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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. szmaine

    szmaine New Member

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    Mid-Coast Maine
    I have worn out my copy of "Renovating Old Houses: Bringing new life to Vintage Homes", by George Nash.

    If you are an old house person and looking to/in the process of buying a new OLD home, buy it FIRST! If you already own one - lot of good ideas and overview of the issues. From insulation - to framing - to drainage, etc

    Helpful Sponsor Ads!





  2. Cluttermagnet

    Cluttermagnet Minister of Fire

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    Mid Atlantic
    We live in a 1960 brick Rambler. I was astonished to learn, fairly recently, that the 2x4 frame outside walls were not built to include any fiberglass batt insulation between studs. What cheap ba'tards those builders were. Downright dishonest, I figure. The attic has blown-in cellulose between 2x6 joists. It has settled over the years, but is easily fluffed up by raking. I've also put more loose fill cellulose up there, then added unfaced R-30 perpendicular to joists. It's a work in progress, some areas still await insulation.

    I saw an episode of This Old House where the guys retrofitted insulation into outside walls of a New England house that were also 'hollow' like mine. They used loose cellulose applied from the outside bottom, blown in through small, round holes using a reducer nozzle. Ours is brick on 3 sides, so that's out. I plan to go with loose cellulose pushed into cutouts through the drywall inside, at ceiling height. I'm told that lightly packed is best. The stuff settles.

    The upstairs (main) floor has a pretty wicked temperature gradient in the winter when it gets below 30F or so. I've seen up to 10-15 degrees between the Living Room/stove and the bedrooms in the end. I expect to see that decrease as the insulation gets installed, section by section.
  3. DBoon

    DBoon Minister of Fire

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    Central NY
    Would that be "Journal of Light Construction" that you are thinking of? That's a great trade mag that I used to subscribe to.

    When I purchased my 1920s single floor 1250 square foot house several years ago, there was 6" of insulation in the attic, none in the walls, none underneath the floors, nothing in the basement on above grade walls, and no wooden storm windows installed. That year, I used 1000 gallons of heating oil.

    Since then, I have added 8" of insulation to the attic, sealed that attic hatch really tightly, pumped fiberglass insulation into the walls (the walls have wallpaper over plaster, which is a pretty effective vapor barrier), put 6" of insulation underneath the floors, and insulated the above ground basement walls with 2" of foam. Also installed the storm windows that were in the basement. Oil use the last year before the wood stove was installed was 550 gallons. Total investment to insulate was <$6000 total.
  4. kenny chaos

    kenny chaos Minister of Fire

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    Rochester,ny


    That's the one thank-you very much. :)
  5. Beanscoot

    Beanscoot Member

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    Loc:
    Vancouver Island, Canada
    I'm envious of you East Coasters. I'd love to have an 18th century house!

    I live in an old house because I like them, and know that they aren't like new ones. I searched until I found a house with original wood sash windows and wood floors. I put plastic film over some windows in the winter, and realize that I should make simple storm windows for other windows.

    The wife is after me to insulate the attic, I will do this to the rooms with only wallboard ceilings. The room with lath and plaster I won't tear up. I plan to use rock wool ("Roxul") insulation, but hadn't planned on using a vapor barrier. A friend goes to a lot of demos and sees the condition of old houses and says he's never seen rot with the old paper face insulation, and this is in the Seattle climate zone.

    I also don't like the idea of foam in the walls glued to the wood. Remember urea-formaldehyde? Oh yeah, it's different now, but...

    There's a very little bit of knob and tube wiring left, which is actually good wiring. The problem is if you want to add onto it, which I don't, it is awkward.

    Anyway, thanks for the tips!
  6. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    Lost track of the thread when it moved...

    You are describing my foundation exactly! I keep calling it fieldstone because folks have heard of that but its actually similar to yours - rubble mortared with lime up to grade and then capped with 6ft long slabs of granite (rather than brick). At some point they poured a slab in the basement and there is a drainage channel leading to a pit in the corner. Clay drain tiles under slab empty in the same pit. I can see old sections of iron pipe in that pit (for a gravity drain out to a drywell maybe?) which sadly were plugged and replaced with an electric sump . So far the sump hasnt needed to run thankfully.

    Like you I'm never finishing my cellar. Finished basements were a waste of perfectly good workshop space ;-)

    Many thanks for the info on shotcrete, I learned something new.

    -Jeremy
  7. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    Second that recommendation. Wife bought it for me when we were offering on our place. Since then Ive also got the Old House Journal Compendium and a few other good ones.

    Buying the old house is what bought me here, and to other sites like oldhouseweb and heatinghelp. Also learned to trust OHJ and ignore TOH. I keep learning just how much I don't know but enjoy every minute. Working on old houses heating with wood, etc - to me its all just a a return to self sufficiency and self-reliance that so many folks have lost today. Feels good.

