January 1, 2010

Row House Insulation - Post Two

Because we care about the planet AND the size of our heating bill, we plan to insulate our attic. Because at night? When we pad upstairs in our slippers and jammies? Brrrrrrrr! I feel like Laura Ingalls Wilder after Ma has put out the hearth fire - I should have a candle in my hand, a night cap on my head, a blind sister named Mary, and a Pa downstairs playing the fiddle. Or whatever. It's cold. Really cold.

A few years ago, the Philadelphia City Planning department wisely funded the creation of this Row House Manual.

We started digging more deeply for information on attic insulation. We spoke to National Fiber (a cellulose insulation manufacturer in Massachusetts!) and dug up a manual on attic insulation based on testing that was done for Philadelphia Row Houses several years ago. Our Holyoke row house attic is a typical of row house attic: it's a long narrow crawl space that's higher in the front than in the back.

Based on our research, the consensus seems to be:
  • We should dense pack cellulose insulation where access for air sealing is not possible. 
  • We should perform air sealing and dense pack cellulose in all other areas (loose cellulose to R-60 is fine, though it has been suggested based on the heights that filling it up would not add much in terms of cost.) 
  • We should make sure the upstairs bathroom has an exhaust fan (none currently.) 
We contacted local insulation contractors (recommended by National Fiber) for bids, and the first bid came in RIDICULOUS. The contractor wanted to build an expensive access hatch in the front bedroom closet, even though we explained it was empirically possible to squeeze in the sky light area. The back of the attic can be accessed by ceiling openings cut in the back bedroom closet and then patched up with sheetrock.

Our municipal utility, Holyoke Gas and Electricity, offers a 0% loan program for up to $5,000 in energy efficiency improvements. We plan to use the program if our application is approved.


  1. Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest! You have accomplished your first goal - here I am! :0)

  2. Wow wow good luck with that insulation! Happy new year and thanks for stopping by :)
    I would trade the kitchen for the closet too ANY time!!! Images are from Traditional Home I think, you can find great inspiration there!
    Good luck! What a project you have!
    All the best for 2010! xx

  3. Our friends Kurt and Brittnie are in Holyoke at http://www.gauthierinsulation.com

    This makes me wonder how our row house is insulated/not insulated.

  4. Hi Maggie and John
    Happy happy new year!
    I would suggest dense packing between the rafters and then filling the rest of the space with loose fill. You will get at least R50. Much more complicated is the bathroom ventilation.
    Blowing insulation is an easy but very messy job. How contractors get away with what they charge is beyond me.
    Call me anytime to discuss.

  5. Sounds like a great plan to help you keep warm!

    Thanks again for visiting my blog; hope you'll visit often!

  6. What a great post! Happy belated New Year! Stopping by from SITS!


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