Friday, February 25, 2011

It's, it's insulation

When re-siding our house in summer 2007, Steve and I decided that we should have the house insulated as well being that it was well, drafty.  We wanted to be able to cover all of the little 1.5" holes that would need to be bored through the siding in order to blow in insulation before we got the house painted and while the paint was all stripped.
don't think you can see where the holes were bored as we had already patched and sanded
We had already insulated the living room ourselves from the inside as we had removed all of those walls in order to wire, fix some water damage near the chimney and re-frame some things so this saved us a little on cost.
Winter 2006/2007-a great project for newlyweds!

I got a number of bids and went for the cheapest as I figured, how hard could it be?  The company seemed just fine and they were punctual in their estimate and arrival.  We were also super house poor (we are always house poor but we were really house poor then).  We were newlyweds, I was newly employed, started paying the student loans and house loan and oh yea, in SHOCK!!!!! by how much an old house costs to restore. 

Anyways, back to insulation.  Boy, was I in denial about how hard insulated really could be.  Our contractors were terrible.  Not only did they blow insulation all over the freakin' house (it truly looked like middle of the summer snow storm)

but they broke holes in our interior plaster in several places.  I was shocked and so sad to see this as it is not only costly to repair plaster but so hard to match textures, and well, I love the texture of our plaster. 
this was the largest hole at over a foot in width, luckily it was in the closet and while not a perfect patch, I was able to repair myself

They also did not figure out that the floor below part of the wall was not closed to the basement, nor did they think "gosh, that is a lot of insulation for one little area, maybe we should stop and see where it is all going"  So, later in the day, I found this:
Now, if we had had a kid at that point, they would have been in heaven but it was no bueno for me.  I brought them the shop vac and they did a half-a** job of cleaning and finished up work.  At 5:01pm, they were finished with insulation but the house was a hot mess with snow.  Instead of cleaning up, they just said good-bye and drove off.  Well, I contacted the company that evening and told them the whole story, then Steve and I spent about 4-5 house that evening and the following day cleaning the "snow".  It ended up that we charged them what we would need to pay to have the plaster repaired plus an hourly charge for the time we spent cleaning and they took it off our bill, making the insulation only costing several hundred.  It saved us house poor people a ton of money but it would have been much better if it hadn't happened at all.
  Oh, the perils of home ownership and restoration!

A little insulation project I took on myself over the past month was insulating all the light and electrical sockets on the exterior walls of the house.  They were downright drafty and cold before.  I found the little insulator sheets (foam) at home depot for a couple bucks total.  I had to measure and cut out specially for our super old light switches but it was a quick and gratifying project overall.


  1. As we're planning to have insulation blown-in in a few months, it great to know what the worst can scenario can look like. Who did you hire, so I can make sure to avoid them?

  2. Wow. If I had come home to that, and then survived the subsequent brain aneurysm and stroke, I can only imagine what would have come out of my mouth.

    I just got a quote for insulating our house and the company seemed incredibly professional and legit although a little expensive. Maybe it's worth it?

    Glad you were able to save the money but sorry you had to go through that.


  3. What a nightmare! We had a good experience with our guys, except for one thing- they product they used (AirKrete) has a cure time of about 10-14 days, if I recall correctly. Well that must be for the summer. We had it done in November, and the moisture frosted inside the walls, causing the paint on the exterior of the house to peel-a 2 year old paint job! AWESOME. So excited to repaint our house. Not.

  4. Two years ago, we had several windows replaced. The company had been recommended by a friend. Between the time we got the quote and when the windows were ready to be installed, the only installer who had "old house" experience had left. The installers who actually showed up to do the job had NO experience with plaster and lath walls.

    Upstairs, where the walls around the windows were newer drywall, they had no problems. The first floor bedrooms were a different story.

    When they were removing the old windows, they left huge craters in the plaster. The rough installation and flashing on the outside was fine, but when we talked to the crew boss about how they'd deal with the mess they made on the inside, the guy said "well, we can put on wider window trim." We asked him if he would want 10" wide trim around 2.5' x 4' windows in his own house. He said no.

    We ended up calling his boss, e-mailing pictures of the damage, having more phone arguments with the boss, then kicking them off the job before the trim was done and deducting $1000 for the repairs we'd have to make.

    I then signed up for Angie's List to find a GOOD plaster guy. Spent the next 2 weeks looking at the craters around the windows until we'd gotten a few quotes. Chose a plaster guy and got the job scheduled. He did a super job, but it ended up taking a bit longer than expected because we were having heavy, heavy rain then, so the plaster took forever for each coat to cure. Well worth the wait.

    We've really enjoyed the windows (Marvins), but wish that Marvin had factory-trained installers instead of relying on whoever chooses to carry their products. After that experience, I think we may just do a restoration of the remaining original wood-framed windows. Marvin did a nice job replicating the mullion pattern for the replacement windows, but the remaining windows are in much better condition than the ones we had replaced. Our 1923 Chicago bungalow is much more comfy with those new windows.

    If you've got Angie's List out there, you may want to check them out for contractor references. I hope you have better luck with your next contractor.