Saturday, January 17, 2009

Weatherizing Weekend

Our old house is incredibly porous. You don't have to worry about us dying of carbon monoxide poisoning or a gas leak. Hypothermia, possibly. But the ventilation in here's terrific.

However, now that the temperature's been repeatedly dipping into the 20s, our feeling is, to heck with fresh air. We want the toasty, hot canned air, and we want it stuffy and hermetic. Last year, our power bill was between $100 and $250 dollars higher in the winter than in the cheap months of April and November. And we would still wake up to a bedroom whose temperature was in the 50s. I gather that most people's entire electric bill is less than $250, plus they get to wake up to a bedroom in the 70s.

So we took the first step in January 08 and had insulation blown into the attic. The insulation helped a little, I guess, but it's still been frigid, especially in the living room, which quickly descends to the 60s or lower in cold weather.

So this weekend we finally embarked on a quest for weatherization. We spent about $215 in supplies and prepared to fill every gap we could find, caulk anything standing still, and stick insulating foam strips on every orifice.

It went fairly well. We got a lot done. I kind of broke the kitchen door in the middle of operations, though. That wasn't really part of the weatherization plan.

See, one of our big problems is that our doors had these big gaps underneath. Partly because the doors don't quite fit right, and partly because there is no threshold on the inside of our doors to bridge the gap between the flooring and the door frame. And we can't solve the problem by installing a sweep on the underneath of the door because our newly tiled and bamboo'd floors are too high for the doors as it is: we wouldn't be able to open them if we added any thickness underneath. Anyway, I thought the solution was to install a new threshold for the kitchen door, throwing out the shattered old rubber one that was too narrow to cover all the gaps. And, of course, caulking the whole area like mad.

Distressing gap, new fancy threshold, with nasty old rubber threshold at top.

Matt caulks in the distressing gap.

So I did. And then I pushed the door closed. It was a little tight. No problem--I pushed harder. Uf--there it goes! No gaps there! Now let's just open it back up-- wait a minute. It won't-- the door's stuck. The door's stuck on the new threshold. Babe, can you--?

--Stand back.


I'm not sure he enjoyed it at the time, but how many men actually get to experience the action-movie thrill of kicking a door in? And he did it very effectively, but of course the bottom of the metal door got all torn to hell in the process. So technically, Matt broke the door. But I set this particular train in motion, I'm afraid.

But here's the funny thing. We had a spare door just kicking around.

On Friday, Matt was given some used building supplies, including this rather nice metal door with a big window.

So we moved the hinges, replaced the knob, and hung that sucker. (It wasn't that easy. Aligning the door was what the project managers at work like to call an iterative process. Interestingly, their workflow models aren't embroidered with all the colorful language that was required to iterate this mother.)

SIDE NOTE: We needed to remove the doorknob from the destroyed door, and we couldn't figure out how to uninstall the darn thing. We eventually called the manufacturer, Kwikset--on a weekend, mind you--and after a not-horrific wait, got a human here in the States who asked 3 or 4 easy questions to figure out what model we had and then talked us through the un-installation. Just. Like. That. Who gives you help like that anymore? Nobody. If only Kwikset had built my laptop.

Other weatherizing tasks completed
  • We also installed the kind of weatherstripping that has a metal strip on one side and a hollow rubber tube on the other ("tubular gasket", AKA "vinyl bulb with metal flange") on the outside of our front and study doors.

Caulking in the weatherstripping makes it less obvious (see bottom half of picture) as well as more weather-tight
  • We installed puffy "Kerf Fit" weatherstripping on our new & improved kitchen.
I have no idea what a "kerf" is, but presumably, it's somewhere in this picture. Fun word, anyway. Kerf... kerf...
  • We caulked two vertical pieces of firring in the gap between the front door frame and the bamboo flooring (it's almost the color of bamboo, so it looks surprisingly reasonable. Nevertheless, we will ultimately cover it with a piece of 1/4-round).
We did eventually wipe up the extra caulking. Voilà! No more nasty crevice.
  • We nailed this round rubber tube with a flat piece of rubber on one side ("Vinyl Gasket Weatherstrip") in our window frames flush with the sash.
  • We put flat, adhesive, double-celled stripping ("D-profile weatherstrip") on the bottoms of the sashed where they meet the frame.
  • We caulked the tops and edges of the top sash.
  • We caulked the corners of the door frames where all the pieces of weatherstripping meet.
  • We caulked the line where the door frames meet the stone facade of the house.
  • I used that Easy Cheese puffy foam-in-a-can stuff to fill in a random hole in our bedroom wall.
  • And--very big deal--Matt liberated 4 of the old wooden windows that had been painted shut (which is how I was able to put weatherstripping on their bottoms.) Now we can have all the fresh air we want, but only when we want it. (My, I'm feeling italic this evening. A result of all the emotional highs and lows of the day, I think.)
  • We Easy-Cheesed many (all?) of the holes where water pipes come in through the walls.
Remaining weatherizing tasks
  • Caulk the junction of baseboards and hard flooring
  • Finish insulating windows
  • Finish unsticking 4 remaining stuck windows
  • Install latches on all functional windows
  • Replace broken/ugly/missing faceplates for switches and outlets
  • Caulk around outlet boxes
Long-term energy goals
  • Install storm windows on the 8 antique windows
  • Finish installing baseboards in hall, mbed, and study
  • Hire HVAC person to examine heater, ducts
  • Perform an energy audit (Ecorate)
  • Replace solid hall door with with one made from wooden screen
  • Replace cracked window panes
The experts speak

HydroOne--whoever they are--offers these numbers, which I pie-charted for your/my edification:

And, one final thought for the day, courtesy of the Louisiana Dept of Natural Resources:

"There is more to sealing than smearing messy beads of caulking over everything."

Maybe. But smearing messy beads of caulking over everything is a pretty darn good place to start.

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