The One Thing I'd Love to See Building Enclosure Workers Do

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fiberglass batt insulation grade 1 building enclosure

I think a lot about building enclosures. I've looked at a whole lot of houses and seen a whole lot of problems with the enclosure. I've also seen a few good ones, although they're all too rare. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know I've also written about this topic a lot and have posted a lot of photos, of both the bad and the good. Today I'm going to tell you the one thing I'd love to see when I look at building enclosures.

The one thing

The building enclosure includes a lot of different components. Basically, it's a structure (standard wood framing, insulated concrete forms, structural insulated panels...) with control layers for heat, air, and moisture. It's certainly important for someone involved in every job to have a good basic understanding of control layers, but not everyone who touches the building enclosure has to know the difference between a vapor barrier and an air barrier or what the main purpose of house wrap is (to act as the liquid water control layer).

But there is one thing everyone who touches the building enclosure needs to know and do. The photo above looks nice, but it's the photo below that might give you a hint.

building enclosure breakdown

Nope. It has nothing to do with model rockets. It's the hole!

This was a thirty year old house, and it did have insulation in the attic. But it also had that open chase into the attic, putting the interior walls in direct contact with unconditioned air. Not good! They're lacking a continuous air control layer and a continuous layer of insulation.

Now you should have an idea what my one thing is, I hope. It's this:

I'd love to see everyone who touches the building enclosure—from the designers to the builder to insulation contractors to the cable guy—understand that the control layers need to be as complete and continuous as possible.

Yes, the cable guy, too. The photo below is a case in point. This house had a nice, Grade 1 layer of insulation in the attic until the cable guy came through and messed it up.

building enclosure air barrier cable guy wire hole attic 

Why is this important?

It's important because air leakage is one of the biggest energy wasters in buildings and not that hard to fix. All the little air leaks, like the unsealed cable penetration above, add up and most homes are too leaky. The result is comfort problems, moisture problems, indoor air quality problems, as well as energy bills that are too high.

It's important because insulation works a lot better when it's flat than when it's lumpy. Don't believe me? What do you think happens when only 1% of the area of an attic is uninsulated? A 1% reduction in the R-value? A 1% increase in heat loss (or gain) through the ceiling? You might be surprised to learn it's a lot more than that. See the article I wrote a few years ago on the mind-blowing hole in the building enclosure that a 1% uninsulated area represents.

So that's it. The one thing I'd like every building enclosure worker to do is make sure that they leave it as complete as continuous as possible.

 

Related Articles

Be a Controlling Building Enclosure Control Freak with Control Layers

The Pen Test — A Control Layers Tool for Architects and Contractors

Attic Stairs - A Mind-Blowing Hole in Your Building Envelope 

Flat or Lumpy - How Would You Like Your Insulation?

 

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Comments

Charles

This is the challenge of ALL building systems - eliminating "opportunities for error" or OFE's. Most people don't think about a home building site as a manufacturing operation, but it is. And those familiar with Six-Sigma and Malcom Baldridge type quality systems would know that the key to creating any quality product TIME AND TIME AGAIN is to eliminate opportunities for error on the jobsite. Stick frame construction is the most complicated method of construction allowed by law, and very tough to get right time and time again. Choose a building system that can eliminate many of these opportunities for error before you even start, and you'll be several steps ahead.

Thomas A. Peterson

I am not going to disagree with at all with the gist of what was said in the article. However, I feel that the way something was stated could be misconstrued.&nbsp; <br />&nbsp; <br />The phrase, "but not everyone who touches the building enclosure has to know the difference between a vapor barrier and an air barrier or what the main purpose of house wrap is (to act as the liquid water control layer)." While, I do not disagree with what the statement says, I do feel that the goal should be for all (including subs) who touch a building to know how the components work - - at least the ones that they are working on or close to. This will help to eliminate mistakes, note mistakes by others, and eventually train the whole construction industry to understand their part in the building science behind energy efficient buildings. As such, it will also make the "on site" building science professional's job easier to note mistakes and to provide superior quality work.&nbsp; <br />&nbsp; <br />Personally, I have always liked to build a team to approach building energy efficient buildings.

