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Old 10-17-2009, 04:33 PM   #1
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Mystery duct insulation material


Hi. We just bought our first home in march. right now we are insulating everything. the heating ducts in the unfinished basement/crawl are mostly unwrapped, but some have this weird stuff on them. our home inspector couldn't id (see image attached). Based on what i've seen online it doesn't look like asbestos, but i have no clue what it is. its dry and crispy and flakes at the touch. its textured. it almost looks like an old foam pad, but its too long for that. the house was built in 1953. should i just fiberglass wrap over the top? should i get it looked at first? thanks for any input!!
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Old 10-17-2009, 06:15 PM   #2
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Mystery duct insulation material


My first job in high school, around 1980, was with a local carpet showroom/installation outfit. My job was to sew on edging, cut the next day's jobs, and load the vans (carpet rolls, padding, tackless strips, etc). That looks just like one of the types of carpet padding we used to sell. It came in 4 or 5 foot wide rolls. Same texture pattern that I see in your photo. I hated that stuff, because it stank and once you got it worked into your hands, it was there until you showered. It was also 5 times as heavy as the recycled foam padding.

It probably dry rotted.

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Old 10-17-2009, 06:18 PM   #3
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Mystery duct insulation material


That material looks recently "installed". It looks EXACTLY like carpet padding. The fact that the house was built in 1953 means nothing. A previous owner apparently thought this might be a good use for some scrap material.
The fact that your home inspector couldn't ID this or tell you it was a jury rig smacks of incopetence.

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Old 10-17-2009, 07:06 PM   #4
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Thanks! after my husband and i crawled around under there and cut it off, that's exactly what we decided it was--old carpet padding. the fact that its a jury-rigged "solution" is not surprising at all--the previous 2 owners were total idiots and cut corners and did everything so crazy we are still finding all kinds of things. the inspector could tell it was totally inappropriate, but didn't know exactly what it was. its good to have a second opinion. that stuff was crumbly, dry and GROSS!! they only wrapped it around about 1/2 the length of the duct too...what was the point of that? oh, and then we discovered one of the ducts actually wasn't even connected to the floor, therefore they were blowing hot air INTO the crawlspace with a 6" gap between the end of the duct and the subfloor. glad we discovered that before winter really sets in. sheesh.
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Old 10-17-2009, 07:42 PM   #5
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Mystery duct insulation material


My vote is also carpet padding. I once had to rip out a whole house of carpet that may have been laid in the 60s. That is the exact same as the padding.
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Old 10-17-2009, 10:59 PM   #6
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IMO- -carpet padding. But most important, you have gotten your hands on the project, and found an important issue to resolve-the 6" gap. Great work. Thanks, David
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Old 10-18-2009, 09:40 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by lohagrace View Post
Thanks! after my husband and i crawled around under there and cut it off, that's exactly what we decided it was--old carpet padding. the fact that its a jury-rigged "solution" is not surprising at all--the previous 2 owners were total idiots and cut corners and did everything so crazy we are still finding all kinds of things. the inspector could tell it was totally inappropriate, but didn't know exactly what it was. its good to have a second opinion. that stuff was crumbly, dry and GROSS!! they only wrapped it around about 1/2 the length of the duct too...what was the point of that? oh, and then we discovered one of the ducts actually wasn't even connected to the floor, therefore they were blowing hot air INTO the crawlspace with a 6" gap between the end of the duct and the subfloor. glad we discovered that before winter really sets in. sheesh.
This is good! Crawl spaces should be heated to keep your floors warm.
Not that the duct shouldn't be connected to where it belongs. But, heated air should be supplied to the crawl space.
The crawl space walls should be insulated, not the pipes. And of course, any outside vents need to be closed off as well.
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Old 10-18-2009, 10:39 PM   #8
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I'm confused--why would you want to heat a crawlspace? that's heating over 500 sq feet of unlivable space. i'd rather insulate the ceiling of the crawl. we are insulating the walls right now, and installed a door (it used to be all open to the rest of the house). so that space will be really cold and the uninsulated ducts would be losing a LOT of heat. they are 6, 8 and 12 feet long, going through unfinished basement/crawl. heating that just to have warm floors seems like a big energy waste to me :shrug:
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Old 10-19-2009, 12:20 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by lohagrace View Post
I'm confused--why would you want to heat a crawlspace? that's heating over 500 sq feet of unlivable space. i'd rather insulate the ceiling of the crawl. we are insulating the walls right now, and installed a door (it used to be all open to the rest of the house). so that space will be really cold and the uninsulated ducts would be losing a LOT of heat. they are 6, 8 and 12 feet long, going through unfinished basement/crawl. heating that just to have warm floors seems like a big energy waste to me :shrug:
If your feet are warm, you will be comfortable!

Heating registers blow all the warm air up to the ceiling, then as it cools the air settles down to the floor.
By heating the crawl space, warm air is evenly distributed across the bottom of the floor, where it then infiltrates through the flooring and into the room, above.
The heat will also flow out through the walls of the c/sp unless its well insulated.
Insulation does not add heat, it just stops its flow.
Heat that is supplied to the crawl space will rise up into the rooms above, it won't be lost if it cannot flow out through the walls.
In my place, I have a damper that I close during the summer, when air conditioning is going, cool air in the crawl space won't rise up into the house. However when winter arrives, I open the damper to warm the crawl space.
I have not had a noticeable increase in my heating costs since I've been heating the c/sp and find the floors to be more comfortable.

Note: Uninsulated ductwork helps to heat the c/sp as well!

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