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Anyone else live in an uninsulated house?

Post in 'The Green Room' started by Beanscoot, Dec 4, 2009.

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  1. Beanscoot

    Beanscoot Member

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    It's a 1914 bungalow with a developed attic, and even with the good Hearthstone II stove keeping the living room toasty, the far bedroom gets pretty chilly by morning. Now that it's getting frosty at night, it was a not-so-balmy 46 F. this morning in the bedroom.

    It's so bad the cat is starting to crawl under the bed covers (and she's not a particularly sociable feline)!

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  2. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

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    Well, most of the house is uninsulated. The attic is insulated and an addition on the back is insulated. The rest of the rooms of this 1920 house are uninsulated.

    Matt
  3. fraxinus

    fraxinus Feeling the Heat

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    Loc:
    coastal Maine
    Insulation in attic only - 6" of rigid styrofoam installed on attic floor, fiberglass on end walls. Main section of house built around 1810, ell in 1870 have no insulation in the walls. Original section has corner posts and vertical framing around windows only. This means space between "studs' can be anywhere from 18" to almost 4'. From the exterior there are cedar clapboards, 1.25" boards for sheathing, lathing, then 1.5 to 2" of plaster. Stone foundation walls have been sealed with sprayed shotcrete from the inside - not exactly insulation, but did eliminate a lot of air leaks. All floor /ceiling joists are cedar logs 6 to 8" in diameter squared only on the nailing surface. While there is no insulation in the walls, this is not a drafty house. Windows all have mostly original glass, exterior storm windows, and on the second floor homemade interior storm windows.

    For this neighborhood, this is not a particularly old house - neighbor's across the street dates from 1774. These houses have lasted because they were built with quality materials and were constructed in such a way that they could "breathe". Once upon a time the chief threat to 18th and 19th century buildings was development; now its probably misguided energy efficiency.
  4. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    Partially insulated here.

    The "original" end of the house is a center chimney cape built in 1795. Its partially insulated. The second floor (originally unfinished attic) was refinished most recently sometime in the 50's - I'm fairly confident of that because there is about 2 inches of decaying cellulose bat insulation labeled kimsul in the ceiling. If I'm lucky that ceiling is giving me R-5 ;) On the first floor the bathroom and master bedroom (which was redone) both have fiberglass bats in the walls but the other rooms with plaster are uninsulated as best I can tell.

    Off the back of the house is an ell that I think dates somewhere between 1800-1850. This area has insulation in the ceiling only (R-20 bats on floor of crawlspace attic above).

    The ell had a porch that was closed in and renovated to make whats now the dining room in the 70's. At the same time the kitchen in the back half of the ell was redone. The kitchen and dining room are both fully insulated, in parts I can even see vapor barrier when I peek in around outlets.

    This is our first winter in the house. stove is in the center of the ell and will all the doors open the heat spreads quite nicely.

    -Jeremy
  5. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    fraxinus-

    Curious - Did you do any sealing on the outside of your foundation when you coated the inside? Do you ever get water problems in you basement? Stone cellar here also and we have a high water table - Ive got drainage channels and french drains and when we get a couple days of heavy rain I get seepage. I've just been pointing the worst cracks with lime mortar and run a dehumidifier - was warned that any interior sealing will just make water build up behind the walls and undermine the foundation....
  6. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    Beanscoot- look into pink insulation for the attic and blown in for the walls ASAP. It aint getting warmer this year bro. Check freecycle and Craigslist for leftover pink insulation. I suspect that lots of folks have it leftover from a project- I have some in my basement in fact.
  7. Dune

    Dune Minister of Fire

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    Sans-Slacks, good to see you back. How was Germany?
  8. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    I went twice over the summer for biddnizz (was consulting, have since found steady employment). Germany was great- good folks, business went well, ate lots of pig and had local beer. Over there they fry a damn porkchop and call it schnitzel- that is so awesome. What else can I fry that I have neglected?
  9. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    I think beanscoot has the same problem I do - with a finished attic there is no way to insulate the roof properly without tearing down the ceiling to provide for vapor barriers and ventilation space between insulation and roof.
  10. szmaine

    szmaine New Member

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    Some was uninsulated when we purchased in 2005, we have added much but still have alot to do as previous retrofits are mostly inadequate.

