Depth Needed For Insulating Attics

Whether you live in a warm-weather state, as I do, or in a cooler northern climate, it’s hard to stay comfortable and keep your energy bills in check if you don’t have adequate insulation in the attic. But many homeowners I talk with don’t know how much is enough. The answer depends on where you live. Typically, houses in warm-weather states should have an R-38 insulation in the attic, whereas houses in cold climates should have R-49. These insulation levels will keep heated air from migrating out in winter. In a cooling climate, a good blanket of attic insulation helps keep the house cooler and reduces the load on air-conditioning equipment.

Most attics are insulated with blown-in loose cellulose (R-3.5 per inch), blown-in loose fiberglass (R-2.5 per inch) or fiberglass batts (R-3.2 per inch). Cellulose is recycled newsprint treated with a fire retardant. Fiberglass is just that–thin fibers of glass that trap air. To determine if you need more insulation, measure what’s in place with a ruler or tape. The chart included below shows you the approximate thickness of each type of insulation you should ideally have in the attic. When you do the measuring, make sure you have plenty of light to work by, and work on a cool day. And be careful not to step through the ceiling.

You can install fiberglass batts yourself right over existing insulation, but follow these precautions:

  • Wear a long-sleeve shirt, gloves, eye protection and a dust mask.
  • Make sure you use an unfaced batt (one without a paper or foil layer) so the insulation does not trap moisture in the ceiling.
  • Lay the batts perpendicular to the joists so they do not compress the insulation below.
  • Don’t cover can lights unless they are rated for contact with insulation. It’s safer to build a small enclosure with hardware cloth or plywood to keep loose insulation away from lights and exhaust fans.
  • Use cardboard or rigid-foam baffles to keep soffit vents open.
  • Fill all cracks between the living area and the attic with caulk or expanding foam.

A tightly sealed house is just as important as insulation. If you decide on loose-fill fiberglass or cellulose, consider hiring a pro to install the material. The equipment pros use blows in material at the correct density. Don’t be concerned if it seems they are installing more insulation than necessary; the material will settle to the right thickness.

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Winter Mold

Several factors lead to increased concerns about mold during the winter months. For one thing, moisture conditions indoors can lead to the growth of molds and mildews. While it’s true that forced heating systems make indoor air drier overall during the winter months, certain areas of the home may experience intensified levels of humidity because of a lack of ventilation. Bathrooms and kitchens are particularly susceptible to this problem. Steamy showers in small bathrooms spell trouble, as does the accumulation of steam from washing dishes and cooking in the kitchen. Because of cold weather, windows aren’t usually open, and condensation collects on indoor surfaces such as cold walls or windows and their frames, often creating ideal conditions for mold growth.

In addition, outdoor exposure is also common during early winter months when piles of leaves collect and absorb moisture. Cold, damp air promotes mold growth in many additional outdoor locations during this time of year as well. Mold thrives in dead vegetation, and is not killed by winter frosts. In fact, many molds can become dormant during the winter only to grow on plants killed by the cold when springtime arrives – making mold a year-round allergy trigger.

Any disturbance to an outdoor mold source, such  raking leaves or tending to a compost pile, disperses mold spores through the air, exposing individuals to varying levels of mold inhalation.

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Stucco Issues

When properly installed, stucco is a tough, durable and long lasting system that can not only add a aesthetic value to your home, but when properly maintained, can last for many years.  But during the last couple of years especially, I am seeing a wide range of issues when it comes to stucco, resulting in thousands of dollars in water and mold damage.  Short cuts taken by the applicator can cause cracking, water infiltration, discoloration and many more issues when not properly installed.  When buying a home, having your stucco inspected could save you thousands of dollars in issues and possible years of litigation, and when hiring a stucco contractor, doing your due diligence will be time well spent.  Here’s some of the issues which causes stucco to fail:

Incorrect Installation or No Lath

Some contractors fasten metal lath to the wall with pneumatic staples, but this can cause problems. A staple has two prongs, so it creates twice as many penetrations as a nail. Furring nails are preferable; they have a small cork washer that helps space the lath away from the wall and also seals around the nail.. Checking that all furring nails are perpendicular to the wall, and that the cork is compressed against the sheathing, makes a significant difference. Home with no lath will only last a few years and crack easily causing home owners to tear down the existing stucco and start over.

House or Building Wrap

This step is extremely important and also misunderstood or completely left out of many installations.  Grade D-60 Minute paper is a durable choice that could be used as the first layer, since it is highly recommended that all home be wrapped twice.  Contractors tend to wrap home once, and then cover the windows and cut an X to expose the windows and then trim it out.  This process will nearly leak after each application.  The flap of housewrap above the window must be held up temporarily until the window is installed and flashed, then pulled down over the window flashing and taped into place.

