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Video Series: Exterior Insulation Retrofit — Introduction

Learn how to wrap a house with rigid-foam insulation
for big gains in energy efficiency and comfort

with David Joyce


Narrator: One of the most effective ways to boost an older home’s energy performance is to wrap it in thick foam. This adds R-value, but most importantly it seals the air leaks that infiltrate roofs and walls. This video series focuses on an exterior retrofit of an old home in Massachusetts.


Insulation Retrofit Complete

1. Introduction (free)

2. Strip Siding and Roofing (free)

3. Install Housewrap and Roof Underlayment

4. Install Rigid Foam Over the Walls

5. Install Rigid Foam on the Roof

6. Flash Windows Over Rigid Foam

7. Choosing Details and Materials (free)


Remodel Project: Deep Energy Retrofit

Podcast: What Is a Deep Energy Retrofit?

The History of the Chainsaw Retrofit

Roofing and Siding Jobs Are Energy-Retrofit Opportunities

David Joyce, Synergy Construction: So we’re here in Millbury, Massachusetts, and we’re going to be performing a deep energy retrofit which should, in general, lower the home’s energy use by about 70 percent.

Narrator: In this video series, David Joyce of Synergy Construction will teach you how to prep the house for rigid foam by cutting back the overhangs and installing a weather-resistant barrier to the roof and walls. Also, you’ll learn how to install multiple layers of foam, detail the inner sections, and deal with foam compression issues. Finally, you’ll learn how to flash a window opening in a thick wall so that it will be air- and watertight. One more thing: It’s important to test for lead paint on old houses before undertaking an intensive retrofit like this. If lead paint is present, follow the EPA guidelines for disposal. The house in this video was renovated before the EPA rule took effect. But the crew wrapped the old siding in plastic and disposed of it along the lines of the lead rule anyway.


  1. StandingStone | | #1

    I'm all for 70% energy reduction and rehabbing existing housing. Yet removing all the exterior finishes, wrapping them in plastic, and dumping them in the land fill honestly turns my stomach a bit. Only to wrap the house in foam, plastic and bituthane. Wow! Your making a lot of oil executives happy. Hopefully we can progress on the alternative materials front rapidly and make these "greenbuilding" projects live up to their name.

  2. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #2

    Response to David Stadler
    1. The best time to perform a deep-energy retrofit is when the siding has reached the end of its natural life and needs to be replaced anyway.

    2. Most environmentalists would agree that the best use of oil is to turn it into insulation rather than to burn it in our furnaces.

    3. If you'd rather not use foam insulation for a deep-energy retrofit, you could always use mineral wool. For more information on this option, see Installing Mineral Wool Insulation Over Exterior Wall Sheathing.

  3. StandingStone | | #3

    Greenie Weenie
    I do have mineral wool on my radar thanks to previous articles. And I do come from the hybrid school of insulation and solar gain make an excellent pairing. I would love to see more articles on non-toxic building products beyond insulation. Sheeting, adhesives, coatings, structural components, and water pipes are all things that have drawn my attention. Not to be too Hippie Dippie, but in 15 years in the construction industry I can't even begin to list the products I've used that "may cause cancer and central nervous system damage", which I suspect holds true outside of California. Responsible energy consumption is long over due, but in the current re-defining of the structures we spend our lives in I think the potential improvements should did a little deeper. I hope GreenBuildingAdvisor will hold the non-toxic building in equal regard with the energy efficient one. After all, as you eliminate air leakage and replace it with mechanical systems, which are known to fail from time to time for one reason or another, you might ask what's in the room with you? Just make sure some of those quadruple glazed windows open.

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