This "old house"

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all night moe

Minister of Fire
Nov 19, 2015
630
earth
I was thinking we could benefit from a thread to discuss house efficiency and related household maintenance, construction ......
IDK, I'm just brainstorming here a bit. I see a few members from time to time who are newer to home ownership. Maybe this should be a separate forum filled with vast information?

I'll start. I've never been found of much of the new construction practices found in modern homes. I love the 2x6 exterior walls allowing an insulation value of R19. I have a huge dismay for OSB sheathing. Doesn't take long for moisture to destroy it. For example if there is a leak in the siding, that goes undetected, it doesn't take long for the glues to soften and the strands to rot. With plywood or ship lap sheathing it can sustain a significant amount of abuse before giving way.

On the older homes with 1 3/4 x 3 3/4 wall studs there is more space available than the R13 they get filled with. To help make these walls tighter one can use 1/2'' foil faced foam board, to add another 3.5 R value, directly fastned to the interior of the external sheathing. Run a thin bead of caulk where the board meets the studs to close any air gaps. Be sure to install a vapor barrier on the interior of the wall studs to keep moisture out of the walls or, make perforations in the foam board.

Speaking of moisture barriers, I've always had a question that doesn't sit well with me in even more modern construction. Does the "Zip" system of vinyl coated OSB and its taped seams not trap moisture in the walls?

I hope to see this thread take off so we can share a wealth of knowledge, and DIYers can all have another place to learn from. I learn stuff on a daily basis. Happily too.
 
I have a 1964 ranch that has 2" of fiberglass in the walls.. Have 12" in the attic, but the walls are definitely an issue. I recently have seen some commercials were they are blowing foam in with the thin fiberglass insulation. Hesitant to do this because of all the past horror stories of the "white foam" insulation from the 80's and 90's that made people sick, but my guess is they learned from those experiences.

Your question about moister barriers is a dead horse. From what I understand, where ever you can make the best air-tight seal, do it there, and not again.
 
I have a 1964 ranch that has 2" of fiberglass in the walls.. Have 12" in the attic, but the walls are definitely an issue. I recently have seen some commercials were they are blowing foam in with the thin fiberglass insulation. Hesitant to do this because of all the past horror stories of the "white foam" insulation from the 80's and 90's that made people sick, but my guess is they learned from those experiences.

Your question about moister barriers is a dead horse. From what I understand, where ever you can make the best air-tight seal, do it there, and not again.
I was in my 20's during the white foam era and remember very little about it. The newer foams supposedly can trigger some asthmatics. It's only one of the two types though, closed or open cell. I don't recall which. Foam board is basically the same closed foam but has no effects on my asthma. It's only in a couple spots in my house fighting drafts. There's really not a lot of it here.

I did not realize the moisture barrier issue was beating a dead horse. Most people who are in the construction trade, and have craftsmanship ethics, view barriers should be on the interior. hence my questioning of the Zip system.
 
FYI , the white foam issue from the eighties was an issue due to misapplication by contractors. Due to a lot of press the EPA put a temporary ban on the use of the foaming for one year which effectively drove a lot of firms out of business while the EPA researched it. At the end of the year the ban was lifted but few firms decided to go back into it as the price of heating oil had dropped. It was not until the companies that made the base products spent a lot of PR money including paying This Old House to use the product in new construction that it came back as a premium product.

The root cause of the issues was that contractors used unskilled employees in combination with low bidding by the contractor. The foam was made with two components mixed at the last minute. One component was a cheap solvent and the other expensive so the temptation was to use a higher blend of the cheap component which when mixed at the wrong ratio meant a long term leakage of pretty nasty solvents into the home. Some contractors were using industrial foams never intended for use in home. When applied correctly foam still is a good but expensive option. Once the industry got regulated and the companies that made the components realized they needed to have trained contractors applying the product many of the issues went away.

There was also a big issue that leaky homes rarely had indoor air quality issues. Existing conditions that were not an issue became an issue when houses were foamed as the air changes dropped. Indoor air quality just was not on anyone's radar. Very few tight homes these days are not equipped with an outdoor air to air heat exchanger and radon removal systems (if required) but back in the 1980s it was unknown. EPA standards of the era for ventilation were non existent and many "sick" buildings were built or were made "sick" when the HVAC systems were upgraded to EPA recommendations. It took a couple of decades for codes and standards to recognize the need for fresh air makeup.

