Re: Blown-in or batts un-insulated 1880's house
for the ceiling space, if you can access the attic without tearing out drywall go for it, simply take a trouble light up there and install through vents between the rafters to create a air space. then put batts between them.
for the level ceiling, install the through vents, then block off the stud cavitys with either card board or stuff batt insulation in, from there do blown in
for the walls you can take down the 3/8 drywall then put batts in but youll be looking at alot of debris to get rid of, doing blown in through the existing drywall works just as well. from there you can simply put a layer of 1/4 drywall up to make the walls a little thicker and it will create a smoother wall while covering all the holes drilled for blowing in the insulation.
in regards to a vapor barrier with blown in insulation. when the blown in is an afterthought there is no way of putting plastic up when the walls are already finished. however there is vapor barrier primer that is available , now the only thing is you wont be able to get it at a big box store. youll probably going to have to go to a paint supplier which is used by contractors. we use the primer when we have spray foam installed. as there are some instances where we cant use 8lb foam which acts as a vapor barrier, so we use 2lb foam and then use vapor barrier primer, we have to get this primer either through specific suppliers or sometimes its provided by the spray foam company
fire up the saw and make some dust