INSULATION / VENTILATION

I was up in my attic recently and noticed I have about 6″ of insulation. Is this adequate for our climate?

The standard depth of insulation varies depending upon the type of insulation. If your attic has spray foam for instance it may only be 3.5” and have same R-Value as an attic with 14” of blown in fiberglass. My recommendation is to check to see what the R-value per inch is for your type of insulation. You’ll want to add enough insulation on top of what you have to achieve R-40. Generally speaking 6” of insulation will have a R-20 value. This amount of insulation was common in the 70’s and 80’s. Most new homes today are built with about 15” of insulation and an R-value of R-40 to R-50. The Code minimum standard is R-34 I believe.insulation-r-value

I need to install a Vent fan through my attic and roof. I have been told I should create a trap in the vent line to collect water from condensation. Is this the best approach in our cold climate?

I see this approach a lot in Lloydminster homes. I am not sure if only one or two contractors do this or if several contractors do it. My belief is that this approach is not a good idea as the trap will work to collect moisture but it will also freeze solid and block the line from venting. I have seen water traps under the insulation that keep the moisture in liquid form but most are hanging just above the insulation and are like a block of ice. My advice is to try to keep the vent short and as direct as possible to a vent in the roof. This way the moist air exits the house quickly and condensation levels are kept low. vent trap - full of ice

Once in a while I have leaks around my kitchen range hood. I am wondering if my shingles are leaking?

Leaking around any vent is usually due to frost formation and thawing. Without proper insulation the venting system will frost up when the warm moist air enters the cold attic space. On a warm day this frost will melt inside the vent line and run back down into the fan or the ceiling. A lot of builders place a water trap in the vent line to catch this water but this is not a good idea in my opinion. If the water lies in the pipe in the cold attic it will soon form a block of ice. Once this ice fills the trap the fan no longer moves any air. This is especially bad in a bathroom because the fan can no longer move out the odors or the excessive moisture. The best practice is to ensure the line and vent is properly insulated so the heat stays in the pipe until it exits the roof. 

I live in an old house which I have fixed up a lot. I find it very drafty and can even see frost lines around the old windows where the wind blows in. Will changing the windows fix the problem?

It sounds like you may have a pressure problem. That is to say you have a lower air pressure inside the house then on the outside. One common problem I come across is a lack of fresh air in the furnace room. Sometimes people install a new furnace without introducing outside air to feed the furnace. The furnace uses up air in the combustion process and vents it outside through the chimney. After a while the air in the house becomes depressurized and in older homes you start to feel and even see the cold coming in around the cracks. I would check this and even remove the trim around the windows on the inside and spray foam before changing the windows, especially if the windows are functional. Chances are the drafts are coming in around and not through the windows so simply replacing the windows may not entirely solve the problem.

What is so special about a thermal camera?

 


Here is a home that has a hidden block wall that was not fully insulated, without the thermal camera it would have never been detected and the customers heating bill would be high with no explanation. Everything looks normal with the naked eye.

                               The thermal camera shows the heat loss coming through the walls.

Why is it important to insulate the rim joist.

 

Here is a very common problem that is often not easilly fixed. This home has not been insulated along the sill plate where the main floor rests on the basement wall. As you can see from the thermal image there is a lot of heat loss from this area (dark orange line). The problem is that most of this home was finished in the basemeent and it made it very dificult and very expensive to open this area up to insulate the sill after the fact. This homeowner will have to decide if it is worth it to make the reepair or put up with the heat loss each winter.

What is Vermiculite?

 

This bag shows the name of the insulation ZONOLITE also known as Vermiculite that was used in many homes in the Midwest including Lloydminster. Most of this type of insulation in our area is know to contain some asbestos which can be harmful to Humans.
ASBESTOS TESTING IS ONE OF MANY ANCILLARY SERVICES OF BORDER INSPECTIONS – Call for more information.
Not all vermiculite insulation contains asbestos but prior to its close in 1990, much of the world’s supply of vermiculite came from a mine near Libby, Montana. This mine had a natural deposit of asbestos which resulted in the vermiculite being contaminated with asbestos. Attic insulation produced using vermiculite ore, particularly ore that originated from the Libby mine, may contain asbestos fibers. NACHI recommend that I assume vermiculite insulation contains asbestos and so should you. I strongly recommend that homeowners make every effort not to disturb vermiculite insulation in their attics. If you occasionally have to go into your attic, current best practices state you should:
  1. Make every effort to stay on the floored part of your attic and to not disturb the insulation.
  2. If you must perform activities that may disturb the attic insulation such as moving boxes (or other materials), do so as gently as possible to minimize the disturbance.
  3. Leave the attic immediately after the disturbance.
  4. If you need work done in your attic such as the installation of cable or utility lines, hire trained and certified professionals who can safely do the work.
  5. It is possible that vermiculite attic insulation can sift through cracks in the ceiling, around light fixtures, or around ceiling fans. You can prevent this by sealing the cracks and holes that insulation could pass through.
  6. Common dust masks are not effective against asbestos.
Another great website for more in-depth information on the causes of mesothelioma can be found at http://www.asbestos.com/mesothelioma/causes.php
or visit the main Asbestos web site go to www.asbestos.com.
Here you will find an article on Saskatchewan’s latest responce to Asbestos in Public buildings.
Visit Health Canada Website for more information. I will direct you to the Expedia website for their assessment on the issue rather then give my opinion.
Asbestos can cause MESOTHELIOMA. Click Here for an indepth study of MESOTHELIOMA

 

Corroded Copper pipe

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If your home was built in the 60’s you might have copper vent stacks. This is one example of what happens to copper when it has been exposed to sewer gases for 50 years. If you have a smell in your home that you cannot explain and you have copper vent piping, I suggest you cut out the wall behind the bathroom vanity and look at the copper pipe. Chances are it will look like this. I have personally changed two vent stacks in this condition. I have not seen this condition in the city when connected to the municipal sewer system.

My eaves have a build-up of ice. Why is this happening and how can I prevent it?

Ice on a roof can happen naturally with quick changes in the weather but more often than not the problem starts in the attic. When ice forms on the shingles near the eaves it is generally due to heat buildup in the attic that melts the snow on the roof causing ice damming and leaks.  A properly designed home will provide an air space at the eaves called soffit vents. These vents allow cool outside air to enter the attic at the eaves and literally mix and push the warm air up and out the roof and gable vents. When all the vents are sized and designed correctly that attic should stay cold throughout the winter and cool most of the summer. Lack of insulation or too much insulation in places also contributes to ice damming. Vapor barrier is also a critical component. 

This old house magazine has a great pictorial view of this process ad some helpful tips as well. Click here another great website I came across is here.

Is it critical that my attic be vented, if so why.

Recently I spent some time in a very wet attic space of a new home. The problem was a lack of adequate venting. Older homes tended to be able to get away with less venting because of the type of construction as there were a lot of drafts throughout the home, newer homes not so much. What happens is the warm moist air inside the home rises up through the ceiling. When this air makes contact with the cold attic space in the winter it turns to frost and creates dampness in the ceilings or even ice damming on the roof.  In summer lack of venting makes for a hot attic space that can make the home unbearably warm and even ruin your shingles.