Opinion on insulation in balloon-frame house

Opinion on insulation in balloon-frame house

PostBy: scottybk On: Sat Mar 01, 2014 11:09 am

I'm interested in hearing opinions on insulating my house.

It's a 1/2 duplex house built about 1930. Currently has NO insulation whatsoever. I did replace some of the old wooden windows with vinyl units which has been a big improvement on drafts.

The house is 2x4 "balloon frame" meaning the vertical studs run from the top of the sill plate in the basement all the way to the attack with no firestops or other obstructions. The attic floor is old tongue & groove boards nailed to 2 x 10 rafters.

The inside walls are an old version of sheetrock, and in bad shape (lumpy, paint over layers of old wallpaper, etc). The upstairs ceiling is those old fiberboard tiles which are ugly and have water-stains from years ago when the roof leaked at one time (roof now is brand new, installed 2012).

If I was to tear all the old sheetrock off the walls, I was going to (for code/safety reasons) install 2x4 horizontal firestops at each floor level between all stud cavities, and then stuff the stud cavities with R13 fiberglass batts with the kraft paper side facing in. I was going to insulate the attic floor joists with the 10 inch thick fiberglass bats, kraft paper facing down. I was going to "tuck" the fiberglass between the attic joists from the bottom once I have all the upstairs ceiling tiles ripped down, then put up new brand new sheetrock for the upstairs ceilings and mud/sand paint everything.

My question is, do you think I'll notice a huge difference in warmth inside the house after doing this? House is about 1300 sq. feet. I currently heat it with a hand-fired Gibraltar stove located in the basement, which makes the downstairs about 68 deg. on "warmer days" (like 30-40 degrees outside temp), although on the bitter cold days (10 degrees outside and lower) the downstairs has trouble getting much above 60. On some of the really bitter nights the living floor (downstairs) of the house has trouble getting above the high 50s in temp.The upstairs ("2nd floor" is usually about 55 to 60 degrees all the time, which is fine for sleeping.

I'm not doing this to save $$$ because the coal stove needs to be kept fired all winter regardless. I am just wondering if insulating per my above plan will make the house significantly warmer. I ask because I've heard insulting balloon frame houses can lead to moisture and other problems, and would rather not even bother if it won't make that much of a difference. I also looked into DIY spray foam kits, but they are very expensive. I've heard fibeglass batts are not so great, but they are cheap and easy to install.

Thanks!

Scotty
Last edited by scottybk on Sat Mar 01, 2014 11:19 am, edited 3 times in total.
scottybk
 
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Re: Opinion on insulation in balloon-frame house

PostBy: scottybk On: Sat Mar 01, 2014 11:09 am

BTW I live near Milford NJ 08848
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Re: Opinion on insulation in balloon-frame house

PostBy: Carbon12 On: Sat Mar 01, 2014 11:16 am

Insulating will make any house more comfortable and energy efficient,.....the house should be much warmer than it is now if the insulation is done correctly.
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Re: Opinion on insulation in balloon-frame house

PostBy: waldo lemieux On: Sat Mar 01, 2014 12:17 pm

Insulation of any kind or amount will yield noticeable results. Me ? Id remove the walls and blow in cellulose and redo the ceiling upstairs and blow cellulose in from the attic. Whatever nonsense youve heard about cellulose is untrue or inaccurate. Mice or other vermine will not live in it and if your roof is new water wont be a concern. Water vapor problems are a seperate issue , neither caused by or made worse with the conditions you describe. Bottom line , cellulose will yeild the biggest bang for your buck. Ill add Ive been contracting and developing for 30 yrs and have a Nyserda certification. That and 85 cents gets me a senior coffee at McD's.

waldo

Ps. Ive built 3 balloon frame houses in the last ten years, They're awesome building envelopes!
waldo lemieux
 
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Re: Opinion on insulation in balloon-frame house

