One summer about 40 years ago, at a time when I was deciding between going to college and working while doing neither, my father hooked me up with a gig insulating the walls of a shoddy summer home being lived in year-round. My dad was a well-liked barfly, who knew everyone in the lakeside community where he lived. One of his drinking buddies, whose business name ended with the word “Enterprises,” sold cellulose insulation and owned a blower. Another of his buddies owned the aforementioned summerhouse. And I wanted work. Kismet.
So, on a hot and humid New Jersey−summer day, I found myself drilling 3-in. holes in the siding of that rattletrap house, stuffing in a hose, and blowing cellulose while one of my similarly underemployed friends fed shredded newspaper into the hopper.
As my sweat mixed with cellulose dust, encasing me in a paper-mache carapace, I had little understanding of what I was doing. I had no idea, for instance, if there was blocking that would keep the cellulose from fully insulating the bays, or how important it was that the insulation be blown densely enough to avoid settling, which would render it less effective.
But that was the least of it. I never thought about water. Not once did it cross my mind that the siding on almost every house leaks, never mind the siding on a post-WW2 vacation house in a community my hopper-feeding friend’s father referred to as “the poor man’s Lake Tahoe.”
And what happens to newspaper when it gets wet? It stays wet. While cellulose itself is usually treated with borates that retard fire, mold, and decay, the siding and framing of that house certainly didn’t have that protection. I’m sure I created a hell of a mess for someone down the…