08:06PM | 01/31/99
I have a 1950’s cape style home. As is common with the design, my second floor has a smaller footprint than the first, so there is kind of an “attic” space between the second floor walls and the underside of the roof. Through doors I can gain access to these areas with relative ease.

In this space I can see the back sides of the second floor walls. I can also see the top of the ceiling for the first floor since the first floor is bigger. Lastly, I have limited access to the real attic above the second floor, which is maybe 3’ high at the center. Part of the ceilings of the second floor rooms are angles, and the plasterboard is nailed directly to the underside of the roof beams. These attic spaces get really hot in summer, and cold in winter. We are ion Northeast Pennsylvania, so snow is not uncommon.

I want to improve the insulation. Currently the second floor walls are all filled with paper-backed batts, bulging thicker than the depth of the 4” walls. But where they are exposed in this lower attic, the paper backing is deteriorated to the point that simply touching the paper turns it to dust. In these spaces it is evident that someone at one time had insulation blown-in insulation for the exposed ceilings of the first floor. Even so, it is still quite lower than the tops of the joists. Insulation was also blown in the real attic, and now it has filled the air gap under the roof, preventing air circulation.

I thought I would run another layer of insulation over the exposed backsides of the second floor walls, maybe using one of the brands that come pre-sealed in a vapor barrier. I would run them perpendicular to the old batts, and simply cover up the crumbling paper, and taping between the rows. It was suggested that it would be better to simply tack up a vapor barrier or Celotex panel, but I would have to cut the Celotex down quite a bit from a full sheet just to get it in the spaces. Besides, I’m not sure of the R-value of 45-year-old insulation, and I would not be able to put up a vapor barrier everywhere.

For the ceiling of the fist floor, I would simply lay attic batts. Unless someone thought a vapor barrier was in order too. As far as the blocked air gaps, I haven’t a clue. I can’t get those special air-gap panels to slip in due to the roofing nails. I did manage to get a length of PVC pipe inserted, thinking I would simply insert a bunch everywhere, but I believe that would crush the insulation. A cardboard tube would be too flammable.

Any suggestions? Thanks in advance!!!


03:41PM | 02/01/99
I need to ask one question concerning the upper gable above the second floor rooms. Are the ceilings flat or do they come to a peak. Cape Cods usually run 2x4's on the roof joists about 12" down from the peak. You can shimmy up the ceiling above the second floor stairs on these homes.
Since there are different types, how solid is this insulation?


01:17PM | 02/02/99
The roof is framed with 2x6’s, 16” oc, 7/12 pitch. One bedroom has about a 4’ sloop on both sides, with a 6’ flat center, and one gable dormer. The drywall is attached directly to the underside of the 2x6’s on the sloped sections. Like you said, there is probably 2X4’s holding up the center section.

The other bedroom is mostly under a shed dormer with a 50/50 flat/sloped ceiling. There is also a bathroom occupying some more 7/12 sloped ceiling and an additional gable dormer.

A standard door opens up to an unfinished portion of the second floor, where I could place a ladder and potentially gain access to the space above the second floor, which I was referring to in my original post as the second floor attic. I originally said it is about 3’ high. I may have been too kind. It’s probably more like 2’. The biggest obstruction up there is the whole-house fan. Getting past that may yield more working space, but the blown-in insulation is high above the framing.

I have complete access from gable end to gable end, behind the walls. Actually, there is only one gable end. Where the other gable end would be, is the start of the other half of the home, which is not Cape Cod style. This house is pretty unique, but for the discussion here, lets just say that I can gain access behind the walls for the entire second floor.

The existing batt insulation is much denser than modern counterparts. It looks more like lamb’s wool, and does not pull apart like the new stuff either, but more like in chunks. Probably has an R-value of 1.

Thanks, DrHome


01:17PM | 02/04/99
Believe it or not I have run into this a couple of times. The work is a real pain and it is better to do it in the winter than under a hot sunny day.
We took a hollow pole and flattened the end and drilled holes through it to fasten a 1" angle iron. Went into the crawlspace behind the bedroom walls and began poking away at the insulation, close to the roof, to break up the insulation a bit.
After enough was loosened, shoved the pole up to the gable top where my helper attached the angle iron. I then began pulling downward to scrape the top portion of the insulation.
Used a 1" angle iron since the requirement for a gable house is 1 and 1/2 inch air space and the nail heads in the roof provided the other 1/2".
I have also used this method to push insulation up these same type of houses. It is a dirty, hot, lousy job. If you fill the R-Value is not that high on yours, you may want to consider removing all of the blown-in and place fiberglass in its place.
Fiberglass is forever. It will only lose its value when it gets wet. So even though the paper is bad, the insulation is not. You would benefit from applying a product like Great Stuff around all of the outlets and ceiling fixtures before you cover up the backsides of the walls. Since many people use this place for storage, you may want to consider covering up the walls with a durable, inexpensive product like drywall to keep from tearing up the insulation.
I hope I have answered everything, if not write back and have fun!!!!!!
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