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Old 12-13-2009, 06:48 PM   #1
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Insulating a cold/well room?


We have what I believe is considered a "Cold room" in the finished portion of our basement. Inside is a capped off well and the main water shutoff to our home. We bought the home in May of this year and mainly use the room for storage. As you can see there is no insulation inside or on the door. As it has gotten colder outside I've noticed that there has been quite a bit of cold air coming from the sides of the door and the vent, which I have since blocked off. The vent was added by the prior owner because of condensation build up in the room. I blocked it off (by using a piece of cardboard and packing tape) because cold air was pouring through the vent and cooling down the area outside the room (which is also our family room). My office space is on the other side of the room from the cold room and as I write this my feet and hands are pretty chilly.

I've included some pics to give you a better idea of the space. I'm looking for some ideas on how to insulate the door and room. Would it be fine to just insulate the door and not the whole room?

Thanks for any help!

Lynch




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Old 12-13-2009, 08:26 PM   #2
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Insulating a cold/well room?


We have a cold room under the front steps as well...don't know where you are but we're in a very cold climatic zone, but the prevailing thinking is that these rooms are to be left outside the building envelope and ventilated only. We have a square vent through the concrete with a plywood door with a latch...we close that in the winter and open it during the summer to let the air circulate.

But we insulate the door on the cold room side and make sure drafts don't get around or underneath. Obviously, we couldn't put water pipes in there because it does get down to freezing. In your case the room needs venting but the vent is to the inside of your home...good thing tit's empty or there'd be mouldy smells.

I'd keep the ventilation up by keeping the vent or putting in an outside vent. Only way the concrete would dry out.

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Old 12-13-2009, 10:20 PM   #3
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Insulating a cold/well room?


If its strictly condensation it would be from the warm humid indoor air hitting the cold cement.

What would be wrong with lining it with XPS , then monitor the humidity level with the rest of your basement for a good while.

If it stays dry could you not glue some green board against the foam for a fire block?

Or maybe just glue up some foil faced foam and call it quits, probably not to code though.

That should bring the temp up to close to what your basement temp is.

Then get rid of the homemade newspaper pipe wrap and get things up off the floor(food for mold).
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Old 12-14-2009, 06:47 AM   #4
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Insulating a cold/well room?


Ayuh,... It would make more sense to Me, to seal,+ insulate the room, bringing it Into the envolope,...
Especially because of the piping...
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Old 12-14-2009, 07:00 AM   #5
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Insulating a cold/well room?


Sure, all of that is possible...but don't forget that the cold room + the house weren't designed that way. And you could put heating, ventilation and insulation in there - probably need all 3 -but again why were the pipes put there in the first place? Obviously someone either didn't do their design engineering right -or they knew the pitfalls of putting the pipes there (plus the well) knowing full well that winters get cold. I bet the latter...

As long as the temperature in there doesn't get below freezing for extended periods of time and providing that the water alway moves, the potential for freezing is low. Besides I am not sure where the OP is located...

There is something in the overall construction that worries me and that's the moisture inflitration. Look at the leaks...the OP would have to sort that out, then insulate, the provide a heating soturce for the moisture to dry out, then provide ventilation for the same reason.

Might as well take off the door!

No, insulate the door, put in a vent to the outside - like they do already.
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Old 12-14-2009, 01:44 PM   #6
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Insulating a cold/well room?


Thanks for the info folks.

Moisture in the basement has not been an issue since we moved in the house in May of this year. I'm actually surprised at how dry the basement is compared to other older homes I've lived in in the past. I do run a dehumidifier in the basement but it hasn't kicked in for a couple months because it's been so dry. As for the cold room, the markings on the wall is not moisture, it's bone dry in there. I'm guessing at one point they had some condensation issues, but the vent installed by the previous owner resolved that. Because of the pipes in the room, I think I have no choice but to insulate the room. I'm a little worried because when I took the pictures last night, the temperature in the cold room was at 40 degrees and the outdoor temp here in Minneapolis was at around 10. If the outdoor temp drops another 20 degrees (which it will at some point), it could essentially drop that room temperature down to 20 degrees which could freeze the pipes.

As far as insulation, would you recommend a layer of rigid foam board against the cinder block, and then frame with 2x4s and fill with batt insulation to increase the R value? Would the added batt be overkill? Would a vapor barrier be necessary or does the rigid foam board double as a vapor barrier?

Thanks,

Lynch
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Old 12-15-2009, 09:27 AM   #7
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Insulating a cold/well room?


There's a lot of misinformation being posted on here for such a simple question. Many houses, including my own, here in Canada have cold cellars exactly like this in their basement, and the proper way of insulating/conditioning these spaces, as per National Building Code is to insulate/vapor barrier the warm side of the space (not put XPS on the inside?), install an insulated steel exterior door and get some air movement inside the space by installing some holes in the concrete at ground level (typically 3" on opposite sides of the room with appropriate screening).

As for the water line, given that this cellar is underground and hence naturally insulated, freezing should not be an issue, nevertheless, I would invest in some high quality pipe insulation and perhaps a thermostatically controlled heat trace cable as insurance. It should never be required, but just in case.
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Old 12-15-2009, 10:12 AM   #8
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Insulating a cold/well room?


