No Insulation On The Outside Walls?

While "trying" to salvage baseboard to re-use, I ended up damaging some drywall in the bottom corner where two outside walls meet. I wasn't too concerned because Drywall is not the hardest thing to repair. So I dug a little bit to remove the drywall to see if there was insulation behind it and was shocked to discover what appears to be thin foil on a thin paper backing with zero insulation anywhere. It's as if this was a vapor barrier applied directly behind the drywall with empty studs. To double check, I took off an outlet cover further down the outside wall and I could just feel cold air pouring in with no signs of pink stuff around the box. This side of the home is part of the original build from 1960-70. Can't believe they wouldn't put ANY insulation in the walls but if my outside walls are empty, it would explain why it's so damn drafty and cold on the original parts of the house.
  10 answers
  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Feb 10, 2012
    Back in the "old" days heating oil was a lot cheaper...I have seen old homes were the wall were not done and only 6" are installed in the attic....BTW have you looked there?. sounds like its time for you to have a spray team come visit.

  • You can have somone come out and spray insulation into the walls. I agree with KMS too. You should definitely look in your attic and see how much insulation was installed up there. Good luck and keep us up todate on whether the insulation helps!

  • Douglas K Douglas K on Feb 11, 2012
    good suggestion for the attic. For the walls, a pro will be needed to blow-in cellulose insulation. It WILL settle over time, so you end up with 4/5 of the wall insulated. The only other course is completely stripping all the inside drywall ... probably not an option.

  • Jeff C Jeff C on Feb 12, 2012
    Well, the attic has insulation in it, it's not much but it's there. I've discovered that ALL of the outside walls on the original portion of the house have 0 insulation which is why the kitchen is so darn cold. In fact, it's so noticeable that it feels like a breeze coming through the house when you go by the sink. At first, I blamed the very old windows but with 0 insulation in the walls, it makes perfect sense. I think that purchasing insulation that will settle over time is a waste of money. I'm thinking the better alternative here is to get a spray foam company in here and fill the spaces with expandable foam instead of the cellulose material.

  • There are several things that you can do to improve your home. The foil barrier you had in the walls was very common in late 50's I had it in my home as well. It really is not just a single sheet. The barrier was actually a double barrier with a large air pocket in middle. It really worked quite well for the lack of R value it delivers. As far as doing anything with the walls. I would not be moving so fast in that direction. Although it is something you want to do in the future, its not the first thing you need to address. If your feeling air, my first question are you really feeling that or the air currents that result in cold walls and the resultant air currents within the room itself. This is a big selling point on window sales people. They talk about a warmer home etc. But after spending all that hard earned cash, and finding that all the money they spent takes over 50 years to pay back in the form of energy savings. They do not feel so good after. You need to take a step back and look at the whole home as a complete system. while I have no doubt that putting insulation will help your comfort level, your best served by doing the least and gaining the most first. A house is a great big chimney. As it warms up it pulls air from the basement, slab, crawl space or what ever its built upon. This creates a negative air pressure in the lower areas as this air is drawn up and out of the attic vent system. Think about a chimney, If you cap the top, does any more air flow up it? No. If you shut off the damper, does any more air flow up it? No. If you filled the center of the chimney with insulation will any air flow up it, No,. But what would be the lowest cost thing to do first? Cap the top and or seal the bottom. And in the case of a home, you want to do both. Seal the attic leaks, and seal the basement leaks first. If you seal the top and not the bottom, the venting of the air out of the house will move down pulling air out of somewhere in the middle. Same with closing basement off and not capping top. The suction created by closing off the bottom will cause the air to enter from higher areas within the home. So first thing that you should do and will make a great difference both in comfort and with spending less is to seal the top and bottom of your home. Basement sill areas, Fill with foam boards and seal with spray foam. Forget about using fiberglass it does not work. You need to air seal, not insulate. Using foam boards and spray foam will provide both insulation and what is needed air sealing. Find and seal every opening in the ceiling of the basement. Pipes, wires, around chimney. Everything. Then go into the attic and do the same. Pull up what ever insulation that you have and look for holes, gaps spaces, wire holes, plumbing holes, chimney spaces between it and framing. Above any soffit areas in baths or kitchens. Air seal them. Doing this will make a major difference in your home comfort level as well as saving you about 15-20% on your energy bill. To address insulation within walls. Someone said that cellulose settles in walls. They can be correct on this if its done with one of those blowers that you rent. Professionally installed Dens Packed cellulose insulation does not settle. It is placed in the walls at a rate of 3.5 to 4 lbs per cu ft. It is done this way to not only prevent settlement but to provide air sealing in walls, as dens packed cellulose provides great air sealing properties when paced tight. It provides good R values of around 3.8 per inch. It offers resistance to moisture and mold as its treated with chemicals that help prevent issues such as these and also provides insect protection as the chemicals uses provides resistance to ants and termites. Foam in the wall is another type of insulation that you could consider. It cost around $1.40 to $1.75 per board foot to be installed. Slow rise insulation is used. It is poured into the wall and it expands about twice its volume when fully expanded. There are soy products, which appear to be ok, but they shrink over time. There are other products on the market that claim to be great and are sold by special franchises, Many of which are not allowed in several states in the US and Canada, so you need to do your homework if you decide to use foam. Your first step is to air seal. Once that is done, Get a home energy audit performed. These BPI trained professionals will examine your home and help you determine exactly what you need to do and provide you with all sorts of options to make your home warm and cost effective and safe. Sorry for the long post, but I make a lot of my living doing this type of work and its important for you to understand the true facts before you spend any money.

  • Jeff C Jeff C on Mar 03, 2012
    Ended up paying USA Insulation to come out and provide spray foam on the entire house, including the newer part of the house that had R-13 batts within the wall cavities. Removed all of the old rock wool from the band joists and they installed R-19 ventilated plastic wrap insulation into the empty band joists. All of the walls on the house are now R-18 or better as per the EPA guidelines for Ohio. It wasn't cheap but I'm stoked to have their spray foam installed and hope to not have to do insulation in the walls ever again.

  • Jeff, you will get your money back in about six years. So all that money your spending now will be reduced by that much. Just be sure the foam they use in the walls is approved. As some are soy based and out-gas chemicals over time.

  • Jeff C Jeff C on Mar 04, 2012
    Before going with them, I did my research. Their spray foam does not off-gas formaldehyde, has a class 1 material fire rating where the foam does not contribute any fuel to a fire when burned, does not allow the growth of mold because it's an inert substance. All in all, it's pretty cool stuff with a 5.1 per inch R Value.

  • I would be interested in knowing more about this foam. We use a high end product that must be coated for fire resistance. We use Sprayed polyurethane foam it has R values up to R7 per inch. It as a closed cell product is moisture resistant, it stops mold as a result of keeping moisture from moving, it is structural in nature, as it binds tight to the framing making the structure stronger and prevents movement and uplift during periods of higher wind gusts. The R-5.1 sounds more like open cell. Insulates well, but does allow moisture to travel through it thus can trap this within the wall cavity. Our open cell product is around R5 itself.