    The house is 1840's cape with two appendages - kitchen/shed L and dining room addition, everything has sloped ceilings.
    The very small room (storage hopefully to be 1/2 bath soon) above the dining room had zero insulation, since the plaster was bulging and the roof had a big whoopie
    in it we gutted that room - framing was a mess! The sag in the roof was do to the removal of a chimney, to bridge the hole someone nailed a half a log over it (husband excited - said it was black walnut and carried it off to his "treasure" stash). Over the kitchen was wood paneling w/ some species of bat ~1" think label "Balsam wool" and was indeed full of what looked like sawdust. Both rooms we used Tuff-R isocyanurate due to very limited space, with the reflective foil now we have theoretically R = 24. The rest of the house was previous retrofitted with blown-in rock wool, and some vermiculite to fill the nooks and crannies (I know it is the Libby Montana stuff since they we kind enough to leave behind two vintage mint condition bag of Zonolite).
    The main attic has ~3" of loose fill and I mean to remedy that but is going to be a major project: need to get the old stuff out due to severe accumulation of mouse poo and bat guano, knob-and-tube needs to come out, old asbestos insulated expansion tank, more vermiculite and as usual there's always carpentry repairs when ever you dare look too close. Aren't old houses a blast.

    Oh yeah, crack in the field stone foundation? in one, thankfully, small area someone thought it would be a good idea to stuff those full of some asbestos pipe wrap that must have fallen off - hey, waste not want not.
  11. anka

    anka New Member

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    While I also own an early cape (1795) in midcoast Maine, I think the majority of the old buildings with the exception of a few examples in Bath, Wiscasset etc, are in fact inefficiant and in need of updates. There are many historic homes that should be kept original, but most people in the state live in trailers... My home also has stone a basement with some original rough rounded beams with bark intact... but the house is very leaky, and poorly maintained over the years. Vinal siding over painted asphault shingles, no sign of original cedar... No insulation... new leaky windows... flooding and mold in basement... mice squirrels.. you name it. I actually have a healthy hatred of the place as it has pushed my diy nature to the limit. Babyproofing the led paint is next-
    I would use the tax credit to do as much spray on insullation as possible. Possibly the upper part of the basement foundation, interior walls that need re-rocking, etc. I used pink on the attick, which along with the upstairs is sealed in winter. Downstairs ceilings also get pink.... but, the more spray foam the better....
    If I were going to live here permanently (eight years so far) this would be a summer cottage or a teardown and I would build something new further from the road.

    Anka.
  12. szmaine

    szmaine New Member

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    Have you ever looked into the Maine home repair network? Go check it out at the Maine housing authority web site. There are income limits but if you qualify
    they can be a valuable resource for many things - like the lead paint issue, insulation etc.
  13. Dune

    Dune Minister of Fire

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    Awesome! So glad you have steady work.
  14. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    Just IMHO - but I think most of the poor state of repair of some old buildings is actually due to the misguided attempts at modernizing. the original materials, if properly maintained tend to last longer than the cheap plastic and foam in use today. I find that I have far more issues/problems with the "renovated" parts of my house than the original areas.

    Be careful of what contractors will tell you, many methods and materials that are fine for new construction will absolutely ruin an old house.
    - Adding insulation when you dont have vapor barriers leads to rot
    - water sealing stone foundations on the inside without giving the water someplace to go can make them collapse
    - repointing old (pre-1900) masonry with cement instead of lime will cause bricks to shatter and lead to worse cracks
    - and vinyl windows as you have seen are often worse then just refinishing and adding storms to good wood windows.


    I highly recommend taking a look at old house journal and oldhouseweb.com for ideas... Those have been a huge help to me.