Quote:
Originally Posted by dwolek View Post
As for the water line, given that this cellar is underground and hence naturally insulated, freezing should not be an issue, nevertheless, I would invest in some high quality pipe insulation and perhaps a thermostatically controlled heat trace cable as insurance. It should never be required, but just in case.
Just to back up this point: I'm no expert but it seems likely that if the pipes were prone to freezing, the previous owners (OP said it's an old house) would have done something about it -- i.e. something more than the newspaper wrap job. Pipe insulation is not expensive. The fact that they didn't install any suggests that, while it can't hurt to add some, the problem is probably rare or non-existent.
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Old 12-15-2009, 10:28 AM   #9
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Insulating a cold/well room?


A drop to 20 degrees outside Termp will not equate to a 20 degree drop in that room
Ground Temp down far enough down stays at about 50-55
Is all of this underground?
I'd put a new insulated door on, but I'd use wood to try to match existing wood look
Rip the newspaper down & put pipe insulation on
You could insulate the whole top 4' of block with rigid foam
That would help keep ground temp in & cold out
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Old 12-15-2009, 11:37 AM   #10
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Insulating a cold/well room?


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Originally Posted by Scuba_Dave View Post
A drop to 20 degrees outside Temp will not equate to a 20 degree drop in that room
Ground Temp down far enough down stays at about 50-55
Is all of this undergroud?
I'd put a new insulated door on, but I'd use wood to try to match existing wood look
Rip the newspaper down & put pipe insulation on
You could insulate the whole top 4' of block with rigid foam
That would help keep ground temp in & cold out
I think you're right about the temperature SD. Last night it got down to 10 below outside and the temp in the room was still at 42 degrees. And yes, the room is fully underground. Someone commented above that the if there was an issue with pipes freezing with the prior owners they would've addressed it at some point and I don't see any evidence of that.

I like the idea of using rigid foam board for the top 4' of block. The room doesn't need to be finished so is it fine to just install the foam board without anything over it? What would be the best way to install the foam board? What type of foam board would I need to use (MEPS,XEPS)? Sorry about all of the questions, just new to DIY and want to do it right.

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Old 12-15-2009, 01:28 PM   #11
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Insulating a cold/well room?


Unless you plan on heating that area, in other words unless there is heat generation and a transfer of heat you want to slow down, there is no point in insulating if the room is staying at the same temperature it is at.
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Old 12-15-2009, 03:53 PM   #12
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Insulating a cold/well room?


Quote:
As it has gotten colder outside I've noticed that there has been quite a bit of cold air coming from the sides of the door and the vent, which I have since blocked off. The vent was added by the prior owner because of condensation build up in the room. I blocked it off (by using a piece of cardboard and packing tape) because cold air was pouring through the vent and cooling down the area outside the room (which is also our family room).
Ayuh,... If it were Me, which it ain't,...
I'd try to find where the draft is coming from,+ Seal it...
"ell,... I'd super Seal the whole room, then glue rigid foam board to the walls...
Sealing/ insulating the perimeter, bringing it Into the heated space should relieve All of the stated Issues...

If your not a Gardener/ Farmer, you probably don't have much use for a Root Cellar...

Is that a heat tape cord running the length of the waterline, along the rightside in the picture,..??
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Old 12-15-2009, 09:03 PM   #13
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Insulating a cold/well room?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Bondo View Post
Ayuh,... If it were Me, which it ain't,...
I'd try to find where the draft is coming from,+ Seal it...
"ell,... I'd super Seal the whole room, then glue rigid foam board to the walls...
Sealing/ insulating the perimeter, bringing it Into the heated space should relieve All of the stated Issues...

If your not a Gardener/ Farmer, you probably don't have much use for a Root Cellar...

Is that a heat tape cord running the length of the waterline, along the rightside in the picture,..??
Alright, so I did a bit more looking around and found open spaces where there is obvious cold air coming from. First is the opening to the pipe that goes to the outside spigot on the side of our front steps. You can see from the first pic that there is quite a large gap around the pipe and cold air is coming in. Also (in the second pic) alongside the top of the door there is a 1/4 inch gap where the wood goes into the foundation. There is a gap at the same location on the other side too. For these three spots, I'm guessing I can just fill with foam insulation. The other area of concern is the top of the door where the floor joist meets the piece of wood over the door. There is quite a deep large gap all along top that I can also feel cold air from. Because it goes back a bit and down a ways, I don't want to use the foam insulation. What type of insulation can I shove into that space?

Bondo - Not sure what a heat tape cord is. Basically all of the pipes are insulated by fiberglass insulation covered with newspaper. I plan to remove it all and put on proper pipe insulation. I also plan on putting some sticky side weatherstrip around the door.




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Old 12-15-2009, 09:51 PM   #14
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Insulating a cold/well room?


That fiberglass looks OK
I think I'd just remove the newspaper & wrap with something else
If you foam that hole going outside that may stop a lot of the cold air
But if not a big space I'd still insulate the top 4' & ceiling
That might bring the normal temp up from 42 to around 55
Plus with the ceiling sealed any heat escaping into the room will stay in the room

Anything that helps keep your heated space warmer will reduce your heating costs long term
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Old 12-16-2009, 07:54 AM   #15
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Insulating a cold/well room?


IMO that is a very good plan you have there, i.e. seal the gaps with foam...that is to say, that is the way the room was intended to be.

I doubt if any building codes would not have addresssed the positioning of water works in a cold room unless there had been a thorough determination that, in your climate, it was even possible. It isn't up here but where you are, it must be - as otherwise your plumbing at it's very basic level - would not be "to code" - and you bought yourself a legal mess.

If that is a two-way vent in the door (that grill), you may want to look into a vent that you can close or open whenever you want...close it during the winter, open it during the summer.


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