Insulating a complex attic?

Right before the winter I moved into a 100 year old house and my heating bills have put me into a state of shock. I'm thinking that insulating may be a good option. Due to a baby and the possibility of lead paint, I hesitate to poke holes in the walls, so for now am just thinking about doing the attic. First of all, would that be a complete waste to just do the attic without doing the walls too?
Secondly, our attic is set up so that half of it is a bedroom with wall-to-wall carpet, then you walk through a door to the other half which is storage and looks like a typical attic. I think insulating the storage half won't be so hard (except for some knob-and-tube wiring), but not sure about doing around the bedroom. I have access above some of the bedroom ceiling via the storage area, but then about 1/2 of the bedroom ceiling slopes down as the roof is directly above it. Making things even more difficult, there are two chambers on the sloping side of the bedroom, to make vertical walls instead of just following the slope of the roof. I could have access to one of these chambers if I move the fuse box out of the way and crawl through a cubby hole, but the other chamber is completely sealed off. I'm not sure how to tackle this. I guess my only options are to poke through the ceiling & chamber to insulate them? Is it even worthwhile to do this if these areas are air-tight to begin with?
Also thinking about replacing our relic oil burner, but that's a discussion for another day...
Thanks, Nate
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Any insulation is better than no insulation. Payback if usually quick.
Poking a hole in the wall is not going to have much affcet with the lead paint. It must be ingested to have ill effects and properly done, little of anything will be in the air. The baby is not going to be in the room while the work is done.

to do some of the work yourself but have other section done by people witht he right equipment and resources. It may not cost much more in the end.
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Very old homes may have a great deal of charm about them, but, they are a money pit for repairs , etc... At any rate, id have a few Insulation Contractors come out to give you estimates . Youll find that insulating the attic without the walls or tight fitting windows...is not going to help much in a very old home where energy was dirt cheap when it was built.
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I have no insulation in my walls, but lots in my attic. Had the attic insulation put in the first winter I lived there. Made a huge difference. After that you need double pane windows and weatherstripping on your doors. Also, insulate any hot water pipes that you can. I only insulated the exposed parts in my basement and it made a huge difference. The walls should be the last thing you attempt to insulate. When I had no insulation, wall insulation seemed like the smart thing to do, but now that I have attic insulation, I doubt that I'd ever attempt to do the walls.
If I had your house I'd start in the attic area that you are using as storage and rip out the crappy old wiring and replace it with individual stranded conductors (most use Romex, but I hate that stuff). Then insulate that attic real well. Then insulate the other attic bedroom space.
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On 3 Mar 2005 10:20:07 -0800, scott snipped-for-privacy@my-deja.com wrote:

Some insulation in the attic will help. Putting a LOT there is an inefficient use of money, unless you do other high-loss areas at the same time. If, for instance, you've got single-pane windows, you may well be better off putting your money into storm windows than into fiberglass in the attic. Spend some time looking for and plugging actual air gaps, too, aroound pipes, light fixtures, windows and doors.
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Insulating the attic is probably the best thing to do. Heat rises, of course, and most heat is lost out of the attic. Replacing windows is a fad that doesn't really help too much, unless the windows are leaking air. Definitely start in the attic.
Dimitri
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Thanks for the replies so far, guys. I'm learning a lot. A couple things you guys mentioned: Yeah my windows are also leaky, even though I do have storm windows. In some places I can feel air coming in around the window frames. I've been going around caulking where I can and I put up the shrink-wrap window insulation. I also bought a package of fiberglass batting that I've been using to tear pieces off and stuff in places where air was pouring in (gaps in baseboards, wind tunnel between a crawl space and the basement, in the attic around the bathroom light fixtures, etc.) I even have built-in cabinets in the dining room that fill up with cold air! The whole place seems to leak like a seive but I feel like I'm slowly getting a handle on a lot of it.
The other thing we're thinking about is the furnace. We have an old oil furnace pushing air duct heating and the previous owners (who didn't seem to care much about efficiency) used 1100 gals of oil last year. We're on pace to use about 2/3 of that just by keeping it cooler, especially at night, and by the things I mentioned above. The house is a twin and the people in the other half bought a new furnace and their heating bills went from $300-400/mo (what we're paying now) to about $85. And their place is just as uninsulated as ours, and a little bigger due to a rear addition.
We've only been in the place about 3 months so not surprisingly we're broke right now, so I'll continue to patch up what I can in the meantime. I think attic insulation (by professionals) and a new furnace are the two priorities when we can.
Thanks again, Nate
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or that expanding foam. Make sure you get the low expansion foam or trim, walls, etc., will start busting out.
A new furnace will help some. I didn't see much of a cost savings when I changed out a year ago. People seem find the biggest savings when insulation is installed.
Sounds like you've got to stop all those air leaks, insulate, then go after that furnace. New windows, insulation and a furnace should set you back over 10 grand, depending upon the size of the house and where it is located.
Maybe you have to tough it out for a few winters, then when you build enough equity, refinance and get those things fixed.
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New furnaces are definitely more efficient, but I find it hard to believe that a new one would cut usage from $300-400/mo to $85. Not sure exactly what oil costs, but I'm pretty sure $85 would buy 45 gal max, which would translate to 1 1/2 gal per day. Anyway, first thing is to caulk, seal, weatherstrip etc. That will give you by far the most return on your investment. I have heard that if the air infiltration from all the cracks, gaps, holes etc. on an older house were totalled up, it would be the equivalent of a 3ftX3ft hole in a wall. Don't know if that is true or not, but regardless it amounts to a good portion of the heat loss. Larr
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Heat doesn't rise, hot air rises. If you trap the air, the heat will go up, down, and sideways with equal enthusiasm. Restricting the airflow upward is the single most important move. Since you can never completely shut that off, a thin layer of insulation in the attic will do double duty further restricting airflow. But beyond that, the most effective place to put insulation is where the least insulation is now. If you have a choice between putting and extra R12 in a ceiling that's already R12, and putting R2 worth of insulation in the same amount of wall that's currently R5, for the same price, you should insulate the wall. Do the math: 100 sqft of ceiling at R12 passes 8 BTU/Hour/degree. Adding R12 changes that to 4 BTU, saving you 4 BTU/Hour. The same amount of wall at R5 passes 20 BTU/Hour/degree, and adding R2 changes that to 14, saving you 6 BTU/hour.
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Exactly what I said. The attic is the most important. However, it is not true that hot air will leak "up, down, and sideways with equal enthusiasm". Insulating the floor is the least of worries for most people. You'd have to have a helluva airtight house to be worried about your floor. The biggest difference for the least money is going to be to insulate that attic and then next probably the walls. Windows will be a large expense that I would not mess with as you will likely not make that money back for a long, long time. Stop the leaks with weatherstripping and see how that goes. It's a modern obsession to have a hermetically sealed house.
Dimitri
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Wrong as usual Dave
You uneducacted fundy piece of crap....don't you even know that heat and hot air (which you are filled with) rises, or wasn't that fact covered in the "Religious Nut's Guide to Pseudoscience"?
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regardless of what is there, a ceiling fan or two will make a big difference. this is not a 'substitute' for insulation...
randy

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