Posts Tagged ‘insulation’

new year, new roof

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013


Where the heck have we been? Maybe we’ve been stuck in a time loop and just barely made it back to the present. Yeah, that’s it, time loop. That sounds so much better than man are things going slowly and we just don’t have anything to share with you.

But things are picking up again! What better way to start the New Year than with a sexy new rubber roof? David was up there when it all went down during the first couple of days of the year, so he can share the deets…


Our old rubber roof was failing — not in a catastrophic way just yet, but who wants to tempt fate? Installed in ’85, it was past the end of its life and due to be replaced, plus it was leaking.

Just days after the New Year, I was surprised to hear from the roofers who said they were ready to roll. Talk about hardcore. The forecast called for  7 degrees the next morning and they showed up at dawn ready to rock. Removal of the recently fallen 8″ of snow was the first order of the day. The sun hadn’t even made it over the horizon…

8 degrees, 8" of snow to shovel off the roof.8 degrees, 8" of snow to shovel off the roof.




















That was quickly followed by removing the gravel stop around the perimeter of the roof…













Next, cutting the aging rubber roof and exposing what lay underneath…













The original roof was pitch and gravel. Then in the mid-’80s, fiberboard with fully adhered rubber was installed directly over the top of it…













Once they had the roof clean down to the original plywood sheathing, the crane started hoisting up materials…

hoisting the EPS foam to insulate the roof.












The 3” EPS foam was then ready to be installed in two layers with overlapping joints…





















New fiber board was glued down onto new plywood…





















Fancy two-part polyurethane glue was applied to bond the new fiberboard to the new plywood, so there are no fasteners to telegraph through the rubber…













Day 2 dawned with half the roof left to do…













Second verse same as the first, and then it was done!

new rubber — white to reflect the sun and save energy.




















Well, almost done. We still have 3/4 of the sheathing to remove so we can finish insulating the exterior walls, which means the final edging detail will have to wait. What you see here is temporary. In fact, when Joe and I are done, you won’t even see the edge…

temporary roof edge.




















One of the big goals of our remodel is energy efficiency, which is why we chose a white rubber roof rather than black. A lighter roof reflects the sun, which in turn reduces heat gain and lowers energy bills. In other words, white is the new black, and that makes it green.

We’ve also topped the house with 6″ of rigid EPS foam which, at R4.7 per inch = R28.2, increases our R-value and reduces our heat loss. That’s in addition to the existing 6″ of fiberglass (somewhere around R20) over which we layered the new roof.

Suffice it to say that we should be much cozier this winter.



oh the horror

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Joe, don’t go into the light!

joe, don’t go into the light!




















David, look out for the people under the stairs!

david trapped under the stairs




















Or you might call this entry Insulating and Sheetrocking in all the Hard Places You’ve Been Avoiding.

downstairs check-in

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

So what’s up down? Well, David and Joe have been busy since their last round of ceiling-up-putting with final prep for closing up the walls and ceiling.  Tell us all about it, David…


The hallway got its energy-efficient, eco-conscious makeover. Now fully denimated and insulated…

insulation down the hallway




















That ridiculously frigid storage area under the stairs got the same treatment…

insulation under the stairs




















And the bathroom will now be much warmer and cozier, too…

insulation in the bathroom ceiling




















Including the shower…

insulation over the shower




















[The concrete foundation wall was insulated earlier with 3″ EPS — the floor was also insulated, so it will definitely be more snug in here even after we tile. Gyp board (sheetrock) is the next step.]

Our electrician got all the new wiring roughed in downstairs — we passed inspection, which is why Joe and I are able to button things up. Our old electrical panel was code-compliant in 1971 but had since become outdated with a grounding system no longer acceptable. So we now have a nice shiny new 100-amp box.

All electrical boxes and ceiling lights are getting special soundproofing. Heavy putty pads are wrapped around them which block air (and noise) from getting through all the little holes and openings. The pads also add mass to the boxes so they won’t vibrate and transmit sound…

ceiling light can with insulating pad




















This thing that looks like a boring old light is actually going to become a smoke and CO2 detector…

smoke/co detector












To complete the soundproofing, the gap between the detector’s electrical box and ceiling gyp board will be filled with non-hardening acoustical caulk. The box itself will be wired to another one by the upstairs bedrooms and to a heat sensor in the garage. If one unit is triggered all three will sound the alarm, giving us the best chance to get out and get the fire department here.

