Attic insulation and bedroom temperature below

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Old 10-21-13, 07:34 AM
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Attic insulation and bedroom temperature below

Hello, we have a bedroom in our single story ranch that is colder in winter than the rest of the house. We looked in the attic and saw there's foam or fiberglass insulation blown in up to the joists all around, but over this particular room, there is a 6 inch layer of packed pink fiberglass. Could the insulation being done this way cause the cold air to want to come over that room?

See picture attachment #1

Then, in the attic, I also see a hole in the roof...is this normal? It's right over the cold bedroom. The hole in the roof is in the middle of the house, there are eqiuvalent bedrooms to the left & right. But only the bedroom to the left gets cold.

We are new homeowners so don't know a lot. We had an energy audit but the stuff they told us to do (windows/doors/plumbing...nothing within attic) didn't make a difference.

Thank you
 
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Old 10-21-13, 10:28 AM
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Welcome to the forums!

I assume the 'hole' is an attic vent. Normally you have vents in the soffit [intake] and then vents to exhaust the rising hot air. These vents are typically a ridge vent [continuous] gable louvered vent or as I suspect you have - metal vents located in various points near the ridge. These vents help with cooling down the attic some during the summer but also serve to keep moist air out of the attic.

Are the fiberglass batts separate from the blown insulation or is it laid on top? If laid on top of the cellulose I suspect it was an earlier attempt to insulate that room better. Is the room in question original to the house? have more windows than the other rooms? any other reason for the room to be colder? Does the AC adequately cool that room during the summer?
 
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Old 10-21-13, 10:30 AM
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Added insulation will not draw cold air to the area. It is possible that someone tried to add additional insulation over that room because it was always colder than the rest of the house. It could be from poor ducting or airflow to get heat to the room or maybe the walls are not insulated as well as the rest of the house.

The hole in your roof is an attic vent. Attics need to be ventilated to remove moisture so it does not condense on the bottom of the roof, rotting the wood. Ventilation also lowers the temp in summer which helps prolong the life of the shingles. Do you have vents in the soffits as well?
 
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Old 10-21-13, 01:43 PM
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Thanks -

Ok, I now understand what that vent is for. Just looked a little suspect as some of the wood around it is kind of rough & I could see outside light pretty easily. This is the only vent to the roof that I can see (aside from the plumbing stack & an exhaust duct from the kitchen). I don't think there are soffit vents, will check, but don't recall ever seeing any vents on the overhang of the roof.

I have not had the guts to get fully in the attic yet to do a close look-through, but I think the fiberglass batt is laid on top of already-existing blown-in insulation. The room is original to the house and it is only 14 x 8 (small ranch house). It is at the corner of the building (so has 2 exterior walls), but there is also another room at the opposite corner that shares an interior wall with this cold room. Windows on each wall of the corner for both rooms...these rooms are mirror images of one another if you sliced the house in half. And yep - A/C is also a problem with this room in summertime.

There is just nothing obvious that I can see that would explain why this room feels significantly different. When the heat is on, it blows some good heat with a good pressure just like the other room, but it's like all that heat just escapes somewhere & I don't know where it's going.

FYI: Have only had the house a couple months. Have never lived in a house so there's a lot for me to learn. Know my way around cars but don't really know jack about home repair & home construction. Very determined in adding home repairs/maintenance to my DIY toolbox.
 
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Old 10-21-13, 02:02 PM
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How many supply and return vents do you have in this room? How does that compare to the other bedrooms and how do all the rooms compare in size? How about exposure (outside walls, direction they face)?
 
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Old 10-21-13, 02:20 PM
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I have not had the guts to get fully in the attic yet to do a close look-through,
I doubt the attic is as scary as you might think. It is important to balance yourself on the rafters as the ceiling will not support your weight - no need to learn how to patch holes just yet If needed, you can bring up a piece of plywood into the attic to span the ceiling joists giving you a larger area to sit/stand on.

don't really know jack about home repair & home construction.
Not a biggie, we all started out not knowing anything ..... and most anything you run into, there is someone here that's been there and willing to guide you thru the repair.
 