The other fundamental issue with many older homes is the basements are frequently damp. Many older homes have rubble or granite foundations with either open dirt floors or slabs on grade. Exterior water proofing and moisture barriers were not installed and usually perimeter drainage was lacking. Basement walls can be dug up and waterproofed but rarely is basement floor addressed. The dry interior air acts like a sponge, but with a leaky house it rarely builds up before it leaks out of the house. Tighten up an older home without addressing moisture entering the house from a basement and that extra moisture in the air can get in the walls and find cold surfaces to condense on leading to rot and mold.

Sure everything can get fixed in an old home but generally it requires a gut job, the structure usually is robust but getting it tight is major project.
 
I have a large circa 1865 house. It's framed with 3x5 studs on 24" centers. While drilling holes in the boards to blow in insulation I found that there was a 1/4" board between the framing running full length.(balloon framing) I asked a old time builder about that and he said that was to give it 2 dead air spaces which was a form of insulation back in the day,
 
that is an honest reply. Similar threads run in the black mold and ddt news stories ... while they were both bad they were blown out of proportion by hysteria and bad information.
 
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This house dates back to the 1830s with two additions built in the early 20th century. The basement of the origional structure still has its bedrock walls and at some point a slab was porn in the floor. It sweats in the summer some but the dampness seams minor. There are 5 windows for ventilation and the bilco door is far from air tight. I have to replace some of the mortar in the walls as to it's deterioration is leaking in some spots. Going to get some type N with some bonding agent. This was recommended to me. Type N for it being softer and "flexible" allowing movement in expansion and contraction of the changing seasons.

The first addition, biggest of the 2, has the same foundation and seams to be in excellent shape, save for one small area. I say seems to be because most of the crawl space isn't crawlable. You have to belly down and slither through amongst duct work, plumbing, and carrier beams. The earth there is petrified. Hard and rittled with stone. The last addition has identical earth. Foundation ..... not so much. I plan on tackling that first on the list of bigger projects. I have chosen an ICF foundation here, for ease of install. The walls are loosely stacked stone and the wind howls through and under the kitchen floor. Which has no insulation. I had to turn the water off to the kitchen. It froze and burst twice. I am not fixing it again until spring. The other inhabitants here are to forgetful to leave the faucet at a drizzle. I've held off on insulating the floor. The joists are, what looks to be, 30'' on center ruling out bat insulation. Access to this space is through a 24x24'' hatch which leaves out an easy install of foam board. I'm not going the spray foam route either. I'd like to add in hydronic radiant floor heat. Add in an OWB and extend the radiant throughout the first floor at a later date. I absolutely hate forced air.

So, so much to do here. With no help from the other inhabitants.
 
I have a question on my heating plans for this house. Almost 3/4 of the 2nd floor has been insulated and sheet rocked with almost all of the 1st floor having also been done. Current heating system is forced hot air, which I hate. At some point, I'm planning on converting to hydronic heat. I like the even temperature swings compared to the forced air. For the first floor, it wood be easy to install radiant floor heating. Since the celings are already refinished on the 1st, radiant floors on the second would become quite the hassle without redoing the finished celings of the first floor. My plan for the 2nd floor is to add cast iron rads and plumb through the attic. I would conveniently be able to run a feed through the wal,l of the unfinished room on the first, and through a closet on the second floors.

@brenndatomu I was planning on running 1'' pex. The recent discussion has me questioning this now. If my water temp never hits above 180*, will the pex survive? Should I just run pipe instead?

I see other heating systems running pex for supply and returns, for the radiant floors. What would the difference be for cast rads?

Doing all my research and planning now so I don't end up falling short of my goals.
 
If you are going to switch to hot water heat to make the temperature more even--then I suggest maybe a whole house generator just in case something would happen with the grid...so the pipes won't freeze and break--maybe pex would solve the problem but I am not swift on these things and know very little but since I do have boiler hot water heat--I worry about this happening for I know how cold it can get to in the matter of hours and really would worry about the "pipes"...old clancey
 
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My back up would be three wood stoves. I have one now and two more at each end of the house would be adequate.
I do want a gen set though. Large enough to power house and shop. One step at a time ....
 
Pex will be fine for your radiators that’s what we have in our 1850s redone farm house. We had euro style radiators put in. While we seldom use them, mini-split heat pump and wood stove are our every day choice, they throw a nice combination of radiant and circulating heat.
 
