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Adding insulation to an old balloon-frame house

Isaac K | Posted in General Questions on

I currently have my old plaster walls down in the midst of a kitchen renovation and was planning on installing batt insulation (roxul or fiberglass) into the open exterior walls. I found some articles online saying that due to the balloon frame design of my old, wood-sided house (1890’s) this could lead to moisture and rot problems once I seal the walls back up. The balloon frame aspects of the house have been largely negated by renovations performed before I purchased – the cavity extends between floors, but not all the way to the attic or basement. I’m wondering if it’s just a better idea to leave the walls uninsulated rather then create new problems with insulation.

I’m in zone 6a and would appreciate any insight into this situation. Thanks!

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  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    The main concern with ballon-framed houses is that there are no bottom plates or top plates on the wall, so that there are unimpeded paths for air to enter the wall cavities from the basement or crawl space, and to exit the wall cavities via the attic.

    As long as you have done a good job of air sealing the bottoms of the wall cavities from the basement side, and you have done a good job or air sealing to tops of the wall cavities from the attic side, you don't have anything to worry about.

    I will add my usual advice: as you assemble the components of your wall, pay attention to airtightness.

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