Insulation Without Air Sealing is Like a Hamburger Without Fries!

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017 by Joy Padgett

Back in the good old days (and no, I’m not revealing my age here) when you walked into a burger joint and ordered a hamburger, the cashier would ask “Do you want fries with that?” How many of you remember this? Have you ever wondered why? Maybe it was a plot to up-sell….NOT! It’s was because, in life, there are just some things that are meant to go together. If I say “peanut butter” what comes to mind? Jelly! What about “macaroni”….does “cheese” ring a bell? If I say “Snoopy” then Charlie Brown probably comes to mind.

Insulation w/o air sealing is like a hamburger w/o fries

Well, some things may have changed, but this one simple fact remains….there are some things that are meant to go together. Period. Such is the case with insulation and air sealing. YOU SHOULD NEVER INSULATE WITHOUT AIR SEALING FIRST!

Sorry to have yelled that out, but I couldn’t risk you missing the point! The whole reason insulation is able to insulate, is because air sealing was done BEFORE it was installed. Now, although this is the way it works, I haven’t been in one single house that was actually air sealed before it was insulated. Why? Well, I don’t know, but I suspect those builders and their customers:

1. Have fallen victim to insulation company brainwashing that insulation is all you need

2. Are in a rush to meet a deadline or closing date

3. Are unaware of the need for air sealing before insulating

Let’s talk about these reasons in a little more detail.

Many have fallen victim to insulation company brainwashing.

Insulation manufacturing companies and dealerships have brainwashed people into thinking that insulation is all you need if your house is cold this winter. You wouldn’t believe the number of people I talk to on a daily basis that call in to say they need insulation. When I ask why, I get a myriad of answers, but, most of those revolve around a single issue….some room in the home is not staying warm.

Once our wonderful salesman arrives to evaluate the situation, he typically sees attic insulation that has settled and has been compromised due to dust, dirt, rodent and insect droppings, and mold. 

Dirty air washed insulation in the attic 

So, what if the insulation is still in relatively good shape? We do see this from time to time. However, evidence of air washing is still visible which means air is moving though the insulation decreasing it efficacy. Add to that the fact that can lights (recessed lighting), electrical, HVAC and plumbing penetrations haven’t been sealed, and you now have an entire attic full of insulation that is serving no real purpose except to catch dirt.

Builders and clients are in a hurry to meet a deadline or closing date.

It’s reality. Lenders often give loans with expiration dates, so customers push the builder to get the home finished and builders then push their contractors to hurry in order to meet the deadline.  This is such an unfortunate turn of events. It is difficult to know the exact date a home will be move-in ready. There are facets of the construction process that can be slowed due to weather. There can be delays with product deliveries. There can be issues scheduling inspections. Permits can be held up. How do I know? I worked for 2 builders and their customers in the Lexington area for about 6 years.

When time gets tight, cutting corners comes to the surface. Why take the time to air seal the attic? We need to get this house finished! The customer is ready to move in and their interest rate lock-in is going to expire soon! Let’s just blow the insulation in and go.

Whoa, whoa, whoa! This is a horrible injustice! I know deadlines are real and people are in a hurry, but, you’ll pay for this in the long run. It doesn’t take us long to air seal and insulate an attic, but it will cost more…initially.

Builders and customers aren’t aware of the need for air sealing before insulating.

Chalk this one up to ignorance, I guess. Nobody likes to be called ignorant. And, with technology today, getting access to information is easy. Take this blog, for example, if you’ve been tuning in, you’ve learned much about weatherization, air sealing, insulation and so forth. If you’ve just found us, well, you can still go back and read up all of this good stuff.

Sometimes builders get caught up in the latest trends in appliances, flooring and lighting to even realize that advances in building science have even occurred. Or maybe they’re just out to make a buck instead of providing their customers with the best built home they can offer. And customers also get caught up in the cosmetics of the home: the color of the front door, the carpet, the wall paint. Sometimes I think the customers put too much trust in the builder based on that builder’s reputation in their community. This prevents them from taking a more proactive part in the construction of the home.

Too busy thinking about cosmetics instead of air sealing

So, what happens when you move into a new home and you didn’t ask about air sealing and you didn’t take an active part in the construction process?

Well, as far as insulating and air sealing are concerned, you may see utility bills that are much higher than you expected. You may realize your child’s bedroom, you know, the one over the garage, isn’t staying warm this winter. You may feel drafts in some areas of your home….the kind that make you put on a sweatshirt, or grab your robe. If your home is on a crawlspace or basement, you may even find yourself walking around on floors that are cold! You may see an increase in the number of insects and spiders seeking shelter in your home. And I won’t even mention the mice you might be inviting into your home!

Does air sealing really help with all of these potential issues? Yes! Air sealing prevents air infiltration, so the warm air you want in your home during the winter will stay in your home (except for brief periods when you open an exterior door or a window). This means you won’t be using as much electricity or gas for your furnace. Air sealing, in conjunction with insulation, in the floor of the bedroom over the garage will help make that room warmer. Sealing gaps and cracks during the construction process helps reduce air infiltration, the source of draftiness in your house. Sealing the crawlspace or basement before insulating will keep floors warmer. Air sealing also reduces the number of places in your home where insects, spiders and rodents can enter.

I’m guessing by now you really understand the importance of air sealing before insulating. If you’re beginning to wonder about you house, or you have experienced any of the issues mentioned above, give us a call! The good news is this….we can help!

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