PostBy: Lu47Dan On: Sat Mar 01, 2014 1:06 pm

Add the fire stops, but also fire caulk around them. It is an added expense but worth it in the long run.
As to blown in insulation, I have seen newer installs that have settled over time. One house a friend flipped the insulation was done a coupe of years before by the PO had settled down about 8" in each stud bay. Since he had to replace all the dry wall in the house we spent three days shoveling the stuff out of the house. He insulated with fiberglass in all the walls and ceilings.
If you are going to do it yourself over time than fiberglass is the way to go. You can do one room at a time without having to rent equipment.
Spray foam is another option but it is more expensive to install than either fiberglass or blown in is. But has the added benefit, with the correct type, of sealing out drafts. If your basement is concrete block having the block filled with foam will help a lot with air infiltration.
The ceilings in the upstairs would be R-30. Do Not sheet rock right over the joists, buy some "Hat Channel or Furring Channel" to prevent the movement of the ceiling structure from pulling screws out of the sheet rock.
http://www.clarkdietrich.com/products/drywall-framing/furring-channel-hat-channel
Also insulate the ceiling in the first floor, it may not save you a bunch of energy, but it sure knocks down the noise transfer from upstairs to down stairs. Use the hat channel here also.
Hat channel also has the added benefit if being able to level the ceiling, you can shim it to take out the waves in the joists.
As for warmth, it will be a lot warmer in the house after you are done than it is now.
While you are doing all this add an exhaust fan to the bathroom and use it when you are in there,
Dan.
Lu47Dan
 
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Re: Opinion on insulation in balloon-frame house

PostBy: SMITTY On: Sat Mar 01, 2014 1:11 pm

Without even reading through your entire post, I must say ...... CLOSED CELL FOAM INSULATION. Use it, and never look back.

It's pretty pricey, but wow is that stuff AWESOME. Been hearing great things about how well it insulates, sound deadens, blocks moisture, and adds structural support to whatever you spray it on. 8-)

Someday I'll do this house with it ....
SMITTY
 
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Re: Opinion on insulation in balloon-frame house

PostBy: Scottaw On: Sat Mar 01, 2014 3:15 pm

Personally, I would "close " the balloon if you're taking off the drywall. Seal tops and bottoms of all stud cavities with 2x4s, and use great stuff to air seal all penetrations. For insulation, I think Roxul is way better than fiberglass, just the fact it doesn't itch to install is enough for me.

Whatever insulation you add will definitely help, I've been slowly ripping out walls and doing my house, the difference is huge. I personally feel the air sealing is just as important. I would recommend more that 10" in the attic as well, get at least r38 with rolled or blown insulation.
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Re: Opinion on insulation in balloon-frame house

PostBy: titleist1 On: Sat Mar 01, 2014 3:21 pm

Have you updated the wiring in the house?

If you happen to have Knob & Tube wiring anywhere as some old houses do, you should upgrade it. You can't insulate around it.

I recommend adding 2x2 furring strips on the outside walls, run them horizontally across the studs. You will have added area for insulation and have less stud area thermally bridging to the drywall. Put poly up on the walls and then blow the insulation behind the poly. You can see fill quality then.

Don't forget to add the air channel in the attic so you don't block the ventilation from the eaves by getting too much insulation at the eave.
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Re: Opinion on insulation in balloon-frame house

PostBy: whistlenut On: Sat Mar 01, 2014 3:38 pm

I don't know your codes, but if you have a balloon framed house here, you MUST fire stop it....if not from the inside, then from the outside. If you have lead paint, well, you know the deal. I like cellulose personally (foam obviously, but expensive, and no DIY equipment affordable. It is the very best....) and I understand the settlement concerns, however just like anything else, the installer carries the 'Keys to the Castle'. PSI of the install is critical so if you don't want to pull screws or risk settlement, better make sure the 'boys' are sober, alert, and awake when your day to install.

