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A Guide to Aesthetically Pleasing Energy-Efficient Home Improvements

30 January 2021

Our team answers homeowner questions every weekend on WCCO 830 AM from 9:00 am-10:00 am.  Have your most pressing home improvement quandaries addressed by calling or texting 651-989-9226.  Here’s the must-know information our COO, Andy Lindus, shared on 1.23.21.

When it comes to attic insulation, there isn’t a one size fits all option.  Steer clear of contractors that advise adding more insulation without an attic inspection or performing diagnostic testing. Borescopes, smoke sticks, blower doors, and infrared imaging can provide a knowledgeable contractor with valuable information on the level of energy efficiency within your home.  Attic air sealing and ventilation are critical to the health of the attic and should also be discussed by your contractor in detail.  In some instances, adding more insulation can create a scenario where it is easier for condensation to form in the attic.  That’s because a colder surface is created, and nothing is being done to address the warm air coming up from the lower levels of the home through the insulation.

Go Behind the Scenes on an Attic Insulation Project:

While more roof vents may be needed, be sure that the contractor can clearly explain their reason behind this recommendation.  At times, adding new roof vents can cause them to work against the vents currently in place.

When homeowners notice drafts coming out through their outlets or near their windows, it’s evidence that the stack effect is likely taking place.  When the stack effect happens, air is being sucked out of the home’s attic and down its walls.  This proves problematic if critters, such as bats, squirrels, and mice have made their way into the home’s attic and have left fecal matter, as the air quality of the home can quickly become compromised.

bat droppings in attic
Bat Droppings in an Attic

One of the toughest architectural styles of home to insulate are those that are a story and a half.  They are prone to ice dams because it’s difficult to get the insulation in all of the necessary areas.  Experienced contractors overcome this issue by re-decking the roof, putting down three inches of hard foam, and a roof over the top of that.  If ventilation is needed for a story and a half home, a false roof deck must first be installed.  Then, three inches of foam should be applied over the top of that, followed by a metal roof.  This approach creates an inch gap between the two roof decks.  A fascia vent acts as the intake vent and a ridge vent acts as the outtake vent which allows for airflow underneath the two inches of foam, metal roofing, and underlayment.  Even if there is heat escape from the non-vented attic space, there is an opportunity for it to be emitted from the ridge before it can get to the foam and cause ice dams.

minneapolis metal roof

For conventional homes, the best way to insulate an attic is to remove all of the preexisting insulation and adding an inch and a half of spray foam insulation.  From there, cellulose insulation should be blown in so that the attic reaches R-60.  This comprehensive approach ensures that proper attic air sealing takes place to achieve optimum R-value.  Your insulation contractor should also be able to advise you on the appropriate levels of ventilation and intake.

When it comes to deck installation, homeowners have an array of materials to choose from.  Cedar is popular for homeowners that prefer the traditional look of wood.  However, maintenance and board replacement are frequent.  KDAT brown treated lumber is kiln dried which reduces the probability of shrinking, warping, and cupping.  For homeowners preferring a maintenance-free deck, TimberTech AZEK® and Zuri® are popular selections because of their beauty, reliability, and durability.  Regardless of whether you choose wood or composite materials, it’s wise to opt for a maintenance-free railing, as the railing is the most difficult component to stain.

deck

Prior to investing in a new roof, it’s critical to understand the warranty that will accompany it.  It’s worth noting that a shingle manufacturer can have multiple warranties that take into account several different factors.  These can include the type of ventilation utilized and the placement of ice and water shield.  The top-tier warranty offered by GAF is a 50-year, non-prorated warranty that covers labor and materials.  This means if the roof fails prematurely the manufacturer will cover all aspects of the roof, including shingles, nails, and dumpster.  This warranty is a time of incident warranty which is vastly different than a time of purchase warranty.  Time of incident warranty equates to no out-of-pocket costs for the homeowner at the time of the claim.  Time of purchase prorates the roof for what its current value is, meaning the homeowner will incur some roof replacement costs.

When it comes to condensation ratings, not all windows are ranked the same.  Insert windows and those with builder grade glass packs are prone to ice formation.  However, oftentimes, window condensation is the result of an overly humid home.  In the winter months, a home’s humidity level should be under 30%.  Subzero temperatures warranty humidity levels of 20% or lower.

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