All pipe and wire penetrations are getting sealed against air and noise passage as well as against fire. Special fire-rated caulk first, then expanding foam where appropriate…

fire-rated caulk seals up the penetrations




















Last minute additions to the A/V network: more smurf tube. One run from the desk area to the stereo cabinet to get digital music from the computer to the DAC, and a video cable to allow use of the TV as a monitor. Mmmmmm,  50” internets…

smurf tube for running cable and wires




















The other run goes from behind the TV to the future home of the upstairs stereo to allow for AM/FM and TV signal wires…

smurf tube thru the ceiling




















Someday soon we’re going to put antennas on the roof. That way we’ll be able to pull in distant radio stations and if the cable ever goes out we’ll still be able to get local TV channels.


window time: day 2

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

This is where we left off with windows. Now here’s where we pick up… The problem with just-in-time construction is it doesn’t allow for falling behind.

Tuesday we tried to stay ahead of the window and door installers by at least one opening. Here’s Joe applying house-wrap over the new foam+plywood and frames on the upstairs portion of the back wall…





















Joe installed the custom flashing, bending it up at the inside corners and then sealing it down with super-duper tape…





















Tape? For obvious reasons, you don’t want to put any fasteners through flashing — water has a way of getting into places you thought it couldn’t. The trick to keeping it out is to seal everything from the bottom up in order to shed the water back out. Bad flashing details can trap water and then it’s perfectly happy to cause  mold, mildew and rot — not something we want.

Next up: the two big fixed window frames. Waiting to go in, no glass in them yet…





















The aluminum window frames are thermally broken (they have a non-metallic connector between the inside and outside faces to limit heat transfer) but are ordinarily installed hollow. Joe and I decided leaving them hollow was a missed opportunity to be more energy-efficient, so I ripped 3/4″ EPS on the table saw to fit and we jammed it in there…





















Once the window frames were installed level and square (which was easy because we made the extension frames level and square), butyl rubber got applied to the inside face of the frame…





















Close-up of the frame almost ready for the glass…





















I was an honorary glass man for the day, helping hoist the new panels into place with a fancy suction cup handle. Those suckers were HEHVEE….





















Joe was the balance man…





















Once the glass was in against the butyl rubber, aluminum stops were snapped in on the outside and a rubber gasket was driven in-between the stops and the glass. No fasteners show so there’s a nice clean look.

That slot in the aluminum stop is a weep hole to let water out in case the wind drives it in there…

Glass panel installed.




















Each glass panel has a low-e coating on the inner piece of glass (“lite” in technical jargon). It acts as sort of a one-way system for radiant heat — heat from the sun can come in but can’t get back out…



The new sliders look great, perform great and slide like butter on a hot pan…





















A bump stop goes in at the top of the slider to keep fingers from being crushed…



Digging the nice, clean look of the door hardware…





















All in all, looking great from the outside…





















But wait — not done yet! The gaps between the window and door frames and the house need to be filled. Caulk can bridge small gaps just fine but bigger gaps require that foam backer rod stuffed in. This stops the caulk from falling in to the gap…

Backer rod saves caulk!




















Joe picked up a tube of this at Home Depot…





















DO NOT use this. It stank to high heaven and smelled up the whole house even though it clearly says “V.O.C. compliant.” Not good. I’ll find something braincell-friendlier for the rest of the project.

So here’s the finished caulking job. The caulk is clear so it’s hard to tell what’s happening but I promise it’s in there. You can clearly see the backer rod!

Clear caulk is freaky.




















Backer rod didn’t fill the really big gaps at the tops of the two big windows so I put blue tape across them, pushed in a bit to leave room for caulk…

Blue tape has SO many uses.












Then I filled all the gaps with expanding foam from the inside. The smaller gaps now have caulk or backer rod and caulk to stop the foam. The big gaps have the blue tape for the foam to expand up against. Soon I’ll strip the tape and caulk them from the outside, easy peasy.

What did we do before expanding foam?




















And that, my friends, was a long day.

monday update

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Ooh, more construction than deconstruction today! Tell us how it went, David…


Today Joe and I started putting the end of the house back to together. First we caulked the uneven joint between the concrete slab and the old plywood sheathing and applied ice and water barrier (a special super-sticky sealing tape). Joe bent up some aluminum into a J-shape which we attached to the old sheathing with a bead of caulk and nails. Then we cut pieces to fit from the 3” foam/plywood panels…


monday update




















… and slipped them down into the channel.

monday update 1




















They got attached to the existing 2” x 4” framing with 5” screws. The aluminum protects the foam and plywood from attack by water, ants and termites…

monday update 2




















We ran the aluminum up the sides of the new foam/plywood sheathing at each end of the wall…

monday update 3




















Then we taped the aluminum to the new sheathing with more ice and water barrier…

monday update 4




















Here you can see why we added 2” x 4” frames around the window and door openings…

monday update 5




















… we had to bring them out to the new face of the house, even with the new 3” foam/plywood sheathing!

Once the whole two-story wall has the foam/plywood layer applied, we’ll cover it with a vapor barrier. Then a layer of special breathable mesh goes on which allows air to dry the back of the siding and then the siding can go on. Whew.

Those two black hoses you see trailing down the wall…

monday update 6





















Those and the white PVC pipe are part of the new HVAC system which also went in today. More on that later. Man it was hectic upstairs and down…

monday update 7




















In a good way.


friday update

Friday, November 18th, 2011
So what’s the word on this chilly, windy day, David?
Yesterday Joe and I pulled off the vertical beveled tongue and groove siding. Then we pulled off the ledger board that held up the deck…
friday update 1
Behind was evidence of the old deck system that was replaced in the early ’80s. The house wasn’t very well sealed, which explains the dark spots on the wood there — that’s the beginnings of rot. Plus, the tar paper was not continuous and the detail around the big window was odd….
friday bad window detail
We pulled the window out…
friday update 2
… and then installed the new window opening on the outside of the old sheathing.
friday update 3
friday update 4
Next up? Insulating. Then the same procedure on the BIG windows and the slider in the living room. Oy vey.

prepping the bathroom floor

Monday, November 7th, 2011

David Bettridge will now catch us up on the downstairs bathroom as he preps for tile. Try to contain your excitement, okay?


The majority of the downstairs floor is insulated and ready for flooring but the bathroom is its own special case. Way back in March, I removed the old tiles from the floor…

the floor during




















More recently, I removed the last of the thinset (tile ‘glue’, a kind of flexible mortar). A wide chisel bit in my trusty Bosch Bulldog made short work of it…

bathroom floor | bosch bulldog

The Bulldog is a light-duty rotary hammer that has settings for drill+hammer, just drill or just hammer. Hammer drills on the other hand only have settings for just drill or drill + hammer. The Bulldog drills into 40-year old concrete like a hot knife through butter.

Once the slab was clean and smoothish, I layed down 1” tongue and groove high-density foam insulation…

bathroom floor | foam insulation




















It will act as a thermal and moisture break between the new tile floor and the slab (and planet earth) underneath. This will hopefully keep the bathroom floor more comfortable underfoot and keep the basement dry. And it will help the bathroom be more energy efficient as well.

I layed 1/2” cement board over the foam and screwed it down to the slab underneath, using Tapcon screws…

bathroom floor | cement board




















Due to their special threads and lubricated coating, they actually cut into the concrete when installed into a pre-drilled hole. Technology, gotta love it. I used a lot of screws so there would be no movement under the floor tile, and therefore no cracking.

Some lucky tile installer will trowel thinset onto the cement board, lay Schluter Ditra tile membrane down before troweling on more thin set, then setting and grouting the floor tiles. The membrane acts as another moisture barrier but more importantly it separates the tile from the floor which lets things move a little bit before any cracking takes place. Again, technology at work.

Schluter will also be providing all the metal bits and pieces that allow tile to be installed up against other materials like cork flooring, wood cabinets, mirror, etc. A small prep detail but an important one. Like they say, do it right the first time.

what’s underfoot

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

After a week of posts from Mr. Bettridge on the downstairs progress, we might just be caught up! Take it away, David…


To make the downstairs more comfortable (and cheaper to heat) in the winter, we decided to insulate the floor slab. Our house scientist wanted 2” of foam, but we didn’t think we could afford to give up that much headroom, so we decided to use 1” instead.

