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How To Remove Old Insulation From Walls?

how to remove old insulation

Are you looking to replace the insulation in your home? If you are looking to replace your fiberglass insulation with cellulose insulation for a cleaner environment for your family, or you want to replace your insulation with a greener more efficient material, you’ll need to remove the old insulation first. This post will go over how you can do so easily, safely, and quickly.

How To Remove Old Insulation From Walls

Here are the steps you will need to take to remove the old insulation from your walls: 

1. Clear The Area

The first step is to make sure it is safe to remove the insulation by clearing the location of all contaminants.

Be sure to look out for the following:


According to the U.S. Consumer Product Protection Agency, this is very important if your home contains insulation manufactured between 1930 and 1950. Do not try to remove any insulation until you are sure there is no asbestos present. You can buy an asbestos testing kit or contact an inspector. You may need to send samples of the insulation to a lab for testing. If asbestos is present, you must hire a professional to remove the insulation and ensure it is disposed of properly.

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According to the Mayo Clinic, mold is the cause of the majority of sinus infections. So, you must remove mold from your home to avoid lingering sniffles.


These little guys are responsible for contaminating insulation with droppings, urine, and decomposing carcasses.

2. Remove The Old Insulation 

Once you are sure there are no mold, asbestos, or rodents, it should be safe to proceed with your insulation removal. Here’s a checklist to follow when removing old insulation:


Construction Vac

A specialized HEPA-filter rated; high-powered, large capacity vacuum is best for asbestos removal. You can buy or rent these. Some attic spaces are tiny and tight. If you can’t move around, you may need to tie a rope to the vacuum. Gradually pull the vacuum toward you as it sucks up the insulation.


You will also need protective clothing, goggles, and a good mask or respirator before you start.

Plastic Sheeting

Use large rolls of plastic sheeting and tape off your home areas to contain any particles getting into the air.

Be careful as you move around an unfinished attic space. Remember that, often, there is nothing between you and your ceiling except for a few rafters. All it takes is a misplaced foot, hand, or heavy vacuum, and you can hurt yourself or need drywall repairs.

Use sealable, large heavy-duty trash bags to empty the vacuum into. You do not want the insulation to get loose and float around your home.

Dispose of the insulation responsibly: When getting rid of your old insulation, find a certified recycling or waste management facility. Local regulations may restrict how you can dispose of fiberglass or cellulose insulation. So, check your local laws.

Generally, you can’t recycle cellulose insulation due to the product’s fire retardants. You will need to research to find out where you can take the insulation once you remove it. 

Reasons To Remove Old Insulation

Aging insulation can lose its insulating, fire-resistant, and moisture-resistant properties as it decays and breaks down. Older, organic insulations eventually lose their anti-pest effectiveness, too. Even newer insulating materials can trap moisture after freezing weather or if moisture barriers are improperly installed, causing mold. If you see signs of the following, it’s time to replace your insulation: 

  • Rodent nesting
  • Insulation break down, rot or decay
  • Mold or other fungal growth
  • Improperly installed moisture or vapor barriers

 There are additional items of interest that you want to be aware of when dealing with insulation. Here are a few that you want to take into consideration.

Removing Old Insulation From Walls (Frequently Asked Questions)

“I am seeing cellulose insulation everywhere. Why is that, and should I use it?” 

Cellulose insulation is made almost entirely from recycled paper. The recycled product is treated to keep it from molding and to repel insects and fire.

 Fiberglass is prone to mold, which is why cellulose is an excellent alternative. Cellulose insulation is better at trapping air, which makes it a more effective insulation material.

“What are some reasons I would need to replace my old insulation?”

If your insulation is not doing its job and insulating. Whether it’s deteriorated or faulty, it’s either not keeping your house hot or cold, depending on the weather. Which, in turn, increases your utility costs, whether it be air conditioning or heat. It’s time to rip it out and find a better alternative that will do its job correctly.

“Why does my home or attic need insulation?”

Your attic can be a very chilly or sweltering space without proper attic insulation, depending on the time of year. This issue can affect your home’s overall energy efficiency, so it makes sense to have your attic insulation started as soon as possible. 

Today, there are several types of insulation on the market, including fiberglass batting insulation, blown-in insulation, and vapor barrier insulation. One crucial thing to remember when installing insulation is never to block your attic vents.

“Can I add new insulation over the old without ripping it out?”

According to ENERGY STAR®, you can put new insulation over old insulation, unless it is wet. If your insulation looks wet or like it has been wet, you should look for the cause and repair the problem. Wet insulation is problematic; it can lead to mold, mildew, and sometimes cause the ceilings or roof rafters to rot.

“What is asbestos?”

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, asbestos is a mineral fiber. A particular type of microscope is the only thing that can identify asbestos.

 There are several types of asbestos fibers. Asbestos was added to various products in years past to strengthen them and give them heat insulation and fire resistance.

“How does asbestos affect my family’s health?”

Studies of asbestos exposure in factories and shipyards found that breathing high levels of asbestos fibers leads to a higher risk of:

  • Lung cancer
  • Mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the chest and the abdominal cavity
  • Asbestosis (the lungs become scarred with fibrous tissue)

As the number of fibers inhaled increases, so does the risk of lung cancer. Asbestosis patients have typically been exposed to high levels of asbestos for long periods.

These diseases’ symptoms do not usually appear until about 20 to 30 years after the first asbestos exposure. 

How Can I Identify Materials That Contain Asbestos?

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You can’t tell whether a material contains asbestos only by looking at it unless it is labeled. If you’re unsure, treat the material like it contains asbestos anyway, or have it tested by a professional. If sampling is done wrong, it can be more dangerous than leaving the material alone; this is why taking samples yourself is not recommended.

 If you choose to take the samples yourself anyway, you have to make sure you don’t release any asbestos fibers onto yourself or into the air.

 You only need to test material that is damaged or that will be disturbed.

 You must follow this protocol to ensure the safety of yourself and your family during asbestos sampling:

  • Ensure you are the only person in the room during sampling.
  • Wear disposable gloves and wash your hands after the sampling is complete.
  • Shut down any heating or cooling systems to reduce released fibers from spreading throughout the home.
  • Try not to disturb the material any more than you need to take a small sample.
  • Put a plastic sheet on the floor below the area you are sampling.
  • Wet the material using a fine mist of water containing a few detergent drops before taking the sample. This mist reduces the release of asbestos fibers.
  • Carefully cut a piece from the material’s entire depth using a small knife, corer, or another sharp object. Place the small amount into a clean container and tightly seal it.
  • Dispose of the plastic sheet very carefully. Take a damp paper towel to clean up any material outside the container or around the area sampled. Dispose of asbestos materials according to state and local guidelines.
  • Label the container with an identification number and clearly state when and where you took the sample.
  • Patch the sampled area with a tiny piece of duct tape to prevent fiber release.
  • Send the sample to an asbestos analysis laboratory. You can find accredited laboratories on the NVLAP web site.

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