Adding Insulation in Rental Properties

Most of our rental properties have little to no insulation. Many of these houses were bought from typical “slum lords” that cared as much about their tenants as they did about the squirrels living in the attic.

Our investment strategy is simple. Give people a quality place to live at an affordable monthly rate. And guess what?…..Utility bills play a huge part in whether a home is affordable!

First, you may ask WHY we make energy efficiency upgrades when the tenant is responsible for the utility bills. This is a simple argument. The largest expense suffered by landlords is vacant properties, tenant turnover, and damage caused by unhappy tenants. We try to avoid all three of these by keeping our tenants happy! Happy tenants equal long term leases and commitment to keeping the property in good condition. We want people living in our houses to feel like it is their home. Home is where the heart is 🙂

Summary of work:

1. Seal penetrations from the living space into the attic. ie. wires, lights

2. Add blown-in cellulose in the attic for insulation

3. Add rigid EPS foam and fiberglass batts to rim joists

Cost = $450.00

Value = Lower heating bills and happy tenants

Ok, lets begin with step number one. I like to start in the basement and work my way up! Begin at the rim joists. Buy 2″ EPS foam sheets for $39.00 and R-13 fiberglass batts roll for $16.00. Read the RIM JOIST INSULATING BLOG.

Next, we evaluate whether any insulation can be added within the walls. Some of our houses have fiberglass bat insulation or cellulose insulation within the wall cavities. If drywall repair is required; we try to use fiberglass bats between the wall studs.


Finally, comes the attic insulation. We move ourselves into the attic with several cans of spray foam. we seal up exterior gaps and insulate around wire penetrations through the sheet rock. Generally, these penetrations are caused by light fixtures and ductwork. The goal is to remove the locations where the houses heated/cooled air can work its way into the attic. Any exposed ducting in the attic should be wrapped in fiberglass insulation to prevent energy from escaping your ducting. 

Now we are ready for attic insulation! Generally, I find blown-in cellulose to be the easiest to work with. I purchase the packs of cellulose from Lowes and choose the GreenFiber brand. These come in roughly 2 ft packaged cubes and the blowing machine is free for the day (with $250 deposit). First, let me warn you that this machine is heavy and you will need someone to assist with lifting this.


I start with 20 containers of GreenFiber for roughly $8.00 each. Depending on the size of your attic, you will need to estimate how many of these you will require. Carry the blowing machine inside and plug it in. Climb up into the attic with the included distribution hose and have your partner load half a package of cellulose inside the machine. Begin in the farthest corner by blowing insulation into the area between the joists. Do not insulate the soffit space to avoid covering the exterior air vents. Blow insulation into one area at a time — wait until the insulation reaches above the joist. Your goal is to get a continuous “blanket” of insulation that is a MINIMUM of 5″ deep and with the goal of achieving 8″ of coverage. Add the depth of insulation required to meet your local building code.

Have fun with this DIY project! Going from un-insulated to insulated will be a noticeable difference in both utility bills and comfort.

Written By:

Luke Langhals

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