This house dates back to the 1830s with two additions built in the early 20th century. The basement of the origional structure still has its bedrock walls and at some point a slab was porn in the floor. It sweats in the summer some but the dampness seams minor. There are 5 windows for ventilation and the bilco door is far from air tight. I have to replace some of the mortar in the walls as to it's deterioration is leaking in some spots. Going to get some type N with some bonding agent. This was recommended to me. Type N for it being softer and "flexible" allowing movement in expansion and contraction of the changing seasons.

The first addition, biggest of the 2, has the same foundation and seams to be in excellent shape, save for one small area. I say seems to be because most of the crawl space isn't crawlable. You have to belly down and slither through amongst duct work, plumbing, and carrier beams. The earth there is petrified. Hard and rittled with stone. The last addition has identical earth. Foundation ..... not so much. I plan on tackling that first on the list of bigger projects. I have chosen an ICF foundation here, for ease of install. The walls are loosely stacked stone and the wind howls through and under the kitchen floor. Which has no insulation. I had to turn the water off to the kitchen. It froze and burst twice. I am not fixing it again until spring. The other inhabitants here are to forgetful to leave the faucet at a drizzle. I've held off on insulating the floor. The joists are, what looks to be, 30'' on center ruling out bat insulation. Access to this space is through a 24x24'' hatch which leaves out an easy install of foam board. I'm not going the spray foam route either. I'd like to add in hydronic radiant floor heat. Add in an OWB and extend the radiant throughout the first floor at a later date. I absolutely hate forced air.

So, so much to do here. With no help from the other inhabitants.

Just one thing, my floor joists are 5 feet on center and the insulation people had no problems attaching batts. R-38 or whatever. With poly “strings”. They don’t need 24 or 16 spacing.
 
Just one thing, my floor joists are 5 feet on center and the insulation people had no problems attaching batts. R-38 or whatever. With poly “strings”. They don’t need 24 or 16 spacing.
That's a good idea! I'll keep that in mind when it's time to insulate. My original thoughts are to run the radiant plumbing with their aluminum strips. Leaving 1-2'' of air space, 2'' foil faced foam board, and then factory 2nds of 4'' x4x4' polyiso. It's relatively a short drive for me to get the 4'' stuff and there are already a half dozen sitting in the basement stacked in the corner. The few here are what generated my thoughts on inulating the kitchen floor. Making use of what I have laying around.
 
Only bummer about the foam boards is that you need to cut it perfectly and/or spray foam the edges for a good fit. The batts "squish".

It made a big difference to insulate our floors over the ventilated crawlspace. The 5' span was only possible because they used 2x6 tongue and groove car decking for a subfloor.
 
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Only bummer about the foam boards is that you need to cut it perfectly and/or spray foam the edges for a good fit. The batts "squish".

It made a big difference to insulate our floors over the ventilated crawlspace. The 5' span was only possible because they used 2x6 tongue and groove car decking for a subfloor.
The foam boards can over lap each other. You also trim after install. Unfortunately you do need some skill.
 
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Only bummer about the foam boards is that you need to cut it perfectly and/or spray foam the edges for a good fit. The batts "squish".

It made a big difference to insulate our floors over the ventilated crawlspace. The 5' span was only possible because they used 2x6 tongue and groove car decking for a subfloor.
Yes, I mentioned in my first post about using 1/2'' polyiso in the walls in conjunction with the R13 batts. Caulking or spray foaming the gaps along the wall studs. I absolutely understand what your saying about using the batts for their space filling ability. It has me reconsidering my origonal plan since your earlier post. Last winter, and this winter especially, has been quite cold in that room. Really looking forward to redoing the foundation and running the plumbing for the heat. Currently there is none. There is a cold air return and one heat register that have been disconnected some time ago. Even if it was connected the forced air would have to travel about 65' mostly under crawl space. Between the length of travel, and the drafty foundation catching prevalent winds, it wouldn't do any justice. We have found the dogs water dish frozen over night.

Thank you for your replies here. All the little tips I get are a great help. This is a lot of house to work on and maintain.
 
Pex will be fine for your radiators that’s what we have in our 1850s redone farm house. We had euro style radiators put in. While we seldom use them, mini-split heat pump and wood stove are our every day choice, they throw a nice combination of radiant and circulating heat.
All night moe, Saturday you asked “I see other heating systems running pex for supply and returns, for the radiant floors. What would the difference be for cast rads?” I should have said that for that for that kind of system you would need a pex with an oxygen barrier to limit rust. For radaint floors with an open system, as in using your water heater, regular domestic type pex is what is used. Sorry for the mistake.
 
