How To Remove Different Types Of Old Attic Insulation

If you are experiencing that your HVAC system has to work harder to maintain the set temperature in your home it might be as a result of the insulation in your attic that is not effective anymore. If you (or perhaps even the previous owner) can’t remember when the current attic insulation has been installed, the chances are good that you’ll have to remove and replace it. 

The question you probably have is whether you can do it yourself.

Yes, you can remove nearly all types of attic insulation yourself. It is not always an easy job, but if you have the right tools and follow the steps that you’ll find in how-to manuals (and this article), it is possible to do the job yourself.  

In this article, we’ll discuss what tools you need to do the removal job, and what steps to take to remove the old insulation.  For those of you that need more information on why and when you have to remove the old insulation in your attic, we also include more general information. 

old insulation in an attic
old insulation in an attic

Different types of insulation need different steps to remove

Generally, attic insulation falls into one of these two categories:

Insulation that can be removed by hand

Batt and roll insulation, also known as insulation blankets, are insulating materials that are shaped to fit between the slats and boards of your attic. Both batt and roll insulation can be removed by hand. In principle you ”unroll” the material and remove the strips between the slats and boards. This is possible because of the insulation’s rigid structure.

Insulation that can’t be removed by hand

Insulation materials needing more than just your hands to remove include blown-in foam insulation, loose-fill fiberglass insulation, and cellulose insulation. Because these insulation materials have a scattered structure, you cannot efficiently dispose of them by hand only. You need an industrial hose to suck up these materials to leave a clean attic ready for new insulation to be installed.

General steps and aspects of the removal procedure

You have to attend to the following aspects whatever type of insulation you have to remove:

1. Clear the Area

As the first step in the insulation removing process, you have to make sure that you clear out all contaminants in the attic. The things you have to look for to remove first include the following:


Asbestos might be the biggest problem you could encounter. According to many countries’ regulations, it is illegal to leave asbestos patches if you are replacing insulation. (Most insulation between 1930 and 1950 contained asbestos. So if you live in a house built in that period there is a great possibility that there is still asbestos in the attic.)

Do not remove any insulation until you’ve determined that there is no asbestos present. You can purchase a testing kit and test the air yourself, or hire a professional inspector who can take a sample of the existing insulation and send it to a lab for testing.

In some rare instances, you might not be able to remove the asbestos-infected material out of the attic by yourself and you will have to hire a professional company.


According to research done by the Mayo Clinic, almost all sinus infections are caused by mold. Therefore it is essential that you remove all mold in the attic. 


Rodents – and even other small animals – can contaminate the insulation with urine, droppings, and decomposing carcasses.

2. Get the right tools (Checklist)

After you’ve removed the asbestos, mold, and/or rodents, you can start to remove the attic insulation. 

The following checklist will help you to get everything in place that should be ready before your start with the removal itself:


Whatever insulation material you have to remove, there will always be dust and debris to remove as well.  We recommend that you get a high-powered, large-capacity vacuum. It can be rented from a commercial equipment rental facility.

Protective clothing

For health and safety reasons you have to wear protective clothing, goggles, and an effective mask or respirator. Remember it is always more messy to work with blown-in insulation. Blown-in material is also harder to contain.

Plastic sheeting

With good preparation, you can contain many particles and prevent them to get into the air. The best is to use large rolls of plastic sheeting to tape off areas of your attic. 

Create a safe working spot

To ensure that you have a safe spot in the attic to stand when you are removing the old insulation and not falling through the ceiling, use scrap wood and create a safe platform to work from. A stable platform will also help you to reach corners and crevices more easily.

3. Take everything out of the attic

Before any removal of insulation can begin, you’ll have to clear the attic – take all stored furniture and boxes from your attic. You need the attic to be empty before you start removing the old insulation.

4. Plan the disposal procedure

Get enough sealable, large heavy-duty trash bags in which you can put all the removed insulation and the debris and dust sucked into the vacuum. If you don’t put it immediately in sealed bags the loose insulation might fill the air. 

You have the responsibility to safely dispose of all the removed insulation. We recommend that you find a local waste or recycling facility and arrange to either take your sealed bags to it or arrange with the facility to collect the bags at your home.  

If it is fiberglass or cellulose insulation that you have removed from your attic, check with your local authorities for regulations that might restrict how fiberglass or cellulose insulation can be disposed of. Old fiberglass insulation can sometimes be recycled. Cellulose insulation can usually not be recycled.


Remember, all the attic insulation and all the droppings on it must be removed from the attic before you replace it with new insulation. 

Procedure to remove different types of attic insulation

Let’s now look at the removal process of some specific types of old attic insulation. There are also excellent videos available showing you how to remove old insulation.

