For the most part, whoever built the Little House did a fantastic job. For a 74-year-old pier and beam house, it’s remarkably square. Instead of traditional plaster, the original walls are Sheetrock, a product that wasn’t used extensively until about ten years after the LH was built. And yet… there’s not a stitch of insulation in the walls. In retrospect, this shouldn’t have surprised us; most homes built before WWII didn’t have wall insulation… but they need it. Why?
Allow me to get on my engineer soapbox for a moment (feel free to skip this bit): insulation increases the thermal resistance of your home’s walls, basically making it harder for heat to move through them. This means that in the summer, it’s harder for heat to get into your house. In the winter, it’s harder for it to get out of your house (technically speaking, heat always travels from warm to cold, so in the winter it’s never the cold getting in – it’s the warm getting out).
Why does all that matter? A well insulated home stays cool in the summer and warm in the winter, meaning you use less energy keeping the temperature where you want it. It’s not worth tearing down walls to add insulation, but if you happen to have the drywall down anyway, throw some insulation in the walls. It’s cheap, it’s efficient, and it’s easier to install than you think.
When installing insulation, the larger the R-value, the better. You’ll also want to get the right sized insulation for both your stud spacing and stud size. Our studs are 2x4s and are on (roughly) 15″ centers, so we bought the largest R-value insulation in that size that Home Depot carried. Depending on your sizing, you can find insulation all the way up to R-30 (and above). In our case, that was R-13. One roll set us back a whopping $12.80.
A few notes on insulation safety: fiberglass can be nasty stuff. Be sure to wear long pants and sleeves, gloves, and even a mask when installing insulation (PS. I realize Kevin isn’t wearing long pants in the photos below… he got a stern talking to for it ).
Measure you walls and the insulation. You want the insulation to go from ceiling to floor, so measure accordingly.
Cut you insulation to size using a utility knife. It’s helpful to use a board to compress the insulation so that you can cut through all the layers at once (ignore the scribbles on our board, we drew out plans and made cut lists on scraps of wood).
Place your insulation in the wall and staple the flaps to the studs, being careful not to compress the insulation into the wall (you want to keep things fluffy).
Repeat. It took less than an hour to insulate our entire bathroom (granted, it is tiny).
The bathroom is on the west side of our house and gets full afternoon sun. We can already tell that it’s staying cooler in there thanks to it’s new insulation. For less than $13 and an hour, it’s a big difference.
Does your home have insulation? Have you ever installed it? Is your husband also too suborn to always wear the proper DIY-ing attire?