    Ok, I'm getting waay off topic... that's all for now.
    -Jeremy
  8. laynes69

    laynes69 Minister of Fire

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    Ashland OH
    We have an old victorian home from the mid 1800's. The walls were filled with 8" of urea-formaldahyde foam, and the attic has now 3" or so settled cellouse insulation. We have been getting some wicked drafts through the home, and all rooms but 2 are finished, with drywall and new wiring. I contacted some professional help and they said to air seal the attic. I went up there to do some investigating and found 25 open cavities. Almost all the interior walls were open to the attic. The home is a balloon frame home and the walls run from the basement to the attic. Where some voids had fiberglass stuffed in them and then cellouse on top the fiberglass was black from air infiltration. I sealed the holes with aluminum and fire rated caulk. Next I need to go to the basement and seal the base of the walls. Then around the perimeter of the basement. Made sense that when you feel a draft, its air up above thats leaving the house. With all the voids that I sealed, it was equivelent to a 12 SF opening in the home. So for us air sealing was very important. No matter how much insulation you use, you need to stop the air leaks.
  9. jimmy dean

    jimmy dean New Member

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    Beanscoot:
    Many NewEngland states have Weatherization programs.. you may qualify.. it wouldn't kill you to apply. They would love a naked house to seal and insulate.
  10. ChillyGator

    ChillyGator New Member

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    NorthFlorida
    1650 sq ft Cottage built 1937 by my grandfather. Bought from my grandmother in 1996. Had some attic insulation, grandfather had rockwool blown into walls sometime back in late 50's when they added on a bedroom for my great grandfather (my current BR), no floor insulation. The front of the house (living room, dinning, enclosed poarch) had large water oak fall on it back in 1985 from Hurricane Kate. Front of the house was rebuilt but contractor did not put insulation in the attic (cut corners)

    I Had attic insulation added (R28 total) soon after I bought it with some other work to help A/C. Had other pressing repair work to do (scrape/repaint exterior) and remodeling bathroom (tub only -no shower). Did this work then had to start saving to do more later. Replaced old A/C unit in 2003 (propane furance repalced before I bought the house is still in great shape).

    In 2007 I decided to start remodeling some in the front of the house (took up carpet, refinished heart pine floors, repainted from ceiling to baseboards) when I notice my unused fireplace (blocked off since 1960) was drafting LOTS of air (I had been basically keeping thre front of the house closed off) and upon looking for other leaks I found most of my singlepane windows were also very drafty. Soooooo.......I starting reglazing EVERY window pane in the house (197 panes-took most of the summer -scrap old, replace what I broke, put in new glaze, trim, prime/paint, trim) and sealed off the firepalce. Put up about 30 tubes of caulk throughout the house and a couple cans of 'Great Stuff" into any holes/cracks I could find. From August that year to August 2008 my average monthly electric bill dropped almost in HALF (I'm on average billing plan so it was easy to track). Tropical Storm dumped 30" of rain in less than a week on us in late in 2007 and I had to replace my roof in 2008 which I replaced with a White Metal roof. Now attic temps are about ambient air temperature and electric usage continued to fall (rates went up so $$ stayed about the same).

    When Propane prices when through the roof last winter I knew I needed to do SOMETHING so I started looking at wood stoves. HEARTH.COM was very usefull and saved me some real heartburn by keeping me on track with solid information to use during my search. I had issues with the fireplace opening size so I was limited on the height of the rear vent (also looked at putting freestanding stove elsewhere but just no good location to put it). Ended up wiht Morso 7110 which is smaller than I would have liked but $$ difference between it and a Castine was too much to overcome at the time. Started cutting/splitting/stacking wood immediatley which has really paid off (my April 2009 Oak that was resplit in July is now 18-22%.....was 27-30% back in Oct......low hummidity seems to dry it out down here).

    Last couple weeks of ARTIC AIR was a bear......I was keeping up in the living room (hard to get it over 72* to move air to the rest of the house) but the rest of the house was staying very cool (low 60's) and all the floors where cold. Started talking to local insulation company about spray foam (open cell) to insulate my floors, and decided I need to do it now. Was promised at least 3.5" of cured foam (R13) but it looks more like 5"-6" was put up (R 3.7/inch). Foam came up through the floor in at least two places in my refinished floors :bug:

    THE DIFFERENCE IS LIKE NIGHT AND DAY.......the first evening when I got home furnace was set at 61* but house temp was 65.5 just from the fire I left blazing away that morning, I kicked on the furnce (66* setting) just to warm the house more while I built a fire and in the first cylce the living room and my bedroom both came up to 68* (thermostat is in the hall where the return vent is and no air vent....probably need to move it). Temps that night started at 42* and dropped to 32* by bedtime but after the inital fire, I could only add one or two splits to the stove or living room temp would go above 75*. Now I can take a fan placed in the unheated hallway and blow cold air towards the stove room and the hallway heats up (before it would just stay cold....had to blow hot air towards the hall to do anything)!

