From what I’ve been reading online, there seems to be a general trend that’s moving people away from traditional fiberglass (pink stuff) insulation and moving them towards either spray foam insulation or rigid foam panel insulation. Because it’s still relatively new and mostly requires professional assistance, spray foam is expensive. If you were to have a company come out to your house to complete a project, it’s likely to cost you thousands.
Rigid foam insulation is expensive as well, but not nearly as much as spray foam. It can be easily handled by the homeowner at whatever pace he so chooses. There are no chemicals hardening in the tip of a spray gun and no mad rush throughout the project area to get things done on schedule. And rigid foam has a nice high R-Value per square inch, so it competes almost directly with spray foam. Rigid foam can also be sealed into an area, unlike regular fiberglass insulation.
When I was thinking of what I wanted to use to insulate the basement of this house, I pretty much knew I wasn’t going to use spray foam. I work far too slowly to be near anything like that. Perhaps if they offered some homeowner version that came in small cans, I’d consider it, but as for what’s available now, the containers are simply too large. I knew I’d be far better off with sheets of rigid foam insulation sitting there in the basement waiting for me to get around to doing what needed to get done.
If you read my previous post, you most likely saw the pictures I took of my truck at the building supply store. In the bed of the truck, I had two 4’x8’x2″ sheets of “Dow Styrofoam Scoreboard Insulation.”
I decided to buy the 2″ thick sheets because they have a high R-Value of 5 per inch of thickness. That’s pretty good for insulating the space between the basement and living space. For outside walls, I’m simply going to lay rigid foam over the existing fiberglass insulation, to boost and seal what’s already in place. When I’m finished, I expect a very well insulated area.
For my first project, I pretty much had my hands full. The fiberglass insulation was sagging and falling out of the joist and stud areas. There were gaps that were letting cold air creep in and to be honest, I just think it looked bad. The area was small, so I thought it was a good spot to figure out and get used to how the material worked.
The first thing I tackled was to pull all the old insulation out of the areas that couldn’t be saved and to vacuum up all nearby debris. This made my already tight and unpleasant work area much more bearable. Just imagine being stuck in a place like this, surrounded by particles of fiberglass floating through the air. Not fun.
Once I had things in the first area cleaned the way I wanted, I began measuring and cutting pieces of the rigid board to fit in between each wall stud. I fit each piece in.
And since the corner gaps were really tight, I simply added some painter’s caulk as sealant.
I did the same to the other side of the staircase.
That was all done yesterday. This morning, I began working on the area directly beneath and beside the stairs.
I cut the foam board insulation and placed it between each floor joist.
And lastly, I covered the existing fiberglass insulation on the exterior walls and sealed the larger gaps with “Great Stuff” expanding foam and the smaller one with the same painter’s caulk I used earlier. There are also two floor joists that you can’t see in these pictures. I insulated between them as well.
You may be asking yourself why I didn’t just leave things alone in this area and why I chose to use the rigid foam board. Well, from what I’ve found with fiberglass insulation is that it has a tendency to sag over time. If it absorbs any amount of moisture, it starts looking really bad and basically, if gaps are opened up in between pieces or between the insulation and lumber, it’s rendered useless. It’s almost as bad as having no insulation at all. What I wanted to “cure” in this small area was the air leakage into the basement area from outside. The rigid foam, the caulk and the expanding foam spray did the job. Now, onto the rest of the basement.
Continuing With the Basement Insulation
I’m kind of at an impasse with my little basement project. I finished up insulating under the stairs and have run out of material. I thought the 2″ thick rigid insulation board would go further. I have a small amount left over, but not enough to warrant me getting all filthy dirty. I’m going to wait until I get a few more sheets of 1″ thick board before I begin dealing with moving around the fiberglass insulation once more.
Just to pass the time, I went downstairs this afternoon, cleaned up a bit and pulled down all the paneling that was installed before we got here. I needed to see what I was dealing with and needed to see what thickness of rigid board I needed – 1″ or 2″. Since the walls are already insulated with R-19 fiberglass, I’m simply going to purchase 1″ board and fasten it against the walls in the same fashion the paneling was. To see what the basement looked like with the paneling installed, click here. To see what the basement looks like now that I pulled all that paneling down, take a look below.
I’m also going to put rigid board in between all the floor joists against the outer walls. Those areas are notorious for insulation failure and a source of heat loss.
