Q: We are adding a room to our house with 2-by-4 studded walls. What type of insulation should we use in the walls? We are also considering increasing the insulation in our existing house.
A: There are several new types of insulation available that are effective and reasonably priced. Installing the proper type and amount of insulation can reduce utility bills significantly. Check your local building codes for minimum insulation requirements.
One very effective type of insulation mixes a special latex adhesive binder with blown-in insulation to provide rigidity. After the insulation is blown into the wall cavity, it becomes stiff enough to resist settling. Even a small insulation-void area at the top of a wall cavity, due to settling with standard insulation, can result in a great energy loss.
For the existing uninsulated walls of your house, this non-settling insulation is blown in small installation holes from outdoors. With siding, one strip is removed and small holes are drilled. With brick veneer, bricks are carefully removed and replaced after blowing in the insulation. This is not foam insulation that can give off formaldehyde.
For your room addition, fine nylon netting is stapled over the indoor edge of the studs. Then the non-settling insulation is blown in behind the netting where it becomes stiff. This eliminates energy-wasting voids and gaps; it provides an insulation value of R-4.3 per inch with fiberglass. Also, your house is more soundproof with fewer voids.
With the 2-by-4 studded walls in your addition, you have about a 3 1/2 -inch width inside the walls for insulation. Some of the new high-density fiberglass batts (insulation value of R-13 or R-15) may be cost-effective alternatives to standard R-11 batts.
For example, if your state codes require a R-16 wall insulation level, you can install high-density R-15 fiberglass batts and very inexpensive sheathing. Overall, this is less expensive than installing the cheaper standard R-11 batts with expensive rigid foam insulation sheathing. For R-19 walls, you can use high-density batts and thinner foam sheathing.
Always have your builder do an insulation level payback analysis for you. Often, while you are building an addition or retrofitting an existing house, adding extra insulation barely increases labor costs. Your building code minimums don't always offer the optimum payback.
You can write to me for "Utility Bills Update No. 005," which includes addresses and telephone numbers of the manufacturers of blown-in, non-settling insulation and high-density batts, and a payback work sheet and charts to determine the proper amount of attic, wall and floor insulation. Please include $1.50 and a self-addressed business-size envelope.
Q: I often use newspapers to get the fire started in my fireplace. Can I use old rolled up newspapers exclusively in my fireplace?
A: Old newspapers burn fairly well, but you should not use them exclusively. A mix of half wooden logs and half newspaper logs provides a more complete burn.
Be careful when burning newspapers in your fireplace. Hot ashes can be blown out into your room. Also, be careful storing old newspapers since they can become a fire hazard.
Write to James Dulley, c/o Baltimore Sun, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244.