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Thread: Insulating old house

  1. #31
    Extreme DIY Homeowner Scuba_Dave's Avatar
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    We looked at new houses, not our style....and the cookie cutter neighborhoods where most of the houses look the same. My friend has moved & is on his 3rd house in maybe 6 years - not for me

    I went thru Home Depot for Anderson windows. Then I found after that the windows for HD are a "lower grade" then thru other smaller suppliers. Not 100% sure this is true. I just bought a 38x53 Anderson double hung Anderson with screen & it was just over $300. I special ordered 2 other windows & they were only 4' tall & less $$. Special order (for me) for HD just means its a normal Anderson Window size, they just don't have it in stock. Someone also told me if I have to special order an Anderson thru HD that it will be a "normal" grade Andereson window - not one made specially for HD. Again, not sure if that is true

    Insulation makes a big difference & will probably get you the most bang for your buck right now
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    I have enough to do to my own house

  2. #32
    DIY Senior Member Master Brian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scuba_Dave View Post
    We looked at new houses, not our style....and the cookie cutter neighborhoods where most of the houses look the same. My friend has moved & is on his 3rd house in maybe 6 years - not for me

    I went thru Home Depot for Anderson windows. Then I found after that the windows for HD are a "lower grade" then thru other smaller suppliers. Not 100% sure this is true. I just bought a 38x53 Anderson double hung Anderson with screen & it was just over $300. I special ordered 2 other windows & they were only 4' tall & less $$. Special order (for me) for HD just means its a normal Anderson Window size, they just don't have it in stock. Someone also told me if I have to special order an Anderson thru HD that it will be a "normal" grade Andereson window - not one made specially for HD. Again, not sure if that is true

    Insulation makes a big difference & will probably get you the most bang for your buck right now
    I insalled an Anderson Storm door from HD after I bought the house and I will say that is one GREAT door! I love the fact, it could be keyed to my Schlage locks that are on the rest of the house and it has an awesome seal. It was special order, because all of my doors are 86 (I believe) vs. the standard 82" height nd it was about $500. To be honest, the seal is almost too good as my huge oak front door is very tough to close now. I say this, because I am impressed by what HD carried in this line. They tend to be where I do go for windows/doors.

    Now back to insulation....

  3. #33
    Jack of all trades frenchie's Avatar
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    Brian - I don't know if you lurked around JLC much, but I was just reading this thread, and thought of your windows decision:

    http://forums.jlconline.com/forums/s...t=40791&page=3
    standard warning: blah, blah, blah... it's not safe to post there, they're mean to strangers.

    As usual, a lot of chaff with the wheat! But posts 15, 16, 23, 30, 32, and 37 are worth reading.
    Master Plumber Mark:

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    it smells like......victory......

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  4. #34
    DIY Senior Member jch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by frenchie View Post
    I just want to note that not everybody is telling you to replace your windows.

    Like I said, in the real world, air leakage is more important than R-value (which doesn't take air leakage into account). Old windows, if the weatherstripping is in good shape, no leaks around the frame or the sashes, with storms installed as well... pretty much as good as new windows, IMO.

    Most of the heat loss, in either case, is infiltration, not radiation.
    I'd have to agree with frenchie.

    I'm in British Columbia, where there have been 10's of 1,000's of "leaky condos"--buildings/houses that were super-insulated without enough thought to dealing with water penetrating into the wall cavity. There were so many claims for rotting/moldy houses that the provincial home insurance corporation went bankrupt...

    CMHC (the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation) has since launched a whole series of seminars to teach the construction industry here about the lessons learned in this fiasco and how to avoid repeating them.

    I took their 65 hour course a few years ago.

    Here are the main points that apply to Master Brian's situation:

    1) Old houses with large eave overhangs, proper exterior window sills, and hollow (uninsulated) walls seldom rot or go moldy.

    2) The biggest mover of water vapour into a wall cavity is via *air* movement vs. vapour diffusion through the surface of the wall itself. i.e. air leakage through a 1" x 1" gap (or, equivalently, a 1/16" x 16" gap say along a baseboard or window jam) will deposit several *pints* of water into a wall cavity during a heating season. A non-vapour barriered (but air-sealed) wall will only deposit a few ounces of water during that same time. Therefore a perfect air barrier (with absolutely no cracks/gaps around penetrations in the wall like windows and doors) will prevent rot/mold much more than putting poly on the inside surface of your walls.

    3) A hollow wall will disperse moisture during the dry season. The interior side of the cladding will effectively be at "room temperature" and will therefore give up the moisture quite quickly. The unrestricted convection air currents within the wall will then disperse moisture enough to avoid rot/mold.

    4) Convective air currents within a wall "pump" heat through the wall. The air adjacent to the warm surface warms up, rises within the wall, cycles over to the other side of the wall (the cool side), gives up its heat, sinks, and then moves back over to the warm side.

    5) Insulation works by stopping these convective air currents within a wall. Loose fill insulation (fibreglas batts, cellulose, open-cell foam) have enough air resistance to stop the weak convective air currents, but offer little resistance to wind- or stack-effect pressure differences. As frenchie said, they act as simply a dust filter (hence the black stuff you see on insulation batts whereever there are air leaks).