Allison Bailes

<b>Charles</b>: Yes, building a home on-site is a manufacturing operation, and a complex one. I'm all for making things as simple as possible, but I also agree with Einstein: "Everything should made as simple as possible, but not simpler."&nbsp; <br />&nbsp; <br /><b>Thomas P.</b>: I wondered if anyone would say something about that part. I certainly agree that if everyone on site knows the why behind the how, then the construction world will be a better place. That's a tall order, though, especially when the workers on site don't even all know the same language. I think that as long as the person installing the house wrap or the insulation knows how to do their job properly and there's some measure of quality control coming behind them, it really doesn't matter if they know whether the thing they're installing is for controlling heat, air, moisture, or some combination. Someone involved in the project definitely should have that knowledge, though. &nbsp; <br />

Bill Smith

Thanks for raising this Allison. Lately I've been encountering failures in good building enclosures caused by "those who come after".&nbsp; <br />&nbsp; <br />During the construction process good supervision will usually keep things in control. But when a homeowner decides they want a new exterior light two years down the road there can be big problems. I've been including a section in the owners manual about the way the enclosure works in every project (that included a manual)lately. Part of that are instructions on how to make holes; interior, exterior and through; and how to re-integrate them into the system. I don't know if that's had any effect but I always stress it when I talk to the owners at occupancy.

Thomas A. Peterson

Allison: It is a tall order and not necessarily one expected to be achieved, but it is a desirable direction to strive towards. &nbsp; <br />&nbsp; <br />I am not so much worried about the person installing the house wrap or insulation (they should know the why of what they are doing), but the person that comes behind them that is clueless and can do a lot of damage as I have too often noticed. The more mistakes that are noticed by any worker on a job, the easier will be the job of quality control (usually mine) and the more likely the results will be a quality project.

Ray Austin

The chase hole with no insulation is&nbsp; <br />a common problem in Katy, Texas and&nbsp; <br />surrounding areas. Problem homes could&nbsp; <br />be as high as 80-90%. &nbsp; <br />&nbsp; <br />Typically these mistakes are still being&nbsp; <br />made when the home is built, they just&nbsp; <br />lay bat insulation over the hole, sometimes&nbsp; <br />it may be fastened with spray foam. &nbsp; <br />&nbsp; <br />Over time someone, cable guy, plumber, &nbsp; <br />electrician or homeowner either steps&nbsp; <br />on it or places stuff in the attic&nbsp; <br />causing the bat insulation to fall&nbsp; <br />into the chase. &nbsp; <br />&nbsp; <br />Then temps hit the high realm of 105&nbsp; <br />and they home owner says the air conditioner&nbsp; <br />can not keep up. Obviously this isn't&nbsp; <br />always the only problem, but many home owners&nbsp; <br />don't believe this to be the cause because&nbsp; <br />they claim the air conditioner always&nbsp; <br />worked fine before in the heat. &nbsp; <br />&nbsp; <br />There can be even worse ones if your home&nbsp; <br />has a lot of recessed ceilings another way&nbsp; <br />to get a better idea of what this is--- is&nbsp; <br />that is it more or less a sheet rock box&nbsp; <br />that hangs from the ceiling. &nbsp; <br />&nbsp; <br />Other times they are not so obvious. If there&nbsp; <br />is any break, in the envelope it's not &nbsp; <br />good. I've been correcting these problems&nbsp; <br />for more than 6 years now there is no shortage&nbsp; <br />of this kind of problem.

Charles

This is the challenge of ALL building systems - eliminating "opportunities for error" or OFE's. Most people don't think about a home building site as a manufacturing operation, but it is. And those familiar with Six-Sigma and Malcom Baldridge type quality systems would know that the key to creating any quality product TIME AND TIME AGAIN is to eliminate opportunities for error on the jobsite. Stick frame construction is the most complicated method of construction allowed by law, and very tough to get right time and time again. Choose a building system that can eliminate many of these opportunities for error before you even start, and you'll be several steps ahead.

Thomas A. Peterson

I am not going to disagree with at all with the gist of what was said in the article. However, I feel that the way something was stated could be misconstrued. 
 
