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posted: 8/3/2014 12:01 AM

Additional insulation may not be worth it in some cases

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Q. My house is a 50-year-old, two-story colonial with a basement and four bedrooms. The first floor is brick and the second floor is vinyl siding installed over wood siding. All of the interior walls are studded. The attic already has blown-in insulation up to the top of the joists with an attic blanket over that. I have no trouble with ice dams, etc., on my roof. I installed a 98-percent efficient gas furnace a few years ago, so my utility bills are not very high.

I am interested in insulating the walls. I have read about injected foam insulation where they can drill holes either in the siding from the outside or through the interior walls and inject it into the air space created by the studs. Is this worth the time, mess and expense? Will the fact that the vinyl siding was installed over older wood siding create any problems? Do I need to be concerned with any overheating of electrical wires or outlets?

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A. I am pretty sure your exterior walls already have insulation in them. A house built in the '60s is very likely to have fiberglass in all stud cavities.

It makes no sense to crush the fiberglass to inject foam, especially since you have low energy bills and no ice dams. The gain would be minimal, if anything at all.

It would have been best to have 1-inch rigid insulation installed under the vinyl siding. But if your vinyl siding has a foam backup, so much the better.

Q. I read your column about cedar clapboards. I have had cedar clapboards on my house and large garage with excellent results. All your suggestions were very good. One I would add is a direction on clapboards made in Canada by Macmillan Bloedel to "never nail through two layers of siding with one nail." I followed this, and in 30 years or so have replaced only a couple of boards.

I have even seen Tom on "This Old House" nail clapboards low -- catching the lower clapboard with one nail. I agree that new system Benjamin Obdyke Home Slicker is a good idea, but that was not available 30 years ago. This is also a good idea for roofing with cedar shingles.

A. I understand the Canadian recommendation not to nail through two clapboards with one nail, but it would mean nailing halfway up any clapboard to miss the lower one, which is overlapped by 1½ inches. The likelihood of the clapboards curling is increased unless they are all clear VG (vertical grain -- quarter-sawn with no knots) and primed on all sides with a protective stain before installation.

The common practice among U.S. builders is to nail low, which catches the underlying clapboard.

Tom Silva of "This Old House" is a very competent and experienced builder. He would not continue doing this if it didn't work.

Benjamin Obdyke Home slicker is for walls; Cedar Breather is best used under cedar shingle or shake roofs.

Thanks for your comments.

Q. Since you are so knowledgeable, can you advise me about how to get rid of an excessive number of ladybugs that I have in my home all year long? I have two neighbors who have the same problem. We have tried everything to get rid of them, but to no avail.

A. Hey! Let's not carry this too far! There are lots of things I don't know, and I try to learn something every day.

If any insects can get inside your house, there is a strong need for caulking and sealing their entry points. Please look carefully at every inch of your house, or have a competent handyperson or contractor do so, and caulk, caulk and caulk.

Ladybugs usually enter buildings seeking winter shelter in the fall. Then, once inside the house, they will start swarming when the sun shines brightly and the temperature rises in the late afternoon after a cold spell.

These infestations are more common in houses near woods or fields in which they have been feeding in the warmer weather.

You can be cruel and vacuum clean the ladybugs, but it is a shame to kill an insect that is so helpful in controlling aphids and other nefarious insects. You can catch them in glass jars capped with a metal top through which several holes should be punched. Put them in the refrigerator to hibernate and release them outside in March if the outdoor temperature is moderate enough to allow it.

An alternative is to catch them and take them to nearby farmers and gardeners who'd love to have them.

Q. What procedure could I follow to prevent zoysia grass from growing through the sides of an asphalt driveway? I have tried different remedies, but none of them have killed the zoysia.

A. There are herbicides on the market that should kill the zoysia. One of them is Round Up. Be sure to follow the directions on the container.

But considering the controversy surrounding Round Up, you may prefer more environmentally conscious weed killers. Try pouring boiling water on the grass, and see if it works.

Zoysia is a very tough grass, which is great in warm climates, as it grows so thick that it prevents the growth of weeds, and because it also grows more sideways than up, it requires less mowing. If boiling water does not work, you can kill it using a propane torch to burn it. Vinegar has also enjoyed good success.

Follow-up from a reader:

Q. My noisy Freedom 2000 furnace is in the basement furnace room, which has two masonry walls and the floor joists are exposed. My late husband was able to place pipe hangers where the hot water pipes go through the masonry.

Nevertheless, I can hear the rumble in my bedroom, which is up two flights of stairs. I am not really looking for a solution so much as expressing my disappointment with the Freedom 2000 both for the noise problem and the two expensive component failures. My husband would have continued to try to solve the problem, but I am just going to live with it.

A. If, by Freedom 2000, you mean that your boiler is made by Energy Kinetics, you have what I believe is the first energy-efficient boiler to come on the market, and a very good one at that.

I remember that when System 2000 was first introduced years ago, a contact of mine, who at the time was the head of the oil industry institute in Vermont before retirement, told me he switched from his old boiler to System 2000 and saved 60 percent on his oil consumption.

You could mitigate the sound by having Quiet Batt Acoustic Insulation installed between the ceiling joists. It's made of dense cotton fibers and is quite effective at reducing sound transmission. Its Class A fire rating -- the best -- makes it even more appealing.

I understand your disappointment at having to replace components so soon after installation, but you are not alone. Our York furnace had two such failures within the warranty period, but we had to pay for the labor to have them replaced.

Q. Have you had any experience with a product called EZ Drain? It's used in installing a French drain type of system. Here is the link to the company's website: ndspro.com/drainage-systems/french-drains/ezflow-french-drain.

It sounds like a great idea -- a bit pricey ($50 for a 10-foot section), but supposedly saves labor and material costs. I live in Worcester, Vermont, a few miles north of Montpelier. I have a house (a chalet design) that will get water in the basement during spring thaw or when we have sustained rain resulting in 3 or more inches of water in 24 to 36 hours. I did install gutters and have diverted the downspout flow away from the house. I have a metal roof (45-degree pitch), and the snow really builds up along the edge of the roofline. So when we get a thaw and a few inches of rain, the basement will be wet. I've been dealing with it by using a shop vac -- not a good solution.

Two more questions: In installing any exterior perimeter drain, must I dig all the way down to the bottom of the foundation wall? And then must the pipes run to an open release/dump point?

A. I haven't had any experience with the EZ Drain. It is an interesting system. In the 1970s, I used a somewhat similar system, which consisted of a plastic Hancor drainpipe in a filter fabric sleeve. It was supposed to do the same thing as the EZ Drain, but the trench had to be backfilled with coarse material to allow water filtration. I wonder how effective the EZ Drain is if the backfill is made with native, somewhat impervious soil.

I looked at the website and viewed the videos. You can always find a contractor who will recommend any system, so to me, this sales material has little value. However, the videos showing the installation are interesting, and I can see the labor-saving claim, but does it really work with native soil?

The system is costly, but it saves labor, so perhaps the claims are valid. However, if you plan on doing the work yourself, you need to decide if it is worth your while to pay for the material.

Any drainage system needs to be installed at the base of the footings, and it should have a way of disposing of the water. The best way is by "daylighting" the pipe, but if the land is flat and it cannot be done, a way to store it must be provided. It can be a deep trench filled with egg-size stones or accomplished with the use of ameration chambers.

• Henri de Marne was a remodeling contractor in Washington, D.C., for many years, and is now a consultant. Write to him in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006, or via email at henridemarne@gmavt.net.

© 2014, United Feature Syndicate Inc.

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