One of the reasons I am gutting the house is to be able to insulate the walls (the other reason is to electrify the house). Of course, another option is to leave everything alone and have a contractor blow in cellulose insulation…. however, The Attic has cellulose insulation, and I HATE IT. Both The Attic and the cellulose insulation. It is the dirtiest, dustiest, smelliest stuff EVER. The dust particles ooze out from the tiniest cracks and crevices in the home’s walls and ceilings, and coat the entire house with layers upon layers of dust. We could dust every single day, and have a new layer every single day. I am strongly against blown-in insulation. We have had respiratory problems because of the junk.
So I install fiberglass batts. This is a dirty, laborious job, especially in the heat of summer when the LAST thing on your mind is January snow. But come January, we will be SO glad we did this. My valiant daughter assisted me with this venture. The other kids helped with chores around the house so that I could turn my full attention to the installation. I have the greatest kids in the world, I tell ya. One daughter slaved away outside, on the asphalt on a blistering day, to hang and then take down the loads of laundry.
Here’s part of the dining room wall. This was the most difficult of the two rooms to do. For one, the studs here are spaced very oddly. You may have two studs 8 inches apart, then another stud 18 inches apart. Fiberglass insulation comes in 15-inch widths, so you can imagine all the cutting and fitting we had to do.
Also in this room, some of the studs had dry rot, from a very old water problem– the previous owners built a small porch and allowed a leak to drip over the window for many years. That entire section was rotted out by the time we bought the house. I had to try and replace some of it with wood, so that we will have something to secure the sheetrock to, when the time comes. Another corner had no wood at all– back in the days of plaster and lathe, furring strips held up the plaster, and there was no need for the modern-day framing that we see today. Indeed, the hardest part of renovating an old house–where most of the labor occurs– is in form-fitting it to modern-day size demands: 15-inch fiberglass, 16″ on-center framing for sheetrock, 4 x 8 sheets, etc. Back in the olden days, they didn’t have these and so didn’t account for them. It’s a real PAIN to have to do this, believe me.
I used faced fiberglass batts AND plastic vapor barrier. It’s a little much, I know. Supposedly, the facing on the batts makes a semi air-tight seal. But not in this house. My home is balloon-frame, AND with all the slicing and dicing of the batts we had to do, there would still be a lot of drafts coming through. So we stapled large sheets of vapor barrier to seal the cavities even more. I had done this in the living room, and the difference that winter was astounding. NO drafts! It was the first winter we didn’t have to wrap ourselves in blankets just to keep warm. (And that goes without saying that the forced-air furnace system was woefully inadequate).
Here’s the kitchen.
If you recall, I had mentioned in previous posts that the kitchen had no walls behind the old cabinets. Whenever we opened a drawer or cabinet, freezing-cold air would blast through. Well, I MADE SURE that this kitchen is going to be air-tight and warm this time! I really can’t wait to see how this system stands up to winter’s cold.
Here are some tips for installing (or inspecting) insulation, should you need to:
- Don’t squeeze the insulation into the cavities, if you can avoid it. Because my home has brick noggin between the studs, I did not have enough depth for the thick batts, so I did have to squeeze them in. But squeezing or compressing fiberglass reduces it’s insulating qualities.
- If you have stud cavities of varying widths as we do, measure carefully. Cut the batts to a perfect fit. While installing the batt, start at the top and tuck in the pink fiberglass from the sides while trying to leave a paper tab so you can staple the paper to the wood stud. This helps to hold the batt up, and to improve the seal.
- Dust your skin with baby powder before, during, and after working with fiberglass, to help prevent itching skin.
- Have a VERY sharp utility knife with extra blades on hand. The small bit of tar in the fiberglass batt facing sticks to the knife and dulls it, making the job slower and slower. Change blades frequently.
- For 2×4-inch framed walls, install the 3 1/2-inch fiberglass batts; for 2×6-inch framed walls, install the 5 1/2-inch fiberglass batts. These batts are specially designed to fit perfectly in the stud cavity; they will fill the depth of the studs appropriately. Also, some municipalities regulate the insulation’s R-value, or quality of insulation you can use. My area regulation says I must use a minimum of R-13 for walls in 2×4 framing, and R-19 for walls in 2×6 framing. The higher the R-value, the better the insulating quality of the material.
- Most vapor barrier rolls come in 10-foot lengths. Don’t cut the length when you install it– only measure for the width. Hang the sheet up at the top of the wall, and staple down (it’s handy to have a helper pull the sheet tight so you don’t get wrinkles in the plastic). When you come to the bottom of the sheet, cut off the remaining extra length– but leave a 2-inch lip onto the floor. When you set your sheetrock against the wall, the board will rest on that plastic lip. You can caulk the small gap where the sheetrock sits, thus creating a seal against floor drafts.
The Department of Energy has a website with a page on Insulation R-Values recommended for the United States at www1.eere.energy.gov/consumer/tips/insulation.html. And here’s a good Insulation Fact Sheet at ornl.gov/sci/roofs+walls/insulation/ins_16.html, too.
So this project is done. Whew! I am strangely surprised at how terribly tired I am from the job. My daughter is, too. Our bones ache, and we are just plumb tuckered. I’m surprised, because installing insulation isn’t all THAT labor-intensive. Demolition was labor intensive! But perhaps it was the heat (we had a heat wave going on) and high humidity? Or going up and down the ladders? Anyway, I don’t think I can do anymore renovation work today. I’m pooped.
Saturday’s goals are to finish running wiring for baseboard heaters upstairs, and create a PVC pipe shaft for a future central heating system installation. I also have to wire for Ethernet before we close up the walls. And here’s hoping The Hubs gets the PEX plumbing system completed! We start hanging sheetrock in the dining room on Sunday. Today, I get the insulation inspected. I have a lot of work to do for my job today (writing articles), so I think I’ll recuperate from the insulation while working on articles.