The phrase, "but not everyone who touches the building enclosure has to know the difference between a vapor barrier and an air barrier or what the main purpose of house wrap is (to act as the liquid water control layer)." While, I do not disagree with what the statement says, I do feel that the goal should be for all (including subs) who touch a building to know how the components work - - at least the ones that they are working on or close to. This will help to eliminate mistakes, note mistakes by others, and eventually train the whole construction industry to understand their part in the building science behind energy efficient buildings. As such, it will also make the "on site" building science professional's job easier to note mistakes and to provide superior quality work. 
 
Personally, I have always liked to build a team to approach building energy efficient buildings.

Allison Bailes

Charles: Yes, building a home on-site is a manufacturing operation, and a complex one. I'm all for making things as simple as possible, but I also agree with Einstein: "Everything should made as simple as possible, but not simpler." 
 
Thomas P.: I wondered if anyone would say something about that part. I certainly agree that if everyone on site knows the why behind the how, then the construction world will be a better place. That's a tall order, though, especially when the workers on site don't even all know the same language. I think that as long as the person installing the house wrap or the insulation knows how to do their job properly and there's some measure of quality control coming behind them, it really doesn't matter if they know whether the thing they're installing is for controlling heat, air, moisture, or some combination. Someone involved in the project definitely should have that knowledge, though.  

Dale Sherman

&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a gap between what science knows, and what business does." Dan Pink, NY Times. &nbsp; <br />Many of the folks who cause breaches in the control layers, either at the time of building them or later when changes are made, are operating in a survival mode. "Get the job done quickly or else..." &nbsp; <br />Instilling an ethic of quality workmanship with "git 'er done" attitude is a rare combination of traits that is seldom seen anymore. Leaving a job as good or better than you found it requires one to understand the basic science of layers that are disturbed. Did the cable guy's boss explain that he's drilling through four control layers that must be sealed? I doubt it. &nbsp; <br />Have we as an industry reached out to other industries (plumbers, electricians, cable) that may muck up our world? It wouldn't take much to make an educational video or field guide for them. Of course, we still have much work to do educating our own industry.&nbsp; <br />Good article, Allison.

Bill Smith

Thanks for raising this Allison. Lately I've been encountering failures in good building enclosures caused by "those who come after". 
 
During the construction process good supervision will usually keep things in control. But when a homeowner decides they want a new exterior light two years down the road there can be big problems. I've been including a section in the owners manual about the way the enclosure works in every project (that included a manual)lately. Part of that are instructions on how to make holes; interior, exterior and through; and how to re-integrate them into the system. I don't know if that's had any effect but I always stress it when I talk to the owners at occupancy.

Allison Bailes

<b>Bill S.</b>: What a fantastic idea! I love the idea of giving the occupants a lesson on how to make holes in the house, and including it in your owners' manual. It won't work all the time, but I bet you're helping at least a few keep their building enclosures intact.&nbsp; <br />&nbsp; <br /><b>Thomas P.</b>: Yup. For example, the control layers are on. The siding is on. Then someone decides they need another penetration through the wall so they drill through, run their stuff, and don't give a second throught to the lack of flashing around that new hole.&nbsp; <br />&nbsp; <br /><b>Ray A.</b>: Yeah, I've seen a lot of open chases, some much bigger than the one in the photo above. Much, much bigger.&nbsp; <br />&nbsp; <br /><b>Dale S.</b>: "Instilling an ethic of quality workmanship with "git 'er done" attitude is a rare combination of traits that is seldom seen anymore." All too true. And good point about reaching out to the other trades that may come behind the building enclosure folks. I know some of them read this blog, but those aren't the ones we need to worry about. &nbsp; <br />

Thomas A. Peterson

Allison: It is a tall order and not necessarily one expected to be achieved, but it is a desirable direction to strive towards.  
 
I am not so much worried about the person installing the house wrap or insulation (they should know the why of what they are doing), but the person that comes behind them that is clueless and can do a lot of damage as I have too often noticed. The more mistakes that are noticed by any worker on a job, the easier will be the job of quality control (usually mine) and the more likely the results will be a quality project.

M.Johnson

I live fairly close to Ray A. and although the house is fairly well built and air tight (5.3 ACH50), it has some vivid examples of exposing interior walls to attic air. What if anything is the conventional wisdom of what is safe to fix this? In my case I imagine lots of foam being poured in... it's not a pathway to anywhere in particular. Is this reasonable?&nbsp; <br />&nbsp; <br />Thanks for any expertise.

