A homeowner removing cellulose insulation from a ceiling

Cellulose insulation is a natural, semi-rigid material made from recycled newspapers. It is a fantastic insulator that can help you save on energy bills while increasing your home’s comfort level. 

Cellulose insulation is a safe, effective, and affordable way to add insulation to your home. When it’s new, it’s an excellent insulator, but eventually, it breaks down and becomes inefficient. 

If you’ve lived in your home for some time, the cellulose insulation has likely become compacted and may need to be removed. If you are considering taking apart old cellulose insulation, read on for tips on how to do it safely.

How To Remove Old Cellulose Insulation

To remove old cellulose insulation, you must ensure you have the necessary tools for the job, specifically protective gear and an insulation remover. Then, layer protective materials over your floors and furniture. Finally, start the removal process by working between the walls with the vacuum pipe. 

1.) Get an Insulation Vacuum and Protective Gear

For most people, removing cellulose insulation is a job best left to a professional because it can be messy and dusty, and you must be careful when removing it. However, if you’re a DIYer, you can easily tackle this task, saving you time and money.

The good news is that removing cellulose is straightforward if you have the right tools for the job. 

Here are some tools you’ll need to make the process easier:

  • An insulation vacuum (you can rent this from a hardware store near you)
  • Insulation bags that fit the vacuum 
  • Overalls
  • Protective eyewear
  • Heavy-duty gloves for working
  • Respirator or mask 
  • Protective material for the floors

You will need a vacuum with a 23-horsepower motor because this type of insulation isn’t easy to remove from walls, floors, or ceilings, especially if it’s been there for decades.

A man installes densed packed cellulose insulation it the exterior walls of a home below a window

2.) Lay Down Protective Material 

Once you have your protective gear on, the next step is to lay down some protective material around the area where you plan to remove the cellulose insulation. 

The protective material can be cardboard, plastic sheets, or even newspaper.

Once you kick up the old cellulose insulation, dust will likely contaminate your household. While this is difficult to prevent, you can do some prep work before removing the insulation to help maintain your carpets and furniture.

You can make your clean-up job less painful by doing the following to avoid debris contaminating your flooring, living space, and furniture:

  • If possible, remove any furniture from the area that is in direct line with the workspace.
  • Remove any drapes or blinds that may be hanging from walls in the room.
  • Place your desired protective material over carpeting and furniture in your workspace. By doing this, they won’t get covered in insulation dust. 

3.) Set Up the Insulation Vacuum 

A high-powered insulation removal vacuum is a tool used to remove loose insulation from walls, ceilings, and other surfaces. These powerful machines are made to effectively remove deteriorated insulation from attics, sidewalls, and crawl spaces.

An insulation vacuum allows blown-in insulation to be vacuumed and disposed of straight into disposable collecting bags, making the procedure quick and efficient. 

An insulation vaccum on the sidewalk outside a home
Courtesy of Insulation Machines

Aside from being an effective insulation removal method, vacuuming is also the easiest and least expensive way to eliminate old cellulose insulation.

To ensure you do the job correctly, you must double check the vacuum is in 100% working condition by doing the following: 

  • Ensure there are no kinks in the suction pipe. Otherwise, you won’t get adequate suction. 
  • Attach a collection bag to the other side of the vacuum. This measure will ensure that all the insulation sucked into the machine will be effectively disposed of, saving you valuable cleaning time and energy.

Here’s a quick YouTube video that demonstrates how to set up and run your insulation vacuum:

Screenshot from a video demonstrates how to set up and run an insulation vacuum
Courtesy of Northside Tool Rental

4.) Begin the Removal Process

From the moment you switch on the vacuum, keep an eye on the machine. You’ll need to know when the collection bags are full and if there are any clogs in the vacuum pipe. 

Keep the following tips in mind as you begin the removal process:

  1. If you’re operating in an attic, inspect for nails poking through the ceiling, floor, and rim joists, as well as any vulnerability in surfaces you step or place pressure on.
  2. Start from the location farthest from the access point of the room you’re working in. The amount of dust scattered will be reduced as a result, but you’ll probably still experience residuum all over the house. That’s why it’s essential to lay down some protective material.
  3. With the vacuum pipe, work your way between the walls, sucking up every piece of cellulose in sight.  
  4. If you spot mold, an infestation, or another hazard at any time, do everything you can to confine them. Then reassess whether you need to hire experts who can efficiently carry out this task and effectively clean up a potentially dangerous environment.
  5. When the collection bag is full, ensure that all the air is squeezed out when you tie the bag closed. Then replace the used bag with a new one.

Removing cellulose insulation is a messy, time-consuming process. It can take 6-10 hours to remove all the material, including the excess debris and dust, from the walls, floor, and ceiling.

Ensure you follow a systematic approach throughout the room to establish manageable goals and complete each section to the best of your ability.

Final Thoughts

Removing old cellulose insulation can be done by anyone with the right tools and just a little time to spare. However, using an insulation vacuum is the quickest and easiest way to carry out this task.

For any DIYer hoping to complete this process, we recommend using the above methods and tips as a guideline. 

Always remember: work smart, not hard—planning the job carefully can save you a lot of time and effort.


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