Batts in the attic will heat things up

One type of stone-wool insulation is this Canadian-made Roxul STEVE MAXWELL/OTTAWA CITIZEN/POSTMEDIA NETWORK

Today we continue our examination of file No. 921, titled “Meltdown,’’ involving the relationship between our Mr. Jack ‘Frosty’ Snow and Barb ‘Ma’ Barker.

To recap, Jack owns an older home in dire need of improvements related to energy efficiency. Mr. Snow’s home is drafty and lacks the proper insulation levels, resulting in a home that is frightfully cold for six months of the year.

This of course has been of no concern to Jack, because as owner and operator of Jacks Frosty Treats, he spends half his day in a freezer anyway. Then, in comes his new housemate Barb, a lady who doesn’t like the cold, who doesn’t wear sweaters, refuses to layer, and who would never dream of stepping outdoors in January to build a snowman, no matter how perfectly sticky the snow is.

Essentially, when cold meets warm, warm wins. Or more succinctly, when the needs of the woman, or warm individual in a relationship, differ from those of the fellow, changes are likely to occur.

Because warm air rises, a key area to fortify against heat loss will be the attic. In typical 1970’s building mode, our Mr. Snow has about six inches of attic insulation, providing R-20 of heat loss resistance. This level of thermal value was fine when electricity and gas were a fraction of today’s cost, and the Montreal Canadiens were winning Stanley Cups, which at least provided us with a warm feeling in our hearts.

Unfortunately, things haven’t changed so much for Leaf fans since the 70’s, whereby life is as dreary now as it was then, only with present day energy costs lending to times that are even more miserable. Today’s attic standards require R-60 of thermal value, or about 18 inches of insulation. So, in order to be current with today’s standards, since they are minimum requirements, we’re going to need to add at least 12 inches of either a blowing wool, or fiberglass batt material, with this 12 inches of fiberglass offering an additional R-40 of insulation value.

Whether this is to be a do-it-yourself project, or not, relies entirely upon your willingness to squeeze through the 20”x30” attic hatch hole. Before adding insulation, the homeowner should make sure the soffit air space is properly protected with the use of attic vents, installed in between every truss.

Fiberglass batt insulation or fiberglass blowing wool? The advantage to using fiberglass pink insulation, which in this case would require two thicknesses of a six- inch R-20 batt, is that the batts can be fitted tightly together, then cross layered, creating a neatly arranged blanket of pink, along with the peace of mind that you’re indeed getting an extra R-40 of thermal value.

If desired, six-inch batts are also available in R-22 or R-24 formats, which will boost your home’s resistance to attic heat loss another 10-20%. Can a homeowner put too much insulation in their attics? No, provided they maintain a minimum two-inch air space between the insulation and the roofing plywood.

Challenges to layering your attic space with fiberglass batts? Only one, avoiding your scrotum being jammed up into your body cavity should you slip off one of the truss joists. As a result, and in order to avoid such mishaps, blowing wool is generally the preferred method of insulating an attic.

Challenges to blowing wool? Only one, which is that this method absolutely requires two people, one feeding the machine with wool from below, and a second person directing the placement of the wool while positioned up in the attic. Although the act of blowing wool requires minimal movement, since the power of the blower will allow wool to be blown a distance of about 12-16 feet, the installer will have to risk some venturing about the truss joists beforehand as they stake the area with paper rulers.

The paper rulers, hung from various truss positions, will help guide the installer in how deep to spread the wool. Next week, case No. 921 continues.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard