Adding Insulation and Windows to An Older Home
LESLIE: Sean in Alabama is looking for the best way to insulate the walls. Sean, tell us about your project.
SEAN: Well, we bought a house in … that was built around the 1930s. And we wanted to know the cheapest way to insulate the exterior walls because there’s no insulation in them. And I did have an extra question to add to that. We also have a window problem. We’ve got the … like the six-panel single pane windows –
SEAN: – and I wanted to know is there a way to replace them without taking the whole casing out.
TOM: Sure. Yeah, let’s tackle first things first. Let’s talk about how you insulate those walls. If the walls are already up and there’s no insulation in them and you’re not want to take – you’re not wanting to take down the drywall or the plaster or the siding, the best thing to do is blown-in.
SEAN: Blown-in. And how do you do that? I mean do you have to cut holes into the (inaudible) -?
TOM: What happens is you drill small holes into the inside. They’re usually about an inch in diameter. And the insulation is typically cellulose; it’s treated with a fire-retardant chemical so it doesn’t burn. And it’s basically filling up those cavities in the wall.
LESLIE: The cavities between the studs.
TOM: Yeah. And I’ve found that it’s probably best to have that done by the guys that do it everyday because they’re pretty good at making sure it gets into the –
LESLIE: (overlapping, chuckling) Because it’s so messy.
TOM: Yeah, and also making sure it gets into every little nook and cranny, which is important.
SEAN: But there’s no kind of dividers in between the studs, are there? I mean like –
TOM: Well, there could be. There could be something that’s called cats (ph) or blocks, especially in a 1930’s house. It’s possible. And that’s why I say that if you have a pro do it, they know how to make sure it’s going where it’s supposed to go.
SEAN: Okay. Because they’ll probably know how much is supposed to be going in that one area.
TOM: Yeah, and if it’s … if it’s a block … if there’s a fire-stop in between, you may have to do two holes; one up high and one down low. We want to make sure we get that filled in. And then what happens is you cover it with a plug and then you plaster it; you don’t see it when it’s done.
Now, as far as replacing your windows, there are a lot of options there. Right, Leslie?
LESLIE: Oh, there are tons of options. First you want to think about what you want to do as far as is the framework okay, do you want just a replacement window. But those single-pane windows are definitely not what you want. They’re causing a lot of problems, I’m sure, for the house. It’s cold. There’s condensation.
SEAN: Mm-hmm. Sure is.
LESLIE: Really not that huge of a difference between double pane and triple pane; so save the money there. But look into things that carry low-e glass because they’re the most energy efficient. And it will also help keep the heat in your home, keep the air conditioning in your home. It helps to reflect the sunlight in and keep the heat in. So it’s really smart to think about getting the low-e glass. And it’s really not that much of a markup.
SEAN: Okay. And do you … do you know a place where I might be able to get that? Is it in like a Home Depot or a Lowe’s that has that?
TOM: Oh, absolutely. Home Depot has a great selection of replacement windows. And those are custom-ordered. You can basically go there, give the sales person your measurements and they’ll be made to fit. And they’re not very expensive. I’ve found that the replacement windows typically go from under $200 to maybe around $500, depending on the size. You’ll have options as to the type of glass. As Leslie said, double-pane low-e is best. You could also order whether or not you want grills in the glass; you want them divided up. Which, in your case, in a 1930’s house –
LESLIE: Would be really nice.
TOM: – is probably what you want because it’ll look really sharp.
TOM: And the other thing you might want to ask is if they will come out and actually do the measuring for you. There may be a small additional charge for that. But that’s the best way to make sure that the windows are measured correctly. Insulation is not that difficult to do; but if you don’t want to do it yourself, they have an installed sales program that could do it for you.
SEAN: When I called about the walls, I’d heard on your radio show – you were talking to another customer that said something about wall … certain type of wallpaper you could cover the inside of your walls with that would help.
TOM: A wallpaper that would insulate?
SEAN: Yeah, did I hear you correctly or did I just misinterpret?
TOM: Hmm. No. I don’t … I don’t think so. We may have been talking about a drywall product that doesn’t grow mold.
SEAN: Okay. Well –
TOM: Yeah. No, I think that’s a different … that was a different conversation. Okay, Sean?
SEAN: Okay. (laughing)
LESLIE: At least he’s listening.
TOM: That’s right.
SEAN: I’m listening. (laughing)
TOM: Alright, Sean. Thanks so much for calling us at –
SEAN: I love you … love your show. Appreciate it.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.