Installing a vapr barrier in an old house

Answered by Brett ~ January 24, 2012 ~ No Comments » | Respond to this question

We just moved into a 115-year-old home and want to add insulation into the walls. Can we install a Tyvec vapor barrier to the interior side of the wall so that we don not have to disturb the existing brick siding?

Aaron ~ St. Louis, MO

Brett Kulina

Aaron, if you want to add a vapor barrier and some insulation to your home's walls without disturbing the exterior siding, then you may have to first remove your interior wall coverings in order to expose the wall framing. Once the wall cavity is exposed, you can then install the insulation between the wall studs. After the insulation is in place, you should install a vapor barrier directly to the interior side of the wall framing. Tyvec house wrap is not the best choice for this application, because most Tyvec products are design to be installed on the outside of a home's wall sheathing, and your vapor barrier should be installed on the warm side (interior) of the wall insulation. Instead, install some 6 mil polyethylene sheeting, which is commonly used as a vapor barrier in cold climates, directly to the interior side of the wall studs.

You may want to discuss your insulation options with a contractor who works in the St.Louis area, and has some experience with older houses. Installing rolls of standard fiberglass insulation may not be the best option for you, as the wall studs in older houses may not be spaced exactly 16" or 24" O.C., which are the measurements most standard rolls of insulation are designed to fit. Blow-in insulation or spray-in foam are going to better options for an old house, because these types of insulation can fill odd-shaped voids in your wall framing. With the addition of new insulation and a vapor barrier, the energy efficiency, and overall comfort, of your old house should improve greatly.

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