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Old 11-23-2019, 08:41 PM   #1
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Help with 1960ís attic addition


Iím a homeowner living in Barrie, Ontario Canada and I have some questions regarding the attic space in the addition of my semi-detached home. The main home was built in the 1920ís but the addition was built in the 1960ís.

Iíd like to air seal and add insulation to the unfinished attic space. This portion of the home suffers from ice damming so I hope that making these changes will minimize ice formation.

My knowledge of attics, insulation, and overall DIY work is minimal. What Iíve figured out from online videos and articles is my attic insulation is inadequate for my climate and I should be using foam to air seal around any holes/drywall joins in the attic floor.

Iíd greatly appreciate any advice that the knowledgeable members of this forum can provide regarding my home and attic space. I know itís difficult to imagine my living space so Iíll try to provide as much information while keeping to the point.

The roof was upgraded to metal this year. Before that, it was 10 year old shingles.

The attic is accessed thru the linen closet in the bathroom via a hatch.

I explored the attic today in an attempt to get a feel for what might need to be done. Hereís what I noticed and thought needed improvement based on the information Iíve gleamed online:

1. The height of the batt insulation on the floor measures approx 7Ē high. This is inadequate and Iím going to need more.

2. When I lift up the batt insulation, itís not faced with paper on the bottom. But, thereís a tightly wrapped clear plastic covering on the floor beneath the insulation, so maybe this is ok.

3. There are areas underneath the insulation where wires run thru the floor. The holes where the wires run havenít been sealed so foam should be used in those places.

4. The attic hatch is a piece of thin wood which has warped slightly and is difficult to move. A new piece of wood should be cut and several pieces of foam board should be attached attic side. Also, the hatch opening should have weather stripping.

This next list is composed of things I noticed while up in the attic which I suspect are all problem areas, but I donít know for certain and would like advice. Iíve included pictures as my ability to describe might be lacking. The pictures are out of order but are labelled at this imgur link: https://imgur.com/a/FOFXd6k

1. Photo A - The bathroom fan duct is noticeable in several photos so I figured Iíd mention it first. It runs 3/4s the length of the attic and does connect to a vent that feeds outside, but the duct itself is composed of 4 or 5 pieces. Two are rigid metal and the other 2-3 are flexible, all joined by what appears to be duct or electrical tape. Should this be changed?

2. Photos B, C, and D - Iím not sure how many are up there as they are fairly well hidden behind the insulation, but I suspect thereís one in each rafter. Iím concerned that theyíre too small and that I canít see any light coming up thru the baffles. The space between the rafters is 14.5Ē and itís very narrow where the roof meets the floor so I couldnít get any closer to pull the insulation away from the baffles. Photo D is the outside of the house where the soffit vents are. I donít know if there are chutes behind the vents and Iím concerned whether the attic is getting proper ventilation.

3. Photo E - The wall in the attic that joins to my neighbours house. Itís drywall with beams/joists feeding into it. Should anything be done with this wall?

4. Photos F and G - The additionís attic attaches to the wood shingled roof of the original house. Should anything be done with this section? Thereís also black tubes coming out of it that are suspended towards the rafters. Iím not sure what to make of this.

5. Photo H - The fourth side of the attic, where the bathroom duct vents to the outside, is a wall of some sort of insulation. Iíd guess about an inch thick, maybe. And then thereís plastic behind it and then the siding of the house. I can see a gap towards the top left side which I suspect isnít good. Should anything be done with this area?

I think that about covers everything. If you need any additional information Iíll try my best to accommodate. Thank you for reading and I appreciate any help thatís offered.
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Old 11-23-2019, 09:09 PM   #2
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Re: Help with 1960ís attic addition


Air sealing between house and attic can use caulking or can foam. Where can foam can fill larger gaps the caulk is easier to use, be prepared with both.

If you are just addressing that attic to reduce heat loss and resulting ice dams that is fairlt easy. If you are insulating to convert that space to living space the requirements are much more.

The plastic vapor barrier is fine. VBs have become less popular except in the far north so leave what is there.

Seal holes between floors with a fire rated product.

[url= https://www.diychatroom.com/f114/how-insert-images-into-your-posts-205921/]Here's[/url/ a thread that explains how to post pictures.

Those exhaust ducts should be insulated and sealed so that warm moist air doesn't get dumped into the attic. Also be sure they are vented to outside and not just into the soffit area.

Need to investigate the soffit vents more. Plywood or boards to lay on may get you deeper into that never return space, I'm claustrophobic.

I didn't get to the pictures and have to stop for now so will post the notes I have made.

Didn't hear any mention of high vents, may have missed it. Talk tomorrow.

Bud
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Old 11-23-2019, 11:18 PM   #3
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Re: Help with 1960ís attic addition


Looks like you have a few problems, this picture as what looks like mold. Hard to understan where this would be in the house.