Ray Austin

The chase hole with no insulation is 
a common problem in Katy, Texas and 
surrounding areas. Problem homes could 
be as high as 80-90%.  
 
Typically these mistakes are still being 
made when the home is built, they just 
lay bat insulation over the hole, sometimes 
it may be fastened with spray foam.  
 
Over time someone, cable guy, plumber,  
electrician or homeowner either steps 
on it or places stuff in the attic 
causing the bat insulation to fall 
into the chase.  
 
Then temps hit the high realm of 105 
and they home owner says the air conditioner 
can not keep up. Obviously this isn't 
always the only problem, but many home owners 
don't believe this to be the cause because 
they claim the air conditioner always 
worked fine before in the heat.  
 
There can be even worse ones if your home 
has a lot of recessed ceilings another way 
to get a better idea of what this is--- is 
that is it more or less a sheet rock box 
that hangs from the ceiling.  
 
Other times they are not so obvious. If there 
is any break, in the envelope it's not  
good. I've been correcting these problems 
for more than 6 years now there is no shortage 
of this kind of problem.

Dale Sherman

“There’s a gap between what science knows, and what business does." Dan Pink, NY Times.  
Many of the folks who cause breaches in the control layers, either at the time of building them or later when changes are made, are operating in a survival mode. "Get the job done quickly or else..."  
Instilling an ethic of quality workmanship with "git 'er done" attitude is a rare combination of traits that is seldom seen anymore. Leaving a job as good or better than you found it requires one to understand the basic science of layers that are disturbed. Did the cable guy's boss explain that he's drilling through four control layers that must be sealed? I doubt it.  
Have we as an industry reached out to other industries (plumbers, electricians, cable) that may muck up our world? It wouldn't take much to make an educational video or field guide for them. Of course, we still have much work to do educating our own industry. 
Good article, Allison.

Allison Bailes

Bill S.: What a fantastic idea! I love the idea of giving the occupants a lesson on how to make holes in the house, and including it in your owners' manual. It won't work all the time, but I bet you're helping at least a few keep their building enclosures intact. 
 
Thomas P.: Yup. For example, the control layers are on. The siding is on. Then someone decides they need another penetration through the wall so they drill through, run their stuff, and don't give a second throught to the lack of flashing around that new hole. 
 
Ray A.: Yeah, I've seen a lot of open chases, some much bigger than the one in the photo above. Much, much bigger. 
 
Dale S.: "Instilling an ethic of quality workmanship with "git 'er done" attitude is a rare combination of traits that is seldom seen anymore." All too true. And good point about reaching out to the other trades that may come behind the building enclosure folks. I know some of them read this blog, but those aren't the ones we need to worry about.  

M.Johnson

I live fairly close to Ray A. and although the house is fairly well built and air tight (5.3 ACH50), it has some vivid examples of exposing interior walls to attic air. What if anything is the conventional wisdom of what is safe to fix this? In my case I imagine lots of foam being poured in... it's not a pathway to anywhere in particular. Is this reasonable? 
 
Thanks for any expertise.

Bob Kozma

When I had a Vermont Castings Defiant wood-burning stove installed many years ago, the installer moved the attic insulation [fiberglass batts] away from the stovepipe and said nothing should come in contact with the pipe, which extended from the stove through the attic and out the roof of my ranch home. But now there is an uninsulated square in the attic floor. I was thinking of building a wooden box, from the floor to the roof, to encase the stovepipe [allowing enough space so the pipe wouldn't ignite the enclosure and allowing one side to open for access to the pipe] and then insulating the enclosure on the outside. Would this be a safe and effective thing to do? Or are there better alternatives? Many thanks! Regards to all, Bob

Thomas A. Peterson

Bob,&nbsp; <br />&nbsp; <br />Follow all of the fire safety requirements and I think that it is an excellent idea although a bit expensive time-wise. It will also help to cut down on any creasote buildup in the flue pipe. &nbsp; <br />&nbsp; <br />I also wonder, if a rockwool product could be used closer to the flue pipe.&nbsp; <br />&nbsp; <br />One could also use a "Metalbestos" brand insulated flue pipe where appropriate and insulate much closer to it.&nbsp; <br />&nbsp; <br />There are probably even more alternatives, but I would just get the local firemarshal's approval for insurance purposes, should anything bad happen.