    -Jeremy
  15. prajna101

    prajna101 New Member

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    Not much when I got it. I have slowly kept my eyes on craigslist. When I see free insulation pop up, i grab it. I have about 75% of the attic done now. I have not spent a dime. About 25% of the crawlspace too. Every bit helps.

    t
  16. Chargerman

    Chargerman Feeling the Heat

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    Fortunately, the 70's ranch home I recently bought has about 6" of settled cellulose and 4" wall studs with fiberglass. Not the best but better that nothing. I plan on hitting the attic pretty soon. So far my stove is keeping up but more insulation in the attic would sure help.
  17. BrowningBAR

    BrowningBAR Minister of Fire

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    I'm right there with you. 1741 stone farmhouse with inadequate insulation in the attic (hopefully that will change sooner rather than later) and single pane windows. The attic insulation will help, the windows won't be upgraded for a few years, and you can't do a damn thin about the stone.

    I will be installing a third stove which will take place either this summer or the next.
  18. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Until the house is well insulated and caulked, this is heating a sieve. Insulating is prolly one of the best investments one can make as it keeps paying back from the day it's done. It doesn't take much to reduce fuel consumption (thus pollution) and increase comfort significantly.
  19. karri0n

    karri0n New Member

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    What is more important - attic insulation or preventing air infiltration on floors one and two?
  20. szmaine

    szmaine New Member

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    It seems to me, from what I've read, that air infiltration is the number one culprit of heat loss due to the stack effect (ie draft) - not to mention the transport of water vapor which can , obviously, lead to condensation. Also, air infiltration can reduce the r value of existing insulation - particularly, blown in fiberglass - due to air washing.
  21. muncybob

    muncybob Minister of Fire

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    Probably would depend on how severe the air inflitration is I guess. I will say that attic insulation in our place made the second story noticeably warmer from day 1. In any case...get one done and then start on the other!
  22. szmaine

    szmaine New Member

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    Gotta plug the holes before you pile on the insulation. Purely a practical matter.
  23. fraxinus

    fraxinus Feeling the Heat

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    jharkin - The original foundation is what is known around here as a rubble foundation. Builders dug a trench, then filled with what ever stone was at hand up to the grade. From there to the sills, they used blocks of stone or a double or triple width of brick (my case). Inside they created a gutter around the perimeter of the cellar to direct water to a gravity drain which led any water out. There were a number of advantages to this system. The foundation could flex with the frost, water did not build up against the outside of the foundation no matter how heavy the rains. When I had the shotcrete sprayed, plenty of channels were left to allow water to move as it had for the past 200 years. There was no thought of "waterproofing". When there's a lot of rain - last summer, for instance - plenty of water flows in and then out. Sealing the area above grade from the inside was the most important for air sealing. Before the shotcrete, I also did some grading on the outside to insure water would not accumulate near the foundation. The cellar, like most in the area, will never be converted to a family room, but it will continue stand (if cellars stand).

    I agree completely with your point about modern methods/materials in old houses. One early nineteenth century house near here had vinyl siding installed after blown in insulation. New owners stripped off the siding. Bottom 3-4' of siding, boards, sills was totally rotted and sodden. Any old window can be made more efficient than any you can buy today, no matter what the price. Most of the lumber available today would have been relegated to the scrap pile in the past. The prospect of an army of briefly trained, inexperienced "building efficiency" workers descending on old buildings in Maine and elsewhere generally fills me with dread. Actions like this may make the charming myth that most people in Maine live in trailers a reality.
  24. kenny chaos

    kenny chaos Minister of Fire

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    That's a whole lot more than just your HO Jeremy.
    Even the best contractors follow the trend of the day.
    It truly is appalling, some of the thinking that goes into
    working on old houses, and new.
  25. kenny chaos

    kenny chaos Minister of Fire

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    There used to be a magazine called New England something or other.
    Best carpenter trade mag to ever exist.
    Anybody familiar with it?
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