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Rural Vermont Outsulation

When the wind is blowing through the walls, you have do do something

Posted on Jan 22 2010 by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor

My grandmother grew up in a sod house in South Dakota, and she often used to tell me about one of the chores she performed every fall: banking the home's walls with horse manure to help keep the family warm. In rural Vermont, the usual method of banking houses involves hay bales — in some cases supplemented with polyethylene or blue tarps.

When I moved to Vermont in 1975, I could get mulch hay for free. Now farmers sell hay for $3 a bale — even spoiled hay that's only fit for mulch. As hay gets more expensive, rural residents are turning to more modern materials to bank their walls.

Robert Riversong sent GBA this photo he took in Granville, Vermont. He labeled the photo, "Vermont GreenNeck outsulation." Thanks, Robert.

The second photo was taken by the author in Sheffield, Vermont.


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Image Credits:

  1. Robert Riversong
  2. Martin Holladay
1.
Fri, 01/29/2010 - 11:18

Outsulation
by Doug McEvers

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But doesn't this put the air barrier on the wrong side in a cold climate?


2.
Fri, 01/29/2010 - 11:24

Not only that...
by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor

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Doug,
Not only that, Doug — I think there might be an egress problem through the door and windows.


3.
Fri, 01/29/2010 - 12:09

Wrong Side?
by Riversong

Helpful? 1

Heck no, it puts the air barrier on the windy side. That's what they're trying to keep out. And, as for egress, in the event of a fire the foam board would be the first thing to burn, and punching through foam is not hard to do in a panic.

I've watched this house over the years. It started with a row of foam around the foundation and sill (much as they probably used to do with hay bales). Each year, the height of the foam surround seems to grow. I imagine after this cold winter, next year they'll just wrap the entire house in foam, leaving a little slot for pizza deliveries.


4.
Fri, 01/29/2010 - 13:13

?
by Riversong

Helpful? 1

Martin,

But that's going to make the propane tanks colder and they won't evaporate fast enough on a cold day to keep up with the heating requirements ;-)

Is that a plumbing vent under the eaves? And what is the other pipe that seems to terminate at the outer wall? And is that protrusion from the gable end the chimney chase?


5.
Fri, 01/29/2010 - 13:20

I hope I don't get our village in trouble...
by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor

Helpful? 1

Robert,
Maybe I shouldn't be answering your questions. Our little one-room post office probably doesn't need any negative publicity. If anyone stops buy to visit, please go into the lobby and buy a book of stamps.

The plumbing is a little out of the ordinary; the post office is right up against the river (Millers Run). With no room for a septic system, the postmaster has always used a combustion toilet, fired by propane. The tall stovepipe enclosed in the chase is a flue for the propane space heater; the other two vents may or may not be in use, but probably have something to do with the oddball toilet.


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