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Question DetailsAsked on 1/12/2014

What is the proper order for replacing attic insulation and replacing the ceiling in the living room?

I have a brick ranch house in upstate NY. My A/C's air handler is located in the attic, with ductwork in the attic delivering the cool air to the living areas via ceiling vents. To complicate matters, the ceiling in my living/dining room have been covered up with hideous ceiling tiles. One contractor believed there was drywall under it, but I'm not sure. However, around the AC vents in the ceiling, these tiles appear to have old water damage….discolored but no actual moisture. The attic insulation is also falling off the rafters and I would like to replace it with blown in insulation and also have the chance to check for water damage and mold. I would also like to take down the ceiling tiles and replace with regular drywall. What is the correct order to do this in? If I take the ceiling down in the living room, will the insulation from the floor in the attic be right there falling down on me? What part(s) of the attic should be insulated to properly protect my A/C air handler?

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I can't imagine ceiling tiles without drywall or plastered ceiling - joists overhead probably 24" spacing, so that would mean at least 24 and mayve 48" tiles for them to stick, and would probably have noticeable downward bulge between joists is not glued to drywall/plaster. Bear in mind these are probably old, so may be asbestos tiles, which could chnage your cost quite a bit.

My recommendation, after determining asbestos situation:
1) find out if you have current leakage and solve that first - could be from roof leak, condensation in attic in winter, drips from condensation in A/C ducts, or leaking condensate from air handler condenser, if any.
2) air handler usually should NOT be blocked off from attic, but does have a required open air space around it that cannot be infringed on by insulation. With blown in insulation it is pretty common to block the handler (in off mode) with temporary plastic sheeting or tarp to retain required air space during blowing in and to keep insulation out of the handler motor and fan, then remove the plastic sheeting/tarp when done. Generally, should have a screening around it (bug screen size) at least 3 feet high to keep wind blowing through attic from blowing blown-in loose insulation into handler, which can cause overheating. Other solution is to bring the handler within the building envelope with a utility room built around it, with adequate ventilation for cooling.
3) if you remove drywall ceiling, there should be (but may not be, especially in warmer climes) a plastic sheet vapor barrier above it, stapled to the bottom of the joists. The insulation sits on top of that, loose. So yes - pull the drywall, you probably get insulation into the room plus tear the vapor barrier - so if replacing drywall you should remove the insulation first unless it is quite light and thin, as the vapor barrier is only stapled up there.
4) check if you have vapor barrier and drywall in ceiling from the attic - just dig down through the insulation and you will see barrier it there (clear plastic about as thick as a heavy freezer type plastic ziploc bag), and will see either tiles or back (paper) side of drywall ceiling there.
5) water staining around A/C vents, if those are the only tiles with damage, may well be from condensation in the duct that leaked out onto the top of the ceiling at the vent, or even condensation from the cold air into the tiles, and not indication of leaks at all. Should be easy to see from the top, in the attic.
6) Order - fix roof/HVAC leaks if any, put in roof ridge vent if not there and needed (highly recommended with peaked roofs), insulation removal in attic, put in eave ventilation trays/vents if not there, ceiling removal if needed, put up new vapor barrier and drywall ceilings, seal all penetrations and other potential airleaks into attic, install insulation in attic.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD




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