Flashing

A common mistake around windows is that self-adhering flashing tape has been applied over the bottom nailing fin. Water that leaks in around the window frame gets trapped behind the flashing and causes the adhesive to fail. Instead of sealing water out, the failed membrane actually channels water into the wall cavity.  The use of manufactured flashing corners and primers can help with failings in adhesion.

Plumbing & Electrical Penetrations

When contractors make holes in the facade to allow piping and electrical lines into the house, they commonly just use caulk or plugs to seal the holes.  This leads to water infiltration mostly through the foundation and into basements.  Flashing panels can eliminate this issue.  The cost for these materials is very low as compared to the damage it can cause.

Remember to always use your best judgement when hiring any contractor and try to familiarize yourself with any type of construction taking place.  For more information, click here to view our site:  Biowashing.com

Removing Gutter Ice

Leaves and snow are simple, but clearing layers of frozen ice from your fragile gutters is a daunting task. Many home owners and property managers face ice-dammed, snow-capped roofs every season. Here are a few ideas for eliminating the icy conditions.

  • Start every winter season with completely cleared gutters. Ice is less likely to build up and cause dams if there is nothing in your gutters when the temperature drops.
  • Check your downspouts for blockages. Clear any debris from the downspouts, and melting water from the gutter ice will begin to run off immediately.
  • Remove excess snow with a roof rake by pulling the snow downward in the direction the roof slopes. Do not pull the snow across the roof because you run the risk of breaking off shingles. (Roof rakes can be purchased at most hardware stores.)
  • Use a chisel, large screwdriver or the back of a hammer to chip away at a small portion of the gutter ice. Don’t start chipping until the snow has been swept off the roof. You only need to chip enough ice to create an area through which water can flow. Chip gently; your gutter is already under an enormous strain.
  • Hose down the gutter with hot water. This step is optional. As long as the snow is cleared off the roof, gutter ice will melt quickly as the temperature rises. If you feel you can’t wait for this, hose down the gutter to melt the ice. Only use a hose if it has a spray nozzle and you can produce hot water. Also, the temperature must be warm enough for the water to not freeze on contact with the ice.
  • Consider the installation of gutter guards and aluminum heating panels or wire mesh heating guards. Some roofing companies specialize in installing custom heating systems that are designed to stop ice before it solidifies on your roof and in your gutter. This is an expensive option but one that would save you time and money every winter.
  • Gutter ice removal is very dangerous. Don’t walk on a snow-covered roof. Ask for professional help if you are not completely confident in your abilities.

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Ice Dam Prevention – Part 2

Insulating the Attic

The attic floor should be airtight, have sufficient insulation, and keep the transfer of heat from the downstairs to the attic at a minimum. Even a well-insulated attic floor may have a number of openings that can permit warm air from below to seep up into the attic. For instance, these items may cut through the attic floor:

  • exhaust pipes and plumbing vents
  • fireplace and heating system chimneys
  • light fixtures

Seal all openings around these penetrations, but be careful not to block attic vent s with insulation. The at tic vent s, as explained below, must be kept clear so that they can do their job. Additionally, pull-down stairs or a set of regular stairs leading up to the attic from the lower level can be avenues for rising heat. Weatherstripping around the edges of the attic access door and insulation on the attic side of the door should minimize the passage of heat to the attic.  Any heat-generating equipment in the attic should be relocated.

Ventilating An Attic

There are several ways to ventilate your attic. You can do it with eave vents, soffit vents, a ridge vent, a gable vent, or some combination of these. Most modern residential roofs combine a ridge vent with soffit or eave vents. To the extent that household heat penetrates the attic, it should be able to rise and escape through, for instance, a ridge vent, while soffit or eave vents pull in cold air to replace it. Local building codes generally require a minimum level of ventilation.

Proper ventilation of the attic to let cold in, together with air sealing and insulation on the attic floor to help keep household heat out of the attic, work to minimize the likelihood of ice dams.

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Ice Dam Prevention – Part 1

When heat from the interior of a house with a sloped roof escapes into the attic space, it warms the underside of the roof. Meanwhile, the roof eave outside the heated space remains a colder temperature.  As snow accumulates on the rooftop, it melts over the warmer portion of the attic and the melt water runs down the roof. When it encounters the cold edge of the roof it refreezes. The refrozen water along the roof edge creates an “ice dam” and consequently, the melted snow running down the roof begins to back up underneath the roof covering. This water will soak the roof sheathing and leak into the attic unless there is a barrier above the sheathing. Sealing the roof deck is an effective way to prevent the water from entering your home and causing damage.

A two-step approach is the most effective way to reduce the size of ice dams. First, keep the attic floor well insulated to minimize the amount of heat from within the house that rises into the attic. Second, keep the attic well ventilated so that the cold air outside can circulate through it and reduce the temperature of the roof system. The colder the attic, the less thawing and refreezing on the roof. These two measures are the best ways to keep ice dams from increasing in size.

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