    6) Old houses rarely have a reliable air barrier. Spaces between clapboards. Spaces around window jams. Stucco butting up against wood which swells and contracts during the seasons.

    7) Because we know that *air movement* transports the majority of moisture into old walls, we need to ensure that there is a mechanism to get that moisture out of the wall before rot/mold sets in. In old houses, the hollow walls (with their convective air currents) are the mechanism that protects it.

    8) If you install insulation into these old walls without also installing a perfect air barrier that seals all wall penetrations, then you will be allowing moisture to still penetrate the wall (via wind- and stack-effect driven air movement) but will be removing the major mechanism for removing that moisture (convective air currents).


    This is a *huge* problem and is blamed for the outbreak of rotten/moldy houses in the pacific northwest.


    To summarize, to keep you from turning your 100 year old house into a rotten/moldy mess, you should either:

    1) Leave it as-is and swallow the monthly heating costs as an ongoing cost for keeping your house rot- and mold-free.

    2) Tear off all the siding. Install loose insulation in the walls by whatever method you prefer (e.g. blown cellulose). Add an air barrier (Typar/housewrap) to the outside of the house with particular attention to sealing *all* seams and *all* the wall penetrations to the air barrier. Reinstall siding. NOTE: Tar paper is *not* considered an effective air barrier by CMHC unless all seams are taped. In that case, it will cause moisture problems if there is poly on the inside surface of any of the walls. Picture a tuna sandwich left in a sealed ziploc bag...

    3) Blow *closed-cell* foam into your walls. No need to remove all the siding. No need to install a separate air barrier. Closed-cell foam *is* considered an air barrier if it's over 2" thick, so you can get the same results as #2 by *blowing* closed-cell foam into your walls. Foam board is *not* an equivalent because the gaps around the edges prevent it from acting as an air barrier.


    Does this help?
    .../j
    Last edited by jch; 01-17-2009 at 03:46 PM.
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  5. #35
    DIY Senior Member jch's Avatar
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    Default One more thing...

    I forgot to mention that flashing all wall penetrations is also very important. The window sills on old houses serves as the flashing for the bottom of the windows, but you'll still need to install flashing at the top of every window/door if you decide to insulate.

    A 20 mph wind can blow water up (yes, up) about 4" behind shingles/clapboards. So CMHC recommends that flashing extend at least 4" up the wall (or, better yet, 6") to avoid wind-blown penetration of water into the wall.

    A "rain-screen" design is even better (and is required on all new construction here). Basically it's a 1/2"+ air gap between the siding and the air barrier. Typically, 1" strips of 1/2" pressure-treated plywood are installed vertically (along each stud) over top of the air barrier. The siding is then attached to these strips, with bug screens along the resulting gaps at the top and bottom edges of the wall.
    Last edited by jch; 01-17-2009 at 11:54 AM.
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  6. #36
    Jack of all trades frenchie's Avatar
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    Where in BC, John? I used to live in Vancouver.
    Master Plumber Mark:

    there is nothing better than the
    manly smell of WD 40 in the air
    while banging away on brass with a chisel and hammer...

    it smells like......victory......

    do not hit your thumb...
    __________________
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  7. #37
    DIY Senior Member jch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by frenchie View Post
    Where in BC, John? I used to live in Vancouver.
    Victoria Very wet here.... (as you know)...

    I've got a stucco house with no insulation in the main floor walls. When we bought it back in 2002, the first thing I was going to do was blow cellulose into the walls.

    Then I took the CMHC course and saw what a disaster that would be.

    My plans now are to:
    - wait until the roof needs replacing
    - remove all the stucco
    - extend the eaves so the overhang is 24" (currently ranges from 1/2" on gable ends(!) to 8" on sides)
    - apply 2-4" of rigid foam insulation to the exterior (all seams taped with Red Tuck Tape), extending all the way down to the foundation's footings
    - install flashings (with end dams) over every window/door
    - wrap the house in Typar (as an air barrier), all seams taped with Red Tuck Tape
    - install vertical strips of 1/2" pressure-treated plywood, coincident with studs
    - parge the outside of the foam insulation from 6" above grade downward
    - install factory-painted Hardi-Board, end-painting and caulking all end-cuts
    - relax and forget about it.
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  8. #38
    DIY Senior Member Master Brian's Avatar
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    jcg, that does help.

    Sounds like I should just forget about it. I'm not going to remove all the siding and wrap the house. Even doing it myself, I probably wouldn't gain anything cost wise. Maybe rebuild the windows, which is a given, and install storm windows. As I rebuild the windows I'll probably insulate the cavities, with spray foam, where the sash weights go and install the spring type spring type of lift. That should cut down on air penetration around the windows. All-in-all, this house doesn't feel very drafty, except by a few windows which have issues with glazing....

    There isn't an issue with foaming the window cavities are there?