How to remove blown cellulose insulation

  1. Get all your equipment out of storage for easy access when needed. 
  2. Prepare your home as a worksite by ensuring clear attic access. Then cover the walls and floor along the access path with plastic sheets, and set up the ladder underneath the attic access.
  3. Put the commercial vacuum in the attic and plug it in at an electric outlet in your house. Also place the other tools such as rakes, dustpans and waste bags inside your attic.
  4. Put on your protective clothing, goggles and mask and climb into the attic to begin the removal.
  5. Use the commercial vacuum hose to remove the insulation and clean the floor.
  6. Rake the insulation that has not been sucked out onto the dustpan and empty the pans into the bags and seal them. 
  7. Repeat the procedure until everything is removed from the attic and the floor is clean and without dust and debris. 
  8. Remove the sealed bags filled with insulation from the attic.
  9. Remove vacuum, hoses, tools, equipment and supplies from the attic.
  10. Now remove all the surface coverings inside your home and around the attic. 

How to remove fiberglass batt insulation

  1. Get all your equipment out of storage for easy access when needed. 
  2. Prepare your home as a worksite by ensuring clear attic access. Then cover the walls and floor along the access path with plastic sheets, and set up the ladder underneath the attic access.
  3. Put the commercial vacuum in the attic and plug it in at an electric outlet in your house. Also place the other tools such as rakes, dustpans and waste bags inside your attic.
  4. Put on your protective clothing, goggles and mask and climb into the attic to begin the removal.
  5. Climb into the attic to begin the removal process.
  6. You remove the batt by rolling up each piece of insulation by hand. When rolled up, you put it into the waste bags – sealing every bag when filled. 
  7. Use the commercial vacuum hose to clean the attic floor.
  8. Take a break when your body temperature rises to high levels. It is recommended that you take a break every 15 minutes. Keep on with the removal procedure until the attic is clean. 
  9. When finished, clean up as described for the removal of blown cellulose. 

How long does attic insulation removal take?

To plan the removal of attic insulation you have to know how long it takes to do a job like this. A 3-person team of professional and trained technicians with the applicable tools takes approximately 4 to 6 hours to remove old insulation from a 1,500 square feet attic.

If you do it on your own as a DIY job a 1,500 square foot attic insulation removal can take between 6-18 hours. If you run into unforeseen problems, it can take more than 18 hours. The time – for professionals and DIY enthusiasts – involved depends to a great extent on the condition of the attic. 

With this schedule in mind, you have to consider various aspects when you plan to remove old insulation. Your availability, the accessibility of all the corners in the attic, your speed in a cramped space, the weather, and the type and amount of insulation you have to remove can affect the whole process. 

If your attic is not very small, we recommend that you don’t try to remove all the insulation in a one-day session, but that you divide the attic into workable sections and tackle a section a day.  Or if you can only work on weekends, to complete the job over a few weekends. 

How much does attic insulation removal cost?

If you get a professional company to remove the old insulation in your attic, it can cost you from $2,000 to $3,000 for a 1,500 square feet attic. If you do the removal yourself the cost can be cut down to so low as $1,000. 

Whether you hire an insulation professional or tackle it as a DIY job, the cost can be reduced with good planning. The less time it takes to complete the project the lower the costs might be. 

Why do you have to take out old attic insulation?

Now that you know how to remove old insulation in your attic you perhaps wonder whether you should do it now, or will there be “signs” when it is necessary.  There are various reasons why old attic insulation should be taken out, but we think the following three are the most important ones:

  • The insulation material can be infected by rodent infestations or damaged by water. These circumstances could be toxic and cause airborne diseases and contaminants. Such an environment also leads to the breeding of mold. These problems can only be solved by removing the existing insulation.
  • Insulation that is constantly wet can cause structural problems. To repair the water leaks and close the places where rain can get into the attic you have to take out all the insulation first. 
  • Damaged or contaminated insulation is not effective anymore and your HVAC system has to work harder and longer to maintain the required temperature in your home. This can cause higher energy bills. To replace it with new insulation to solve the problem, you have to take out all the old insulation.


It is possible to remove the old existing insulation in your attic by yourself. You just have to do online research enabling you to get the right tools. Also, consult a how-to video or book and search online for the steps and procedures to follow. By doing it yourself you can save greatly on the costs.

Charles John

Experienced HVAC technician with 8 years of experience in the industry. Capable of handling all sorts of heating and cooling equipment as well as proficient in operational management, construction-related techniques such as preventative maintenance, electrical troubleshooting and AutoCAD

Latest Posts