    To say the least I am very satisfyed with the results. This worked a lot better than just trying to stuff a bigger stove in the room and now I'm staying warmer, using a lot less wood and almost no propane.

    THANKS HEARTH.COM!
  11. BucksCoBernie

    BucksCoBernie New Member

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    Cellulose goes in the attic tomorrow...supposed to be a nice day out...high 40s.

    I'm seriously thinking about the spray foam in the crawlspace after reading ChillyGator's post. I put R-19 bats between the joist last year and it really hasnt done crap.
  12. ChillyGator

    ChillyGator New Member

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    I think the main difference is the foam seals out air infiltration and there is no way to completly seal the air out with fiberglass batts (cutouts, electric boxes, etc). My installer (who I think is a straight up guy....been in business in this area a long time) says the same thing and added he thinks R13 in foam is far superior to R19 in batts. I tend to agree after seeing the results.

    My main reason in going foam was I wanted something that I knew would not wick or hold moisture against my subfloors and that would stay up.

    Forgot to mention that I plann to bring the attic up to R38 before summer (blown fiberglass on top of existing cellulose).
  13. Beanscoot

    Beanscoot Member

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    "Many NewEngland states have Weatherization programs.. you may qualify.. it wouldn’t kill you to apply."

    Well, I suppose it wouldn't kill me, but I doubt their Weatherization programs extend to foreign countries. I am in British Columbia, Canada.

    As it happens, the spouse has insisted that I drywall some attic bedrooms, so I will add Roxul rock wool insulation before the drywalleros come to do their thing.
  14. TreePapa

    TreePapa Minister of Fire

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    Southern Calif.
    1947 Rambler Ranch House in So. Calif. Walls have cotton insluation. Not the dense cotton insulation you can buy today made of recycled denim, but insubstantial, fluffy paper-backed insulation that reminds me of cotton candy. Prolly has R value of 3 ... maybe. No attic insulation. When we were having improvements done on the house, I tried to get bids on proper attic insulation. Not one contactor would even bid on a proper job - i.e., sealing all openings and penetrations before installing insulation. All they would bid is "wham bam thank you maam" blow in cellulose and leave. With the low pitch roof and limited room in the attic, DIY is outta the question due to my back and knees. Also, house has lath (button board) and plaster throughout, so there was way I'm gonna tear out the walls to reinsulate.

    At some point, when $$ permits, I will get more bids on attic insulation. Maybe I can find someone willing to do it right. I'd prefer rockwool to cellulose, if I can find an installer here who works with it. The best thing we haven't done, though, to increase thermal efficiency in our house is to reseal (caulk) all the fixed pane windows (lots of them, nearly floor to ceiling, and part of the character of the house - no, we're NOT replacing the windows, no matter how much money we might have at some point). And to replace the thin paper-like window shades w/ proper insulating curtains.

    Mind, all of this really is not critical in the winter - this is so. calif. - but the summer, that's a different story!

    Peace,
    - Sequoia
  15. BucksCoBernie

    BucksCoBernie New Member

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    I blew in 35 bags of Cellulose into the attic today. Pretty easy DIY project...a little messy...lots of dust. My attic went from nothing to R-30...cant wait to feel the difference in the house temps.
  16. rowerwet

    rowerwet Minister of Fire

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    I grew up in one, 3 stories, plaster and lath walls, 63 single pane windows, most 8 feet tall, 13' ceilings on the first floor and 10' on the second floor, a converted coal boiler that ran on HHO with radiators on the first floor only, the energy crisis of the '70s. My dad put in a woodstove and while putting in the thimble, he found he could see all the way up the inside of the wall to the attic. we would burn 14 cords of wood or so a winter, and had to sleep with electric blankets all winter.
  17. midwestcoast

    midwestcoast Minister of Fire

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    I blew about that much into my place in the fall & have felt a big difference. I think my wife had more work cleaning the house after than I did blowing the stuff in! Small attic in the Cape Code, but I piled in about 20" (~17" settled). I also got into 2 big side attics & found rockwool on backs of walls but nothing on attic floor (1'st flr ceiling)! The worst detail of old Cape's is the 2'nd floor joists run straight out into the side attics & most builders didn't seal them off, so you've basically got attic air between your 1'st & 2'nd flrs :-S I still have 2 little side attics I can't access & I just drilled 2" holes, stuck the hose in & dropped some cellulose in there. I can tell they still loose heat, so there's more work to be done...
    Seal-up your attic access tight with weatherstripping & hook&eye; latches to snug it down. Glue several layers of rigid foam on the back & the hatch will be insulated as well as the rest of the ceiling :coolsmile:
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