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Insulation questions where to start?

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by drdoct, Dec 30, 2008.

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  1. drdoct

    drdoct Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2008
    Messages:
    431
    Loc:
    Griffin, GA
    I've got a home built in 1952 that is 1500 sqft and has no wall insulation (has 6" wood lap siding + 1/2 sheetrock like firebarrier). It's built on a ventilated crawl space with 60% hardwood floors and the rest ceramic tile. No Insulation under the floor... just plastic on the dirt floor to keep the moisture out. Then there is the attic which has very old insulation over 2 bedrooms and none everywhere else. Where the insulation is is not even 3" old batt insulation that's deteriorated. I got a quote of $540 to bring the attic up to R-30 for blown insulation. I don't have the money to do everything at once and we'll probably be here for at least another 5 years so want to do it one at a time. I realize that I live in the South, but it still gets kinda cold here and lots of hot to go around. Our utilities are usually $200 or so a month. It swaps electricity with gas in the winter but usually stays around $200 for both. I've been running the stove when it's cold enough to click on the thermostat which is programmable and set at 62*. I think I'm going to cut the gas way down this year, but still want to hold in the heat and cold better. Ceiling fans in about every room. I've already tried to seal up everywhere there are leaks but the windows do let a lot out. Replacing them is not an option right now though because they aren't standard size and I've already priced those replacements. So where should I start? $550 is about all I've got to spend right now. Attic?, Floor?, Walls?

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  2. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2006
    Messages:
    8,786
    Loc:
    base of Mt. Rainier on the wet side, WA
    I had the same situation only slightly better. vented crawl, no insulation on floor, 2x4 walls with R-5 fiberglass, then 3 inches of fiberglass batts in the attic. I had an energy audit done and the guy actually recommended that the floor be insulated first, then attic, then windows, and then if I really really want to I could do the walls. I was pretty surprised about the floors being more important than the ceiling so I asked about it and he said that since I had some insulation in the attic that the floor would be a higher priority. Since you have none in the attic I would shoot it in for 540$. That's a good price. My attic of 1300 SF was brought from 3" to R-30 and it cost closer to 800$. I had it done the same time as the floors to R-19.

    The improvement in comfort and even heating is amazing.
  3. imiller1974

    imiller1974 Member

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2008
    Messages:
    35
    Loc:
    lancaster, sc
    Well, I'll tell you my story and you'll see if it helps you out. I live in Lancaster, SC which is 20 miles south of Charlotte, NC. My house was built in 1962, is 1300 sqft, brick veneer, with a vented crawlspace. There was no insulation under the floor, so I put R-19 faced in it, but didn't notice a difference after wards. The attic at some time had R-19 in it, but was so old that it was less that 4" thick, so my wife and I blew cellulose in it at about R-30. The walls are in surprisingly in pretty good shape with R-11 in them. I put new seals in the doors, and did what I could to the windows. My windows are single pane, double hung, but are in pretty good shape and I have brand new excellent quality storm windows and I made some solar screens for them in the summer.

    In the summer my electric bill doesn't get above $100, we turn the thermostat up to 77 when we leave for work, and run it at 74 when we're at home. Last winter our gas bill was $65 due on Dec. 15th, we had the old attic insulation, and burnt half a cord of wood for that heating period. We did the attic insulation this past Oct. and I scrapped the old woodstove insert and sealed up the fireplace. This year the gas bill was $56 due on Dec. 15th and we haven't burnt any wood.

    My wife and I blew the cellulose in the attic ourselves $377 in about 5 hours on Halloween day. That was the biggest bang for the buck and some of the best money I've spent so far on owning this house for this past year... Hope that helps you out.
  4. pybyr

    pybyr Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2008
    Messages:
    2,301
    Loc:
    Adamant, VT 05640
    consider seeing if any of the tool rental places near you, or building supply places, will rent a cellulose insulation blower.