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Old 10-21-13, 04:20 PM
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mitch17 -
How many supply and return vents do you have in this room? How does that compare to the other bedrooms and how do all the rooms compare in size? How about exposure (outside walls, direction they face)?
Both rooms have the same setup:
- 1 supply vent in the floor near one (exterior) wall
- 1 return vent in near the floor on the (interior) wall opposite
- size of both rooms is approx 14' x 8'
- both rooms are exposed to exterior on 2 sides (cold room: S & W, warmer room: N & W)

marksr -
I doubt the attic is as scary as you might think. It is important to balance yourself on the rafters as the ceiling will not support your weight - no need to learn how to patch holes just yet If needed, you can bring up a piece of plywood into the attic to span the ceiling joists giving you a larger area to sit/stand on.
Yeah, falling through is one concern (are rafters the same as the floor joists?). But it just looks nasty up there...feel like I need to buy a full body suit before going in there. My wife said I smelled funny / like smoke just from poking my upper body & head through the attic hatch. Lot of black stuff...not sure if it's just dirt/soot/shingles/ash/etc...And I have patched some drywall and of course after painting, it's super obvious there's a patch there (patching a small screw hole turns into a 6inch circle for some reason when I patch and then, the patched area is flat from sanding, but the walls have some bumpy texture that I'm trying to figure out what it is...I'm sure someone knows).

Not a biggie, we all started out not knowing anything ..... and most anything you run into, there is someone here that's been there and willing to guide you thru the repair.
Thanks, I appreciate that....and it's exactly what I need because I really don't have a lot of people around me who know much about home improvement (e.g., those that don't say 'just hire someone' no matter what the job is). I have tons of questions already that would probably span at least 10 of the sections within this forum...but trying to pace myself.

This heat issue is my primary concern & my wife is already complaining about the house because of the coldness & bringing up the "told you we shoulda kept looking" line!
 
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Old 10-21-13, 04:55 PM
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Apparently someone before you was cold enough to add some fiberglass batts over the blown-in fiberglass. Both insulation types could get wind-washed from any soffit venting as no baffles are showing.... Do you have any soffit vents- a exterior picture would be helpful of the roof/house from 15' away....

Gary
 
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Old 10-22-13, 03:17 AM
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my wife is already complaining .... & bringing up the "told you we shoulda kept looking" line!
All the more reason to get this figured out, gotta prove to her that you are the man
What is directly below this room?

btw - drywall can be repaired where the repair won't show,I'm sure you can too with a little guidance and textures can be duplicated [some are easier than others] Just let us know when the time comes.
 
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Old 10-22-13, 07:27 AM
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I have a thermal camera/scope and I was amazed when I first looked around inside my house on a cold day. Even in my relatively modern home I found air leaks at windows, electrical outlets, places where insulation in the walls had shifted leaving gaps and even half a wall where the insulating contractor used the wrong (lower R value) insulation. Knowing exactly where the problems were it was a easy to address most issues and decide which ones were too much trouble to tackle.

You might be able to find a HVAC or insulating contrator or inspector with thermal imaging that can come look at your house. With thermal technology heat losses are very easily & accurately spotted.
 
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Old 10-22-13, 01:10 PM
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Gary -
There are no soffit vents on the house. The only holes in the roof are that main vent in the 2nd picture, the plumbing stack, and an exhaust vent for the kitchen. I am thinking of adding an exhaust for the bathroom because the window is sealed for winter (it's one of those louver-type windows).

marksr -
Yeah, I'm pretty determined to figure this out. There's a lot with this house that I can sit & mumble & talk about regret with, but I'm all about solutions. Directly below this room is just an open corner in the basement, drywalled. Nothing there.

Pilot Dane -
I actually had an energy audit who gave us a lot of things to seal up, but this room is still cold despite the rest of the house being fine. They didn't use the infrared camera, but I feel as if I need to buy one if I really wanna solve this. Thing is, I doubt I could get a company to give me an IR-scan without me buying something from them like installing some insulation.
 
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Old 10-22-13, 02:37 PM
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It's pretty standard in an audit to talk about sealing switch & outlet boxes, weather stripping windows & doors and all the other stuff that apply to all homes. An IR camera, especially on a cold day, is the perfect tool for the job and clearly shows exactly what's going on. IR cameras are quite pricey so I would not recommend buying one but you could check your local tool rental stores to see if they have one to rent.
 
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Old 10-22-13, 02:52 PM
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Hi IBreak,
You mentioned it has brick above the foundation. Is that the structure of the house or just a facade? Describe how your walls are constructed.

Although the two rooms are similar, sharing a common wall. what faces the other interior wall of each room. Example, a bathroom would usually have plumbing running from basement to roof and will often provide an undesirable path for air.

