Dec 11, 2016
What home repairs/renovations can (or should) I make to best keep cold winter temps out, and my indoor heat in?
Dec 12, 2016

The best thing you could do for your home to keep the warm in and the cold out is to 1st. check your insulation in your attic if your not properly insulated the heat will escape. Another is making sure your windows are secured and latched. and proper weather seal is on your doors so draft cannot come in. 

Dec 11, 2016
What home repairs/renovations can (or should) I make to best keep cold winter temps out, and my indoor heat in? I live in an older home (with an attic and basement), and I want to avoid massively high heating bills this winter, if it's possible (It hasn't gotten too cold yet where I live...probably won't for at least 2-3 weeks). Should I upgrade my windows? Install new attic/basement insulation?
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Monica Bair asked:

May 18, 2016
What is the best type of foam insulation to use on my home?
Jun 22, 2016

Foam insulation is very effective in the development of a super tight building enevelope. It will stop air leakage and enable more total control of the interior living space. This present potential problems in that our living and breathing in the living space generates moisture.

Traditional building construction practices are precisely the opposite and utilizes the concept of venting in the attic and in the crawl space whereby the area above and below the living envelope allows for the eveporation of moisture.

In designing a super tight envelope that is totally sealed  there should be careful thought and concern for moisture in the enclosed area. Because foam is so effective at sealing drafts, the space should be thoughtfully designed as a whole house system, with exhaust vents for all areas of the house that generate moisture, and consideration should be given to installing an Energy Recovery Vent (ERV) to normalize the humidity between exterior and interior, to avoid the potential of developing a sick hoiuse syndrome.

Open cell is advisable in attic applications where you want moisture to freely move through when a roof leak developes, to avoid major structural damage over time. Close cell is most advisable in the peremeter of the crawl space or basement area where concern is for a more dense insulation product with more structure. (I have seen it done but advise against, applying foam on the bottom side of flooring since doing so seals all of the mechanical systems into the muck and makes maintainence profoundly troublesome and wretched for the future).

Bob Windom,     Windom Construction Co. Inc.  Atlanta

Apr 8, 2016
Is adding blown in insulation a good way to eliminate ice damming and what other steps can be taken?
Jun 21, 2016

As previous answers point to adding proper insulation in the attic, it is also recommended that using a leak barrier under the roof shingles from the eave of the roof back until you reach 24 inches above an interior wall.  In other words, the leak barrier, a rubber like membrane that adheres to the roof deck, will cover the overhang and at least 24 inches above the interior wall of the house around the perimeter.  This membrane helps prevent water from melting ice dams from entering the home and overhang (soffit).  Its rubber like properties help seal around the nails that are driven through it that hold the shingles on.  If your roof does not currently have a leak barrier, the existing shingles will have to be removed and replaced where the leak barrier is to be installed.  A couple of recommended leak barrier products from GAF are WeatherWatch and StormGuard.

Monica Bair asked:

May 18, 2016
What is the best type of foam insulation to use on my home?

Tom Kindom answered:

Jun 17, 2016

Closed cell

Monica Bair asked:

May 18, 2016
What is the best type of foam insulation to use on my home?
May 24, 2016

Here is a good website to reference for foam insulation:

http://energy.gov/energysaver/types-insulation

Types of Liquid Foam Insulation

Today, most foam materials use foaming agents that don't use chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) or hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which are harmful to the earth's ozone layer.

There are two types of foam-in-place insulation: closed-cell and open-cell. Both are typically made with polyurethane. With closed-cell foam, the high-density cells are closed and filled with a gas that helps the foam expand to fill the spaces around it. Closed-cell foam is the most effective, with an insulation value of around R-6.2 per inch of thickness.

Open-cell foam cells are not as dense and are filled with air, which gives the insulation a spongy texture. Open-cell foam insulation value is around R-3.7 per inch of thickness.

The type of insulation you should choose depends on how you will use it and on your budget. While closed-cell foam has a greater R-value and provides stronger resistance against moisture and air leakage, the material is also much denser and is more expensive to install. Open-cell foam is lighter and less expensive but should not be used below ground level where it could absorb water. Consult a professional insulation installer to decide what type of insulation is best for you.

Available liquid foam insulation materials include:

  • Cementitious
  • Phenolic
  • Polyisocyanurate (polyiso)
  • Polyurethane.

Some less common types include Icynene foam and Tripolymer foam. Icynene foam can be either sprayed or injected, which makes it the most versatile. It also has good resistance to both air and water intrusion. Tripolymer foam—a water-soluble foam—is injected into wall cavities. It has excellent resistance to fire and air intrusion.

