Friday, December 17, 2010

Insulating the Mother-in-Law

Now that it's winter, our basement mother-in-law apartment is cold!
insulation installation by ginger
Ginger - the Mother-in-Law -
Installing the bubblewrap-like stuff
that fit in the lower part

Our suspicions that the walls were not well insulated were confirmed when we popped off one piece of panel to see that above waise-high, there were a few places with scraps of old insulation that was slumped down and not really very effectivemostly it was panneling, studding and siding, with the rest of the insulation being "air and a prayer". Up to waste high there was cement foundation, with half-inch thick lathes supporting the panelling.

We trotted down to McLendan's and got a couple rolls of fiberglass insulation (R-13). Because the cement/lathe construction was too thin for the fiberglass, we also got some insulation that looks link bubblewrap with a foil layer. It's only R-5 but that's better than nothing!
We really lucked out on this purchase since we happened to go on on the store's "Friends and Family Sale" night. It's only fair, I suppose, since we spend so much time there!
Taking the panelling off was our biggest problem. While the molding popped off pretty easily, the panelling was locked in at the bottom by the rug and at the top by acoustic tile. I was able to warm a foot-wide piece of pannelling out, but the full-sized sheets were in for good. We had to cut!
The panelling
was the big problem
Our first trywas to get a circular blade for Mother-In-Law's single-speed drill, but holding that unshielding whirling blade above my head, as it grabbed and kicked (and, when power was let off, continued to spin for several seconds) just did not seem like a terribly smart thing to do. I understand why many who work with wood are short or have shortened fingers!
So back we went to McLendan's and talked it over with the guy at the counter. Soon a new, modern saber-saw was mine (...or ours, or something.... Washington's a community property state). As a bonus, the M-I-L lobbyed hard for a modern cordless drill set.

I had resisted the new drill, on the grounds that it was a needless indulgence, but oh baby was I wrong!!! Tools have come a long, long way since the first, feckless cordless drills I'd tried ages ago. This little twister has all the torque power I need and fit in my hand much more naturally than my former favorite (and now lost alas!) drill. It even had a little light that illuminated the work area, the value of which I could not have appreciated until I tried it. Later, when I was drilling guide holes and screwing in window fixtures, I discovered that it being chuckless really speeding up the work.

wall insulation and window
The windows might have had
a better R value than the panelling!

In the end, we have the place insulated pretty thoroughly now. The panelling is not in great shape, but we were going to have to replace it anyway.
We used the metal-coated bubble wrap in a few other areas, such as the back of the closet where we didn't bother removing the panelling; attaching it directly to the back walls actually improved visibility in the closet by reflecting light. We also used the bubblestuff in the cement-walled back entryweay; when summer comes, we plan to panel over that as well.

All in all, this was a successful project.  We spread the work out over several days, but in actual time on project it didn't take nearly as long as I'd feared. It really helped to have two people working on it, and getting the right tools made a biiiig difference!
It'd might be hard calculating with precision how much this will save in the long run, but since the insulation will last almost forever, it's sure to pay off better than money in the bank. And keeping the Mother-In-Law happy is a very important part to keeping The Lovely Wife Happy!

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