Saturday, March 19, 2011

Insulation - Part 1

OK, we've been remiss in posting for the past couple weeks because we've been getting the house ready for insulation. We ended up using house wrap on the exterior walls because you just can't work with felt paper below freezing. Of course, it was totally windy while we doing that, so I got knocked off the ladder once and G had a few panic attacks up on the ladder with the wind catching the wrap and acting like a sail, and the foot of the ladder being on ice!

Then we moved inside to attach the fiber mesh across the studs for the insulation. What a PITA! We needed about 300 linear feet (x12 feet wide) to do the house... and it came in one long continuous strip that had been FOLDED in some bizarre map-puzzle way so that it would fit in the shipping box. Hey, I'm glad that we got the stuff here, but it was nigh-on impossible to cut it to length with any semblance of straightness because we had nowhere to spread it out flat and we had to be really careful not to let it touch the stove or flue. G accidentally let it touch the kerosene heater upstairs and melted a huge hole in one of the sections for the ceiling... oops. But that's why you order 10% extra, right?! Of course, mesh-flambe wasn't as good as me whacking myself with the hammer stapler and driving a staple through my left index fingernail. Crawling around under the house like a spider in the snow and over building materials while we stapled the mesh to the bottom of the joists was also exceedingly special, even better with the wind whipping through the crawlspace at MACH 2 while it's only 10 or 20 outside.

Then we had the joy of getting up on the roof to tack down the tarp (our temp roof) really tight around the peak and pitch breaks to make sure we didn't blow our insulation out the cracks in the sheathing and out into the forest. Being up over 20 feet high on the peak of an icy, tarp-covered roof covered with 3 feet of snow is truly a life-affirming experience. Add in a few arctic gusts and you're sure to give your adrenal system a good work out. That was my job since I'm not afraid of heights, roofs, or ladders and I can bend all weird to step through the inside of the ladder standards between my own arms to get up on the peak. All I can say is thank God I have a really bony ass because, after I dislocated my hip/pulled my groin scootching along straddled on the peak, my ass bones were the only thing providing any anchor or traction on the way back to the ladder.

Today we FINALLY got to blow insulation!!!  After several clogs and jams and breaking apart bales of cellulose to find big frozen clumps, we actually managed to get the entire upstairs insulated. YAY!!! The loft is, by far, the largest and most seriously painful area to insulate. As far as surface area, the gambrel roof and the loft walls comprise half-to-3/5 of our the total insulated perimeter. Since the rafters are 12" deep and each pitch is about 8' high, we ended up blowing about 85 bags (minus the frozen bits) up there. But WOW it sure makes a huge difference! Even with only the heat from the flue and big slits cut in the windows, it was still about 70 up there; and we didn't have the stove going full-bore either. And it's sooooo quiet... whoa, seriously, it's like a sensory deprivation chamber up there now! After months of hollow banging and echos, that alone is completely amazing (says the Aspie with a major aversion to loud noises LOL).

Tomorrow we're going to blow the downstairs walls and floor joists. The walls are only 8" deep and 7' high, so they should go pretty quickly in comparison to the loft. And the floor joists, although 12" x 16'; are at least a nice straight run so we don't have to do any fancy tube work like the roof. We can just shove the nozzle in to the very end of the void and let it fill slowly as we retract it... easy smeasy.

I was really hoping to film the whole insulation blowing, but with all the dust flying around in there you couldn't see a darned thing and it just looked like really bad TV reception :( 

Oh well, I'll go back once the dust has settled and take pics for you :)


Unknown said...

Hi PC,

Well done on achieving another major milestone!

I'm a little bewildered as to why you chose to use blown isulation and the hassle of tacking supporting mesh? Here in the UK, this method would only be used for retrospectively adding insulation to an old house (eg filling cavity wall) - for new builds (like yours) we would use either rigid or rolled glass-wool insulation as they are much easier to manouver quickly and are 'built' into the walls, floor and roof.

I'd be interested to know your thoughts on this.

Kind regards,

Marybeth said...

70! WOW that's great!!!! I know you'll be so happy (Charlie too) when you can start sleeping in your nice QUIET warm cabin. I just have one question. I remember you guys getting sick last summer from the heat. How will you cool the upstairs this summer? Also take care of that hand. Gezz you and your poor hands.

Plickety Cat said...

Chris, we chose dense-pack blown cellulose insulation for several reasons:

1) Cellulose has the best R-value (or U-value in the UK) per inch for the price. Sprayed, close-cell polyurethane foam is the best, with rigid foam panels being next best, but both of those are much more expensive.

2) Gungnir is highly sensitive to fiberglass/glass wool and it makes him break out in hives just being near it. Even if I did all the insulation myself, I'd have to burn my clothes and take a shower before I could touch him again :)

3) None of the commercially available batt insulations fit our staggered-stud, double-wall construction with our wide stud spacing. We would have had to install two layers of batts to fill the depth and then tack those in with furring strips to span the studs... which would have been just as time consuming and much more expensive.

4) Cellulose is organic, contains no toxic chemicals or VOC (only treated with borate), and is made right here in Alaska from recycled paper and reclaimed pulp tree slash (from the logging industry). I like to use local, recycled, and non-synthetic materials as much as possible.

5) Two other recycled materials that we could have used were denim and wool. Unfortunately, neither of them are available in our area, and we still would have blown those rather than using batts because of our wall spacing.

One thing that Gungnir has noticed is that there are some building materials that he's familiar with from the UK that just aren't available or popular here in the US; but that we have a bunch of materials that are popular here that he couldn't really find in the UK. ROFL!

Marybeth, I know that Charlie will love the new cozy, quiet cabin... especially since we're putting a gate at the top of the stairs so that the loft is a Ripley-free zone when we're not up there.

All that insulation will also keep it much cooler in the cabin during the summer. We have the windows on the north & south rake walls upstairs that create a strong cross-draft, and we have block out curtains to cut the worst of the midday solar gain. Downstairs we have the two windows on the south wall and the doors on the east & west wall to provide a strong draft. If we have all the windows and doors open, we get a baby tornado right through the living room and up the staircase :)

Once we get the porches built and screened in against the mosquitoes and biting flies, leaving the doors open during the day will probably be par for the course since we'll be in and out working all day anyway.

Yes, I'm hell on my hands and generally just accident prone and self-injuring ROFL. It's a curse, but I think my frequent small injuries are so much better than catastrophic ones... I could have fallen off the roof!! I think all my little clumsy wounds build me up some sort of balance that protects me from serious injury, kind of like Karma. :D

Dan Lynch said...

I'm impressed that you two are able to make progress in this weather !

Thanks for the update, and take care of that injured hand. :)