You also mentioned that the rim joist may not be well sealed. On a cold day you can use your hand or an incense stick or other smoke source to check for excess cold air leaking in. Are there any basement windows or old vents?

Bud
 
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Old 10-22-13, 03:30 PM
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Hi Bud (feel like I know you from somewhere... ),

The brick is the structure of the house (as far as I know). When I'm in the basement, there's concrete up to about 4-5 feet and then brick continues upwards. The floor joists (looking up from within the basement) sit into the brick it looks like. So I presume the walls (from exterior to interior) are: bricks, stud framing (hopefully with insulation inside), and then drywall.

The cold room, the other interior wall is the kitchen. The warmer room, the other interior wall is the bathroom.

First floor:
..........|-------- W wall -------|........
..........|cold room | warm room|........
S wall .|----------------------| N wall
..........|kitchen ....| bathroom..| .......
..........|-----------------------| ........

Basement:
..........|-------- W wall ---------|........
..........| nothing | utility room .....|........
S wall .| laundry ....| open area... | N wall
..........| ....... open area ............| .......
..........|-------------------------| ........

The furnace/water heater are right below the warm room, so the plumbing distance is short. I'm not sure how the plumbing makes it into the kitchen (the room opposite the cold room) though. I assume it runs parallel with a floor joist to make it from the N wall to the S wall, but the ceiling is drywalled so hard to determine.

Yes, the rim joist (I'm assuming that it's the rim because it's the last joist I can see & is about 1 inch away from the brick exterior), doesn't look to be sealed. Thing is, for this problem room, the basement is drywalled so I'd have to knock down the ceiling to determine if there's a big leak there. There are basement windows in the "nothing" area. One on the S wall and on the W wall (just like on the first floor). They're the glass-blocks-with-grout-glazy-type windows.

Pilot Dane -
Awesome...I know a thermal camera is pricewise just not even part of the equation, but I just learned that there are some Home Depots around me that will rent a FLIR camera...$50 4hrs/$80 a day. I know me playing around with one for $50 is no replacement for a full energy audit by an experienced individual who is doing a blower door test at the same time, but for 50 bucks & an issue that is really getting to me, seems like it would at least get me further. Didn't even think this type of scanner would be rentable.
 
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Old 10-22-13, 03:55 PM
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IB, if you go for the IR camera, be sure to waste their time with some instructions. Practice on their dollar. Then, at home, when we use a camera in conjunction with a blower door, we depressurize the house which draws the cold air in through the leaks. You can get some of that effect by running your fan and dryer. Or even setting up a window fan to exhaust air.

Be sure their camera will take pictures and you are prepared to download them. Some better cameras will take digital images right along with the IR, which helps to identify where you are.

I will attach an article on brick homes to provide some reading and perhaps help identify what you have. One of the problems with brick is, it often requires an air gap behind it to allow drying. But that is also covered in the article.

BSD-106: Understanding Vapor Barriers — Building Science Information

Bud
 
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Old 10-23-13, 07:41 PM
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Bud, I read through that page & I'm at a loss at determining what I have. When I'm in the basement, right above the concrete foundation is just brick. On the first floor there's brick on the outside & drywall on the inside. Without cutting into a wall, how would I determine the cutaway of a wall?

Also, I think this topic should be moved to the insulation section as my original question (about the attic) was answered and the discussion is broadening.

I made a major breakthrough into figuring out why that room is cold...I've gotten the temp up a few degrees (but still not par with the other room). When we used to walk in the room, we could instantly feel the temperature change. Now, it is not as noticeable, but using a thermometer, it's still colder than the others by a degree or two (versus 3 to 4).

All I did was tighten the solid glass over the louvered window in the bathroom. It appears there was a jet stream of sorts from the bathroom into the cold room. From my diagram:

..........|-------- W wall -------|........
..........|cold room | warm room|........
S wall .|----------------------| N wall
..........|kitchen ....| bathroom..| .......
..........|-----------------------| ........

...outside air was just flowing into the cold room. That probably explains why my wife & I have gotten colds back to back & we're always sniffling.

That tells me where the cold air was coming from...but I still need to find out where the air was going (within the cold room). I plan on renting the FLIR thermal camera overnight from Home Depot (an overnight rental right before the store closes still counts as a half day...$50). I have a whole-house fan that blows into the attic that could serve as the depressurizer. I definitely will get the camera figured out before renting it. Downloading the user manual right now.
 
