Friday, December 11, 2009

Attic Project and Good Procrastination Vibes

We have attic issues, and they are ones that cannot be ignored, as much as I'd like to. Again, it's one of those situations where I scratch my head and wonder how the previous owners dealt with it, but somehow they managed, for 25 years! There are major gaps in the sheetrock up in the attic, so much so that a lot of heat escapes into the airspace despite the double layer of insulation. Let's face it, fiberglass is fairly porous, so it can only hold in so much heat.

We noticed a problem, or rather it was pointed out early on by an experienced eye, from the beginning. From what I've been told, you want your attic to be as cold as the outside so that snow will stay on and not melt. The problem with melting is that it inevitably freezes again and forms ice dams. A sure sign of this are icicles, which are cool to look at, but spell trouble. The ice creeps back under the shingles and when it melts, it leaks onto your ceiling, and as we all know, water is the enemy to your house.

We knew we had to do something, and the solution had multiple stages to it. First off, increase air flow in the attic. This involves a number of things that I can never remember and have trouble even pronouncing, including soffits, eaves, ridge vents, and proper vent. The second stage is to stop the hot air from leaking into the attic. And the third is to get a standing seam roof. I was kind of hoping that getting a new roof would simply alleviate the need to deal with the first and second, but was told that they still need to be addressed. Nothing is invincible when it comes to water.

So I started in on the attic. I found a big hole in the sheetrock that let in a lot of hot air. There is also the issue of the frame around the chimney, which had about a one inch gap and again, lets in hot air. And finally, there are gaps in the framing and joists (redundant?) that let in warm air. All of these situations can be easily dealt with if you're Bob Vila, which I am not. Thus, the situation is never simple.

I must have asked about twenty people what to do, and go the same general response, with varying degrees of technical difficulty. Basically, I needed to seal up those gaps. This I wrestled with, since I wasn't sure what material to use. The holes are big, so simple foam won't work. I thought of rigid foam, and even drew up a sketch which I forwarded to several people before my Mentor finally emailed me and said, "If I was there right now, I'd slap you upside your head. You're way overthinking this one. Just cover the darn hole." This sentiment was seconded by our community energy expert. At least I came away from it with a pretty firm idea of what to do.

The issues that makes this so difficult for me are the fire codes. Once the word fire enters the picture, I can't take anything lightly. Even though the chimney is cold, I still feel a little uncomfortable putting flammable stuff next to it. Call me crazy, you wouldn't be the first, but I lean towards overkill. It drives my Mentor crazy.

In the end, I cut some pieces of wood and covered the holes, then caulked the edges to seal the air flow. Of course I used fire resistant caulking, which is ridiculous when you consider that the frame and wood that I sealed are flammable. Oh well, at least I feel better about it.

The next stage will be to make a skirt to seal up the chimney frame, and after consulting with 99 different contractors, I have an idea of what to do. I just need to do it. I will also seal up gaps that leak hot air and put yet another layer of fiberglass down. That should help.

The situation also calls for the diligent raking and shoveling of the snow off the roof, which is not a problem when you have reliable help nearby.

One last note, we are thinking of going with the standing seam roof, but found out that we are in the system and locked into a good price. Best of all, we can postpone the installation until Spring, which we'd like to do, and clean off the snow/ice/moss and get any trim work done (yeah, right) before they put the new roof on. Don't ask me why, but this latest development just made us happy. Procrastination is a beautiful thing, and we might very well apply it to other things, like digging the septic and ordering shiplap, but don't tell my Mentor. Then again, he's in Maine, and he can't slap me.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

No comments: