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Walls have 1.5" fiberglass - how to improve.

Post in 'The Green Room' started by Highbeam, Apr 11, 2007.

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  1. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    My single story home was built in the 60s so I am lucky to have insulation at all. The exterior siding is thick lap siding (probably cedar), then tar paper, then tongue and groove solid plank sheeting, and then 2x4 stud walls "filled" with 1.5" foil faced fiberglass bats, then sheetrock and 40 years of paint. The flooring is 2x6 tongue and groove over beams with zero insulation above a crawlspace, and the ceiling is about 5" fiberglass batts that have been compressed over time to 3" in some places.

    So ceiling is R-11, walls R-5, and floor is R-0. The windows are single pane with aluminum frames. My big old Lopi can heat the house up but the home cools quickly when the fire dies or when the bedroom doors are shut. Individual electric wall heaters provide heat when the fire is out.

    I have concluded the best way to spend my next money for reduced energy consumption is insulation. I am finishing up some wiring work and then the attic will be sealed from the living space below, have soffit insulation deflectors stapled at the edges, and blown in fiberglass to the R-38 level at least. Ceiling is easy and I think will give a good benefit.

    The windows are set to be swapped out for double pane vinyl windows in the summer. This will give major sound reduction and eliminate the drafty old single paners.

    The floor will be at least R-7 from below, but I am not quite sure how to do it just yet since the beam spacing is 5 feet and I have a small crawlspace entrance.

    The walls are my question though. Without ripping down the sheetrock, is there a way to improve the wall insulation value? Standard R-13 batts would be a huge improvement but how to get them in there? How would you suggest improving the walls or would you just leave the R-5 be? Our climate is pretty moderate with winter lows in the teens but usually 30s through the winter nights.

    Thanks is advance.

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  2. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    I had a similar situation about 15 years ago. I did blow in cellulous and the difference was amazing. The trouble is you do not have a good vapor barrier. The solution is a vinyl wallpaper. You need to learn to like vinyl wallpaper. You blow in the insulation from the inside and plug the sheetrock. It's a ton of work but the house will be super well insulated since you won't have any drafts at all. Its' also very cheap and fire safe.

    Would I do it again? No... I'd rip down the sheetrock and use spray in foam... then re-sheetrock.
  3. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Overall, it looks like you're on the right path. How did they get away with floor joists 5 ft on center? Is that correct? It sounds like the makings for a trampoline, not a floor.

    How large is the crawlspace opening?
  4. jjbaer

    jjbaer New Member

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    I had a similar thing done but instead of from the inside, they removed two boards from the outside all around the house, then "cored" through the sidewall and inserted a hose and blew in loose fiberglass, then installed plugs and put the siding back on.....this way you can never tell it was done and there are no ugly "core holes" on the outside. The reason they removed 2 boards is they blow insulation in from the bottom board upwards and from the top board downwards to compact somewhat the insulation and fill the entire space...also incase there are "cross members", you need to blow insulation from both sides of it. I also did my crawlspace...dragged rolls of fiberglass into it and put it on the underside of the floors....the rolls wouldn't fit very easily so I bought the rolls consisitng of 5, 8-ft sections and I unrolled the rolls and dragged 8-ft sections through......

    You're right to do the attic and walls first.....then wait for cold weather to see if you need the crawlspace done...then, as I did, if it needs doing it's nice and cool in the crawlspace and you don't sweat while doing it but I'd wait.....you might find out you don't need to do it. An alternative is to close crawlspace vents during the winter and this helps keep the floors warmer....

    Also, as previously asked, you sure about that 5 ft joist spacing? What are the beam dimensions every 5 feet?
  5. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    Thanks for the help so far. Yes, the floor support for this home is a typical spread footing with about a two foot stem wall around the perimeter. Then they have circular concrete pads of about two foot diameter and 1 foot thickness every 12 feet or so on a grid with short columns to support long beams which run parlallel to the long axis of the house every 5 feet on center. The beams run the full length of this long house and are 4x8. Normally I, and you, would expect these beams to support 2x10 floor joists every 16" on center with subflooring above that but they just put the 2x6 tongue and groove "car decking" right on top of the beams. Now I know we all have theories on the right way to do things. I am one of those that knows there is a right way and a wrong way. This house is over 40 years old and there are no cracks in the sheetock, no doors that don't swing and latch properly, and the floor does not bounce. It is really hard to say this is all screwed up when it has stood the test of time including kids and full sized adults. I came from a year 2000 built house before this and the floor was no more solid despite the engineered floor joists and more standard floor framing. I have considered adding beams betweeen the other beams to split the 5 feet but I would have to really work at it since getting them into the crawl would be a challenge. Probably have to bring them down as 8' 2x8s and then build up a beam down there.