Teri Buhl

Thanks Allison. We're doing training with a customer tomorrow on "control layers". Many architects/builders still do not understand the concept of permeance and designing a wall assembly that considers climate conditions. Poking holes in the envelope just adds insult to injury! Your photos show we still have a lot to learn.

Bob Kozma

When I had a Vermont Castings Defiant wood-burning stove installed many years ago, the installer moved the attic insulation [fiberglass batts] away from the stovepipe and said nothing should come in contact with the pipe, which extended from the stove through the attic and out the roof of my ranch home. But now there is an uninsulated square in the attic floor. I was thinking of building a wooden box, from the floor to the roof, to encase the stovepipe [allowing enough space so the pipe wouldn't ignite the enclosure and allowing one side to open for access to the pipe] and then insulating the enclosure on the outside. Would this be a safe and effective thing to do? Or are there better alternatives? Many thanks! Regards to all, Bob

Thomas A. Peterson

Bob, 
 
Follow all of the fire safety requirements and I think that it is an excellent idea although a bit expensive time-wise. It will also help to cut down on any creasote buildup in the flue pipe.  
 
I also wonder, if a rockwool product could be used closer to the flue pipe. 
 
One could also use a "Metalbestos" brand insulated flue pipe where appropriate and insulate much closer to it. 
 
There are probably even more alternatives, but I would just get the local firemarshal's approval for insurance purposes, should anything bad happen.

Teri Buhl

Thanks Allison. We're doing training with a customer tomorrow on "control layers". Many architects/builders still do not understand the concept of permeance and designing a wall assembly that considers climate conditions. Poking holes in the envelope just adds insult to injury! Your photos show we still have a lot to learn.

gennaro ameno

Building Enclosure Heat Loss - A wall section thru many brick veneer multistory structures is the best example of heat loss at a building enclosure in my opinion. The perimeter steel beam and brick support angle are usually shown with loosely placed insulation at the web of the supporting beam. A infrared photo of our building shows a continuous band between each floor and ceiling space resulting in cold floors. Is there any remedy?

gennaro ameno

Building Enclosure Heat Loss - A wall section thru many brick veneer multistory structures is the best example of heat loss at a building enclosure in my opinion. The perimeter steel beam and brick support angle are usually shown with loosely placed insulation at the web of the supporting beam. A infrared photo of our building shows a continuous band between each floor and ceiling space resulting in cold floors. Is there any remedy?

Ron Keeney

Re "One Thing Builders Should Do", I noticed a key phrase at the beginning that "rang a bell" because I too encountered it when I bought a THIRTY-YEAR-OLD HOUSE. What type of insulation are we looking at in your photo? I'll offer odds that it was blown-in rock wall -- THE insulation of the late '70s and early '80s. It worked well -- AS LONG AS IT WAS SUPPORTED from underneath. Whose responsibility is it to go back AFTER the HVAC sub and "repair" the insulation support around his newly installed duct chase? In my own home, built in mid-80s, and purchased by us in 1990, the previous owners' comment was "the house was always cold". Upon thorough inspection of the attic, we found two major overlooked flaws: First, there was NO SUPPORT for the rock-wool insulation around the top of the duct chase "chimneys" and I could have taken pictures nearly identical to that shown. But the proof of the failure was that two stories below, at the bottom of the framed chase, was about an inch of loose rock wool, that had fallen out of the attic opening at the top of chase... all the way to the bottom -- absolutely useless. To fix it, we cut 1/4" hardware cloth to fit around the duct and outward to proper framing support.... and 20 years later, that loose insulation is still in place. Incidentally, one of those two "chimneys" down into the core of the house happened to be the wall that they installed the thermostat on... 15' below the attic space. &nbsp; <br /> The second discovered flaw was that they had installed a plywood cat-walk down the middle of the attic the whole length of the house. AND THEN the insulation contractor came in and spray loose fill insulation over the entire attic.... (Ever tried to spray that type of material into a 5-1/2" horizontal space between trusses when already covered with plywood? Yep -- absolutely no insulation -- in a 4' wide band the full width of the attic, just drywall, a trapped air space and a layer of 1/2" plywood. &nbsp; <br /> I estimate that solving those two flaws alone probably cut the heat loss of the house by 50%... and it probably looked real good right after it was done! &nbsp; <br /> (We also then added 6" of fiberglass, in 20' rolled batts, perpendicular to the truss cords, over top of the whole attic.) &nbsp; <br /> In my opinion, those simple actions, done by the homeowner long after construction, probably cut the heat loss by 70%.