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Old 10-24-13, 05:43 AM
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Definitely make sure you know how to operate the camera and try to rent it on a cold day and have the heat running in the house like you normally would. The cameras best point out differences in temperature. With the house warm and cold outside leaks and poorly insulated areas stand out very clearly. Then if you can depressurize the inside of the house air leaks stand out even more clearly.

Also, think of anything you may want to do to the house in the future. Thermal cameras are great stud finders especially for exterior walls.

It's also fun to walk barefoot across a wood or tile floor and then look back at it with the camera. You can see your ghostly warm footprints. If you're brave use the camera to look at your hand or pet.
 
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Old 10-24-13, 08:10 AM
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When the house is not depressurized, warm air is being pushed out the upper leaks while the cold air is pushing in the lower leaks. Identifying warm air leaking out is more difficult than cold air leaking in. That's when the depressurizing can help. If the fan is big enough, the whole house goes negative and all leaks will show cold infiltration.

Make sure that whole house fan has a place to exhaust the air from the attic. That could be the limiting factor.

Here are some of the places you will see trouble.
1. Where the house rests on the foundation, I know, behind the drywall.
2. Recessed lights
3. The space around a chimney
4. Space around plumbing and electrical penetrations
5. Around windows
6. Around doors
7. Attic access
8. Around that attic fan. You may want to build an insulated cover for it, but kill the power so it doesn't get turned on and overheat.

I'll add an Efficiency Vermont article on air sealing:
http://www.efficiencyvermont.com/ste...ide_062507.pdf

Bud
 
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Old 10-24-13, 08:55 AM
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Bud - I'm assuming the air the whole-house fan sucks up will go out of the vent that I have in my first picture...that's the only hole in the roof/soffits that I can locate. That fan does a pretty good job of sucking up the house air (but I think it also brought a lot of outside pollutants in with it, so now we only use it to get the moisture out after a shower).

This is probably a dumb question but what are you defining as the house when you say the house rests on the foundation? My belief is that the 5ft tall concrete in the ground is the foundation. Is the brick on top of the concrete considered the foundation as well? The floor joists sit on top & interlock with the brick. I'm not sure how the floor joists are secured to the brick (I'm assuming with at least some large bolts). I just need better understanding of this stuff before I can actually ask intelligent questions....so please forgive my ignorance.

I attached some shots of a corner in the basement looking up at the floor joists/exterior walls:
#1 = (bottom to top concrete, brick, parallel floor joist with some space between brick
#2 = space between floor joist and brick
#3 = space between two floor joists & where the joists meet the brick

Also, when I had my first energy audit, he told me that outside infiltration from the basement I shouldn't concern myself with because I want the basement to suck up outside air instead of the conditioned air from the first floor. Is this true in your opinion? Therefore I did not seal up plumbing & electrical penetrations in the basement.

Thanks for the document, also very informative.
 
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Old 10-24-13, 09:08 AM
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I don't understand the energy auditors comments. Why would the basement be sucking in any air? Why is it OK to leak air from an un-conditioned basement into the house especially when allowing outside air to enter the basement.

In general air infiltration is bad even if it is via the basement. Even if you have a furnace in the basement that need air coming in for combustion I would seal off the basement from the heated portion of the house. Let the cold combustion air needed for the furnace stay sealed in the basement.

Under current code all penetrations between floor must be sealed. It's more for fire prevention but it also helps with energy efficiency. It's also now code that even floors need insulating over unconditioned spaces like a basement or crawlspace. So, their is nothing in modern building practices that says "let air infiltrate from here"
 
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Old 10-24-13, 04:32 PM
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Pilot Dane, he said that the furnace & water heater need air from outside and that they should get it from the small holes in the basement. Not sure if I misunderstood him or mixed something up, but he did say something along those lines of why the basement needs holes or non-sealed penetrations. And I thought he was only talking about outside air coming into the basement, not basement air going to the main floor.

Ok, so I take it that means I have more work to do in sealing up stuff....e.g, exterior hose faucet, dryer vent, etc.

Also, if I wanted to take down satellite dishes from the roof, I guess I don't have to fill-in the holes from the screws since the attic's air we want to match with outside air?
 
