Ultimate DIY Guide to Exterior Basement Foundation Waterproofing

Or How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Water damage in your basement? Cracks in your block wall? Lack of social weekend social engagements? With a bit of planning, a modest amount of money for materials, and a whole lot of time and labor, you too can excavate, dampproof, waterproof, insulate, and backfill your foundation.

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Part II: Increase Attic Intake Ventilation to Drastically Cut Cooling Costs

Is the top floor of your house a little too hot during the summer? Ours was, due to an acute lack of attic ventilation. This caused a significant heat buildup during the day that our air conditioner just couldn’t keep up with.

The second step to improving our attic ventilation was to increase the intake ventilation under the eaves. This project was inexpensive and completed incrementally over the course of several weekends.

The results of the increased ventilation were immediately felt by human and cat alike in a cooler upstairs. We were also surprised by a 25% decrease in that month’s electric bill compared to the previous year, a savings that has continued over subsequent months of A/C usage.

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Part I: Increase Attic Exhaust Ventilation to Drastically Cut Cooling Costs

Is the top floor of your house a little too hot during the summer? Ours was, due to an acute lack of attic ventilation. This caused a significant heat buildup during the day that our air conditioner just couldn’t keep up with.

The first step to improving our attic ventilation was to install a ridge vent on our roof. This project was relatively straightforward, inexpensive, and I completed it in a day. I only had to return to the big box store once, too.

The results of the increased ventilation were immediately felt by human and cat alike in a cooler upstairs. We were also surprised by a 25% decrease in that month’s electric bill compared to the previous year, a savings that has continued over subsequent months of A/C usage.

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How to Air Seal Recessed Can Lights from the Inside

If you have recessed light fixtures in your home you may also have a significant volume of conditioned air escaping into your attic. You can stem the flow of air (and money) by air sealing your light fixtures from the inside with just a roll of painter’s tape, a can of spray foam insulation, and a tube of painter’s caulk.

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Stop the Draft by Air Sealing your Baseboards

My 1961 bi-level home has all original hardwood flooring on the top-level. Where the floorboards meet the wall they’re covered by baseboard and quarter round, which in some instances masks a board that’s just a little too short. It’s within these gaps that outside air infiltrates the house.

The air that sneaks in creates a draft and in our house it’s most pronounced in the rooms directly above the garage. It’s here where I began pulling the quarter round from the baseboard. In doing so I confirmed the gaps that were allowing outdoor air into the house.

With the culprit in sight it was then time to remove the rest of the quarter round and fill in those gaps!

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Part XII: The Big Day or Actually Blowing in the Insulation

It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for! After months of work in preparation, it’s the big day for actually blowing the insulation into the attic. Now is the time to buy the insulation, rent the blower, and slog through a long and hot day of loose fill fiberglass insulation installation!

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Part XI: Mark Depth and Label Fixtures Before Blowing Insulation

A couple helpful tasks before adding insulation to your attic is to mark your desired depth and label anything you may want to find before you completely cover it.

To this end I made two different visual indicators, the first of which were brightly painted dowel rods to denote the insulation height, while the other were plastic flags affixed to the underside of the roof decking to mark anything of import below.

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Part X: Avert Fiberglass Disaster with an Attic Insulation Dam

When adding blown-in insulation to an attic it’s recommended to have a barrier to prevent insulation from accumulating above the attic hatch. Without this insulation dam the next person who enters the attic will surely be covered by inches, if not feet, of fiberglass.

Here’s how I built mine from plywood to serve as inspiration for your own building efforts.

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Part IX: Keep your Attic Cool with Ventilation Baffles

One task that needs to be completed before adding more blown-in insulation is to install attic ventilation baffles. Once finished we’ll be able to completely cover the attic floor, which will give us the best performance from the new insulation.

Currently we have a reasonable amount of old blown-in insulation that (mostly) covers the attic floor. An exception is along the external walls near the top plate, which is evident in the summer when that part of the ceiling is noticeably warmer than along the interior. (See my FLIR ONE for iOS post for proof!)

With the baffles installed we’ll have an even thicker layer of insulation with more consistent coverage. We also won’t need to worry about blocking the soffit vents so that our attic can passively vent. Hopefully the top floor of our house will stay warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer as a result.

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Part VIII: Air Seal your Top Plates, Drop Soffits, and Chases to Save Money

A big culprit for air leakage in a home is through holes in the floor of the attic. These are often found in the top-plate, drop soffits, and chases and the volume of conditioned air that escapes through them is equivalent to leaving a window wide open the year round.

Air sealing these holes and gaps will greatly reduce the expensive flow of conditioned air from inside your home to outside. All it takes is the right tools, materials, and the patience to find and then cover and seal the offending areas.

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