Well, now I have a problem. Yesterday I asked readers what they wanted to hear about next, and insulation came in second. “Put a sock in it” came in first, of course. I’ll explain. If you’re like me, you assume that all the empty chairs at the town meeting are voting no, and only the twelve teachers and DPW worker’s spouses in the front row are voting yes. So second place wins at Sippican Cottage, just like in elections.
What’s the problem, you ask? Well, I don’t have any pictures of our insulation extravaganza. Not a one, I don’t think. However, unlike all the other hoary anecdotes about remodeling I’ve been palming off on you lately, I’m still performing this task. I live in western Maine, and it gets pretty cold here. In the summer. Let’s not discuss February, if you don’t mind. So I could actually take some photos and write some material, hot off the remodeling press. That sounds like work. I think I’m getting hives. But the internet has spoken. Let me tell you what we’re doing to keep the food in the refrigerator from freezing in the winter. I refused on principle to put a heater inside my fridge, so insulation was in order. But what kind?
First, let’s talk about what we inherited when we bought our $24,000 house. We did ourselves a favor buying a house so cheaply, of course, but we also did a good turn for the bank manager who unloaded the foreclosed pile on us. We went into his office and said we’d buy the old dustcatcher, and that prompted him to take the noose from around his neck and climb down from his office chair. A win/win situation.
In some respects, the insulation in our home was pretty good. Way back in the mists of time, someone had hired someone halfway competent to blow what looks like rock wool insulation into many of the exterior walls, and most of the attic. This was accomplished by removing some of the clapboard siding, drilling holes in the solid wood sheathing, and using a very strong blower to fill up the spaces between the studs and joists. They replaced the siding and there was no outward sign of their ministrations. Good stuff.
I say I think it was rock wool. Rock wool and cellulose look about the same, but generally cellulose is made from shredded newsprint, and there was nothing printed on the bits of insulation. Neither type will burn, either, so testing it like that wouldn’t work. There were some rock wool batts of the same vintage installed in the ceiling of the basement (the floor of the main floor). Crazy people had removed most of them, but the few that were left had labels. It certainly tasted like rock wool. I’ve gotten many mouthfuls of it over the years while fixing old houses. Pro Tip: Don’t look straight up while performing demolition.
Other than the patchy application of blown-in insulation, the house was a horrorshow of misdirected caulk, and sticky tape residue, and unemployed staples, and fluttering sheets of plastic, and oakum, and spray foam crack filler, and assorted gummy putties rammed willy-nilly into cracks. The former occupants were fascinated with saving energy, and expended a lot of energy trying unsuccessfully to do so. They put little bits of duct tape over keyholes to keep out drafts, and thought it would work. So we were going to have to continue the insulation project from the forties or fifties or whenever the blown-in job was performed, while peeling back the wreckage of umpteen failed attempts to try to weatherstrip the place to death. In general, everything looked about like this:
And this-a here:
And of course:
There was no central theme to the insulation story. It was R-value delirium tremens all the way through. Plenty of fire hazards, too. The tan paper faces on those fiberglass batts might as well be made from rolling papers, which I’m certain the former occupants were quite familiar with. And all of it was so spotty and ill-fitted that it accomplished next to nothing. We’ll have to find a way to insulate very large areas of the house, and spend next to nothing doing it. I swear, we found a way. I also swore plenty while doing it.
[To be continued. Thanks for reading and commenting. Please tell an internet friend about Sippican Cottage}