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vicktown
Balloon Framing House Attic
vicktown

I am in the process of tackling the air sealing/insulation/venting of my attic in order to prevent heat loss and the formation of gigantic killer icicles. I am in the middle of the process and could use some advice/guidance.

The Current Situation:
I live in a 2-story house built in 1902. The house is stucco with balloon framing and is in Ontario Canada. The attic is roughly 1000 sq ft, has maybe 3 inches of old loose insulation (maybe r-10?) between the ceiling joists. Venting is exhausted by 2 whirlybird type vents and I am in the precess of adding intake vents in the soffits. There are cathedral ceiling on the second floor. These ceilings are plaster on 2x4 rafters. The roof was recently done and I had the space between the ceiling and the sheeting insulated with 2 inches of rigid foam, which left a 2 inch air gap for air flow from the soffit vents into the attic (not ideal but better than nothing, and I did not want to reframe the roof with larger rafters for more insulation). I have capped the balloon framing on the gable ends with rigid foam and spray foam (can-type). Walls are not insulated. Crawl space dirt floor has been poly'd and the foundation walls spray foamed.

Next Moves:

I was thinking of adding soffit gaurds, adding a layer of poly over the entire floor of the attic to help air-seal, and then blowing in cellulose insulation to about R-50.

Thoughts on this plan? I'd love to prevent the loss of heat into the attic to save on $ and to prevent giant icicle formation. But I'd also like not to cause other issues that I may be overlooking.

Thanks.

MtMan54
Re: Balloon Framing House Attic
MtMan54

Hi, If you are worried about the price of reframing the roof so it can be insulated properly, don't worry. The amount of savings by having a lower heating bill will more than pay for doing the work. Thanks

vicktown
Re: Balloon Framing House Attic
vicktown

That is something to consider MtMan54. We just had the roof shingled this summer so I dont think I will be redoing it again soon. The amount of space that is a 'cathedral' style ceiling is only about 4-5 feet (from the eaves towards the peak), and not the majority of the roof.

Any other tips/cautions/suggestions/comments for finishing the job?

v

brewster
Re: Balloon Framing House Attic
brewster

Good job, vicktown---I think you are on the right track in eliminating icicle formation and loss of living space heat thru the attic; yes, I think both are related.

I assume by "soffit guards" you mean aluminum/vinyl sections that will minimize winter snow buildup on the eaves/roof gutters???

A major cause of eave large icicle formation is heat getting into the attic, so the R40/R50 insulation you intend to blow into the attic is an excellent idea; as it is now, any attic heat will tend to congregate near the upper interior roof area & ridge, melt the snow there & it refreezes when it trickles down towards the eaves producing large icicles; attic insulation should also considerably reduce your heating bills; the plastic sheeting installed beforehand is also a good idea, as noted in the video below.

I was taken aback with the lack of insulation in the exterior walls---some way has to be found to resolve this omission---this is usually attended to by an insulation co. removing pieces of exterior siding & drilling small 3" holes in the exterior of the siding & blowing in cellulose or foam insulation----with a stucco exterior, this may not be feasible in your case; however, balloon framing (in most residential construction) usually DOESN'T HAVE ANY FIRE STOPS (small horizontal 2 X 4s between the vertical studs)---go up to the gable ends in your attic with a flashlight & see how far down the stud cavities you can see---you might be able to have insulation blown into most of the stud cavities from the attic, which is very easy to do & will result in considerable heating $$$ savings on your heating/AC bills.

On the soffit sides, if there are few or no fire stops inside the walls, it may be possible for the insulation co. to drill a minimum # of 3" holes in the top of the interior walls of the upper floor & blow in insulation all the way down to the cellar & cosmetically repair the access holes to complete the job.

How are the windows??? do you have relatively new double-pane windows or tightly-fitting storm windows???---this is also an excellent investment if you now have older, leaky windows & soon pays for itself in saved heating & cooling expenses.

If you need more attic ventilation & you have asphalt shingles, a RIDGE VENT is one of the easiest vents to install; the asphalt ridge cap along with the very top few inches of ridge cap sheathing is removed with a circular saw & a single-piece vinyl ridge cap, the entire length of the roof is installed---observe all safety precautions with a body harness & nylon rope rated at 500 lbs or better; any attic ventilation installed MUST HAVE A BACKING OF FINE MESH INSECT SCREENING ATTACHED TO IT---if it doesn't, the bees, wasps & other creepy insects will quickly make a home out of your attic.

If you do any insulation installation yourself, as a diy project, wearing a dust mask IS AN ABSOLUTE MUST!---as a DIYr you are liable to have lung & breathing problems in years to come if you don't wear a mask.

The You Tube videos below illustrate how to calculate & install attic ventilation, Parts 1 & 2

Notice how the insulation workers always wear a protective mask when they go into an attic.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vShj1l0PnF0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFLTho7nLOE

function
Re: Balloon Framing House Attic
function

If you are adding under eave venting now is the time to fill in those balloon framed cavities in the exterior walls. If you are having blown-in work done they might be able to fill from the top.

O course you will need to block off the bottoms of the cavities and have an electrician verify that all of your knob and tube wiring is gone.

vicktown
Re: Balloon Framing House Attic
vicktown

Thanks brewster and function.

A couple more things to clarify.

POLY:
I am starting to steer away from laying down poly in the attic. Because the joist spaces are already full of insulation, I'm thinking of using foam and caulk to find any potential air leaks (from the building envelope into the attic) and fill them, thus negating the need for poly. I'm thinking the blown in cellulose will also slow down the movement of any moisture or air that might sneak through. I've also read a few forums that suggest not using poly.

WALL INSULATION:
I will have the opportunity to blow in the gable wall and maybe the non-gable walls with the blown in cellulose insulation, but I have read mixed reviews on that process. Because the home in stucco and does not have a moisture barrier of any kind, many have suggested that the moisture will accumulate in the new insulation, get 'trapped', causing the insulation to become soaked, sink to the bottom and rot everything around it. Thoughts on this?

Also thanks for the concerns. I am fully masked up, and all the K&T is gone. New wiring throughout.

v

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