Then we became concerned that the foam alone might not be enough — its 20 psi load rating isn’t high enough to properly support furniture and whatnot. So we had local Branch River Plastics make us a bunch of these panels…

floor insulation panels




















It’s the same EPS (styrofoam) we used at 3” thick to insulate the foundation walls, only these are made of 1/2” thick 4’ x 8’ OSB (oriented strand board) glued to 1” EPS….

floor insulation




















The non-formaldehyde, non-outgassing OSB spreads out the weight of people and stuff on top of it and provides a nice stable surface for the finish floor to rest on…

floor insulation detail




















Underneath the foam is 6 mil plastic that acts as a vapor barrier, keeping moisture out of the floor system. Even in its not-quite-completed state, the basement is down to 45% humidity which is great.

Eventually — well, soon — the cork floor planks will be installed over the top of the insulation panels. Until then, they wait…

cork tiles waiting in the driveway




















Luckily, they’re no longer waiting in the driveway.

The last piece of sub-floor went in twice because of the leak in the foundation wall. On the right you can see the 6 mil vapor barrier coming out from under the sub-floor and up the wall. It got sealed to the 3” foam with non-hardening sealant (in that big caulking gun on the step)…

underflooring in front of steps




















Give me a few more days and I’ll show you how we’re prepping the bathroom floor in a slightly different way.

back to the walls

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

More from David on the remodel progress…


The walls downstairs are finally up and ready for the electrician to rough-in the wiring. Unfortunately, the foundation wasn’t poured dead plumb back in the ’70s (the crew was probably one toke over the line, if you know what I mean) so the furring had to be built out…





















Seriously, take a closer look. I had to build out the blocking a full 1-1/2” in one place!





















The special tape I was supposed to use for the Branch River Plastics EPS (styrofoam insulation) didn’t stick very well. By the time I’d pressed it down for the tenth time I realized I wouldn’t have access to it once the sheetrock was up. So I caulked all the joints with the PL300 I had used to glue it to the concrete and to itself…





















That should keep the moisture in the concrete where it belongs. I know the system is working because I had to pull off a section to deal with a hole in the foundation that was leaking (well, shooting) water. So far, so good.

Want to know more about the insulation in those walls? It’s here.


rockin’ the double-denim ceiling

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

This week, David Bettridge will catch us up on the downstairs progress. Drumroll, please…


When we moved in to this house, we noticed right away that sound travelled pretty well between the upstairs and downstairs. One of our goals is to fix that during the downstairs renovation. If you remember your physics, you know that sound travels as vibration. Usually we think of it as traveling through air but it can also be transmitted through other materials.

Working with Acoustical Supplies in Providence, we came up with a three-pronged attack on noise:

1. Insulation to absorb air-borne sound
2. Sealing to keep airborne sound from leaking through
3. Mass (weight) and mechanical separation to slow sound vibrating through the structure

UltraTouch Demin Insulation batts have the same R-19 insulating rating as fiberglass but have a higher STC (sound transmission control) rating…

ultratouch denim insulation




















Being made of 80% post-consumer cotton, they also have several planet-friendly benefits — they don’t cause itching like fiberglass insulation, they don’t outgas formaldehyde or any other nasties and they qualify for LEED points. Plus it’s denim. How sexy American is that?

ultratouch insulation double denim ohyeahbaby




















Once cut to the proper size the batts are pressed into place and fluffed so they aren’t too tight or too loose. Special wires are sprung into place to hold the batts so they don’t slip out of place…

ultratouch insulation in place




















UltraTouch is slightly heavier than fiberglass. But the main difference between the two is the prodigious amount of dust generated when handling the cotton and the difficulty in cutting it. Fiberglass is easy to cut with a utility knife, even while installed in a stud or rafter bay. The UltraTouch requires fairly careful measuring because it doesn’t compress nearly as much as fiberglass. Actually, this is a good thing because over-compressed insulation doesn’t work as well.

Bonded Logic, UltraTouch’s manufacturer, recommends several specialty tools for cutting it, but I didn’t plan ahead so was left trying their recommendation of a reversed fine-toothed blade in a circular saw. My grandfather’s old worm-drive trim saw fitted with a backwards plexiglass cutting blade works perfectly…

ultratouch and granddad’s circular saw




















As the ceiling installation progresses, I’ll show two more methods we’ll use to control sound. In the meantime, my wife wants to know if this double-denim ceiling makes her butt look big?