What is an Attic Radiant Barrier?

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  • Written By: C.L. Rease
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 24 February 2020
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Attic radiant barriers consist of a reflective foil bonded to stiff material to give the barrier strength. A properly installed attic radiant barrier will lower the heating and cooling coasts of a building. The savings vary depending on the location of the structure and the type of heating and cooling system used to condition the space. Buildings with heating, ventilation and air conditioning ducts running through an attic space receive higher savings than homes without duct or ductwork running in a basement. Preparation, barrier selection and installation will ensure a building owner receives the most protection from raising utility costs.

Before an attic radiant barrier is installed on the roof sheathing of a structure, all dust, dirt and installed insulation must be removed from the area to ensure the barrier remains fastened to the sheathing. Loose debris will decrease the bond between the adhesive and the surface of the sheathing. A combination of rags, brushed and a wet/dry vacuum is commonly used to clean the surface of the sheathing prior to the installation of an attic radiant barrier. Selecting the proper radiant barrier to install on the cleaned sheathing will provide the most protection against heat intrusion into the structure being protected.


The standard type of attic radiant barrier uses a reflective aluminum foil to a thick piece of kraft paper. Plywood, stand board, cardboard and plastics are other varieties of stiffeners used to increase the strength of an attic radiant barrier. Stronger stiffeners are required when using a reflective barrier on roofs with large spaces between trusses or joists. Spray-on attic radiant barriers offer the same benefits of a reflective radiant barrier with the added protection of insulation. Both types of attic radiant barrier reduce the cost of heating and cooling a structure, but additional measures are required to increase the savings associated with installing the barrier.

Sealing an attic reduces the amount of air and heat moving from the outside to the inside of a structure. Silicone, latex and acrylic caulks all provide the necessary sealing required to reduce heating and cooling costs of a structure. The caulking can be applied before or after the installation of a reflective foil-type attic radiant barrier, but the sealant must be applied before spraying radiant barriers. Proper application of sealant and attic radiant barriers will provide the most protection against rising energy costs and heat damage.


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