What is an Attic Barrier?

Amy Hunter

An attic barrier works to reduce the heat that your home receives from the sun in the summer. By reducing the heat in your attic, you can lower your utility bills. Attic barriers work by reflecting the sun’s rays and sending them back into the sky. Without a radiant barrier, the heat would stay in your attic, heating up the entire home.

Roll of kraft paper, which is often used to make attic barriers.
Roll of kraft paper, which is often used to make attic barriers.

The barrier is made up of a substrate material. This is often Kraft paper, cardboard, plywood or plastic film. If it is a particularly thin material, fiber reinforcements are often added to make it easier to handle. On one or both sides of the substrate a reflective material, such as aluminum foil, is added.

It is quite easy to install an attic barrier during new home construction.
It is quite easy to install an attic barrier during new home construction.

Installing an attic barrier can be a simple do-it-yourself project, and is relatively inexpensive if done yourself. If you are building a new construction, the addition of an attic barrier is often very inexpensive as well. Having a contractor come in and install a radiant barrier to an existing home may be expensive however, depending on the design of your home and how much trouble he will have accessing the area.

There are several ways to install attic barriers. The best is often determined by how much room you have in the attic and whether it is a new home or a remodeling project. No matter how the barrier is installed, there is one important factor to keep in mind. If your radiant barrier is reflective on only one side, this side must face the top of the home. Otherwise, the attic barrier will be ineffective.

Many people completing this project on their own prefer to lay the radiant barrier directly on the top of the existing insulation. This is an easy an effective way to install the attic barrier. You can also attach the attic barrier to the bottom of the rafter framing. With a new home construction, the attic barrier can be applied directly under the roof deck or on top of the rafter before the roof deck is installed.

If you choose to install the barrier on your own, there are some important safety precautions that you must keep in mind. While radiant barriers seem more innocuous than insulation, it is still important to wear protective gear when working with the barrier. Your protective gear should include coverings for your eyes as well as gloves.

When installing the barrier, be careful where you staple. Attics are full of wiring, and you don’t want a misplaced staple. Also, if you have canned or recessed lights, work carefully around their housing in the attic. It is also important to be careful as you move through the attic. Step carefully on joists and trusses only.

Always make sure that you have adequate lighting and ventilation. The final piece of advice for safely installing an attic barrier is to never work alone. Having a partner in the attic helping will make the job safer and more pleasant.

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