My husband and I purchased a 1923 balloon frame house. And this winter has been a problem with staying warm.We live in southern central Virginia. We have a HVAC with propane but rarely us it do to the size of the house and the inefficency. In our living room we have a pellet stove (which came with the house) for which will only heat that one room.(17X17in size) We chose to buy the ceramic heaters to use in the kitchen and our bedroom.To do zone heating. The pellet stove for this first season we have use 3 tons of pellets.Our best guess for this is because the exhaust pipe runs up thru a 2 story chimney.
The ceramic heaters at best keep the other two rooms at 60 degrees.
My main question is what is the best way to insulate this whale of a house. We were given advise the remove the lathe and plaster on all the exterior walls from the interior of each room one by one and install some type of insulation.
Which type of insulation would be the most cost effective and does this interrupt the breathing of the house.
It will interrupt the way your house breathes, but if your are built on a basement it will not interrupt your fresh air supply to the attic as much as if you are on pier and beam.
Make sure you have adequate venting(soffit vents) for your attic. You can choose blown in insulation from the inside or outside, but that does not offer you a moisture barrier(though I think your unbroken plaster may act as one).
If you tear down the interior walls you will need a moisture barrier in between the insulation and the new wall.
Next will be the choice between fiberglass batts and sprayed foam insulation. The expansion of the foam may impact your exterior siding, but expanding foam is pretty cool stuff IMO and offers better r-values in a 4" space.
Once you open the walls, you will have to put in blocking to reduce the spread of a fire should that happen. You may also have to beef up any bracing against racking as sheetrock is not as rigid or as strong as lath and plaster. This would also be a good time to replace any wiring in those exterior walls with modern romex wire.
If you have water pipes in any exterior walls, then you have to be careful to get the insulation between the pipes and the exterior wall and no insulation between the pipes and interior wall, otherwise those pipes will freeze.
Now if there is no old knob and tube wiring in the exterior walls or water pipes, you can insulate the cavities with a blown in insulation. You can use a slow expanding foam or fiberglass or cellulose or even some other products. If you use a closed cell foam, you will not need a vapor barrier and you don't have to worry about the house breathing.
If you use a loose fill, then after plugging the holes, you can paint over the walls with a vapor retarding paint or put up a vinyl wall paper and seal around all outlets to protect your framing from condensation.
Before insulating, an electrical contractor can usually thread new romex wiring in those wall cavities but the old knob and tube wiring will have to be cut and left in place. Water pipes will be a problem too,
If you use the hole in the wall method of insulating, try to find a contractor that uses a thermal imaging camera, that way he will get any voids that might get missed. If you can't find one, you can get an IR thermometer at any hardware store for about $30 and scan your walls for cold spots, or you can use your hands for this as well. If you find any cold spots, have the contractor come out and fill them before you do any final finishes.
Since it is balloon framed, you might even be able fill the wall cavities from the attic without making as many holes in the wall. You will still need to punch holes under windows though.
Tearing down all the lathe&plaster and install sheetrock & roll insulation on the exterior walls would increase the comfy factor significantly. That's how I dealt with the same issue. But I'm no expert and don't know squat about other types. One thing I do know, since I also owned an old house is what a tremendous help new windows can make. It's very costly but maybe one room at a time..
Now I have another scenerio. What if we did the extreme and remove the exterior clap board siding labeling to put back in order as removed and insulate from the outside. By the way we have a brick and stone fondation with just a 2 foot crawl space. No basement. We do have soffet ventelation on the 2nd floor for the attic plus 2 air turbines in the metal roof.
Which would be more appropriate for this situation. Spray foam or batten.
And we do know that the windows should be replaced during the renovation.