I have a 1940's house with an unfinished attic. I would like to add
insulation to the roof and use the space as an office.
First, my roof rafters are a non-standard spacing of 20" on center,
instead of the 16 or 24 that the rolls are sold in. Does this mean I
will have to cut each roll on length??
Second, the rafters are 2*6 (actual 5.5 wide). If I am to maintain an
inch for ventilation between the insulation and the roof, I can only
add 4.5 deep of insulation. Is that true? For rolled insulation I
would get an R-15 max. I am looking into the rigid foam board to use
since it provides higher R per inch.
ANy insight would be appreciated.
A couple of thoughts.
You should be able to get 24" wide rolls and cut them back 4"
You do need vent space behind the insulation.
Most, if not all, foam requires a fire resistant (drywall) covering.
You may be coming close or crossing over the ability of the roof to
support all that extra weight and have you checked that the floor can
support the weight of an office.
Also have you checked local codes for problems doing what you want?
Only in cold climates. In hot climates like Atlanta, there is no issue there.
There are no ice dams in Atlanta.
That's a good point. If he's going to do blown-in, he will need to have
some kind of covering to keep the cellulose from falling out. If he wanted to
do foam, that covering would need to be drywall rather than something easier
I doubt there will be a problem with the roof. 1940's houses were
seriously over-built by modern standards, and 6" of insulation is not
a whole lot of weight. This is especially true if the roof was re-sheathed
in plywood at some point rather than having the original 1x6 plank sheathing,
plywood is considerably lighter than 1x6 planks.
The weight of an office will be a different story, since that could be
significant static weight (in the form of heavy office furniture and
filing cabinets). Attics aren't designed for significant static weight.
The problem with local codes is that often they're set up by
damnyankees(tm) who haven't the foggiest notion what proper building
practices are for Southern climates. The codes used by the folks who
enforce codes were written by damnyankees, the colleges they attended
used books written by damnyankees, and I can't figure out how, when
damnyankees account for only 40% of the population now that Texas,
Florida, and California are three of the four most populous states,
the building codes continue to cater to damnyankees and totally ignore
the needs of folks in the Sun Belt. Attic ventilation to avoid ice
dams, indeed. (What a crock of BLEEP in Atlanta!).
That said, an architect or engineer's stamp and a variance application
will typically handle the code issues. Code here in Phoenix AZ says
attics needs X cubic feet of ventilation, but that has not stopped
builders here from applying modern building science to build houses
that are better than code (by saving the 20% of the heat gain caused
by heat gain through the attic-based A/C ductwork and air handler by
putting them in conditioned insulated attic space rather than in a
ventilated attic), it just requires more work on their part getting
that engineer's stamp and variance.
Eric Lee Green mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org
I suggest that instead of attempting to put fiberglass, you put up
drywall (unfinished) or thin paneling or that new-fangled cardboard
looking cellulose sheathing stuff, and blow in cellulose. That's a lot
easier than dealing with oddball widths of fiberglass. The downside is
that when the roof develops a leak, the whole assemblage may come
crashing down in the area of the leak.
Ventilation between insulation and roof is only necessary in cold
climate areas where ice dams can form on unventilated roofs. See
http://www.buildingscience.com for more information. In your case, if
you can do dense-pack cellulose, it will also serve as the vapor
barrier in your climate (Atlanta), so you are free to pack the
cellulose as densely as possible for the maximum insulating value.
I would suggest that you incorporate a radiant barrier too, since R-21
(what you'll get from the dense-pack in 6" of space) isn't a whole lot
of insulation for your summer heat. There are thin foils that can be
stapled to the bottom of your paneling. The shiny side should face
down into the air space. This information is from Oak Ridge National
Laboratory's insulation labs, since I've been blasted before by morons
who can't see how the shiny side facing down will keep heat out of the
house (hint to said morons: Good reflectors are also poor radiators).
One thing to think about is whether the attic joists in this attic
space are sufficient to support the weight you're thinking about
adding to them (in the form of the room). Depending upon how the house
is built, it may or may not be easy to add additional reinforcement. I
am also assuming that this house did not use trusses (few did in the
1940's) and that you will not have to disrupt any of the rafter
support in order to put your new room into the attic space. That said,
most 1940's houses were seriously overbuilt by modern standards (they
had to, they did not have modern materials science to tell them what
they needed to meet minimum standards, so they used rule of thumb and
then rounded up), and should not have any real issues here.
Eric Lee Green mailto: email@example.com
A note on the radiant barrier. Yes, it is a very good idea to
incorporate it. There is nothing about the fiberglass that stops the
infrared energy. In the recent past I asked a scientist at my local
university about plain old aluminum foil. He told me that it is the
oxide that's on it's surface that does the job. And it is on both
sides. It's also a tough oxide.
The building industry has styroboard with foil on both sides. It is so
lightweight and cheap it's easy to overlook where it's value as a
thermal barrier. Some that I had purchased before had foil only on one
side. It also serves as a moisture barrier, which should be between
the insulation and the living space. Hope this helps.
Owens-Corning makes a product called rafter-mate. It is a styrofoam spacer
that you tack to the underside of the roof sheething before installing the
insulation between the rafters. It maintains the needed gap the sheething
and the insulation. My rafters are also 2X6. I used the rafter-mates and
R-16. The R-16 compressed somewhat but it's worked well. Check the link
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