Ron Keeney

Re "One Thing Builders Should Do", I noticed a key phrase at the beginning that "rang a bell" because I too encountered it when I bought a THIRTY-YEAR-OLD HOUSE. What type of insulation are we looking at in your photo? I'll offer odds that it was blown-in rock wall -- THE insulation of the late '70s and early '80s. It worked well -- AS LONG AS IT WAS SUPPORTED from underneath. Whose responsibility is it to go back AFTER the HVAC sub and "repair" the insulation support around his newly installed duct chase? In my own home, built in mid-80s, and purchased by us in 1990, the previous owners' comment was "the house was always cold". Upon thorough inspection of the attic, we found two major overlooked flaws: First, there was NO SUPPORT for the rock-wool insulation around the top of the duct chase "chimneys" and I could have taken pictures nearly identical to that shown. But the proof of the failure was that two stories below, at the bottom of the framed chase, was about an inch of loose rock wool, that had fallen out of the attic opening at the top of chase... all the way to the bottom -- absolutely useless. To fix it, we cut 1/4" hardware cloth to fit around the duct and outward to proper framing support.... and 20 years later, that loose insulation is still in place. Incidentally, one of those two "chimneys" down into the core of the house happened to be the wall that they installed the thermostat on... 15' below the attic space.  
The second discovered flaw was that they had installed a plywood cat-walk down the middle of the attic the whole length of the house. AND THEN the insulation contractor came in and spray loose fill insulation over the entire attic.... (Ever tried to spray that type of material into a 5-1/2" horizontal space between trusses when already covered with plywood? Yep -- absolutely no insulation -- in a 4' wide band the full width of the attic, just drywall, a trapped air space and a layer of 1/2" plywood.  
I estimate that solving those two flaws alone probably cut the heat loss of the house by 50%... and it probably looked real good right after it was done!  
(We also then added 6" of fiberglass, in 20' rolled batts, perpendicular to the truss cords, over top of the whole attic.)  
In my opinion, those simple actions, done by the homeowner long after construction, probably cut the heat loss by 70%.

Nancy

We live in a 1950's brick ranch in Detroit area of Michigan. We have added on a bedroom and family room which have insulated ceilings during new construction. The old part of the house has some blown in insulation. Our furnace and ductwork was moved to the attic after additions were built on. The house is very drafty and room temps inconsistent. We just had crawl space encapsulated by FSM. We have many roof vents and I don't think our attic gets much above 100 deg. in hot summer. Do we add insulation to floor of attic or have blown insulation put under roof rafters? This space will never be "lived in". We do not use it for storage. Thank you for your help in this matter.

Nancy

We live in a 1950's brick ranch in Detroit area of Michigan. We have added on a bedroom and family room which have insulated ceilings during new construction. The old part of the house has some blown in insulation. Our furnace and ductwork was moved to the attic after additions were built on. The house is very drafty and room temps inconsistent. We just had crawl space encapsulated by FSM. We have many roof vents and I don't think our attic gets much above 100 deg. in hot summer. Do we add insulation to floor of attic or have blown insulation put under roof rafters? This space will never be "lived in". We do not use it for storage. Thank you for your help in this matter.

