May 18, 2013
Dear Ken: I have 10 inches of rolled insulation in my attic. I want to get to an R-49. I am concerned that if I add cellulose, it will be too heavy. And what about fire? Isn't fiberglass better? - Glenn
I like the idea of adding blown (loose) insulation on top of what you have because it will fill in all the spaces between the rolls. Cellulose is denser than Fiberglas, so it takes less of it to achieve a given R-value (about 3.5 Rs to the inch vs. about 2.5). That will satisfy your weight concern because, in your case, you'll need less cellulose - say another 7 inches - to get to your desired R value.
If there is a paper vapor barrier on the existing material, it would be a good idea to peel it off. That layer could trap moisture between the new and old insulation. Old cellulose used to be essentially ground-up newsprint and could burn. Modern versions of this material are treated with fire-retardant chemicals.
Dear Ken: My wood window sills are cracking and splitting in the sun and look awful. I use Olde English on them. Any other ideas? - Ellen W.
I also like Scott's Liquid Gold. It seasons, cleans and polishes the wood at the same time. You probably have pine sills that were stained and lacquered by the builder. They don't hold up very well - particularly on the sunnier south and west sides of the house. Continue doing what you're doing.
But I would vote to paint them. You'll end up with a lot less maintenance and hassle. Wipe them with mineral spirits and sand off the remaining glossy surface. Apply a couple of coats of KILZ. Then paint them with semi-gloss latex in any color to match surroundings.
Dear Ken: Tell me about dryer vents. Should I have mine looked at? - Robert P.
It's a good idea to clean it out once in a while. Vents that are partially blocked with lint build-ups are a potential fire hazard, plus it takes longer to dry the clothes. You need to check at both ends since that's where most of the material accumulates. Remove the exterior flapper vent cover and shine a flashlight down the tube. You might see piles of lint. You can use your shop vac suction hose to get most of it.
Or hook the end of an electric leaf blower tube to the house end of the dryer vent and switch it on for a few seconds. That probably will fire gobs more material out of the exterior end into the yard.
Speaking of the house end, you'll have less accumulation if you minimize twists and bends in that short piece of hose that runs into the wall. Avoid the fabric versions of dryer vent tubes - the shiny aluminum material is less fire-prone.
If your dryer vent is a traditional horizontal run through the side of the house, check it about once a year. In many new homes, the vent runs vertically through the roof to comply with recent mechanical code changes. They plug up faster and should be looked at 2-3 times a year.
Ken Moon, a homebuilder-turned-home inspector in the Pikes Peak region, broadcasts "Around the House," on KRDO, AM 1240 and FM 105.5, at 9 a.m. Saturdays. Visit aroundthe house.com to contact Ken.