    It won't be rocket science to blow the attic yourself- the cellulose is not expensive, and last time I did it, the blower wasn't bad to rent. some places will even throw in use of the blower for a day if you buy cellulose from them

    You could potentially even do the wall cavities yourself some day if you really only have one layer of plank clapboards and you learn how to do dense pack cellulose (which has the advantage of sealing air movement a lot too)

    regarding widows, get some tubes of "Seal N Peel" that go in a caulk gun- and use it to seal the joints where the air comes through. When you need to open the windows in warmer weather- peel it off. Or look into the plastic shrink clear storms. I use the Seal N Peel and it helps a lot with my old windows

    good luck
  5. wiringlunatic

    wiringlunatic New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2008
    Messages:
    33
    Loc:
    Southeast PA
    I'm not sure of things for your area, but if Lowe's is in your area they will (at least up here) "rent" you a cellulose blower for free for a day if you buy a certain amount of insulation (20 bags, I think) It is easy, I've done it for myself and for several customers. WEAR A DUST MASK!!!!!!!!! That stuff is dusty and tastes AWFUL! That said, most heat loss is through doors, windows, roof, and the basement. Heat rises, so the ceiling is a big help. Check around, but in our area there are several discount building supply houses that sell windows and doors fairly inexpensively. Doors run $100-$200 each for standard sizes, and windows can be special ordered from one of them for about $120 and found (by luck) at the other one in the mis-ordered aisle for about $80. I replaced the 3 doors on my house and sealed around some windows and installed 3/4" or 1" (can't remember) foam under drywall on the front wall of my house on the first floor and cut my oil use by about 1/3. I now cut the other 2/3 of the oil use -- the oil burner is in the backyard waiting to be made scrap metal. As for the basement, this was new to me when an engineer friend told me, but he says that the basement walls lose a tremendous amount of heat to the ground and if the basement is heated, much heat loss is stopped. I now have a stove in the basement and the house feels much warmer at the same temp than it did with oil. If insulating the walls is one of your projects, an easy and efficient way is to install furring strips on the wall, put 3/4" or 1" foam between them, and drywall over it. The most difficult part is the trim areas around the windows and doors, but even that is not too hard. This creates a wind, thermal and (if foil-backed foam) vapor barrier and makes a big difference.
  6. Jackpine Savage

    Jackpine Savage Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    76
    Loc:
    west central MN
    I would say that cutting down on air infiltration and adding attic insulation would be the first place to start. Here is an excellent book that covers the subject pretty well: Insulate and Weatherize: Expert Advice from Start to Finish by Bruce Harley, a Taunton book.

    Before you add attic insulation it would be good to get some spray foam and seal all the air infiltration points between the attic and the living space, ie, around electrical boxes, wiring openings, plumbing stacks, partition walls, etc.

    I'm from the north so your situation is different in terms of what is desirable for vapor barriers, etc. The Building Science website is a good place to learn what works for you climate.

    http://www.buildingscience.com/bsc/
  7. Gamalot

    Gamalot New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2008
    Messages:
    37
    Loc:
    NY Catskills
    Always begin by sealing the leaks first. Doors and windows that let cold in also allow the warm air to get out. Even if you use the clear plastic shrink film on the insides of the windows, stopping the drafts will make a major difference. Sealing the doors with either new gaskets or even a towel at the bottoms will make a big difference.

    Rent the blower and do the attic next and save almost half the money of the price you were quoted. Use what is left to do the floor and this is an important area because if your floors are cold then your home will always feel cold even if the thermometer says it is 70*

    Places like HD and Lowes sell replacment windows in standard sizes and charge rediculous prices for non standard special orders. Find a local building supply place that your local builders use and they should be able to get Vinyl windows in any size you need and unless your windows are very large there should be very little difference in price. My guy here charges the same price for a window 30 W X 36 H as he does for the same window in 36 W X 40 H. Any window under 100 inches was the same price 40 W X 60 H costs the same as 30 X 36. I paid $175 each for all the windows in my house and they are excellent quality Mastic, double hung, thermo pane, argon filled with Low E glass. They were simple to replace and each one took less then an hour to remove the old and fully install the new one. I spent $2400 to do it and saved $800 the first winter on my fuel oil bill.

    Gary
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