The best way to find out the type and amount of insulation inside an exterior wall?


What is the best way to find out the type and amount of insulation installed inside an exterior wall? By "best" I mean minimum effort and the least likelihood of the attempt turning into a big repair job.
The wall in question has drywall on the inside and vinyl sidings on the outside.
Thanks in advance.
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mtco wrote:

Hi, Where do you live? This is first thing to consider. The location.
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Tony Hwang wrote:

Actually, it doesn't matter where he lives. He is trying to minimize the heat flow out of his house without major rebuilding.
I'm looking for a good answer to the same problem. Sometimes I install a slider or something that requires ripping apart a wall from the outside. I just put in insulation at that point. In 1970 they used 3" bats so it's not hard to justify ripping that out and using current pink stuff bats.
I thought sprayed-in foam as seen on This Old House might be an option. I eventually wound up talking to the company (in Canada) that makes the isocyanate foam. They very clearly recommended against their product! The problem is it expands and will push off the interior wall board. This is the $0 solution.
I talked to a contractor about installing blown in cellulose (i.e., newspaper shreds). He wanted to add several inches over the ceiling insulation which already has 6" of pink stuff bats and added fluff. And, blowing cellulose into the walls involves drilling ugly holes that have to be hidden. This was the $1700 solution.
I used an infrared remote-reading thermometer to figure out that my old slider was a major heat lost. 8' slider, Al frame, single pane. Typical readings: 25 deg outside, 75 inside, window was 45 on the inside even with the plastic film "storm windows" on the inside and the outside. I had the slider replaced with an Anderson. $2200 solution.
As it gets colder I can also sense that the new slider is keeping the place warmer. And, added bonus, it is quieter.
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Tony Hwang wrote:

Pull the cover off a wall receptacle or switch and get a flashlight...might be able to see the insulation where the switchbox or receptacle box is not tight against the wall covering...you can poke around in there with a coathanger and feel if there is any insulation or if you mark the outline of the cover before removal you might be able to shave off some of the drywall or the wood or whatever wall covering you have to be able to see into the cavity next to the electrical box.
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Tony Hwang wrote:

I'm not sure how that would make a difference. If the weather is what you have in mind, the overnight low now is around 40F, and it usually doesn't snow until around Thanksgiving. Although it's not freezing (yet), I'd consider any method that leaves an unpatched hole in the wall overnight unworkable.
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buy a blank electrical plate and drill small hole not in a stud.......
look around tape over hole and install blank cover, making certain its at the same height as regular boxes
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Pull a lightswitch box and look.
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