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Old 11-23-2019, 11:21 PM   #4
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Re: Help with 1960ís attic addition


This is the fire rated wall to next door, this makes a problem for high venting.

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Last edited by Nealtw; 11-23-2019 at 11:25 PM.
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Old 11-24-2019, 06:34 AM   #5
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Re: Help with 1960ís attic addition


Seems like you have done some research and have a good understanding of the possible issues.

Poor ventilation can be a factor in ice dams and ice-cycles. So you need to to investigate further. I think you need to remove some of the soffit panels to see what ventilation you have. Also, of course, you need vents to let the air out. Preferable ridge or roof vents, but perhaps you have gable vents.

That fan vent is a joke. Seems extremely long too. All steel would be best, and should be insulated. Household air in general, and bathroom air in particular, is typically very moist. If the exhaust duct is not insulated, warm moist air will contact the cold surface of the duct and condense. There is no slope on that duct so condensation will currently just run to the bottom of the duct, and possible nasty breeding area for mold.

.

Last edited by SPS-1; 11-24-2019 at 06:40 AM.
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Old 11-26-2019, 08:35 AM   #6
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Re: Help with 1960ís attic addition


Quote:
Originally Posted by SPS-1 View Post
Poor ventilation can be a factor in ice dams and ice-cycles. So you need to to investigate further. I think you need to remove some of the soffit panels to see what ventilation you have. Also, of course, you need vents to let the air out. Preferable ridge or roof vents, but perhaps you have gable vents.
Thanks for all the replies.
Quoting one post to make things simpler for writing on my tablet.

I’ve tried to peer down where the baffles are to check out the soffits, but it’s too narrow a space for me to get in there, so I’m guessing approaching from the outside is the best option.

From what I gathered, in order to view behind the soffits from the outside, I will need to remove the eaves and facing, and then I can remove the aluminum soffit vents and see what’s underneath. Judging by there being absolutely no light coming up between the baffles in the attic, I figure chutes for air were never cut where the soffit vents are and the aluminum is more superficial than functional.

Speaking of venting, there is a gable vent which I’ve just taken a photo of and included. And it looks like there’s a ridge vent above too. (In case the picture doesn’t embed, here’s the link: https://imgur.com/a/eVNZ5ph )
But, while I was in the attic, I couldn’t see the gable vent. I am unfamiliar with the construction of semi-detached homes, but is it common for there to be a small space behind that fire rated wall between the two semi-detached house attics?

And, if that’s the case, is that fire rated wall limiting my air flow in the attic from the gable and ridge vents?

Basically, I don’t want ice damming to occur anymore or, at the very least, greatly limit it from happening. After adding more insulation, without soffit vents and with that gable and ridge vent, is this possible?

I have about R19 worth of insulation and I know it needs to be R60, but before adding it, I think I need to be sure about my ventilation requirements.

Thanks again to those who have contributed.

Last edited by Extreme84; 11-26-2019 at 08:36 AM. Reason: Picture
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Old 11-26-2019, 08:54 AM   #7
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Re: Help with 1960ís attic addition


Yes, you will need to check to see if the gable and ridge are being isolated from the area we are seeing.

Removing the fascia and soffits will be a major project. Consider?

If you can get close enough to that baffle area maybe you can use a long stick and push the insulation away to see beyond it. Once we know what is there more suggestions may come to mind.

Outside pictures may help as well. Use the link in post #2 to add pictures directly here.

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Last edited by Bud9051; 11-26-2019 at 08:56 AM.
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Old 11-28-2019, 07:58 AM   #8
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Re: Help with 1960ís attic addition


As the attic is cramped and there are places difficult to get to for inspection or work, and ice dam looks like your biggest problem, you may be better off melting the snow from outside with heating cables zigzagging across the eave.

Passive way is soffit venting with at least 1.5" of air space between roof sheathing and insulation using baffles but retrofitting this may be difficult and usual homes don't seem to be built for enough insulation in this area (where joists meet the rafters).
There are lots of videos and images on how the insulation and venting work in this area. Study them and see if you can make it work.

Mix of bath exhaust duct is not a good idea but if it works without leaking in the joints, it can be used as such. Long duct lengths is not good since bath fan is not usually strong enough to push the air out of the duct. Or leave the fan running extra 5 minutes or so after shower. Some people have said in the forum that they leave the fan a lot longer. I replaced the metal bath duct with insulated plastic duct (stretched). Used metal for the bends. And leave the fan running after shower for 15 minutes or so. I wired the bath for separate light and fan switch with mechanical timer for the fan.
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Old 11-28-2019, 08:40 AM   #9
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Re: Help with 1960ís attic addition


Can you see the ridge vent from the inside?

Are you saying the gable vent is centered on the dividing wall between you and your neighbor, and not visible from the inside ?

If the soffits are vinyl, I think you can just bend and snap them out. But I have never done that myself.
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