I have a two story 1916 foursquare home in Ohio with spacious attic and basement. Before I purchased it, the HVAC system was redone by installing two independent furnaces/blowers (one in the attic and one in the basement). Although there have been no serious problems yet, I would like to (i) improve energy efficiency by enlarging the thermal envelope to include the attic furnace inside conditioned space (ii) avoid snowmelt/ice damming by better insulating the roof from the furnace.

So I would like to add insulation right below the roof plane, but am unsure what the best choice of materials/installation might be. The roof is basically square with hips on all 4 sides/corners, with largish dormers at front and rear. It has soffit vents around the entire perimeter, and a ridge vent running from dormer to dormer (I added all this ventilation during a roof rebuild - hopefully this was the right move).

The first option seems to be spraying foam in between all the rafters (after adding baffles/channels to preserve the cold air flow from the soffit to the ridge). Another option might be to "build down" from the rafters, by fixing SIP panels directly beneath them and preserve the whole volume of the rafter bay for ventilation. With the dormers and hips, this could require some precision work - probably harder than spray foam.

Any suggestions or additional options I missed? I would like to (eventually) finish the attic space, if that steers the choice any. Probably not going to DIY, just want to educate myself on choices/prices before approaching a contractor. If memory serves, the roof was approximately 30-35 squares of shingles, just to ballpark the area requirement.

2 Answers 2


Any reason you are not you are not using fiberglass batt insulation. This can be done your self with adding 2x4 on end to get at least 9.5 inches. Then staple the insulation up. no need for baffles if insulation is at least 1" less that rafter width. The cost saving will leave you enough money to pay someone to hang drywall on ceiling maybe even spackle.

Spray foam is a good product but expensive and your electrician will charge alot more if he has to run wires through it for lighting.

  • Hmm that just hadn't occured to me - sounds DIY'able too. The remark about adding a 2x4 - that is basically glued/nailed below the existing rafter beam to make the bay deeper and make a frame for more/deeper insulation, correct? Thank you for the suggestion. I should buy it with a vapor barrier, facing the interior volume, correct? Thanks again. Jan 3, 2014 at 22:45
  • I would predrill and counter sink a 4" Premium screw or timbertech lag every 2'. Yes paper facing interior.
    – Justin K
    Jan 4, 2014 at 20:48

You don't need the full depth of the rafters for cold air flow under the roof. 1-1/2 inches is plenty. Probably the most cost effective way to do that would be to do a careful job putting up the thin foam formed baffles typically used at the eaves all the way, sealing any places that look like they might be a problem with can foam, and then have spray foam applied over them. However, it would be nearly as effective and probably a lot cheaper to have cellulose (perhaps supported by net/mesh, Cellulose on net or the (more expensive) cellulose that's professionally sprayed with a glue binder to hold it) blown in there; in either case you may want to extend the rafter depth a bit with furring to get more insulation in place. Spray foam folks may claim you don't need a cold roof over their foam, but since the venting is in place, I'd vote for preserving it.

If you put all your insulation below the rafters, you'll lose a good bit of useful space in the attic.

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