    This winter the floors were pretty cold but bearable. They felt colder since the leaky doors and windows were sending their drafts over the floor. The crawlspace is not bone dry and will not be converted to an unvented crawlspace as in this climate, the benefits are not as great as the dangers. The challenge is properly insulating the floor with such a large expanse between supporting joists. If it was an open basement then I could easily attach large foam panels. I could cobble up some lathe or wire supports to hold fiberglass in place.

    The crawlspace access is very small, maybe 2 feet square to get down to crawlspace grade and then 2 foot square window through the stem wall. I have found it easiest to back into the crawlspace feet first and belly down rather than head first.

    On this relatively small house and with my planned window replacement, just pulling down sheetrock on the exterior wall is almost looking attractive. I can get R-11 in the walls with standard rolled bats of fiberglass and apply an honest vapor barrier. I did not know they could blow in the cellulose with existing insulation and wiring in place. That's great info and with cellulose's higher 3.8 per inch R rating it is a decent way to go here.
  6. Rhone

    Rhone Minister of Fire

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    Plywood for houses became the norm in 1963, your house must be early 60's. You must love the squeeky floors, if you plan on putting some new flooring down I'll tell you how to stop the squeeks, it's pretty labor intensive and if you have the original flooring (not wood) it's most likely asbestos.

    The blown is the only way it can be done, but it's not 100% effective in that small space. Back then the norm was 2" in the walls and 3" in the attic so most likely your walls have 2". That's a really tight space to fill, and it stinks! It's extremely difficult to fill without clogging the hose, and if you don't fill it it acts like an air tunnel which lowers the effect of the insulation in the walls. If you want to do the walls I'd rip down the walls & insulation and working with 60's fiberglass insulation is a groan. Hard on the lungs, skin, eyes, pores, it's dusty so make sure you get a respirator, glasses, wear long sleeves, and you'll get glass slivers through gloves. I've had the best luck using deer skin gloves working with old fiberglass, you'll still get some slivers. Take it out, and add it to your attic insulation. Wet blown is going to make your life easier if you can find a machine to rent. It doesn't settle, you simply point, shoot, fill in the cavities, and when done scrape off the excess. Let it dry for at least a few weeks if not a month before covering. Else, you could put in dense pack dry cellulose but wall installations aren't as easy as attic. I would stay with cellulose in the walls, or foam, moving to fiberglass as a last resort. Fiberglass is the worst at stopping air flow, and in a 60's house you have plenty of it. Stick with the stuff that's best at reducing it.
  7. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    OK Rhone, the house is 1963 as best as I can tell. Not a single squeaky floor, maybe because of the large beam spacing, maybe because the builder and owner is a cabinetmaker. At least half of the house is hardwood floors with very substantial nails that made it all the way through the car decking, I can tell the nails are for the hardwood from the angle. The rest is thick carpet over a double pad, not entirely certain what's under the pads but I suspect just the car decking. I have actually pulled down one wall and found the insulation to be marked 1.5" and it had the shiny foil face. I noticed that it was dusty and yellow. I'll keep an eye out for asbestos looking tiles or floor pieces and promptly dispose of them.

    The wife gave a me strange look when I suggested pulling down the sheetrock from the exterior walls for insulation. I'm starting to think that the hassles involved with blowing it in might not be as bad as just pulling down sheetrock and with the possibility that the efforts will be wasted I might as well do it right. Having the rock off gives me the opportunity to install a plastic vapor barrier and add any outlets and upgrade wiring that may be in that wall.

    Fortunately, the wiring has all been 12 gauge with ground but the remodelled stuff has been hit and miss on proper connections of that wiring.
  8. Rhone

    Rhone Minister of Fire

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    Hmm... I'm on the east coast sounds like the west did things a little different. My house was built in 1962 before plywood, my father built his house (he's a carpenter) in 63 and he has it. I asked him about it, he said the year he built his house was the first year plywood was the new norm. I also told him I didn't think I have insulation in my walls, he told me 2" in the walls and 3" in the attic was the norm. He was laughed at for putting 4" in his walls and 6" in his attic :)

    Just be sure your family is up to the task. That project is something my wife would be very upset, I've learned the project that always comes first when working on a house is saving the marriage. You might want to try filling in the space with blown cellulose without ripping down the walls, or just make sure your wife is behind you on that project. It'll be hard enough to do without her being mad at you the whole time.
  9. jjbaer

    jjbaer New Member

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    Rhon,

    Why not pull off two exterior boards as I suggested, core the sheathing under these boards and then spray in (liquid) foam insulation....the foam would fill every nook and cranny it found AND the pressure would compact (displace) the existing fiberglass somewhat and therefore replace space once occupied by fiberglass with higher R-value foam insulation....... that way you don't have to rip out inner walls which is guaranteed to be a real bi%$h of a job..........then you cover the holes with core plugs and replace the siding and you'll never know it was even touched.........
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