The main reason I’m working on getting this basement squared away is because the current fiberglass has many gaps in it. I can also see daylight around a few objects that go through the outer wall, such as the oil tank pipes and the sump pump discharge tube. Those spaces alone account for much of the heat loss in the space. The rigid foam will also act as a vapor retarder once it’s installed and taped properly. The whole area needs to be completely sealed.
Insulating Basement Rim Joists
I’ve been doing a lot of reading on home insulation and one popular space I see a lot of people talking about is the rim joist area of the basement. Apparently, rim joists are either avoided, forgotten about or simply never insulated for one reason or another. I think it probably has to do with their size and location. The areas between the floor joists aren’t too large and they are located up in the corners of the basement ceiling. It’s difficult to imagine they are letting cold air in the house (or letting warm air out).
As I go through the basement here, I look for two things. First, I try to find drafts. I know they’re there. I can feel them and as Peter from Dover Projects put it, drafts in a basement can cause something called a “Stack Effect,” where the air leaving the top of the house can pull air in the basement through openings, acting similarly to a chimney. Warm air wants to rise through the chimney, thus pulling cold air from everywhere else. If anyone has had to deal with a traditional fireplace, you know how cold it gets in every room besides the one with the fire in it.
In my previous post, I mentioned that I can see daylight through a few gaps in the basement walls. Those gaps are generally around pipes and wires. Regardless of what caused the gaps, they need to be sealed.
The second thing I look for is areas that would allow cold air infiltration and condensation due to low thermal resistance. This is basically the “R-Value” you hear everyone talking about when it comes to insulation. If you have a low r-value on exterior walls, cold air will “fall” from them (kind of like old one pane windows) and moisture will condense on them. Warm, humid air settling on cold rim joists leads to mold and wood rot. Not a good thing when it comes to basements.
What’s good about the basement here at the house is that the rim joists are already insulated with fiberglass insulation. The thing is – the current insulation isn’t really up to snuff when it comes to modern standards. Even with a paper vapor barrier, warm air and moisture can seep behind the fiberglass and condensation can form on the wood. Also, I’m afraid to say, fiberglass insulation just doesn’t do all that much by itself, when house wrap, other complementary types of insulation and very thorough installation are absent. There are better ways to insulate.
My plan is to put pieces of two inch rigid foam insulation in between each and every floor joist, along the entire rim joist. After I friction fit the rigid insulation, I’ll seal the edges with painter’s caulk. This should both seal and insulate, the way it should be done.
Since I had a few extra pieces of rigid foam laying around from my previous insulation project, I started with a few areas against the rim joist last night. I finished those areas the way I just described and think they look perfect. Just the way I want. If I can get the rest of the areas done like this, I’ll be happy.
Here are some before and after shots from last night’s work.
After this is through, I’m going to tackle the walls, but I’ll leave that for another post.
Finishing the Basement Insulation
I’ve been kind of busy down in the basement for the past few days. I had to get the insulation project finished up. It was getting on my nerves.
It all started like this – remember when I told you all about how proud I was of myself for shoveling the long trench all the way to the pond? This was so the sump pump water had some place to go. I even had the tube attached outside. The long four inch one, so it wouldn’t freeze. It looked like this:
Well, as it turns out, I didn’t attach the tube well enough. I purposely kept it loose in case it froze up. I wanted the water to splash out instead of keeping the pump running all night long and eventually burning out. I basically jammed the tube up against the PVC pipe and kicked some snow around it to hold things in place.
When I woke up a few mornings ago, I looked out the window and to my absolute horror, found the corrugated tubing laying on the ground. It was in the middle of a big puddle of water that was shooting out of the PVC pipe. I guess the force of the water knocked the tubing away. You know what that means – it means that the water that was sitting against the foundation (all night long) was finding its way back into the basement. And for some reason, sump pump #2 wasn’t kicking on. The switch was getting caught up on something internally. I think it’s time for a new pump. I’ll use the current one as a backup.
Anyway, when I went down into the basement, I found about four inches of water covering the floor. There wasn’t anything worth much down there, but I was irked about the whole situation because I had put a lot of time and thought into making the sump pump system function properly. For a tube and a switch to throw the whole thing into disarray – well that was annoying.
And what was especially annoying was that I had some insulation on the floor that I was going to reuse for the basement walls. It got partially wet from the flood. Because of that, right then and there I told myself that I was going to finish the basement insulation project. I was too tired of looking at the mess down there and just wanted it done. If I could finish that up, I could move to the room directly above it and finish the bathroom as well. Putting out small fires is the name of the game I guess.
