Blown-in insulation is commonly used in attics and in between new walls. It's affordable and simple to install. But there may come a time when the insulation needs to be removed. Whether you are upgrading the insulation, or need to take out damaged or moldy insulation, blown-in insulation removal is a dirty job but can be a necessary one.
Step 1: Consider Your Options
If you need to remove insulation that has been damaged by water or mold, this may be a job best suited for a professional. You will need a high powered shop vacuum. Blown-in insulation is messy since it's loose. It can create respiratory problems and cause contact dermatitis if proper precautions aren't taken. If you only need to remove excess insulation, or just have a small area to contend with, it can save money to do this yourself. Otherwise, contact a professional to deal with this for you.
Step 2: Prep the Area and Yourself
If you are removing insulation from a wall, you may need to cut a small hole just large enough for the hose attachment for your vacuum to fit through. A drop cloth should be placed under the area with the hole. If you are removing insulation from an attic, you will need to find a way to get the vacuum into the attic. Preferably you will want to stay out of the attic or give yourself plenty of distance from the insulation. If you're removing a lot of insulation, you should resort to renting an insulation removal vacuum that remains outside while you vacuum the attic through its long hose. If it's for a small job only and you are crafty, you can rig a way to attach a rope to the shop vac and pulling it towards you as you work.
You also want to prepare yourself for this task. Wear protective clothing and a high-quality particle mask or respirator. This will reduce the risk of dermatitis should the insulation fall on your skin, and protect you from breathing in any insulation.
Step 3: Start to Vacuum
Actually vacuuming the insulation out may take some time, depending on the size of the area. Just start vacuuming, and try to reach all the corners and crevices. You will want to keep an eye on the vacuum collection and empty it before it gets full. This way you don't lose suction or waste time. When you empty the canister, dump it into a large heavy-duty trash bag and tie it off. This will prevent the insulation from floating around and making a mess.
Step 4: Disposing of Insulation
Most recycling centers will accept blown-in insulation. This is typically made of cellulose, which is a material that can be recycled. If you are unsure of what the insulation material is, or your local recycling center doesn't accept it, check with your local regulations to find how to dispose of it acceptably. Some localities have restrictions, and others will allow you to just place the bags on the curb for trash pick up.