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Sheep Dog Hollow: an eco-friendly renovation

Is spray foam insulation the best choice for an old house?

In renovating an old house, is spray foam insulation the way to go? And which type of spray foam insulation - open cell or closed cell?

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Another problem with closed-cell insulation, according to Marek Ropiak of Anchor is that it's solid, like a rock.

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Alexandra writes about the "green" and budget-friendly renovation of a 100-year-old farmhouse in south-central Connecticut.

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“With open cell, the house is tighter and quieter. Closed cell is very hard, almost like concrete,” says Mr. Ropiak. “If you use it, you’re going to get more echo. It’s always nice to have the house quiet.”

Knowing my interest in going green, both of these contractors also recommended I consider Icynene, a spray foam made up of, among other things, recycled bottles and castor oil.

I was almost convinced, and then John Taconis of US Insulation came to give his estimate. He recommended closed-cell foam for certain areas of the house and a hybrid system of closed-cell foam backed up with batts of the inexpensive fiberglass. Closed cell has a much higher R-Value than open cell, he argues.

“Open cell on a two-by-four has the same R-value as fiberglass,” says Mr. Taconis. “Why not use a hybrid system, foam to seal the system and fiberglass bat for R-value? Once you seal a leak, it no longer leaks. Seal it 10 more times, and it doesn’t do you any good if you seal right the first time.”

He recommended that we go on US Insulation’s website and look at a video to see how the hybrid system called Air Tight System and made by Guardian works.

Then, to be fair in the decision-making process, I also looked up a video on how Icyene is applied.

There was one thing all three contractors agreed on, though. In the basement, to insulate the floor of the house, they’d all recommend fiberglass batting.

The reason? Building codes require all spray foam insulation to be enclosed in areas where people spend time. So, in addition to the spray foam, which is already two to three times the cost of the fiberglass batting, we’d have to sheetrock the basement ceiling.

So much for sticking to my initial decisions.

Next: The prices and what we finally decided to do.

Editor's note: Alexandra Marks will be blogging twice a week about her green and budget-friendly restoration of a 1902 farmhouse in Connecticut. See a photo gallery of the early days of the project by clicking here. You can read all she's written about the project so far by clicking here and then looking for Sheep Dog Hollow under Topics on the right side of the page.

You'll find numerous articles about the environment at the Monitor’s main environment page. Also, check out our Bright Green blog archive and our RSS feed.

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