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Can't stop drafts


laynes69's Avatar
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12-24-09, 05:23 PM   #1  
Can't stop drafts

We have a 150+ year old victorian thats 2400 sq ft with 10' ceilings both upstairs and down. In 78 dad insulated the walls with urea-formaldahyde foam, probably average of 7 to 8" thick. We also have double hung double pane vinyl windows with storms over those. The walls stay warm no matter the temperature, but the base of the walls in areas are cold and drafty. Our basement has the boulder walls with a 10" beam for the topplate then the walls on top of those. I believe thats where the leaks are coming in from but im not sure. Also some leaks are coming in between the base of the beam and the foundation into the basement, which is always cold and drafty. Our attic has only 3" of cellulose because it has settles, and I can see down the interior walls from the attic. Is that one reason why the basement is so cold, from the attic? And does the attic have to do with some of the drafts? I have tried and tried to stop the drafts, and all of the original plaster has been removed and all drywalled. So I don't want to remove the drywall. Any ideas and thoughts on whats going on? I figured that the attic if insulated properly would help some but from there I have no idea. Thanks.

 
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resercon's Avatar
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12-26-09, 07:54 AM   #2  
Your description indicates the "Stack Effect". There are two important factors concerning your situation. The first is the volume of air within a confine, like a house, remains constant. In other words the volume of air that enters a house is equal to the volume of air that must be leaving the house. Another way of putting it is the drafts you feel at the bottom of your walls is a clear indication air is leaving the house. The second factor is the "Natural buoyancy of warm air". Furthermore the warmest air in your home will be at the ceiling below the attic and will result in a "High Pressure Zone" This temperature and pressure difference between inside the house and your attic will contribute to "Air Leakage" if such leakage exist.

This supports your theory that the attic has a lot to do with your discomfort. Air sealing your attic is the most prudent course of action. For small holes use spray foam. For larger hole stuff with foam pipe insulation and air seal it with spray foam. For very large holes crumple news paper in a plastic bag and stuff the hole, then use spray foam to air seal.

 
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12-26-09, 09:11 AM   #3  
If the entire stud bay of the interior walls is open, you can block them up using rigid foam and then caulk or use spray foam to seal around. You should also do this to any pipes or wiring that go from the basement into the second floor.

Try to seal the sill as much as you can with caulk and/or foam. It will be tough to seal between the sill and the foundation. I'm not sure how much you can do to deal with the stone foundation. Maybe you can put a parge coat over it.

After you have done all the air sealing, you can add more insulation to the attic. Keep in mind that insualtion like fiberglass and cellulose is not an air barrier. Air will blow through it.

 
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12-30-09, 10:54 AM   #4  
Thanks for the replies. I haven't been able to get back on here i've been busy lately. I thought about what you guys have said and I went to the attic to further investigate the issues. I found probably 25 open cavities in the attic from the living space below. This obviously causing a problem. Also I remembered that there were 2 old chimneys that were torn down from the roof. They had some crazy heat coming from around them, due to them being inbetween 2 interior walls. One thing I wondered is there are also open cavities in the walls in the ceiling of the basement. But when insense sticks are held to them it blows down instead of up? Is this cold air coming down through the walls? I can't afford spray foam, but wondered if batts of insulation placed in plastic bags and stuffed in the cavities will work. The plan would be to plug all of these voids, and there are tons of them. After that blow in insulation. From what I have been thinking, the air is flowing through the floors inbetween the first and second story then rising through the walls, therefore us losing heat. So with this done and these voids sealed, it will or should stop alot of air infiltration through the first floor? After I seal the attic, then I will seal the basement. I'll have to remove the cellouse as I go so I can find all the open voids in the attic.

 
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12-30-09, 03:27 PM   #5  
Batt insulation will not stop air flow. Use rigid foam to block the cavities if you have access. You could even use wood. Just make sure to seal all around it with caulk.

 
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12-30-09, 04:33 PM   #6  
It will be difficult getting a decent seal on the top of the cavities, being its lathe board and plaster. If I make a square in expanding foam and place the board on top of the cavity will that seal it enough? Or the same thing with the rigid foam. Sealing the areas around the 2 chimneys will be a chore in themselves.

 
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12-30-09, 05:04 PM   #7  
Hi layness, when sealing openings that can allow vertical movement of a fire, they recommend you use a fire proof material. For large openings they use metal flashing and a fire rated caulk or foam to seal it. Also 1/2" sheetrock fastened and sealed in place will work.

Bud

 
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12-30-09, 05:21 PM   #8  
Thanks, I will take that into consideration. I have alot of flashing material. Its going to take some time.

 
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12-31-09, 04:12 PM   #9  
I've sealed the top of 15 cavities tonight. I'm not sure how i'm going to seal the chimney yet. I have at least another 15-20 to seal up. Some had fiberglass stuffed in them so the cellulose wouldn't fall in to the cavities, and that the fiberglass was black from air leakage. I could feel the warmth as I was patching the cavities. I used aluminum stock and fire rated caulking. I'll place fiberglass batts over those areas then later on add more cellouse to the attic. Its difficult to find all the open cavities through the cellulose. Theres probably nothing that I can do to help me find areas without removing the cellouse right? What a crappy job.

 
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12-31-09, 04:32 PM   #10  
Are the cavities the stud walls below. There is a construction technique used in older homes where the studs were placed on the foundation walls and the beams were attached to them. Probably not describing it correctly but Google "balloon construction" to see if it matches what you are encountering. If so, then most or all of the walls and all of the cavities may be open all the way down. That may mean more work, but easier to find. Judge where the top of all walls are. The tough ones are the exterior walls, but all have to be done.

Aluminum and FR caulk should do it.

Bud

 
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12-31-09, 04:39 PM   #11  
Yeah its a balloon frame home. It looks like some of the walls are bearing and those have a top plate on them, so I doubt theres much I can do about sealing those. But the rest are open, and theres alot of them. Can I seal the external walls from the attic? I haven't got that close to them yet. As far as I know the external walls were all filled with foam.

 
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12-31-09, 04:59 PM   #12  
IMO, the easy ones should be sealed both attic and basement, all if possible. The nature of the walls in a home is that any air that leaks in anywhere can migrate to anywhere. Inside the walls it is just sheetrock up against studs, not real air tight. Ironically, the old plastered walls did a better job, especially the double plastered ones.

Bud

 
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12-31-09, 05:37 PM   #13  
I see the base of the walls at the basement. What I can't figure out is how to seal them. Do the best I can do with the same things I'm using. Someone over the years put scrap wood pieces between the wall cavity and the beam.

 
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01-01-10, 07:18 PM   #14  
I sealed 10 more cavities today and sealed a chimney in the attic. When I was looking for open cavities, I noticed on the walls with top plates, that they were warm compared to the rest of the attic. Even though the old plaster runs up to those walls, Should I scrape the small gap on both sides of the stud and seal the length of those? I don't know how much air can leak through the 1/8" gap on both sides. I already have found that the house is a little easier to heat, and is more comfortable. I'm getting some small new leaks around the windows, but caulk will take care of those. I figured those cavities I filled were equal to at least a 3ft x 4ft hole in the attic.

 
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