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Old 05-26-2018, 06:42 PM   #1
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What's Better: Putting up Insulated Siding or Dense Pack Cellulose


Have an old house. Built 1921. Balloon framed. No insulation in the walls. Lathe and plaster walls. Original single pane windows with the pulleys and weights. Exterior is straight board siding and is painted.

Live in central Iowa. Temperatures can be 20 below in winter to over a hundred and humid in the summer.

I have a 92 efficiency furnace but that just is not enough. The thing runs all the time, even with the thermostat set at 60. You can feel cold air running through the outlets and windows.

It is getting time that the house needs to be repainted which has triggered ideas of further home improvement.

I know dense packed insulation can be a pain, so I started doing some more research. I also did not want to have to repaint in 5 years. I came across a a few websites promoting newer vinyl siding that has foam insulation behind it. It says it can reduce energy consumption in non insulated homes by about 14.5 percent on average.

How much better would it be to have dense packed cellulose for insulation than getting insulated siding and putting that up?

The insulated siding sounds easier, no painting and putting insulation in the walls, but would it be enough?

I wanted to hear some of the learned advice from this forum and see what you all might think.

I will be putting new windows in too.
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Old 05-26-2018, 07:56 PM   #2
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Re: What's Better: Putting up Insulated Siding or Dense Pack Cellulose


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promoting newer vinyl siding that has foam insulation behind it. It says it can reduce energy consumption in non insulated homes by about 14.5 percent on average.
I gotta call the BS Police on this one. Unless the insulation is 3" thick on the back of the siding, they are just singing and dancing.

Insulating the wall cavities is the only way to do it right. Roxul (Rockwool) is the best IMO with regards to R value (R15 versus R13 for fiberglas), it is vermin proof, fire proof, water proof, mold proof and needs no vapor barrier.
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Old 05-26-2018, 10:03 PM   #3
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Re: What's Better: Putting up Insulated Siding or Dense Pack Cellulose


I'm going to say to do the Cellulose insulation, then the siding, me personally won't use Vinyl siding, I have had to replace too much of it, after a cold winter, Below zero temps and vinyl siding makes great shattered vinyl.

You need to repaint anyway, and the cellulose is put in through holes in the siding up high, then plugged with a plug.

So the new STEEL siding covers up the plugs, the old unpainted clapboards, and you won't need to paint again for 25-30 years later.


And the siding alone is only a 3-5 % decrease in energy consumption.

They be blowing Sunshine up your skirt.


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Old 05-27-2018, 06:18 AM   #4
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Re: What's Better: Putting up Insulated Siding or Dense Pack Cellulose


I searched online one day "insulating old exterior walls" as the 1959 brick ranch home I live in now has no insulation in the exterior walls. I came up on one of the hits on a blog posted by a guy that is a "expert" in the energy efficiency trade.

He stated that over the years in his work, he has found MANY of these old homes that had cellulose blown tight in the exterior walls, had wet wood stud/ structural damage at the lower section of the walls. He said this happened because these old homes were built with exterior walls that had no vapor barrier on them, of course.

He stated the cellulose insulation literally absorbed the humidity trying to escape the home. And the moisture laden insulation made of paper, held the moisture in the wall at the bottom of it. I do not KNOW if this is true as I have not torn out any old walls with cellulose after it being 20-40 years old.

So after reading his blog and being made aware of this possible issue, I will not take a position one way or the other on recommending blown cellulose in the exterior walls for old homes. I would like to read Bud's input and experiences on this matter now.
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Old 05-27-2018, 06:21 AM   #5
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Re: What's Better: Putting up Insulated Siding or Dense Pack Cellulose


Ditto on the exaggerated energy savings. Calculating energy saving is/was my business and insulated siding isn't going to make that much difference.

I have vinyl and I like it because it is cheap, quick, and an easy DIY. Steel would be nice but not on my budget.

Although I like Roxul it would require you to open the stud bays, I don't think there is a blown in variety. Otherwise we use a lot of dense packed cellulose up here in Maine, also inexpensive and the density will help to reduce the air infiltration.

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Old 05-27-2018, 06:33 AM   #6
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Re: What's Better: Putting up Insulated Siding or Dense Pack Cellulose


You posted while I was typing Greg. The professional articles I have read point out that allowing a wall to dry is as important as trying to keep the moisture out. But preventing condensation is more than just a vapor barrier. Air leakage is the real culprit and moves a lot more moisture than diffusion. The painted interior walls are already a vapor retarder, but one leaky electrical box can pass a hundred times more moisture than can diffuse through those walls. (my wild guess limited citations available).

The OP should include a significant air sealing effort which will be challenging with inside and outside surfaces in place.

