Summer is almost here, and we all know triple digit temperatures and painfully high electricity bills will soon follow. It is important as cooling season starts that we all make sure to prepare our homes. That means making sure that crawl spaces and attics are adequately ventilated with fresh air, and our living spaces are sealed up tight to prevent the loss of the conditioned air that we are paying dearly for! Making sure that foundation vents are uncovered, and attic turbines and gable vents are properly functioning takes care of the fresh air in the unconditioned spaces.
Here is a quick and easy do it yourself project that can help with the loss of cool air from living spaces. Most of us have a pull down attic stair, probably located in a hallway. The only thing separating the hot attic from the cool interior space is a thin piece of plywood. The efficiency of the seal can be significantly increased by adding a radiant barrier and weather stripping on the attic side of the pull down stair (this also increases efficiency and comfort in the winter).
This project is easy for the do-it-yourselfer to complete in less than an hour. You will need scissors and a few materials from the home improvement store. Materials needed are one 24” x 10’ roll of insulated radiant barrier matt, one roll of multi-purpose foil tape, and one 17’ roll of D type Medium Gap weather stripping (see photo 1).
Once you have your materials assembled, open and fold down your attic stair. The first step is to cut the radiant barrier to fit between the legs of the ladder section and the plywood door section. Use the scissors to cut the piece to size, leaving about a ½” space around the edges (see photo 2). Next, cut strips of foil tape to fit around the edges of the radiant matt pieces, leaving the tape backing in place. Remove the backing and place the tape strips at the top and bottom, centering the tape over the edges of the matt, and press into place to attach the matt to the wood. Loosen the paper from the end of the one side piece of tape and feed it between the back sides of the ladder steps and the matt, and then slowly peel the backing from the tape and press it into place (leaving the paper on the back while you feed it up will prevent it from sticking to the treads or matt before you have it properly placed). Finally, separate the two strips if weather stripping in the package and cut to fit around the bottom and side edges of the stairway door so that it seats against the frame when closed. Remove the backing from the weather stripping and press into place (see photo 3).
You will have enough radiant matt left for another attic stair, and enough tape for the entire block. So share with your neighbors – small energy savings can really make a difference if we all participate.
Jeff Blackwell Construction
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