is classed as an improvement and therefore is a capital expense and not deductible.

You’ve got to fit these offcuts in like Tetris pieces. They come out of the bag in random quadrilateral shapes, you soon work it out. Pack them in snugly, without gaps but not so tight that it’ll pop up if they expand.

Now do that for 4 hours or so and you’re done!

If you’re a bit like me though and you can’t stand the itchy, dark, crampedness of it all, you can always grab a willing worker from your local Facebook page that might want to do it. You don’t need anyone with experience, just a physically fit person with a high tolerance. 4-6 hours work doesn’t cost you much. It’s still an $900+ saving.

Note that if you tried to do this for underfloor, you’d have a nightmare of a time trying to get it to stay in place in defiance of gravity. In this instance I haven’t found a shortcut, if anyone knows one, I’m all ears.

Have fun!

9 Replies to “How to insulate your ceiling space for under $150”

  1. This is awesome! I’m definitely going to try this as an option if I need to do ceiling insulation in future!

  2. Argh, you’re about a month late, I just paid for insulation. (Well my landlords did, it’s complicated.) Good to know about the offcuts, I’ll know for next house.
    We got Terra Lana batts, they feel beautiful, no respiratory danger or scratchiness. Definitely worth a try to see if they give away their offcuts too.
    And that bias sounds like the anchoring effect

    1. Yeah, I was thinking it was anchoring.

      I know the scheme you mean, this is the one that’s a bit of a con job in my opinion.

  3. Oooh thanks for the idea Andrew. With my father in law being a builder he might be able to save us some offcuts from the fancier/non itchy types of insulation for free if we give him enough warning!

    1. Quite possibly, like I say, quite a lot of places give it away for free as it is, it’s worth calling your local installers.

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