Old houses: Are they insulated?

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When looking at historic homes for sale, other than asking the home owners (which may not be possible), how can you know for sure if these old beauties have insulation? When they were built (this one was 1901) usually there was no wall insulation...If there was anything at all, it may have been straw in our area of the country. Ideas how to check for insulation?
q old houses are they insulated, architecture, home maintenance repairs, how to
  9 answers
  • Peter Evans Peter Evans on Apr 02, 2015
    over here in Australia ,wen you buy a house the saler must fill in a owners disclosure form and it must say is or is or isent ,other than that, builders inspection or you get in roof and see your self.

    • Ashley Freeman Ashley Freeman on Apr 05, 2015
      @Peter Evans Sellers have to fill out disclosures here too but if you aren't the original owner most people put unknown which releases them from liability so it is not always much help. If it is a foreclosure everything is always marked unknown due to the fact that the bank has no idea what the owners could have done to it or placed in it or even taken out of it for that matter.

  • Jackie Drown Jackie Drown on Apr 02, 2015
    When we bought our house (1963), it did not have insulation as it was well over 100 yrs. old. We hired a reputable insulation company and they blew the insulation in through small holes that were then recovered. We were happy with the result and still live here.

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    • Jackie Drown Jackie Drown on Apr 04, 2015
      This winter buried in 5ft of snow and warm as toast : )

  • Ashley Freeman Ashley Freeman on Apr 03, 2015
    Get up in the attic to check for insulation

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    • CK CK on Apr 07, 2015
      This guy has some very interesting comments on insulating old homes. Check it out www.oldhouseguy.com

  • Robert Heede Robert Heede on Apr 03, 2015
    Love that house. If yours is like mine (built 1951) the insulation has probably deteriorated to dust. I have recently renovated a second floor room and because it was always too hot in summer and too cold in winter I took down the walls and ceiling. The facing looked intact but once that seal was broken out came nothing but dust. A respirator (or at least a N95 mask) will be required to remove it. Good luck, I love old houses.

    • CK CK on Apr 03, 2015
      @Robert Heede Wow! Hard to believe your 1951 house's insulation was nothing but dust. But then, maybe what they used in your area is different than what we use here in ND. Glad to hear your home is now snug as a bug :-)

  • Duv310660 Duv310660 on Apr 03, 2015
    I've got an 1872 farmhouse in cold cold Canada. Check the recent heating bills, then go up to the attic and check for insulation. Equally important, if you've got original windows and doors, check to see how tightly sealed they are. If there is newer double glazing, you won't be able to tell if they are still good unless it is cold outside; then you'll see condensation form if they are bad and not insulating properly. New windows will cost a lot - possibly more than you'll ever recover in savings on heat! Its best to go into this with your eyes open!

    • CK CK on Apr 03, 2015
      @Duval.26 In our town it used to be very easy to check on a property's heating bills. They've changed that and now it's not such an easy task. In fact they're very reluctant to let that be known :-( The house is vacant and so I unless I can find out the owner (which is also not very easy here..drats!) I can't really get a good idea about heating bills. Yes, checking for attic insulation is a rather easy task...but what about wall insulation? I know you can hire someone to check with a camera that snakes inside the walls to check...but..... Yes, I know about checking for the fit of old windows ;-) That's something I check on every house I've ever thought of buying regardless of age. P.S. I'm in cold North Dakota. We've had temperature extremes from -50 F to 120 F. Yup. We get it all ;-) We've even had a couple earthquakes albeit only in the 3 pt range.

  • CK CK on Apr 03, 2015
    Still looking for information about checking for insulation....specifically wall insulation. I know how to check for attic insulation :-)

  • Diana R Diana R on Apr 03, 2015
    The attic may have insulation but the walls probably have lath and they didnt insulate them in the past. If they have original windows, those probably leak too. I too love the older homes because character. But up keep scares me.

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    • Diana R Diana R on Apr 04, 2015
      @CK We owned an older duplex when we were young and first married. Just an easy fix ended up as a nightmare. We now are retired and live in a new home. Very well insulated w/ good windows. We love it. But does not have the character of a 100 yr. home. I have spoken w/ people who own those beauties and they are expensive to heat in the winter.

  • David Gnida David Gnida on Apr 03, 2015
    Since it seems to be such a necessity to know why don't you try to convince someone to drill a hole somewhere and stick a wire hanger in there and see if it gets caught up on any insulation. Put a hook at the end maybe and try to grab some. Obviously be very careful not to hit anything else. Maybe there's a spot nobody will even notice a small hole like behind a cabinet or casing somewhere. My guess is it doesn't have any since the age. At least not anything useful left. An old home needs nothing but work. Good luck. Diy can only go so far when it comes to old structures.

  • D & K D & K on Apr 03, 2015
    Connie, remove the electrical walls cover plates and take a look. Usually there's just enough room between the electrical box and the finished wall to see into the cavity. Many homes built prior to the 1930s and 40s used a construction method known as balloon framing. The lower portion of the wall cavity was open and the wall studs sat directly on the foundation's supporting beams. If you have access under the house and are feeling brave, get yourself a mirror and a flashlight, get under the house and see if the wall cavity is open. If so take your small mirror and look up inside the cavity.

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    • Ashley Freeman Ashley Freeman on Apr 04, 2015
      Interesting I didn't know why just that it was. I love hearing histories behind stuff