The first thing I did was to screw the tube onto the PVC pipe so it wouldn’t come off again. Done. The second thing I did was to begin peeling all the paper off the existing insulation to see what the situation was. Was there mouse damage? Was the insulation fitted properly? Was it long enough in each space? From my point of view, things looked manageable. Where things weren’t perfect, I made them perfect and where the insulation was too thin, I thickened it up with the fiberglass I purchased for the bathroom. I bought a bag too much, so I used it in the basement.
After I was finished insulating, I covered it up with plastic. I used up the 6 mil plastic I bought to cover the basement crawl space dirt floor and had to run out to the hardware store to grab a 10’x100′ roll of 4 mil. There really is no need for 6 mil plastic as a vapor barrier. I also finished the rim joist insulation with the extra rigid foam I bought for the bathroom too.
When I was all finished, I looked up and found this:
Please pardon the mess in that last picture.
As you can see from the first photo, I hung the shelves I bought in Florida. I’m missing two brackets, but can make them up with regular shelving. I have a plan for that. With these shelves, I can keep my tools off the floor and away from the water the next time the basement decides to flood. And I’m sure it will because when one relies on sump pumps to keep things dry, one needs to get used to water on the floor.
Ugg, I’m tired. And just in case you need to be reminded what the basement used to look like, click here.
Moving to the Log Cabin
Well, the basement is pretty much finished. All I have to do now is to place a few columns under the floor of the upstairs section to get rid of the springiness. The span across that section of the house is probably around twelve feet, so the floor sags a bit.
I’ll give you a little background into the room I’m talking about. The main part of the house we have here is post and beam construction. Please see the following picture.
According to the previous owner, the main section was built after the “log cabin” section was. I’m not sure how old that part is, but I’m guessing it was built just a few years before the main part. And that was 1990. The log cabin section has six inch thick logs, covered with pine siding, to match the rest of the house. It kind of sticks out like a sore thumb when looking at the house as a whole, but the area is pretty nice and that’s why I’d like to fix it up and make it livable. And by “livable,” I mean warm. The windows are horrible and the area doesn’t retain heat very well.
You know all about my insulating endeavors of the basement already. That story is old by now. I’m still going to post some final insulation photos below, but I’m pretty much finished with it. Like I mentioned above, I need to move onto the next phase, and that’s making the floor solid and to move upstairs to begin work. I’ve got a checklist of what I need to do:
– Place a 4×4 beam across the ceiling of the basement and use pressure treated 4x4s as lally columns to shore up the sagging floor.
– Remove and discard carpet in the log cabin.
– Remove sheetrock ceiling to expose 4×6 inch beams that run across.
– Remove pine tongue and groove to expose roof rafters to get access to roof sheathing.
– Re-insulate roof and either re-install the pine tongue and groove or use sheetrock.
– Frame out entire room with 2x4s and re-insulate on the inside.
– Build a wall and install a door to give access to the basement.
That’s it – I think. There’s more stuff like putting in a floor and all that, but that’s later. I want this room to hold our wood stove, so really, the insulation is key. My eventual goal is to make this house the most insulated in a 30 mile radius. Just by re-doing the bathroom, I’ve already made a huge difference. You should feel it. Remarkable.
As you may well have already guessed, I’m going to post pictures all along the way of re-doing this part of the house. It’s pretty exciting for me because I love fixing up things and making them more efficient. I don’t think this room will be difficult. It’s already insulated by six inches of wood, but that can be better. Wood has a notoriously low r-value and is actually termed a “thermal bridge” in some circles. Insulating it shouldn’t be difficult though.
As promised, I’m posting the final pictures of the basement insulation. The next go-round should be the installation wooden columns. That should be a thrill.
I decided to take these two pictures after I cleaned up the basement. After all the water came in there, I thought enough was enough. Now I keep the floor clean, so nothing gets wet.
Insulating the rim joist that runs parallel with the rest of the floor joists can be an issue at times. Like the one in the above photos, there oftentimes isn’t much room to work with. Since there was already fiberglass insulation installed in this case, I decided to simply seal the area with rigid foam.
And I did the same thing here, albeit there was more room to work.
These were the two final areas that needed to be insulated. They are only partially exposed to the exterior siding, but I figured I should tackle them anyway. And as you can see, the rim joist insulation was simply folded over itself, to doubly insulate the rim joist on that side of the space.