  9. #39
    Jack of all trades frenchie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Master Brian View Post
    There isn't an issue with foaming the window cavities are there?
    As long as you use the stuff for windows. The regular stuff expands so much it can bow the frames.
    Master Plumber Mark:

    there is nothing better than the
    manly smell of WD 40 in the air
    while banging away on brass with a chisel and hammer...

    it smells like......victory......

    do not hit your thumb...
    __________________
    Just so everyone's clear: I'm the POODLE in the picture ("french", get it?) The hot woman is my wife.

  10. #40
    DIY Senior Member Master Brian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by frenchie View Post
    As long as you use the stuff for windows. The regular stuff expands so much it can bow the frames.
    Yes, it would be the window stuff.

    Thanks.

  11. #41
    DIY Senior Member jch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Master Brian View Post
    jcg, that does help.

    Sounds like I should just forget about it. I'm not going to remove all the siding and wrap the house. Even doing it myself, I probably wouldn't gain anything cost wise. Maybe rebuild the windows, which is a given, and install storm windows. As I rebuild the windows I'll probably insulate the cavities, with spray foam, where the sash weights go and install the spring type spring type of lift. That should cut down on air penetration around the windows. All-in-all, this house doesn't feel very drafty, except by a few windows which have issues with glazing....

    There isn't an issue with foaming the window cavities are there?
    Well, there's always option #3 that I mentioned above:
    3) Blow *closed-cell* foam into your walls. No need to remove all the siding. No need to install a separate air barrier. Closed-cell foam *is* considered an air barrier if it's over 2" thick, so you can get the same results as #2 by *blowing* closed-cell foam into your walls. Foam board is *not* an equivalent because the gaps around the edges prevent it from acting as an air barrier.
    That, along with installing flashing at the top of every window/door to prevent water intrusion into the wall, would really drop your heating costs without having to remove all the siding.

    More expensive up-front than cellulose, but much less labour-intensive.
    ----------
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  12. #42
    DIY Senior Member Master Brian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jch View Post
    Well, there's always option #3 that I mentioned above:

    That, along with installing flashing at the top of every window/door to prevent water intrusion into the wall, would really drop your heating costs without having to remove all the siding.

    More expensive up-front than cellulose, but much less labour-intensive.

    I know that is an option, I just am not sure it is an economically viable option. All of the kits I have seen in the past are very expensive for the DIY'er and I'm sure the pro's, if any are around, are very expensive!

    I will look into it some more, but unless I find a foam that is justifiable expense wise, I doubt I do that.

    I do appreciate the feedback in any case!

  13. #43
    DIY Junior Member Chessiec's Avatar
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    Brian,
    I completely agree with all the advice that the focus should be on getting rid of air infiltration. It isn't sexy or heroic, but as you note, there is always a lot of gap-sealing to do in old houses.

    The sills and around windows and doors are major air infiltration points. Then the attic, especially the band where the walls and ceiling join, as well as all the penetration points, especially for ceiling-mounted lighting and fans.

    Good for you, to take an old house and make it more efficient. Be happy with what you do, and if the thought of replacing windows irritates you, do something else. (But just as clarification: thermal heat gain figures appear to be what you got side-tracked by. This is a measure of how much solar radiation is allowed to pass through windows into the house. Important if you have a passive solar design in which you WANT the solar radiant heat to be transmitted into the house. Has little to do with overall energy performance of the window as a unit.)

    FWIW, I can't stand fiberglass, functionally or health-wise, and hope to never have it in one of my homes again. Thumbs up on rock wool, damp-spray cellulose and the blown in foams.

    I'd love to hear an informed summary on the benefits and detriments of open vs. closed cell foam insulations in remodeling situations, in both crawlspace and wall applications.

    Cheers.

  14. #44
    DIY Senior Member Master Brian's Avatar
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    I am also somewhat curious about a couple of other things....

    1) I am also going to finish off a portion of attic and turn it into a somewhat finished storage area. The question I have is about fiberglass batting with the facing on it. I can't seem to find 24" x 3" fiberglass batting without the facing. I know they say not to install insulation over batting that is faced, why not?

    2) I have 2 small crawlspace areas that I want to insulate the ground portion. I am thinking of laying down cement blocks, because I have them and can get more for cheap, which with the addition of concrete poured between the gaps would give me basically a concrete floor. Not looking for anything fancy, just basically to seal the floor from insects and rodents as well as a bit of insulating factor. My thought then was to install one or two layers of solid core foam down over the blocks, does that sound like a good idea or not? If I do this, I would probably seal the gaps around the foam with a spray foam. Again, they aren't large areas, but the interior floors above do get cold and both have batting under the floor in the joists.

  15. #45
    DIY Junior Member Chessiec's Avatar
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    The warnings are about not putting a moisture barrier in the wrong place, being any place where migrating moisture vapor would condense where it would do harm.

    Often helpful to think about our home as having a thermal envelope which must be consistent and unbroken. Similarly, there is a moisture envelope. Wherever interior air flows, it carries moisture. As that air hits a colder surface, the moisture will tend to condense.

    For the crawlspace, someone else may be able to provide a more specific answer. But it may be of help that with a new home, for a slab, the order would be: ground tamped hard, compacted rock, poly vapor barrier, framing for slab with insulating foam around the edges and horizontally around at least 15-18" of the perimeter (more than about 24" is a waste), then pour the slab.

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