Thursday, June 11, 2015

where angels fear to tread

It's really not that things haven't been happening around here, it's just that they haven't been happening on MY schedule...  But finally, walls are all up, likely for the first time since the 40's.  That's a lot of decades to not have walls and ceilings (and to see blue sky though), it boggles one's mind really....

But since I'm still stressed out over the plastering, lets talk about what the plastering made possible, namely, attic insulation.  Believe it or not, we bought all our blown in insulation nearly five years ago when we first bought our house to get the 25% discount running at Lowe's and to beat that years tax rebate (an additional 30 percent I think?).  Installing it was not only dependent on ceilings, but also on new electrical, new roof, siding and gutter repair, as well as proper plumbing venting.  All those things have been done for years now, with over a hundred bags of cellulose and fiberglass taking up two full rooms of our third floor.

The space they took up made working on those rooms impossible, and to add insult to injury about 20 bags that were in front of windows exploded from the sun degrading the plastic bags, and a certain cat decided that all that fluff made an excellent litterbox before we discovered the issue.  

Knowing that the plastering would eventually get done I began working on the attic a month ago. Work that had already been completed included removing all the squirrel, raccoon and bird nests, insulating and sealing the third floor knee walls, and running/fixing some wiring.   The plan had been to do all this while it was still cold out, with the plastering delays the attic became my personal hell on earth.  Well over a century of household and Pittsburgh soot, soaring temps, cobwebs, rusty nails and tiny confined spaces made this one of the worst projects yet (second only to deconstructing the schoolhouse).

In the attic, first I stuffed unfaced batts into the stud bays so we didn't lose the blown in down the walls and ceiling slopes.  The knee walls that I had been able to close up were vented with Styrofoam baffles to connect them to the attic - keeping them as cold as possible in winter will hopefully help with ice dams.  The knee walls I didn't have access too (I didn't take down any plaster that could be saved) were kept cut off from the attic to cut down on chimney effect.  For those who are curious, we have an unvented slate roof.  We made no effort to seal the attic off from the exterior, so the whole house fan and small (watertight) gap between the flat widows walk and the rest of the roof provide more ventilation than we really need, but again, a cold roof helps with ice dams...  We also spray foamed all the wiring and plumbing penetrations.  We went ahead and screwed down boards to walk on, they'll be mostly useless since they'll be buried under more than a foot of insulation, but they at least make installing it easier.  Last but not least we built a platform around the attic hatch and surrounded it with an osb wall to hold back the drifts.  This will give us a place to sit on the way to accessing the roof hatch.  And last but not least, blown-in fiberglass (varying between R-38 and R-49)...

Still to do are cutting some additional batts to sit on the platform, and restoring and insulating the original beadboard attic hatch.  Now, if only I could fast forward to fall and winter to see how effective all this is.