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Old 08-25-2010, 02:23 AM   #1
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Insulating an old house-1925


What can I do about insulating the outer walls of a house built in 1925 with NOTHING in the walls but air! They are full 2X4 studs, 24 centers, 3/4 pine and cedar shingles outside, plaster and lath with tempered hardboard (weird,huh?) inside, open to the attic. The attic is easily insulated in the usual fashion with rolled pink, but what about soffet vents (there aren't any), wall insulation (what kind and how to do it), etc. This house is really in fine condition considering it's age, but it's not very thermal efficient by any means. Oh, and I don't have much capital to work with. Any suggestions will be helpful. I can't sell it because it's about the only thing I can leave for my son.
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Old 08-25-2010, 05:58 AM   #2
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Insulating an old house-1925


Insulation blown into the wall cavities is probably the best, but it does require making holes inside or out. This should be done by a pro since they know how to fill all the hidden spots better. There is a foam product that is newly available for this, check it out. That construction is full of fire blocking and bracing that makes filling the cavities difficult.

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Old 08-25-2010, 10:51 AM   #3
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Insulating an old house-1925


That's what I figured for wall insulation. I hate the wallpaper anyhow! I don't believe there are any firestops in the walls because in one spot where squirrels were getting in, I could look down from the attic and see light coming in from the bottom! The actual age of this house is in question anyhow because the guy I bought it from told me it was built in 1860 but the town tax records have 1925. It originally had a coal burning furnace in the basement with a large grill in the dining room floor. The foundation is laid up and mortered limestone slabs 24" wide with a solid rock floor. It was rewired in 1965 which I rewired with 100 amp service just this year because of voltage fluctuation problems. I used a well known union contractor because I wanted to be sure everything was done RIGHT! This house had a fire from a wood stove in 1963, which I only found out about when I opened up the wall upstairs and found scorched and aluminium painted rafters.
I'm not trying to unload on you guys, I may have made a mistake buying this place, but I'm kind of stuck with it now. Any information on the actual age of the house would be very helpful. By the way, the sill and top plate are 6X6 hardwood and the studs are morticed into them. The main floor joists run longitudinaly with 10" hand-hewn lateral supports and debarked tree trunk posts to the rock floor. The solid construction, well maintained condition of the house, and new gas furnace is what attracted me into buying it, but the cost of heating it causes me concern.
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Old 08-25-2010, 02:00 PM   #4
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Insulating an old house-1925


The problem you will have with insulating an old house like yours is managing water and water vapor. If you don't get these details correct, your 100 year old home will rot away in a decade.

Go over to BuildingScience.com and read up, see if they have any advice for older buildings.
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Old 08-25-2010, 03:08 PM   #5
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Insulating an old house-1925


Paul is dead on. I would tear the inside "sheet rock" off and do it right. If you use batts, mineral wool, cotton or cellulose are better products than fiberglass, and they don't itch.
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Old 08-25-2010, 08:33 PM   #6
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Insulating an old house-1925


When you pull some of the plaster off, the type lath (and plaster) will help date it: http://www.nps.gov/history/hps/tps/briefs/brief21.htm

Read this about balloon framed and insulation, air sealing: http://www.wag-aic.org/1999/WAG_99_baker.pdf

Blown cellulose is good that it doesn't require a v.b., as I sited above: http://www.karg.com/pdf/Insulaton_de...and_Biddle.pdf


For your location, you could substitute vapor barrier paint, after drywall: http://www.buildingscience.com/docum...ecommendations

Be safe, Gary
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Old 08-25-2010, 09:14 PM   #7
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Insulating an old house-1925


Quote:
Originally Posted by GBR in WA View Post


For your location, you could substitute vapor barrier paint, after drywall:

Be safe, Gary
Good links, Gary. And, not to be picky, but so folks don't get the wrong impression, I think you mean "vapor retarder paint". I believe the proper paint is a good air barrier, but is vapor permeable to let the wall dry to the inside. j
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Old 08-26-2010, 11:10 AM   #8
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Insulating an old house-1925


I just got this in the email - it relates to this very subject!

http://www.finehomebuilding.com/item...od-thing-right
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Old 08-26-2010, 01:04 PM   #9
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Insulating an old house-1925


Nail, head. thanks. j
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Old 08-26-2010, 01:41 PM   #10
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Insulating an old house-1925


Thanks, Jk! Fingers type, brain thinks, supposedly.....