Ron Keeney

"The house is very drafty and room temps inconsistent".... that does NOT sound like an insulation problem (or fix) to me. Have you looked hard at the windows? Their quality and installation? Our 30-yr-old had dble-pane "thermal windows" -- but the wood sashes fit so poorly that one could hear the wind blowing through the cracks. The basic wood windows were so cheap that many jamb-to-sash connections were literally just wood to wood, with no weatherstripping at all. As a cheap initial fix, we had storm windows installed over the outside of each window (also giving us good screens!). &nbsp; <br /> Now our biggest problem is that the storm windows are tighter than the wood frame "insulated" windows, so the house humidity leaks around the wood jambs and fogs up the storm windows....&nbsp; <br /> As a suggestion, get a couple of the cheap plastic sheet "temporary interior storm windows" -- really just a clear plastic sheet taped over the interior window trim. You'll be able to tell if the plastic is billowing from leakage when windy, if it cuts down on the drafts, and what happens to the interior humidity (where it condenses) -- all which may point you at window work, rather than more attic insulation.

Ron Keeney

"The house is very drafty and room temps inconsistent".... that does NOT sound like an insulation problem (or fix) to me. Have you looked hard at the windows? Their quality and installation? Our 30-yr-old had dble-pane "thermal windows" -- but the wood sashes fit so poorly that one could hear the wind blowing through the cracks. The basic wood windows were so cheap that many jamb-to-sash connections were literally just wood to wood, with no weatherstripping at all. As a cheap initial fix, we had storm windows installed over the outside of each window (also giving us good screens!).  
Now our biggest problem is that the storm windows are tighter than the wood frame "insulated" windows, so the house humidity leaks around the wood jambs and fogs up the storm windows.... 
As a suggestion, get a couple of the cheap plastic sheet "temporary interior storm windows" -- really just a clear plastic sheet taped over the interior window trim. You'll be able to tell if the plastic is billowing from leakage when windy, if it cuts down on the drafts, and what happens to the interior humidity (where it condenses) -- all which may point you at window work, rather than more attic insulation.

William Powers

Thanks for all your great information, including links to earlier posts.
In reading this blog and your link to an older one on the astonishing heat loss from the uninsulated 1% of attic surface that pull-down attic stairs provide.
Perhaps even bigger black hole for heat loss that I see when doing environmental inspections of homes here in the Northeast is whole house fans mounted in ceilings. Most are not even functioning, so they are not used for cooling the house in the summer as originally designed. (Let's not even go into the whole topic of the negative air pressure effect in the home running a fan and subsequently drawing who-know-what-kind of make-upair into the structure.)
These fans are obviously made out of metal- sheet metal louvres, metal struts holding up metal fan motors which have metal fan blades. If you wanted to design a radiator to efficiently move heat from the living space of the home to the attic space above, you would have a hard time designing a better one than these.
Of course, these could be covered with tons of insulation, but the money to remove them, patch and paint the ceiling would probably be returned in one heating season!
Besides the energy loss (not my company's specific reason for being in the home), the movement of heat and humidity to an attic space which then comes into contact with cold roof sheathing and framing in the winter season easily results in condensation sufficient to cause fungal (mold) activity on attic surfaces.
There you have it- whole house attic fans are giant energy black holes AND an insidious way of ensuring that you have mold growing in your attic!

William Powers

Thanks for all your great information, including links to earlier posts.
In reading this blog and your link to an older one on the astonishing heat loss from the uninsulated 1% of attic surface that pull-down attic stairs provide.
Perhaps even bigger black hole for heat loss that I see when doing environmental inspections of homes here in the Northeast is whole house fans mounted in ceilings. Most are not even functioning, so they are not used for cooling the house in the summer as originally designed. (Let's not even go into the whole topic of the negative air pressure effect in the home running a fan and subsequently drawing who-know-what-kind of make-upair into the structure.)
These fans are obviously made out of metal- sheet metal louvres, metal struts holding up metal fan motors which have metal fan blades. If you wanted to design a radiator to efficiently move heat from the living space of the home to the attic space above, you would have a hard time designing a better one than these.
Of course, these could be covered with tons of insulation, but the money to remove them, patch and paint the ceiling would probably be returned in one heating season!
Besides the energy loss (not my company's specific reason for being in the home), the movement of heat and humidity to an attic space which then comes into contact with cold roof sheathing and framing in the winter season easily results in condensation sufficient to cause fungal (mold) activity on attic surfaces.
There you have it- whole house attic fans are giant energy black holes AND an insidious way of ensuring that you have mold growing in your attic!