Mr. Scout drove over from the Eastern Shore this Sunday to help me with a two-part project: making the front porch/office warmer and habitable during 30° weather.
Recapping quickly, when the ceiling went in two years ago, I put R-19 insulation between the joists and another layer of R-19 on top of that for a theoretical insular total of R-38, which should have been good enough to seal up that space and impossible to view one’s own breath while sitting at a desk. In the basement room below, I sealed the cracks in the foundation with hydraulic cement, put in a kneewall with R-13 around the foundation, and installed a new window to replace the original 1925 equipment. All of that work had no effect. After some consultation and inspection, Mr. Scout theorized that the sill plates were uncovered and leaking massive amounts of air (which they were) and that the insulation above didn’t reach all the way out to the soffits, meaning cold air was leaking in through the ceiling.
Last week, I bought a package of Tiger Foam from the manufacturer, and Sunday morning he and I pulled all of the insulation away from the sill plates in the ice room. After he donned a Tyvek suit and fabric mask, I followed him around with the tanks as he shot expanding foam across all of the sill plates, exposed cavities, and dead spaces in order to stop the airflow under the floor.
The second step was to remove the top layer of insulation from the attic space and replace it with blown fiber, making sure we filled the soffits up front with as much insulation as we could. I’m quite sure the “carpenters” who built this porch were more than just drunk; I’d bet they were truck drivers or ditch diggers or college faculty by profession—meaning they had no fucking idea how to build a structure properly, based on how half-assed this whole thing actually is.
After we wrestled a big green washing machine into the side porch, I donned the paper suit and crawled into the attic while Mr. Scout opened bales of insulation and fed the hopper. I shoved the hose as far forward into the soffits as possible and we filled the spaces with as much insulation as we could before it choked the machine. Working backwards, I filled the soffits around the perimeter and then backfilled over the open areas, adding about 6″ to 8″ of coverage over the first layer. When I finally crawled out of the space, I looked like a snowman who’d survived a volcanic eruption; tiny fluffs of paper were everywhere, covering our clothes, the area around the machine, and everywhere we walked.
After returning the machine, Mama served the four of us a delicious dinner, and we tested the new insulation with anticipation—but there was no joy to be had. To our dismay, the room remains as cold as it ever was. The basement room below is (and has been) reasonably warm, which doesn’t explain why the floor in the office is ice-cold. The insulation in the attic is now thicker and covers much more than before, which doesn’t explain why the heat is escaping so quickly.
I guess the the next step, after a few more stiff drinks, will be to commission a home energy audit to see where we’re leaking and how we can stop the bleeding.