Friday, January 6, 2012

The Winter Chill

While the winter has been mild in DC, we have been trying to button up the house. We have refinished several tasks over the past few weeks but have yet to post any of them.

I think the biggest complaint we have about our house is the lack of insulation (followed closely by the sketchy electrical system). We have been back-and-forth on what we want to do, but have yet to pull the trigger. There is no insulation in the walls, when I talked with a contractor last spring about sprayfoam in the walls he said we would be better off to insulate the attic and possibly install a radiant barrier. The house is brick and block, leaving probably 1.5 inches between the drywall and the block.

The rockwool insulation we have in the attic is filthy and unevenly distributed. Rockwool has roughly an R-value of about 2.25 (per inch) in loose fill installations.

So we have a two options - a quick-fix and a slightly more arduous fix...

1. Leveling out the old insulation and install new insulation over the top. We can either use a blown-in cellulose or the new EcoTouch® fiberglass insulation.

2. Basically option #1 except we remove the old insulation. This will be way easier than my previous attempt since Kari found a local rental store that carries specialty insulation vacuums. I really want to remove the old insulation, mostly because its filthy, and anyone reading this post knows I border on OCD when it comes to cleaning. The other benefits are that it will give us a chance to check out the wiring in the attic and methodically purge the attic of old wires from the 1960s security system. Another benefit is that we can install a new vapor barrier. The original brown paper barrier is deteriorated, torn and missing in several areas. If we install the roll/batt insulation in the attic the insulation must be installed with the paper facing downward to the living area. With loose blown insulation, we will have to lay down a polyethylene vapor barrier first, then blow in the insulation.

The second problem we have is there is no insulation in the floor of the overhang on the front of the house. The overhang makes the two bedrooms freezing in the winter. To see if there was any insulation in the overhang I cut a section out of the finished ceiling in the basement. No insulation, but at least there is a wood bottom and its not open to the perforated soffit panels. The only choice is to open up the basement ceiling and fill with insulation. Admittedly this is low on our priorities, since one room is my office and the extra bedroom is empty since Kari has the bed in Wilmington. But in the event we want to convert the extra bedroom, into say a nursery, we will definitely need to button up the insulation.

The other indulgence I have been contemplating is new windows in the house. Our current windows let in a fair amount of air, and in the case of a couple basement windows they used drywall sections to fill the gaps around the window. Most importantly I want to replace the patio door and extra large living room window, but the two will cost nearly $5400. The total cost for all our windows in the house was $16900. Not surprisingly the discount per window goes up significantly with each additional window. Need to start playing the lottery.

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