Insulate turn-of-century city row home?

Messages
260
Location
York, PA
I currently live in a brick 1900-1904 era city rowhome and was wondering if anyone knew of any options for insulation possiblities to lower heating/cooling costs. Has anyone ever done this before? My heating oil is currently budgeted at $70/month for a 12 month service contract for heating this coming winter, and I could possibly end up paying even more if oil prices are higher than contracted for or I use more oil that last year. I've thought about the idea of trying to insulate for a couple years now, but with all the exterior walls being solid brick with finishing plaster on the inside it was suggested to me that I fasten styrofoam sheeting and drywall to the inside of the walls, but it seems to me I would loose a fair bit of interior space doing that as I have 3 exterior walls on the first floor. There is also the possiblity that the first floor ceiling is open across the walkway between my house and the neighbors. All walls and ceilings are the original lathe/plaster, and the floors are currently wall-to wall carpet on all 3 floors and stairwells (installed by the previous owner). The only other issue I have is cost... Anything I have done will have to be on credit. Is it even worth it to try to do anything or should I just pay the bills and forget about it?
 
Messages
47,823
Location
Everson WA - Pacific NW USA
I say the decision is yours (space vs. energy savings). You don't need to go a full 1.5"+.5" - the new rigid foams have great R values and will buy a lot in energy savings. But first seal any cracks and insulate any areas like the one you mention that don't consume floor surface area. The credit thing throws a new angle on the calculation. You'll have to work some numbers, how much $, interest rate, projected savings, etc - I doubt fanancially it works, but I could be wrong. Say you spend $1000 (i have no idea), and your credit card int is $25/month - but it keeps you out of no mans land of the extra therm billage......(which sounds likely) of an extra $30.... Think of resale value! Screw the rest.
 
Messages
1,904
Location
Bay Area, CA
You really need to look at where most of the energy goes. #1 Losses from air leaks around doors and windows. #2 Single pane windows #3 Roof/cieling insulation #4 (actually way down on the list) Wall insulation. Single pane wood windows are actually not that bad as long as you seal all the air leaks. They are not that bad because the wood is a good insulation so you only get heat/cold transmittance through the glass. In contrast to aluminum window where you get a lot of transmittance through the aluminum. Another "trick" to making your home feel warmer is to use "Radiance" brand paint. It has ceramic particles in it which help to reflect the heat back in. It is hard to find, but definately worth the extra bit of money that it costs. It is not very popular because most people do not understand how it works. However, it is definately not snake oil.
 
Messages
4,378
Location
Camas, WA
A former coworker had a beautifully built house from the 1950s, with old growth redwood siding and such. They had used foil in the walls instead of insulation, which combined with the tight construction made for a more comfortable house than the one that we live in, which was built by cavemen in the late 70s using special 'loose construction techniques' (actually the cabinet and trim guys did ok).
 

JHZR2

Staff member
Messages
46,274
Location
New Jersey
quote:
Originally posted by kreigle: My heating oil is currently budgeted at $70/month for a 12 month service contract for heating this coming winter, and I could possibly end up paying even more if oil prices are higher than contracted for or I use more oil that last year.
Isnt this the purpose of a 'contract'? i.e. to set the price and secure it? Most all of the homes in our town are from 1900-1920. My grandparents' home had no insulation in the attic, so my grandfather and I put it in along the boards of the roof. It ididnt take much, an afternoon did it. Id say to put some insulation in at the roof or in the attic, to help prevent heat loss upwards, and then get window seals rom K-mart or equivalent, and seal up at least most of the windows - maybe dont seal the ones in the kitchen, in case youre baking and need ventilation [Smile] Doors are harder to seal up, but see if you can adjust them to fit tight, then add some leather or flexible plastic stripping to the top/bottom to help keep drafts out. Id bet you could make a big difference (big is relative...) from just spending $150-200 and some time! JMH
 

kreigle

Thread starter
Messages
260
Location
York, PA
quote:
Originally posted by Pablo: Think of resale value! Screw the rest.
In that case, then I should just do nothing. I can't even sell for what I paid, let alone recoup expenses. Property values in the area are down and homes in the city just aren't selling. Plus I found out after buying that my house is the only non-modernized house on the block (I still have the original dirt cellar).
quote:
Originally posted by Winston: You really need to look at where most of the energy goes. #1 Losses from air leaks around doors and windows. #2 Single pane windows #3 Roof/cieling insulation #4 (actually way down on the list) Wall insulation.
Let's look at these: #1 Everything leaks. Door frames seem to be original, however half the windows have been replaced by a previous owner, and everything is caulked, I can still feel cold air with my hand 6 inches away from the frames. #2 All first floor windows and half the second floor windows are 11+ year old ThermalGarde double pane windows. They leak. I have moisture inside the panes on the bay windows and all the windows feel like air comes in around the frames, even though they are all caulked in inside an out. The third floor windows are original. (The third floor is also unheated). #3 Unknown. The third floor ceiling is plaster, and about 13 feet from the floor, so I am unable to investigate it further. That is probably the worst part about this house, is the extremely high ceilings. The ceiling of the bathroom (which is the only 2-story section) has a blown insulation that looks like black fiberglass with hard black beads in it? I only know this because a leaky roof at one time in the house's history caused some of the plaster to fall down, but this was covered up by a fiberglass-mat drop ceiling. #4 only if I glue it to the interior walls. The other issue I have to deal with this year is the attached house on the one side is going to be vacant this winter, so I will loose heat through that adjoining wall this year.
 
