From the intricate plaster moldings on the ceiling to the grandiose decorations on the fireplace, there’s no doubt that old homes in Kansas City have a unique charm to them. They’re also built with better craftsmanship and materials compared to the newer, mass-produced houses in the suburbs. Depending on the location, people could get these aging houses for cheap, too. It’s no wonder why people still cling onto them.
According to the National Association of Home Builders’ 2015 Eye On Housing study, 38% of houses in the United States were built in 1969 or earlier. The report stated that the median age of a home in the country is 37 years old. If you inherited a home that’s as old, or older than that, you’re lucky to own a piece of architectural history.
However, even houses aren’t immune to the pains of aging, so your inheritance may manifest such symptoms. Old homes run into a number of problems as materials degrade and building codes change. Some homes may have water problems because they use outdated or inadequately spaced pipes. Others may still have structural components that are now deemed unsafe. These problems vary from house to house, but a common issue in some aging houses is poor insulation – or the lack of it. So, despite the benefits you may gain from your old-house inheritance, insulation may be something you need to check and fix.
Importance of Insulation
According to experts from Realtor.com, old homes, especially ones built on or before the 1960s, weren’t built with insulation in mind. This is because energy prices were so low back then that people just cranked up their heaters or ACs with no fear of raising the bills. Now that we’re constantly facing higher electricity costs, and trying to reduce our carbon footprint as well, we need insulation to keep our homes energy efficient.
How exactly does insulation lower your bills?
The United States Department of Energy (DOE) says that the heat of your home fluctuates from warm to cool until there are no differences in temperature between all your rooms. It means that your heating and cooling appliances need to use more power to keep you comfortable. During winter, heat can slowly escape from your living room to your basement or garage, leaving you with no choice but to turn up your heater. During summer, the heat from outside enters your home, and you need to disperse that heat by cranking up your air conditioner.
The agency says that insulation is a great way to counteract the effects of these extreme weather conditions on your house by resisting heat flow. It prevents heat from escaping through the walls, floor, and ceiling during cold days. It also blocks outdoor heat from entering your abode during warm days. With insulation in your home, you consume less electricity because you don’t have to use your heater and AC to their maximum level to feel comfortable.
Knowing all these, it’s time to inspect your old home before you move in or sell your property. Here’s what you need before you start the job.
- Safety glasses
- Protective mask
- Philips screwdriver
- Your phone or a camera, to take pictures of problem areas
Before you open any floorboards or poke holes in your wall, try to see if the temperatures in the rooms are different. Turn down your heating or cooling equipment, close the windows, and try to gauge the temperature in every room. If you feel extra chilly in the living room, but not the kitchen, your walls may be poorly insulated. You can also use a smart temperature sensor to get more accurate readings. Take note of these areas.
Insulation materials don’t only block heat; they also seal your home to make sure that the cold, outside air doesn’t leak into your rooms. The DOE recommends checking walls, floors, and corners of your home for any cracks or gaps that need to be sealed. If you don’t see any cracks or gaps or are unsure about the gaps you saw, shine a light on them and ask another person to watch the other side of the wall or floor. If they see the light shining through, then it means the walls and flooring lack insulation.
Poorly sealed and insulated ceilings, floors, and walls not only act as a portal for cold drafts to enter, but they’re also a gateway for all sorts of pests to enter your home. A small rodent can easily make its way into a gap where insulation should be and create all sorts of problems. Apart from strange scratching and bumping noises at night, these pests may bring potentially life-threatening diseases with them.
Dust contaminated with mouse droppings and urine can lead to hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) when inhaled. This disease can cause your lungs to fill with fluid and your stomach to always ache. Wear a mask and gloves and inspect every corner of your house for droppings or rodent nests. If you see any signs of pests, you may want to call in a pest control specialist before you get any work done on your insulation.
Hot and Cold Surfaces
Apart from the temperature of the air inside each room, you should also check the walls and floors for any anomalies. If you find that one wall is damp or cold, it probably isn’t padded with enough insulation to resist the cold air coming from outside. Mark or take a picture of this wall or floor to point it out to your insulation service provider.
See for Yourself
The methods we’ve discussed so far are non-intrusive ways to look for poorly-insulated areas. While these methods are often effective for sniffing out places with heating and cooling issues, you won’t know for sure until you see the insulation material itself — if there are any.
Here’s how you can check your walls, ceilings, and floors.
Start from the Top
The easiest way to check on your home’s insulation material is by going up your attic. Put some old clothes on, together with all the safety equipment mentioned earlier, and head up. With your flashlight, check if the attic floor is filled to the joists with insulation material. Its appearance can vary according to the material used.
- Loose fibers or batts often indicate that it’s made of either fiberglass, rock wool, or cellulose.
- Puffs of foam mean that your home uses spray foam (SPF) insulation.
- Uniform, rectangular stacks suggest that the attic is lined with panel insulation.
If the material doesn’t cover the joists, it may not be doing enough to insulate your home. You need to add more or replace the existing foam, fibers, or panels.
A Word of Caution: Dealing With Asbestos
If your home was built before the ’80s, there’s a possibility that it may have asbestos insulation. This toxic substance was regarded as a superior insulation material because of its ability to resist extreme heat and fire. It’s also durable and long-lasting. However, asbestos was found to cause several diseases like mesothelioma and respiratory cancers when people inhaled toxic amounts of dust that come from it.
If your material has a granular shape and texture and gray in color, don’t panic – especially if you have a mask. It won’t do you any harm, but it’s best to call an asbestos removal contractor immediately to take care of it.
Go Beyond the Wall
Now that you’ve assessed your attic’s insulation, it’s time to check your walls. The DOE’s recommended way of doing this is easy and doesn’t involve any power tools. First, choose a wall with a power outlet and turn off the electricity in that area. Then, unscrew and take off the outlet cover to see inside the wall. Use your flashlight to look around the hole for insulation material.
If possible, pinch off a small amount of the material and see if it’s the same one used for the attic, or another material entirely. Do this for all the outlets in your home to see if there are any walls with no insulation.
Open up the Boards
If your old home has a wood or composite floor, heat may escape through the cracks if it doesn’t have any insulation. Plus, no one wants to walk on a cold floor. Try to lift one of your boards by prying a chisel in one of the gaps. Use your hammer’s claw to raise the board slowly until it pops out. You’ll easily see the insulation material once you take off the panel.
Now that you’ve inspected and documented the amount of insulation in your aging house, it’s time to assess your findings. If you find that your attic joists, walls, and floorboards are filled with material, you can always check for gaps and fill them in with a can of spray foam. If the areas you’ve checked have little to no material, your home is severely under-insulated.
Call an insulation contractor immediately to get the existing material replaced or have the empty areas filled in. The comfort and savings you get from proper insulation will make your old home worth keeping for another lifetime. And if you’re planning to sell your home, your buyer will likely be willing to pay a better price for an architectural wonder that’s comfortable by modern standards.
Spray Foam Insulation Services You Can Rely On
Up to 30% of your home’s heat leaks through your walls, floors, and roof when you have inadequate insulation. Here at A+ Insulation, we provide professional spray foam insulation services that can reduce your cooling and heating bills by up to 50%. It’s also an effective sealant that keeps drafts and pests at bay. We’re licensed, bonded, and insured; you can trust us for all your home insulation needs.
Contact us today for a free, no-obligation inspection of your home’s insulation.