Installation

Liquid foam insulation -- combined with a foaming agent -- can be applied using small spray containers or in larger quantities as a pressure-sprayed (foamed-in-place) product. Both types expand and harden as the mixture cures. They also conform to the shape of the cavity, filling and sealing it thoroughly.

Slow-curing liquid foams are also available. These foams are designed to flow over obstructions before expanding and curing, and they are often used for empty wall cavities in existing buildings. There are also liquid foam materials that can be poured from a container.

Installation of most types of liquid foam insulation requires special equipment and certification and should be done by experienced installers. Following installation, an approved thermal barrier equal in fire resistance to half-inch gypsum board must cover all foam materials. Also, some building codes don't recognize sprayed foam insulation as a vapor barrier, so installation might require an additional vapor retarder.

Costs

Liquid foam insulation products and installation usually cost more than traditional batt insulation. However, liquid foam insulation has higher R-values and forms an air barrier, which can eliminate some of the other costs and tasks associated with weatherizing a home, such as caulking, applying housewrap and vapor barrier, and taping joints. When building a new home, this type of insulation can also help reduce construction time and the number of specialized contractors, which saves money.

Monica Bair asked:

May 18, 2016
What is the best type of foam insulation to use on my home?
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Apr 8, 2016
Is adding blown in insulation a good way to eliminate ice damming and what other steps can be taken?

Rob Myers of Myers Homes PRO answered:

Apr 11, 2016

Adding insulationis only one piece of the puzzle. The object is to keep the attic space roughly the same temperature as the ambient outside air. This is accomplished via insulating the building envelope to keep your heat IN the building, AND proper ventilation of the attic space to move air around and through the attic. Adding insulation can help with the former, while making surte tha you have proper ventilation is also key. In many cases, the design of the roof or the environment the home is in isn't conducive to these static techniques and ice will form anyway. In those cases, we've had 100% success with properly installing ice melt systems along those sections of roof and gutter to allow water to work its way down through the gutters and downspouts and not build up behind an ice dam. See in the pic the area with the cables, and to the right the area without (which we've since added!) Good luck!

Apr 8, 2016
Is adding blown in insulation a good way to eliminate ice damming and what other steps can be taken?
Apr 10, 2016

This time of year, we start receiving panicked emergency calls for leaky roofs that failed during the tough winter season. Most roofs fail long before their anticipated lifespan and not just because of their age.

Main reason? Improper attic insulation or ventilation prevents the continuous airflow of outside air into the attic. When ventilation is done right, there is a continuous airflow up through the soffits continuing through the ridge or mechanical vents. This helps during the warm summer months when attic temperatures can reach well over 130 degrees, as well as during the winter during that horrible “ice dam” building season.

The goal is to balance the airflow and temperature protecting the valuable living areas below. A good rule of thumb is one square foot of attic ventilation for every 300 s.f. of attic space. IE: If your attic is 1200 s.f., you’ll need a total of 4 s.f. of ventilation split equallywith 2 feet in the soffit/eave and 2 feet out the ridge or mechanical vents. This will ensure good airflow through the attic.

We all know of those dreaded ice dams ! Having the right amount of insulation keeps the heat where it should be, in your living area! When you do not have proper insulation, it allows the warm living space air below to rise making the attic warmer. The result is melting snow turns into water, water then runs toward the eave where it re-freezes creating ice dams. Water then builds up under the shingles and you know the rest of the story – wet ceilings, walls- a total mess.

We’ve seen all sorts of problems including mold, mildew growth, plywood deflection, curved shingles, wood rot, frame rot, etc.

Short term, the easiest way to keep your heating/cooling bills down and minimize your likelihood of an ice dam is to have proper insulation and attic ventilation. Long term, you’ll be extending the lifespan of your roof and preventing expensive repairs.

Apr 8, 2016
Is adding blown in insulation a good way to eliminate ice damming and what other steps can be taken?
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Mar 8, 2016
What do you think about radiant barrier spray on coating versus foil backing radiant barrier?
Apr 4, 2016

Here is a fairly good article on the subjecct.

"Radiant barrier spray-on paint is essentially liquid foil. While not all radiant barrier paints are the same, basically they are made by grinding pure aluminum into a fine powder and then mixing it into clear paint. Once the clear paint dries the aluminum powder forms a layer of aluminum.