Messages
1,779
Location
Central Iowa
I'm not familiar with the construction details of a row house-however this may work for you. I helped on a project a few years ago with a similar situation-the home was brick on the outside and plaster on the inside. We were able to remove the crown molding on the outside walls, drill holes, blow in insulation between the studs, patch the holes, then cover it up with the crown molding again. There were a few areas where we had to drill below the crown molding, but we had no problems patching it. With a little work you can patch it so the patch totally disappears. It's time consuming but the results were worth it. The house is much more energy efficient. The windows had already been upgraded and the attic was blown insulation.
 
Messages
130
Location
Colorado
Call your local utility company for an inspection and a report on ways to you can improve the efficiency of the home. They also might have a partner program where they pick up a percentage of the costs.
 
First of all $70/month isn't bad at all. Make sure you do the math to find out how many years you have to keep your house to break even with your insulating costs. If it were me, and I had $70/month heating costs, I probably wouldn't bother doing anything.
 
Messages
12,385
Location
Northern CA
quote:
Originally posted by ryansride2017: First of all $70/month isn't bad at all. Make sure you do the math to find out how many years you have to keep your house to break even with your insulating costs. If it were me, and I had $70/month heating costs, I probably wouldn't bother doing anything.
You can't do meanful measurement of everything with dollars. Better insulation results in more comfort at the same air temperature.
 

JHZR2

Staff member
Messages
46,274
Location
New Jersey
A good friend of mine from college just moved back to York... Nice area. I assume you dont spend much time on the third floor. I said what I thought above, but maybe this will help. Get the clear palstic for insulating windows, and put it on all of the third floow ones. Shouldnt cost more than $20. Keeping heat upstairs helps improve your air buffer delta T so you loose less heat. Go and get something, anything to lay along the bottom of the doors, and use it especialy at night. The very leaky windows should be covered entirely in plastic - unsightly perhaps, but it will help if they leak as much as you say. Insulate as much as you can in the third floor/attic, at least with the pink stuff that you can roll out. Set your heat to 65F and wear an extra sweater if needs be. My parents always set the heat to 65, and it has always been out of, em, cheapness... JMH
 

kreigle

Thread starter
Messages
260
Location
York, PA
quote:
Originally posted by JHZR2: A good friend of mine from college just moved back to York... Nice area. I assume you dont spend much time on the third floor. I said what I thought above, but maybe this will help. Get the clear palstic for insulating windows, and put it on all of the third floow ones. Shouldnt cost more than $20. Keeping heat upstairs helps improve your air buffer delta T so you loose less heat. Go and get something, anything to lay along the bottom of the doors, and use it especialy at night. The very leaky windows should be covered entirely in plastic - unsightly perhaps, but it will help if they leak as much as you say. Insulate as much as you can in the third floor/attic, at least with the pink stuff that you can roll out. Set your heat to 65F and wear an extra sweater if needs be. My parents always set the heat to 65, and it has always been out of, em, cheapness... JMH
Thanks. The 3rd floor is unheated and I keep the door to it closed all the time. I have plastic on one of the windows in the bathroom, it won't stick to the other becuase of the sill being unpainted. The kitchen also bugs me because it was remodelled at one time and has masonite? panelling glued to the walls. Unfortunately, the panelling channels cold air, and wherever there is no woodwork covering the edge of the panelling (like around the refrigerator, I had to remove the woodwork to fit it in between the counter and wall), there is a constant breeze. I've kept the temp @ 65 at night and during the day when no-one is home for several years now, with a digital thermostat that is programmed to raise the temp to 68 during the hours we are normally home. it is tolerable, but makes the drafts more noticable. Between the still-original doors and the leaky foundation, I wish there was more I could do. The estimated $70/mo for heating oil isn't too bad assuming the price of oil doesn't go up too much, that is what I paid for the plan last year too, and my electric this summer was $150 running 3 window units ($90 last year with 2 units). [Off Topic!] Now I hear that York city is going to raise property taxes by another 50% - Poorest peaople in the county, highest tax rate: http://www.ycedc.org/taxes.htm My house is valued at 1/3 that of my father's 6 miles away and I pay almost twice as much in taxes [I dont know] It just doesn't pay to try to fix anything up, it's a lose-lose situation. I put stuff off to try to pay off bills so i can get out of here, and they just make it harder.
 

kreigle

Thread starter
Messages
260
Location
York, PA
Thanks for all the suggestions so far. Given my current budget, I will see about plastic-sheeting a couple mor windows this year, and hope it doesn't pull the paint off again. I don't know yet if I can seal any cold air from the cellar from getting through the floor, but I will see if I can get the peep-hole windows blocked off with wood. I wish I could seal up the exterior cellar door, but I need to allow access for the gas man to read the meter - why the stupid thing is in the cellar I don't know but they refuse to move it.
 
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