Thanks for that link, Paul! I've had these in my library and never used them since initial research a year ago. Good reads for the bookworms:

http://fire.nist.gov/bfrlpubs/build96/PDF/b96086.pdf

http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/pdf1993/burch93a.pdf

http://www.buildingscience.com/docum...Insulation.pdf

http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=...AuS5YXIasjBIEw

http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=...ONHeYZkahyBwMg

http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/buildin...rica/35793.pdf

http://www.thathomesite.com/forums/l...4319360.html?8

Be safe, Gary
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Old 08-26-2010, 11:11 PM   #11
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Insulating an old house-1925


Older homes were built to breathe, gaps were accepted, wonders for allowing moisture to escape, horrible for insulating a home. Plenty of air gaps, closed cell foam works best to seal around gaps in ceilings to attics, attic floors to walls, around hvac openings, around chimneys (use metal for fireblocks sealed by fire retardant caulks.
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Old 08-27-2010, 07:08 AM   #12
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Insulating an old house-1925


Been there, done this. My son bought a 1921 house that had those problems, almost exactly. We found an insulation contractor who could do the "hole-in-the-wall" thing and suck in insulation. He placed a vacuum hose into the lower hose, blew insulation into the top hole. Supposedly this made the insulation get past all those places behind the visible wall where the old metal lath was with plaster poking through it. I'm familiar with this material and it made sense to me. The insulation was made from ground up newspapers, had fire retardant added, had something added to prevent mold, and he stated it need NO moisture barrier. It was not cheap, but with the heating bills my son had it only took the next winter to tell that it was worth it. Due to my line of work he allowed me to cut the holes into the walls, and repair then afterward, this saved quite a bit of monies. David
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Old 08-27-2010, 10:30 AM   #13
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Insulating an old house-1925


You guys are terrific!! I've been trying for years to learn all this information that you've shown me in just a couple of days. I firmly beleive this house was constructed in 1925 because of what you have shown me about plaster and lathe. It is only visible in the basement stairway, but it is wood lathe with grey gyspum plaster with no animal hair. Also, the info on moisture barriers was very nice to know. I am not in a position to tear into the walls at the present time, but I need to do something about my roof edge icing. I've tried heat cables to no avail, I opened up an upstairs wall and found NO insulation in the attic spaces behind it! I believe if I don't do something soon, the rafter tails will rot. The very odd thing is my heating bills are not as bad as you would think. Something else is very odd, the ceilings are sheetrock over plaster. I quess this owner wanted that refinished look without a lot of work! Again, you guys are super!!
If you want something done right, go to a professional! Not only will it be done right, his reputation is on the line. BUT choose good ones! Incidentally, I am a retired tool & die maker with injection molding as a specialty, so anybody that needs my advice about metalworking, I'll be here.

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Old 08-27-2010, 11:14 AM   #14
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Insulating an old house-1925


The ice dams are caused by warm air from the house below leaking through holes and ceiling.

1. Stop the air leaks.

2. Add insulation.

3. Add ventilation.

http://www.buildingscience.com/docum...d-135-ice-dams http://www.rd.com/how-to-seal-attic-...icle18158.html

Be safe, Gary
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Old 08-27-2010, 12:34 PM   #15
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Insulating an old house-1925


Gentlemen, I need to pick your brains again. The basement of this house has a really bad moisture problem. As I've mentioned before, it is mortered limestone slabs with a solid rock floor. It was actually made deep enough by cutting out rock (6 ft deep in one end to 9 ft in the other, following the natural lay of the stone) and using the pieces to complete the foundation. It is quite leaky with water actually running in in several spots in a heavy rain and out thru the low spot in the fractured stone. Sounds like the house from hell, doesn't it! What, if anything, can I do to seal it up. I used Thuroseal on my previous house that had a concrete block foundation and it worked well, but this house would require a lot of something like hydraulic cement I would think. Guess where the low spot is. Directly under the breaker box! What I think I need is a complete home makeover done by a TV show!

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