The best radiant barrier spray spray is only available to commercial contractors, and is an environmentally safe, water-based low-e paint called HeatBloc-75, Radiance e.25 or Lo/MIT. When the paint is installed correctly, it will reflect about 75% of the radiant heat and can be a very good product.

Getting good results with radiant barrier paint assumes a couple of things:

The rafters are being sprayed completely (this usually costs more when you get an estimate).

The paint is being applied with the correct coverage (many contractors put it on either too thin or too thick).

The paint is not diluted. There are some contractors (even large ones who advertise heavily) that will cut* the paint with water in order to extend the coverage. *Cutting is when water is added to paint; it is cheating to cut costs.

As a result, the true effectiveness of radiant barrier paint installed by many contractors is really only about 15-40% reflectivity. The typical consumer can’t tell the difference between a good installation and a poor job without testing.

Radiant barrier paint spray is not a good Do It Yourself (DIY) project. The fumes are noxious, you must use a VOC respirator, a high-end airless spray rig, the proper size spray tip, and the proper pressure to get correct coverage and eliminate clogging. Forget about painting with a roller because it is impossible since there are thousands of nails sticking through the roof deck; additionally, using a paint brush to manually paint it on would take forever. Most people who try to do it themselves will actually blow too much paint and the material cost alone will be over $0.30/ft. With the cost of radiant barrier foil only being less than $0.13/ft, it’s obvious it is not only a better product, but a better deal.

Different Brands of Paint & Testing Results

reflective coatings comparisons chartMany companies have developed radiant barrier spray paint. In fact, none are true radiant barriers since they all reflect less than 90% of the heat which is the definition of a true radiant barrier; technically they are reflective coatings. Below is a chart with some test results by RIMA (Reflective Insulation Manufacturers Association) which did independent testing on all the different radiant barrier paints.

Notice that the best paint still emits 22% of the radiant heat, compared to only 3% for radiant barrier foil. Some paints claim to be award winning, although what award they are receiving still remains to be identified or significant.

Additionally, the paint tests were conducted on perfectly smooth samples, applied under laboratory conditions; these conditions are different than your attic. Your attic is made up of porous wood that loves to soak up paint instead of keeping it on the surface to create a smooth, shiny film, which would be required to be fully effective. In order for paint to come close to the tested emissivity rating, the wood surface must be primed with a primer/base coat of paint first.

Why You Should Use Radiant Barrier Foil

The main reason you should consider the foil over the paint is because with the paint you are basically counting on the product to deliver results, while with the foil you are simply needing the person (which may be yourself) to get the installation done. So long as the foil is installed somewhere between the roof/rafters and the insulation, it will reflect 97% of the radiant heat.

This is indisputable; radiant barrier foil works!

Furthermore, it is actually difficult to install the foil wrong. This is the main difference between Quality Assurance and Quality Control. You can assure that reflective foil will work; while you can only hope that the reflective coating is installed correctly. We do not sell or install radiant barrier paint; we only sell radiant barrier reflective foil insulation because it is the best.

The problem occurs when reflective paint is put on too thin or when water is added to the paint/an inferior cheap paint is used. Then what? Then the customers do not get the results or the cool attic they are promised.

To offset this disappointment, some companies have resorted to doing things like giving away free solar fans. Sure, if you put an attic fan in the attic it will decrease the attic temperature and could even get it close to outside temperature; however, it doesn’t matter what kind of fan it is, a fan will not stop any radiant heat transfer. A cooler attic is nice, but what we really need to do is reduce the temperature of the insulation. For more information, read our article about air temperatures versus surface temperatures and how they affect your home.

Mar 22, 2016
How do I get ceiling properly inspected ....a crack continues to reopen ... Not satisfied with builders repairs
Apr 4, 2016

this is very common in new homes.  I would work with the builder first.  That is the easiest way to correct the problem.  They are in the buiness of building home and need good referrals  I would try the builder again and you would be surprised at the outcome with a softer approach. 

Philip Anderson

Berkeley Ca

Mar 22, 2016
How do I get ceiling properly inspected ....a crack continues to reopen ... Not satisfied with builders repairs

Hire a structural engineer. This could be a bit more expensive initially, but you could stave off lot of frustration later.

Mar 22, 2016
How do I get ceiling properly inspected ....a crack continues to reopen ... Not satisfied with builders repairs
Mar 30, 2016

Hello Anthony,

 Cracks can occur for a multitude of reasons. I would recommend hiring a home inspector to take a look at your situation and get his professional unbiased opinion.

Thnak you!

 Teresa

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