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Old 10-24-13, 07:18 PM
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Something else to explore would be the effect of having the basement ceiling sheetrocked below the warm room (mentioned in an earlier post), while the latest pix show no sheetrock or insulation in the ceiling below the cold room. It's possible that your cold basement is sucking more heat through the floor of the cold room than it is from the warm room. If that's the case, adding ceiling insulation in the basement below the cold room would be a cheap fix.

I'd also check the condition of the registers and air ducts, to make sure there are no significant obstructions in those of the cold room. A digital thermometer (purchased for less than $10) will give you accurate air temperature readings at the registers. During an inspection I was doing on a brand-new, half million $$$ home in Durango, CO on a wintry January morning, my thermometer showed the hot air supply to the kitchen being less than 70 degrees, while the other registers in the house were blowing air close to 95 degrees. A quick check in the crawl space showed that particular kitchen register not even being connected to the furnace hot air plenum--oops!

P.S. You need to fill in (seal) any holes in your roof left by removed satellite dishes--water infiltration through them can cause serious damage to the roof sheathing, support members and attic insulation.
 
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Old 10-25-13, 04:01 AM
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..... and if the dish is secured to the fascia or siding - those holes need to be filled too, same reason
 
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Old 10-25-13, 06:43 AM
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Hah, don't know why I didn't think about water coming into the holes on the roof from removed dishes...too concentrated on thermal issues. In that case, I guess I'll leave the dishes up since based on what I've learned here, they probably have no effect on the room temperature since the attic is considered external to the conditioned space.

I'm almost wishing that the basement was unfinished, would make this a lot easier. Adding insulation into the ceiling of the basement would require knocking down the drywall from below the cold room, and, the ceiling in the utility room (below the warm room) is already pretty saturated with ductwork/piping/electrical, don't know how an insulation batt would fit in there without taking a lot of time to cut to make room for stuff.

One thing is for sure - if this house didn't have any drywall, I'd go crazy with insulation. We only have maybe 6 feet separation between the buildings beside us & whenever people are talking in the gangway, sounds like it's in the house! If sound can penetrate that well, I bet that's telling of how well it's insulated?
 
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Old 10-25-13, 06:44 AM
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You can seal holes between the basement and heated part of the house and insulate the floor (basement ceiling) and leave holes in the foundation open. This would allow the furnace and water heater to get combustion air and separate the cold basement from the conditioned space above. If you do seal things up it's a good idea to observe or have a pro take a look at the flame of your gas appliances in the basement for signs that they may be starved for air.
 
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Old 10-25-13, 11:34 AM
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I know that some companies can blow-in insulation in an exterior wall by drilling into the grout between bricks & using that as a blow-in port.

Can I do the same thing in the basement with expanding foam where I make a small hole between floor joists & just spray until I can't fill it anymore? Is expanding foam ok for ductwork?
 
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Old 10-29-13, 09:04 AM
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The insulation looks pretty dirty all around, is this indicative of a bad roof or just tons of leaks between main floor/attic?
 
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Old 10-29-13, 09:43 AM
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When it's just the insulation that's dirty, it's generally just an air leak. When it's moisture damage, there will be stains on the wood and the insulation will be matted together.
 
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Old 10-29-13, 09:46 AM
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So you are saying that normally the insulation I have up there should be loose & fluffy? A lot of it does feel compressed together.
 
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Old 10-29-13, 09:53 AM
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Blown insulation will be settle over time. Your wood doesn't appear to have any moisture stains so I'd think everything is ok although it probably needs to be thicker. I'm not sure how much insulation is recommended for your locale but it should be easy enough to google and find out.
 
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Old 10-31-13, 10:36 AM
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R38 is the requirement here (Zone 5) for attic insulation. The attic joists look like 2x6's, so I know the attic can definitely use more. Thing is, if I have a lot of air leaks under the insulation, I was told I need to blow-out the old insulation, seal up the gaps, and then blow-in the new.

My curiosity though is why would a single bedroom experience this negative temperature change if according to my observations, insulation in the attic (albeit skimpy), is relatively evenly laid. From what I see from within the attic, the warm & cold rooms both have the same penetration characteristics. Exterior walls on two sides, interior walls on the other two sides, one electrical penetration in ceiling for the light.

I have yet to do the IR scan, and I think I might just end up having to find another auditor who does a more thorough inspection with actual testing as opposed to a visual scan. Was just wondering if attic insulation can describe significant differences in temperature between rooms below or if there are other things going on.
 
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