Removing Old Insulation

It is with great relief that we have just had our old and very toxic insulfluf removed from the ceiling cavity in our house. When getting advice on what type of insulation we should have installed, everyone said to just leave the fluff there and pile new insulation on top. But looking into the matter a little further reveals how nasty the stuff is. Without even delving into the chemistry, you notice how bad it is as soon as you come into contact with it, by the itching and burning you get in your eyes, nose and on your skin. We decided that it had to go. Funnily enough, when pushed, every one of the “experts” who advised us to leave it there all agreed that the stuff is nasty and we would be better off to have it removed. So remove it we did.

This job took an industrial sized vacuum cleaner

This steampunk-esk contraption took 5 hours to do the job!









It took a few itchy hours, two lads, and a very large vacuum machine to do the job, but happily it’s over now and the ceiling cavity is ready for insulating.

You may be asking yourself, what removing Insulfluf has to do with being green, and as I already mentioned, many people advised us to leave it there and insulate over the top. I guess it comes down to living in a healthier way and being thorough about it. It is just another little step in the long journey to making our place as green as we can, so I thought it worth the mention. We have spent a lot of energy researching products to get the most healthy and sustainable options available before using them in our house. We eat organically and use as little plastic as we can. It would seem like all that was a complete waste of energy if we were then to be continually dusted with something as poisonous as Insulfluf.

Whatever it is they use to make Insulfluf fire retardant and insect resistant, it’s not meant for human consumption, and because the material is essentially recycled paper dust, it can travel around your house with the slightest air movement. Lets face it, every house lets in a bit of air under the roof, and I’ve heard of the dust coming down through light fittings and any small cracks in the timber work. We’ve found it in the top of our inbuilt wardrobes, so I hate to think how much of it has worked it’s way through our house in such fine particles that we don’t recognise it. Each time my partner Mike has been into the ceiling, he complains of itchy, burning, eyes and skin and that’s just the start of the allergic reaction. Needless to say, we are very please to see the back of it!

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2 Responses to Removing Old Insulation

  1. Nathan says:

    What are you going to replace it with?
    A couple we stayed with on the Banks peninsula used wool-bats. The company even made the lengths to fit. A little pricey though I think.

  2. sisami says:

    Hi Nathan,

    Cheers for your comments. Yeah it’s certainly not a simple choice for the insulation. Initially I was keen to get a 100% wool product from a south island based company, but then I heard that it’s still coated with resin to help it hold it’s loft. Apparently the resin doesn’t last too well and gets brittle and packs down… which in turn means the product is far less effective. I like the fact that the wool has the ability to absorb and lock formaldehyde into it’s fibers though. Having said that, I wonder if it still has the same properties after the resin treatment??? I’ll have to ask the company if they’ve tested that far.

    We are currently thinking that a polyester blanket might be the best option as it’s just polyester and therefore easier to recycle the whole product. Polyester also holds it’s loft, making it a longer term option. If cost is a consideration, then that is also by far the first choice.

    We’re inclined to look at the whole cost though -the environmental side included, so if anyone has some good info on these things that would help us to make the right choice, we’d love to hear it.
    It’s incredible how complicated these decisions can be to make!

    We had Richard Morrison, the Kapiti Coast District Council’s eco designer come over to give us a home assessment and to hear his objective opinion (sometimes it’s hard to know if the insulation guys are just selling you their product of if they have enough experience with other products to give good advice). Anyways, Richard reckons we should definitely go for insulation biscuits between the ceiling joists and then roll out a double layer of blanket over the top. If only it were as simple as getting it done just how you like!

    We’re also having quite a time deciding on the underfloor options. We need a moisture barrier as it’s a little damp under the house. At first everyone said to put down black polythene on the ground. We didn’t like the sound of that for a few reasons
    1. nothing that gets onto it can rot into the earth (think leaves, dead animals and their droppings).
    2. Water cannot drain away should it somehow get onto the polythene (it’s easier than you think to flood the bathroom -especially with small children around!).
    3. The polythene sits directly on the ground and would be the perfect breeding ground for really nasty mould to grow under it -no way do we want to encourage that one!

    But, what are the alternatives? None of them would be eligible for an EECA subsidy for a start. We can go for one of many different silver foil options and are currently investigating which is best. We think it’s probably the silver foil backed with white plastic sheeting -this won’t tear as easily as straight foil. We’ll wedge biscuits between the floor joists first.

    Complicated eh! Do let me know if you have any experience with any of these things as I’m not sure I’m completely satisfied with the options so far.
    This story is definitely still a work in progress


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