Hey Atlanta, Do You Want To Know Which Attic Insulation Product is Most Prone to Odor?

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Bob Bird, Bird Family Insulation

Odds are we’ve met, seen, or heard of a person who was blind, or who was mute, or who was deaf.

But have you encountered a person who couldn’t smell?

In fact, I’ve not read of such a person, nor heard that such a person exists.

It would seem to me, if I’m able to breathe, I’m probably able to smell.

If I’m not able to breathe, smelling odors isn’t my worst problem, right? wink wink

Here at Bird Family Insulation, our customers are Atlanta homeowners. And every so often we have a client who will ask, “Will this insulation smell?”

Because every one of our clients, 100% of them – has a nose, we expect that this is a legitimate question for the masses. Not everyone may ask – but everyone subconsciously either wants to know or will very soon know the answer.

After upgrading the attic insulation in our first Atlanta home in 1998, we’ve got a lot of experience in Atlanta’s neighborhoods. My research for this article is based on many thousands of Atlanta attics!

The Most Popular Attic Insulation in Atlanta

The three most popular attic insulation products here in Atlanta are:

  • Fiberglass insulation
  • Cellulose insulation
  • Spray foam insulation

Bob’s Rant About Odor

As for odors, my personal belief is that odor is very subjective. What I might smell, you may not smell at all! And vice-versa.

Additionally, as my body ages, my senses change.

I can prove it: my wife doesn’t wear the same perfume she preferred as a teen, or what she wore in her twenties and thirties. Now in our sixties, our sense of smell has evolved over time. 

And, she has changed my cologne twice in our 42 years of marriage.

I also remember when Debbie (wife) was pregnant. Wow, did her sense of smell change –  even if only temporarily.

I also know that our sense of smell adapts to our environment. While in highschool, I had a part time job at Burger King. When I’d come home, my Mom would often say, “Bobby, you smell like you washed your shirt in the fryer!” Of course I didn’t wash my shirt with the french fries… but the odor in my clothes and on my body was so strong everyone in the house smelled Burger King french fries the minute I walked into the house!

But I didn’t smell a thing!

We don’t smell our own body odor. We don’t smell our own breath.

I’ve made my point.

Perhaps most odd is the homeowner with two cats and a smelly litter box, who asks me, “Bob, this insulation you’re putting in my attic – does it smell?”

No sir, Mr Brown, of course not!” wink wink

 

Atlanta’s Stinky Attic Insulation, Ranked in Order of Offense

 

But for those of us Atlantans who have a perfect sense of smell, and who live in a perfectly odor-free home (HA!), here is my opinion as to what insulation products are most prone to have a lingering odor. Listed in that order.

 

  1. Spray foam insulation. In my experience, a home that has an encapsulated attic with spray foam insulation is a home where the occupants will most likely smell the insulation. Most notably, this “plastic” odor occurs during the summer months for us in the deep south. Now, this isn’t only my opinion. We’ve had homeowners sue us in court, simply because after we sprayed their attic with foam insulation, a family member complained of the smell. Yes, we had core samples tested for “bad foam”, etc. It was a solid, perfect installation. Yes, we used fans to extract the air while we sprayed. But conditions were just right, that a family member refused to stay in the house until the spray foam was removed, and a lot more. Spray foam insulation is so far ahead in the complaint category, you cannot see 2nd place.

       2. Cellulose insulation. There is a HUGE gap between first place and second place in this list of odor-offending insulation products. Let me be quick to say, we’ve never had to remove cellulose insulation from a person’s attic because of an offensive or harmful odor. And we              make this guarantee to our clients: “If you don’t like our cellulose insulation, for any reason, we will remove it for free”. 

  • Cellulose insulation has no odor. However, when we install your cellulose, we add a small amount of water so that it is stabilized. That water comes from your outside faucet – and over a period of two sunny, dry days it has evaporated to the atmosphere through your attic ventilation system.
  • During the 48 hours or so while your cellulose insulation contains this tiny amount of moisture, it may have a slight “wet paper” odor that some people can smell. Others will not. In fact, the huge majority will not smell it – it’s that faint.
  • None of our Atlanta “Attic Bump-Up” clients have smelled any odor from cellulose insulation. This is because our Bump-Up service is where we add the fresh, new insulation on top of a bed of existing attic insulation.
  • Of our Atlanta “Attic Makeover” clients, perhaps 1 in 30 may mention that there is a faint “wet paper smell” in the house. This is due to the stabilized cellulose insulation lying in direct contact with the cooler sheetrock ceiling. We explain that any odor disappears (permanently) after about two or three sunny, dry days. And it’s never been a problem.

      3. Fiberglass insulation. This stuff only has a very faint odor, and to my knowledge has never had a reputation for a lingering odor after being installed in an Atlanta attic. But it also is the least effective attic insulation, in my opinion.

Atlanta’s Beautiful, Vented Attics Serve Us Well

Keep this in mind: Most of us live in a home with a vented attic. Our attics have vents designed to allow a free exchange of air to occur between the atmosphere and the air in the attic. So any odor in a vented attic is usually swept away to the atmosphere due to the physics of a vented attic.

Spray Foam Insulated Attics are the Exception

However, the spray foam encapsulated attic is sealed like a Tupperware, or a Rubbermaid tub. These attics are not vented. Air trapped in this attic may be high in moisture, and contain odors that begin to negatively influence indoor air quality in the living space. If the air-ducts or hvac system is located in this sealed attic, the offending air may be drawn into leaky ducts and pumped into the living space very easily!

Mission: Impossible

Some years back my son Beau and I attended a day of training sponsored by Georgia Power Company for their Atlanta contractors. I’ve never forgotten one statement we heard from an instructor:

“Guys, odor and noise complaints are the issues most impossible to satisfy for your clients.” 

I believe it. After installing stabilized cellulose attic insulation for many thousands of Atlanta clients, I know that man was right!

Since that first Atlanta attic upgrade in 1998, we’ve installed over 7 million pounds of cellulose attic insulation in homes just like yours!  So, my test sample is a rather large sample, over a long period of time, with many thousands and thousands of occupants. And as I recall, every one of those occupants had a nose that could smell odors.

Has this helped? I hope my article has helped you. I’ve been as truthful as I know how. Hey Atlanta, are you ready for an instant, online estimate for upgrading your attic insulation? Use my free calculators here:  https://birdinsulation.com/free-insulation-estimate/

God Bless You!

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