Anyone have a cast iron radiant rad sizing calculator for room size?
 
Radiators are sized by BTU. Do a manual j for each room to find out how many BTUs you need. https://loadcalc.net/

It wouldn't hurt to use oxygen barrier pex everywhere especially the radiant loops. That is where most of the tubing is so it will take in a lot of oxygen and if you ever decided to switch to a closed loop design you'd regret using the regular pex. I don't think the price difference is that much.
 
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Radiators are sized by BTU. Do a manual j for each room to find out how many BTUs you need. https://loadcalc.net/

It wouldn't hurt to use oxygen barrier pex everywhere especially the radiant loops. That is where most of the tubing is so it will take in a lot of oxygen and if you ever decided to switch to a closed loop design you'd regret using the regular pex. I don't think the price difference is that much.

Thank you for that link. I have been planning this system and researching for a couple of years. I want to do things once, Learning from others here has helped me a great deal.

I have decided to run the PEX-Al-PEX inside the house. It will give me the desired oxygen barrier, and save on some fittings do to it's ease of bending. As an added benefit, I'm assuming I'll have a higher flow rate with a gentle bend than one with a sharp bend from a 90* fitting. I'm planning for compression style fittings to connect to "appliances," such as HEs, pumps, RADS, and what not. For pipe to pipe I'll use the press style fittings with the double o-ringed ones. The compression style will give me ability to disassemble for servicing, while the pressed fittings will allow the pex to rotate allowing for the expansion and contraction of the pex.

Since I'm running 1'' lines in a loop in the attic, for the second floor RADS, I'll have to insulate them. First thought was to use the regular pipe "noodles" for plumbing, and then wrapping with lengths of foil insulation. The loop in the attic will be lengthy. Guessing approximately 200' x 2. To keep costs down, and better R-value, I'm leaning towards corrugated drain pipe and spray foam. I'll do the same in the crawl spaces.
 
If you are running through the attic and back down make sure you plan for an air elimination device near the high point on both supply and return lines.
 
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Spray foam inside corrugated drain pipe sounds easy until you realize you need to keep the pex lines centered the whole way and have no way to verify that you've completely filled the void with foam. I'd go with the foam noodles and encase them with additional insulation to achieve the desired R-value.
 
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If you are running through the attic and back down make sure you plan for an air elimination device near the high point on both supply and return lines.
Yes, i have noted to use automated air bleeders in high points of all my loops.

Spray foam inside corrugated drain pipe sounds easy until you realize you need to keep the pex lines centered the whole way and have no way to verify that you've completely filled the void with foam. I'd go with the foam noodles and encase them with additional insulation to achieve the desired R-value.
I have thought of this and have a plan. I'm thinking, after getting a lightweight pull line through, I can use 1'' foam board circles. Round off the edges to aid in guiding through drain pipe. Drill the holes in center with spacing. Slide these on lines at every 20'' and drill fill holes in centers of drain pipe. Lastly, spray away. I'm also pursuing this method to help keep rodents from nesting in conventional insulations. I could also wrap the openings with waterproof Zip Tape too.

There are tubing straighteners used for smaller dia. hard lines. I can easily make one for the larger Pex. Being Pex-Al-Pex, it should behave the same, but straighten easier. This should help with installation. I should be able to run the pipe in the drain pipe outside and haul it up into the attic through the gable window. I won't have to roll it back up to get it up there. Once I get it in place and make my connections, I'll do the foam.
 
Yes, i have noted to use automated air bleeders in high points of all my loops.


I have thought of this and have a plan. I'm thinking, after getting a lightweight pull line through, I can use 1'' foam board circles. Round off the edges to aid in guiding through drain pipe. Drill the holes in center with spacing. Slide these on lines at every 20'' and drill fill holes in centers of drain pipe. Lastly, spray away. I'm also pursuing this method to help keep rodents from nesting in conventional insulations. I could also wrap the openings with waterproof Zip Tape too.

There are tubing straighteners used for smaller dia. hard lines. I can easily make one for the larger Pex. Being Pex-Al-Pex, it should behave the same, but straighten easier. This should help with installation. I should be able to run the pipe in the drain pipe outside and haul it up into the attic through the gable window. I won't have to roll it back up to get it up there. Once I get it in place and make my connections, I'll do the foam.
Sounds like you've thought about it more than most people so all I will say is good luck!
 
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