2016-03-25

Take Two: Insulation

Last week, I finished hanging the last of the insulation at 4 AM. Tired but hopeful, I feel asleep... only to have my hopes and dreams dashed less than 12 hours later, when I failed inspection because I didn't have the right insulation. But not this week! This week is different! For two reasons, in fact. First, I finished the insulation quite a bit earlier, at 11:30 PM; hanging insulation on the wall is actually pretty easy, and I didn't touch the stuff stapled to the ceiling (more on that later). Second, and much more disappointing, I'm not going to have an inspection today, because it's Good Friday.

I must admit, I'm a little bitter about the whole Good Friday thing. On the one hand, I would really like to get the inspection over with. My weekend is well-booked, so I probably couldn't work on drywall even if I wanted to, but I prefer getting things done, rather than having them hang over your head. On the other hand, the company I work for, bless its poorly-managed heart, doesn't put much stock in these new-fangled "holidays", which means I only get a handful of days off, and Good Friday isn't one of them. Instead of getting an inspection, or even getting a day off, I'm stuck at work. Holidays mean a lot less when you're not allowed to celebrate them.
But enough moaning and complaining. At least I can confidently say that I've gotten the correct insulation this time. As noted above, I replaced all the outside walls' R11 insulation with R13 insulation. Walls are fast; for most of them, you just stuff the insulation between the studs and staple the little fold-out tabs. The few studs that are a bit thinner than average only add a minute or two to slice off the extra insulation. I got most of the walls done Wednesday, both tearing down the old stuff and installing the new: all but four pieces, done in about 3 hours. I even put up some of the R11 around the non-exterior walls of the bathroom. In fact, I wasn't even tired afterward!

Yesterday, however, was a bit more of a challenge. The last four pieces were a breeze, of course... but ceilings? Ceilings are a different beast entirely. Instead of holding your arms in a natural position in front of yourself as the insulation naturally hangs down, you have to lift your arms far above your head, pressing upward to staple anything, and the insulation doesn't want to stay up. Two staples at the top can hold a piece of insulation to the wall, but you have to go staple-by-staple on the ceiling, dragging insulation across your head, trying to keep it out of your eyes. Even cutting it to fit is harder; on a wall, just hold up the insulation, mark it, and trim away. On the ceiling, you have to add "hauling it up and down a ladder" to that. And in my case, "uneven studs".

So, I left the R11 on the ceilings. It would have been as hard to remove the ceiling insulation as it was to install the wall insulation... as I still would have had to put new ceiling insulation in. If I had to add insulation to the top of the ceiling anyway, I might as well skip taking the 'bad' stuff down, and just add to it. Luckily, R11 + R19 = R30, which is what I need for the ceilings. Still, it was no walk in the park. The space between the roof and the ceiling goes from about 6 inches on the south (exterior) edge to about 16 inches on the north (interior) edge. Not counting joists, of course. The ceiling is held up with 2x4s on their sides, removing 1 1/2 inches every three feet. The roof is supported by 2x4s placed upright, removing a further 3 1/2 inches of space. That leaves a meager 11 inches at its widest. My head, complete with breathing mask, is ever so slightly less than that, but I can wiggle it through. My shoulders, however, are wide enough that the slope of the roof makes the space too small for me to actually crawl in - if I get my right shoulder in place, I can't get my head in. There's enough space for one of my kids to crawl through, but there is a staggering amount of nails, dust, and desiccated droppings up there, never mind that he'd have to shove a bunch of insulation ahead of him. It just wasn't safe. Instead, after some brainstorming, I used a really long, thin board to lift and shove insulation down widest part of the passage, then shove it over to where it needed to be. That filled it about half way - into the hallway, but not over the closet. At that point, the ducts that I'd installed were getting in the way, and my board had reached its limit. Luckily, there is a gap next to the chimney, the same gap I ran the vent through. While that space was a lot tighter, I still managed to jam enough insulation in to cover the rest of the ceiling. It's not pretty, it's not clean, and it's definitely not ideal, but it's sure a whole lot better than needing to rip down the entire ceiling, boards and all!

The nook was far easier. There are no ceiling studs on the bottom, which meant no R11, which meant I couldn't use the 5 1/2 thick R19. Instead, I used 10 inch thick R30 insulation; however, since it wasn't trying to shove it 30 feet across joists through an 11 inch hole, it was quite easy to install. I didn't even have to staple it. I had to trim a few pieces to get it to fit snugly, but I'll bet that the nook is the best insulated part of the ceiling.

Some statistics:
4 bags of R11 (about half needs to be re-purposed as sound-proofing); 1 full bag remaining
1 3/4 bags of R13, 1 1/4 remaining (the leftovers will be used in the master bathroom/closet)
1 1/2 bags of R19 insulation (the leftovers will get stuffed under floors)
3/4 bag of R30 insulation (the rest goes over the master bathroom)

Oh, and apologies for there being no pictures this time around; Lindsay took several pictures, but they seem to have vanished. Oh well. Just picture my backside hanging out of the ceiling; that's basically the view. Otherwise, the walls look just like they did before, except it says R13 instead of R11. Lesson learned there, eh?