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Prioritizing Weatherization Upgrades

Pootklopp | Posted in General Questions on

My wife and I purchased a 1920’s home located in beautiful NJ! Located in zone 5A, it came complete with 4 different crawl space/basement configurations, balloon framing with zero exterior wall insulation, and no central air.

The previous owners had just completed a partial renovation including the kitchen and bathrooms. All windows and half the exterior doors have also been updated in this century.

I want to do something to improve the comfort and air quality of the home. But I don’t know where to start. I know the air tightness is awful. The basement has multiple sections in various states from crawl space with dirt floor to bare bones unfinished basement. The attic isn’t even on my radar because it’s so hard to access.

So, what would be a good first and second step? Is insulating the various basement/ crawl space sections even worth considering with such awful air sealing? I’m confident that I could DIY the majority of that. Would that even make a noticable difference? Or, should I prioritize an exterior renovation with new siding, insulation, and air sealing? That is obviously a huge project and would take time to complete.

As a bandaid for cold winter months and uncomfortably low humidity, would it be sensible to install a home humidification system like the Aprilaire 865?

I’m already having 2 renovation companies come out but I wanted to get more information before seeing them.

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Replies

  1. Expert Member
    Michael Maines | | #1

    Step 1: Keep bulk water/stormwater from entering the house (i.e., fix the roof if necessary, address flashing issues, etc.)

    Step 2: Dry out the basement. Situations and solutions vary, but do this before further tightening the house. Insulate the basement walls while you're down there.

    Step 3: Air seal and insulate the attic.

    Step 4: Air seal walls and windows.

    Step 5: Insulate walls.

    Step 6: Install high-efficiency equipment for heating and ventilation, and if necessary, for cooling and/or dehumidification.

    1. Pootklopp | | #2

      Thank you for the quick response! The knowledge and helpfulness on this site is incredible.

      I should have mentioned that the previous owners had a sump and French drain installed. Outside of one record setting rain last summer we have had no bulk water issues in the home. We addressed some exterior drainage and have been good since then.

      So it looks like basement insulation is the next step. High humidity has not been an issue since we run a dehumidifier down there during warm weather. We are planning to upgrade to a more robust unit this spring.

      Concerning the varied crawl space/basement configuration I have, would follow up questions regarding best insulation practices be better suited as stand alone threads or do you think I could ask them here?

      1. Expert Member
        PETER G ENGLE PE | | #3

        Specific questions should probably get their own threads. You can also find answers to many/most of your specific questions by searching this site. There is quite a bit of information here. FWIW, last time I was there, NJ participated in the Energy Star program for home energy retrofits. You should be able to find a list of energy auditors who work within the program. They will come out and do a relatively complete energy audit with recommendations on where to get the most bang for the buck. The improvements and audit are sometimes also subsidized, though the paperwork is a PIA and the program usually runs out of funding early in the year. Even so, the results of the audit can provide a roadmap for improvements. Ideally, the auditor acts as your eyes on the project with other contractors doing the actual work. Many of the auditors will be happy to return to check the work when complete (for a fee of course). Good luck!

  2. nynick | | #4

    You keep mentioning air sealing being awful. How do you know where the leaks are coming from?

    Certainly basements can be large contributors to that, but so can attics, fireplaces, doors, windows and exhaust fans. Peter's suggestion of a Energy Audit is a good one. Contact your local utility and see if they'll coordinate that for you. Make sure you get a blower door test so you get a good indication of where your leaks are occurring.

    Basement rim joists and ceiling penetrations into vented attics can leak a lot of cold air, but you need to know where your problem areas are first before trying to fix the problem.

    1. Pootklopp | | #5

      I have a few reasons for that. The basement has 5 original windows with cheap single pane storm windows on the outside. I know they need to be replaced. I also have an old Bilco style wooden access door that is in laughable shape. Both of those are obvious and I'm going to replace them this spring. I just sealed up a crawl space access hatch in similar shape.

      I would guess the biggest culprit is the original plank exterior sheathing. I would think it's not the most air tight haha.

      I have reached out to some companies but have not heard back. I am somewhat skeptical (and why I'm here) as one of the first quotes for basement encapsulation/ insulation was recommending completely vapor impermeable(the diaper) materials for walls and floors. But I will keep looking and hopefully I'll find a knowledge company.

      Until then I'm just trying to learn as much as possible. Thanks again for the help and recommendations.

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