Equipment Needed To Install Radiant Barrier

Equipment needed to install radiant barrier foil in your attic

-number one tip: get the good stuff! The higher the grade of foil the stiffer and easier it is to work with. the foil comes with either a polyethylene or polypropelene backing with aluminum bonded to either side. The cheaper the grade of foil, the less backing it has. I have even seen radiant barrier with a paper backing. the cheaper you go, the less strength the foil has. I have used cheap and expensive foil and I now go exclusively with the higher grade. There are some stores that won't even sell you the low grade stuff. The high grade foil cannot be ripped by hand. it has to be cut with either a blade or scissors. If you staple the good stuff to the rafters and then pull on it, you will literally pull the staples out of the wood. yes, it is that strong!
-Get the perforated foil. unless you are using this as a house wrap, I always use foil that the manufacturer has perforated tiny little holes into it. The tiny holes will allow any excess moisture to travel easily through the foil and therefore never end up on the backside of your plywood.
-if you buy in bulk to get a good price, it generally comes in a 4 foot roll. I used to pull the foil out of the box and cut it in half, but now the distributor does it for me (what a nice guy). trying to maneuver a 4 foot roll of foil in a tight crawl space is insane. I have done it too much to ever want to do it voluntarily. handling a 2 foot roll makes the installation much easier.

knife/blade/scissors - if you get the high grade foil, you will need something to cut it with. i use scissors, since the foil is not always taut enough to cut easily with a blade. when you are holding the roll and it is already stapled to the rafters, a box-cutter will probably work faster, so play a little and see which you like best
-you can use a manual or electric staple gun. I prefer the manual staple gun, since my is the light plastic type. Mine also have the leverage opposite most older staple guns. the point at which you are pressing down on the gun lever is the same part that the staple comes out into the wood. This means the gun slips out of your hand less (see the video in another post)
-the foil is very thin, so the larger the staple, the more you are wasting. I use 1/4" staples and they are more than enough to hold the foil onto the rafters.

level and ruler
-this is how you determine the pitch of your roof. you need to know this before you can calculate how much foil you need to buy.
infra-red thermometer
-this gives you instant feedback as to how your foil is working. I have made many discoveries about my attic by running around testing different areas to see how much heat is being emitted.

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2 comments to Equipment Needed To Install Radiant Barrier

  • My compliments on a solid article. Many helpful key points are covered. Nothing is more frustrating than working with flimsy material in a crampled attic space. And yes, perforated products for attic applications is usually the way to go.

    Here’s some quick formulas to help measure square footage while accounting for pitch in pitch roof designs.

    Length X Width X 1.4 for 12×4 roof
    Length X Width X 1.6 for 12×6 roof
    Length X Width X 1.8 for 12×8 roof

  • ideas

    Thank you for the compliment,

    Finding calculations was the first hurdle I had when trying to learn about radiant barriers. Granted, I was experimenting, so having more than I needed wasn’t a problem for me. For someone who only wanted to do their own house and not end up with a bunch of extra foil, having the right square footage is definitely helpful.

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