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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
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    Default 170 year old home

    My wife and I are about to move into "This old House" on Sept 1st. It had virtually no insulation and the prior owner has had some serious issues with Ice Dams. We are a bit concerned about this and with out any prior experience with Ice damming Im at a loss where to begin. The House has a lot of charm and we are going to attempt to bring it up to code without ruining the styling of the 1840's.

    The house is divided into 2 sections. The front section has no attic, so the roof line is the ceiling. How do we verify the existance of any insulation? How do we insulate this without creating a nightmare? We are confident there is no insulation in the walls.

    Not looking forward to the chilly NH nights coming up.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Houston Texas
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    2,969

    Default Re: 170 year old home

    I would think in the flat roof there isn't any insulation.

    How thick is the flat roof?
    Can you get access to the rafters? Perhaps on the outside at the eave?

    You can add insulation from the inside by installing Celotex type panels to the ceiling in offset layers, then covering with drywall.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    SoCal
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    6,751

    Default Re: 170 year old home

    The forecast for NH: freezing nights on the way.

    For a first house, you really chose a jewel.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
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    3

    Default Re: 170 year old home

    Quote Originally Posted by HoustonRemodeler View Post
    I would think in the flat roof there isn't any insulation.

    How thick is the flat roof?
    Can you get access to the rafters? Perhaps on the outside at the eave?

    You can add insulation from the inside by installing Celotex type panels to the ceiling in offset layers, then covering with drywall.
    There is no "FLAT" roof, but the main section of the house has a 8 pitch I believe. In the front section of the house (roof line is a 12 pitch I think) we have no access to the rafters, the ceiling is finished. The main section of the house we do have access to an attic. Guess its hard to describe and without seeing it first hand you can only make guesses as to how the house is set up.

    Im a little hard pressed to add an additional 1" to 1.5" of thickness to the ceiling by installing the celotex. But that is an option.. Thank you!

    Any experience with spray foam insulation? Im considering taking this approach.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
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    3

    Default Re: 170 year old home

    Quote Originally Posted by dj1 View Post
    The forecast for NH: freezing nights on the way.

    For a first house, you really chose a jewel.
    This is not our 1st house. Eyes wide open going in. Also aware that I might need help figuring this stuff out.

    Hope your not slamming me Dj1.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    SoCal
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    6,751

    Default Re: 170 year old home

    On the contrary, I'm glad you've bought an old fixer upper - it's good for the economy... Years ago I bought fixer uppers and made money off them.

    Spray insulation might work if you don't have the space...one drawback: if there's a leak, it can go unnoticed for a long time and cause some substantial damage.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Posts
    86

    Default Re: 170 year old home

    I'm not sure we established that the front interior section of the house has a flat ceiling, or it follows the pitch of the exterior shingled roof; in any event the low-cost way to determine if there is any insulation in this section is to drill several 1/8" diameter holes in the ceiling with a drill & unravel a steel coat hanger, smear it with Elmer's glue, wear thick rubber/leather gloves ( in case you come across a live electrical wire), & play the hanger into the holes & rattle it around; if no insulation sticks to the wire, some will have to be blown in; the same test should be done for the other parts of the roof, as well as the vertical walls; the drilled holes can be then sealed with putty & painted to match the finished surface.

    Consult the Yellow Pages under "Insulation"; many of these companies have infa-red imaging equipment that can detect from the exterior of the house & roof where the heat is exiting; a number of insulation companies are able to blow cellulose insulation into roof sections, as well as all vertical walls from the outside by removing only a small piece of exterior siding or shingle, & blowing in the cellulose---the cost is usually a few hundred $$$, the work can be done in one day, and may be just the ticket for the situation you have there.

    Ice dams on roofs are caused by the upper sections of a pitched roof getting rising heat from the building, while the lower pitched sections near the eaves remain cold; the water flows down to the eaves, hits colder temps, & freezes near the roof edges causing the ice dam; the way to prevent ice dams is to keep the roof AS COLD AS POSSIBLE DURING THE WINTER by preventing warm interior air from melting the ice and snow at or near the roof peaks, and the mid-sections.

    If the insulation doesn't do the trick, you may have to install specially designed heating cables along the eaves to prevent ice dam formation.

    i would strongly recommend the blown-in insulation---you will save tons of money on heating bills, & have a comfy house; now's the time to also check the quality of all the windows; there must be no drafts, they must be double pane or storms; double-pane vinyl windows at approx $300/each are also a good investment if you have any leaky windows.
    Last edited by dodsworth; 08-16-2011 at 04:12 PM.

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