Before you go nuts in whatever way, electrical......hard wired CO and smoke........plumbing........heat lines (future), bathroom vents..........eave vents.....
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Re: Opinion on insulation in balloon-frame house

PostBy: CapeCoaler On: Sat Mar 01, 2014 3:45 pm

Spray foam gets you R20+ in your existing 2x4 stud walls...
No build outs for windows,electric or plumbing...
Fireblock before you do anything...
How are the electric wires...
Old cloth stuff...
How about Cat5/6 and the coax...
Plumbing drains and potable...
How about the heat...
Back to insulation...
Spray foam is more expensive but...
It also seals the drafts, won't settle and does the vapor barrier...
Use the Spray foam on the envelope...
The uppermost ceiling can be a combination of Spray foam and blown...
Spray will seal with 2" and blown on top to get to R40+ on the cheap...
Rocsol/roxsul/rockwool for the sound properties interior ceilings and walls...
Are you living in or are you renting this out or flipping it...
The best value for leat loss is in the ceiling insulation and draft reduction/sealing the envelope...
CapeCoaler
 
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Re: Opinion on insulation in balloon-frame house

PostBy: northernmainecoal On: Sat Mar 01, 2014 3:47 pm

Our house was built in the 20s and is also balloon framed with no insulation. We live in northern Maine and have suffered through many cold winters in a cold house. Last summer I'd finally had enough and started tearing down the plaster walls and insulating. I used a little over an inch of the DIY closed cell spray foam and filled in the rest with unfaced fiberglass. I only managed to do this in 3/4 of the first story but I can tell you this is the first winter in this house that we have been warm! Whatever route you choose you will notice a difference. I chose to do the spray foam because of the vapor and air barrier it provides ...far less drafts than with kraft faced insulation
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Re: Opinion on insulation in balloon-frame house

PostBy: rberq On: Sat Mar 01, 2014 4:42 pm

Your house sounds so familiar, except mine is maybe 60-70 years older so I had to deal with crumbling plaster and lath rather than with old drywall. Having done fiberglass in several walls, I would not do it again if I could use something else. I put my hand by an electric outlet, and I can feel the cold air drafting in even though the wall is full of fiberglass batt and tucked around the outlet box to the best of my ability.

waldo lemieux wrote:I'd remove the walls and blow in cellulose and redo the ceiling upstairs and blow cellulose in from the attic. Whatever nonsense you've heard about cellulose is untrue or inaccurate. Mice or other vermin will not live in it and if your roof is new water won’t be a concern. Water vapor problems are a separate issue , neither caused by or made worse with the conditions you describe. Bottom line , cellulose will yield the biggest bang for your buck.

I have been told the same by three contractors (four now, counting Waldo). If cellulose is blown to the proper density, moisture will not migrate through it, which was my biggest worry. As somebody else pointed out, the key is a competent and sober installer.

titleist1 wrote:I recommend adding 2x2 furring strips on the outside walls, run them horizontally across the studs. You will have added area for insulation and have less stud area thermally bridging to the drywall. Put poly up on the walls and then blow the insulation behind the poly. You can see fill quality then.

By coincidence, I found that very idea this morning, except they used a special fabric rather than poly. See link: http://builditsolar.com/Projects/Conser ... eyWall.htm

titleist1 wrote:Don't forget to add the air channel in the attic so you don't block the ventilation from the eaves by getting too much insulation at the eave.

If your house is like mine, there IS no ventilation from the eaves. Cellulose is blown into the roof cavity to completely fill it bottom to top. Scares the *censored* out of me, I just envision moisture migration, or saturation from a roof leak or ice dam. But everybody plus Waldo says that’s the way to do it. :)
rberq
 
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Re: Opinion on insulation in balloon-frame house

PostBy: rberq On: Sat Mar 01, 2014 4:50 pm

northernmainecoal wrote:I used a little over an inch of the DIY closed cell spray foam

You mean the foam that comes in a little can, or the stuff where you dress up in a space suit and have multiple tanks that mix and spray?
rberq
 
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Re: Opinion on insulation in balloon-frame house

PostBy: Wanna Bee On: Sat Mar 01, 2014 5:00 pm

The effects of Insulating a ballon framed house are no different than insulating a modern framed house. It's defiantly worth the effort. If you are against or cannot afford spray foam insulation, look into rock wool insulation. It has a lot of the qualities that you want, fire stop and it doesn't sag/slump in the wall cavities. I think it also has a touch better R value than fiberglass batts.
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Re: Opinion on insulation in balloon-frame house

PostBy: northernmainecoal On: Sat Mar 01, 2014 5:00 pm

I ordered it, came in a couple propane type tanks and the space suit which is incredibly hot once you get going
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