Cellulose isn't perfect but I haven't heard complaints here in Maine as mentioned in that article.

Hard to draw the line on how much to invest in an old home.

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Old 05-27-2018, 09:21 AM   #7
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Re: What's Better: Putting up Insulated Siding or Dense Pack Cellulose


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Originally Posted by Bud9051 View Post
You posted while I was typing Greg. The professional articles I have read point out that allowing a wall to dry is as important as trying to keep the moisture out. But preventing condensation is more than just a vapor barrier. Air leakage is the real culprit and moves a lot more moisture than diffusion. The painted interior walls are already a vapor retarder, but one leaky electrical box can pass a hundred times more moisture than can diffuse through those walls. (my wild guess limited citations available).

The OP should include a significant air sealing effort which will be challenging with inside and outside surfaces in place.

Cellulose isn't perfect but I haven't heard complaints here in Maine as mentioned in that article.

Hard to draw the line on how much to invest in an old home.

Bud
Good to read Bud, that you have not heard of cellulose in old house walls being problematic.

In 1972 I was working as a residential electrician and had a BIL that was a sales person for Stewart Warner HVAC equipment. He swayed my brother and I to get in to the old house insulating business.

So with a training course at SW on how to insulate old and new homes, we bought a 1968 Ford two ton box truck. Put the big Hagan cellulose machine in it and keep it stocked with cellulose or fiberglass batts, whatever the job needed.

So I would re-wire the old house first, then blow cellulose in the exterior walls and attics. Sometimes while drilling the holes through the wood siding outside. Sometimes drilling and blowing through the holes I made on the exterior walls on the inside of the house. (depended on the owners desires or the renovation contractors) I drilled one two inch hole 18 " down from the ceiling, one 18 " up from the floor in the same stud space, to put my 2 in. hose control valve in.

When I finished a person could remove the drywall or plaster and the blown and packed insulation would stand it the wall on its own. I made a lot of old house lovers happy back then, that were never warm or cool enough in their old homes . And REAL happy, when the 1973 "energy crisis" hit the US and the utility bills started climbing.

I hated to read cellulose get a bad rap from this "expert" blogger, as it is really easy to get in to exterior walls and attics. And on the old house windows with weights, the owners usually install new windows anyway. So the voids in the old window frames can be filled with foam and the drill holes for the foam nozzle, just plugged and painted. JMO
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Old 05-27-2018, 10:43 AM   #8
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Re: What's Better: Putting up Insulated Siding or Dense Pack Cellulose


The WAP (Weatherization Assistance Program) here in Maine was the first to offer training so my first energy course was basically slanted towards how their program did things and cellulose was 98% of their insulation. Since then I have talked to a few of their contractors and never a hesitation regarding cellulose and they do a ton of houses.

I have worked around the cellulose where it existed in some homes and only found one with a moisture issue, leak around a chimney. The IR camera picked it up immediately and the home owner was furious as he had recently paid a contractor to fix the leak.

I love the IR camera.

Bud
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Old 05-27-2018, 01:06 PM   #9
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Re: What's Better: Putting up Insulated Siding or Dense Pack Cellulose


Thank you gentlemen for your advice. I remember why I was thinking about the insulated siding as opposed to having dense pack done. I have not got into the walls yet and will probably invest in one of those mechanic camera scopes anyway, but I figured with this house being this old it had knob and tube wiring. When working on one of the original light switches (it is the two button design and it was jammed) the wiring to it was the original solid copper wire. I assumed much of the wiring would be knob and tube. I was always told that if you dense pack cellulose in the walls with this wiring, you need to re-wire.

Aside from municipal codes issues (I live out in the boonies), is it seriously a fire hazard? I didn't think those heat dissipators got that hot. Not that it crossed my mind just filling in the cavities without re-wiring...
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Old 05-27-2018, 03:47 PM   #10
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Re: What's Better: Putting up Insulated Siding or Dense Pack Cellulose


All cellulose insulation should have its fire retardant ratings on the bags and by all standards it is safe. Not sure what you mean by heat dissipators ?
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Old 05-27-2018, 04:29 PM   #11
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Re: What's Better: Putting up Insulated Siding or Dense Pack Cellulose


Gregg: The ceramic tube part of the K & T wiring was the heat dissipater, as well as an insulating factor.

Most of the wire was wrapped with a paper liner, that after a few decades would crumble from aging, and be a spark hazard, and could ignite the cellulose after a while of arcing.

Remember it's fire retardant, not fire proof.


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Old 05-27-2018, 04:33 PM   #12
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Re: What's Better: Putting up Insulated Siding or Dense Pack Cellulose


Thanks ED, my mind was so far away from anyone insulating their exterior walls while leaving KT wiring in them, the insulators never even entered my mind.
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