Selecting the right insulation contractor for your job is an important decision. Not sure where to start?
Ask your utility company for a list of reputable and licensed contractors, consult friends and neighbors, or contact the Insulation Contractors Association of America (ICAA) for a list of certified contractors in your area.
Before you hire an insulation contractor
Your home is your investment, so before you award you job to a contractor be sure to take the following steps:
- Check references: Ask the contractor for references, including other homeowners for whom he has done work.
- Ask trusted sources for a reference: In addition to the approaches mentioned above, you can also check with the local Better Business Bureau for a contractor, or ask your bank to get a report on the contractor’s credit rating.
- Evaluate materials, too: Remember that you want good quality materials as well as labor and price. When you talk to a contractor, discuss R‑values. Don’t forget that R‑values are determined by material type, thickness, and, in the case of loose-fill insulation, by installed weight per square foot (or density), not by thickness alone.
- Ask questions about how the contractor’s installers are paid: Does the contractor pay them by the number of square feet they cover or by the hour? If he pays them by square footage, they might do a hasty job on your house just so they can get on to the next one.
- Check if the contractor has appropriate insurance coverage: Does the contractor have insurance to protect his own men if they are injured? Are you covered if one of his workers damages your house? Ask for proof of current insurance.
- Check certifications: Ask the contractor if he is certified by ICAA or another organization. (Contact the Insulation Contractors Association of American (ICAA) for a list of certified contractors in your area.
- Check bag labels: When you talk to a contractor or his salesman, ask him to show you a sample of the bag label for his brand of insulation and ask him to explain it to you. If a contractor uses insulation packed in bags that aren’t labeled, don’t hire him. The quality of the material will be unknown. Always deal in R‑values, not inches. Every type of insulation has a different range of R‑value per inch, and the Federal Trade Commission does not allow insulation to be marked by its R‑value per inch, except in very limited cases. You want a guarantee of a specific insulation R‑value.
If a contractor offers spray foam
There are some specific issues unique to spray foam that you’ll want to be mindful of when considering a contractor offering spray foam:
- Ensure the contractor has the requisite training and credentials to use spray foam
- Ask about the re-entry and re-occupancy times for the specific product and application in question. These times vary by manufacturer, product and specific application. Timelines are also always predicated on specific amounts of ventilation, so you may want to ask if the contractor is prepared to provide additional ventilation to the installation area. This is a matter of health and safety so it needs to be considered carefully.
- Ask if the chemicals are stored in a temperature controlled environment, as they should be.
- Determine what the air temperature and humidity levels need to be in order for the installation to take place.
- Ask whether the application in question requires additional elements for fire protection. This varies by application and local building code, but it is worth asking about.
Once you’ve hired a contractor, there are a few things to do to manage the project and make sure you’re getting the results you want. Some tips:
- Make sure the contractor gives you a contract or receipt for the insulation installed. This is required by law.
- Check that the proper amount of insulation is actually installed. Make sure you get the R-value you were promised up front.
- After the job is finished, inspect your home to make sure the insulation was installed correctly.
Contract or Receipt for Home Insulation
Under the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) regulation (Labeling and Advertising of Home Insulation, 16 C.F.R. Part 460), installers of insulation must give their customers a contract or receipt for the insulation installed. For all insulation except loose-fill and aluminum foil, the receipt must show the coverage area, thickness, and R‑value of the insulation installed. For all types of loose-fill insulation, the receipt must show the coverage area, initial installed thickness, minimum settled thickness, R‑value, and the number of bags used. For aluminum foil, the receipt must show the number and thickness of the air spaces, the direction of heat flow, and the R‑value. All receipts must be dated and signed by the installer.
Check that the Proper Amount of Insulation is Actually Installed
Each bag of insulating material used by the contractor should be marked with an R‑value. For loose-fill, the bags will tell you the R‑value for the area to be covered. It is important that you check that the proper amount is installed in your home. Ask the contractor to attach vertical rulers to the joists prior to a loose-fill installation in your attic to help you see that the proper depth was installed. Look for the R‑value printed on the batts, rolls or the facing.
Inspect the Insulation Work
Inspect your home to make sure the insulation was installed correctly. Demand quality from your installer and question anything that looks wrong. If this is new construction, ask if you or a professional can inspect the insulation before the drywall is put up. Some builders and contractors do not want to do this, but after the drywall is up, it’s hard to tell if any mistakes were made, and much more expensive to fix. Don’t compromise. It’s your house, and you are the one that will have to live with any mistakes.