Living

Insulating Your Basement and Little Remodel

Want to save on heating costs and reduce your energy usage? Insulation is the answer. We own an old house with old insulation and have no plans to rip out the walls… Except for the basement, that is. Here’s what it looked like:

Before you tell me it seems to look okay, let me inform you of a few things you can’t see in the photo. The floor? It’s asbestos. The cedar paneling was cheap in beat up. Also, the dropped ceiling is straight out of a cheap office building. 

The first thing we did was get rid of the asbestos floor, which wasn’t cheap. Then I personally ripped out all of the paneling with a pry bar. That was one serious work-out. It took an entire day. 

When we were installing the heat pump and adding  gas for the stove and fireplace, the ceiling collapsed and fell on the floor. So much for that.

Behind the paneling was the cement foundation and a cripple wall. This was an old house which is vulnerable to collapse in “the big one,” so we got a full earthquake retrofit. We got the cripple wall reinforced so it would not crumble during an earthquake, and the guys who did the work insulated it. There is fiberglass insulation behind the plywood in the upper right. It was up to me to insulate the cement foundation, which my father and I did with Styrofoam insulation. 

We also replaced the windows with new ones from windowestore, which I recommend for cheap, simple, and efficient windows. Unlike the old windows, the new windows open. You can’t see it in this photo, but I also insulated the interior walls with denim insulation. With the insulation and studs in place, it was ready to be drywalled. We hired a contractor who did a great job. 

We still need paint, a baseboard, and a floor, both otherwise it’s in good shape!

The rest of the basement was leaking heat as well. I sealed up the ducting with duct sealer, foil tape, and some ordinary household aluminum foil (there were a few big holes) and put duct insulation around it all. I used both faced fiberglass insulation and the bubble wrap kind, and highly recommend the bubble wrap stuff – fiberglass is awful, and trying to install it in some tight corner with a fogged up face mask is no fun. 

The other two things I did were insulate the copper hot water pipes and add 6 inch fiberglass insulation to the ceiling around the outside of the house, which should help reduce the draft in the winter.

Leaving fiberglass insulation exposed is never a good idea, so I wrapped the whole thing in Tyvek house wrap. It’s going to stay like this until we someday perhaps maybe finish the basement, so I wanted something durable that would keep the fiberglass out of the air (cough cough). Plastic is never a good idea because it doesn’t allow moisture out, and thus makes wood more likely to rot. Tyvek is made for this purpose.

The effect of all this is to reduce our electric bills for both home heating and water heating. This will be our first full winter with the insulation in place. I expect it will make a significant difference. 

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