How Can I Make My Home More Energy Efficient? – Part 9

Can you feel it? Cold weather is creeping in. Whether or not you like the cold weather this time of year, I can pretty much guarantee that unless you live in an igloo you don’t like it creeping into your house! And that’s why we here at GAMA Air have been focusing on this series in our blog so you can make your home more energy efficient by keeping the outside weather... well... outside. Part 8 of the series wrapped up the work in your attic. Now we’re going to get started in your basement. But first there’s one more thing to do now that you’re out of the attic.

Don’t forget the Attic Hatch

It would be a shame to do all that work in the attic, but then forget the attic-access itself. So finish up by making sure it is sealed and insulated. How?

First: Most attic hatches rest directly on finish molding. So create a new stop by cutting 1x3 boards and nailing them with 6d finish nails all the way around the framing of the opening. The board you use as a hatch will rest on this. The new stops provide a wider surface for attaching the weather-stripping and a space to mount hook-and-eye fasteners.

Second: Apply self-adhesive foam weather-strip tape to the top edge of this new stop.

Third: Attach hook-and-eye fasteners to the attic hatch and stops. Position the eyes so that when you latch the hooks the weather-stripping is slightly compressed.

Fourth: Cut a piece of fiberglass or rigid foam board insulation the same size as the attic hatch and nail or glue it to the attic-side of the hatch. This insulation should have the same R-value that is used throughout your attic.

If your access to the attic is a door that you walk through, think of it as a door to the outside. If it is not an outdoor-rated, insulated door and frame, then it should be sealed in a manner similar to the steps above for an attic hatch. Weather-strip the edges and put a piece of rigid foam board insulation on the back of the door.

If you have pull-down attic stairs they can be a little tricky to insulate. At the very least making sure there is weather stripping around the edges to keep drafts out, but insulating it is difficult. You may consider installing a pre-made insulated attic stair cover which can be purchased at most local home improvement centers or on the Internet.

Now, on to the basement. Why? To stop the ‘chimney effect’. As hot air is circulated throughout your house by your heating system, it will naturally rise and escape into the attic if possible. This air will be replaced by cold air from leaks in the basement, creating a drafty feel in your home. You’ve done everything you can to stop leaks into the attic, so now let’s finish the job by sealing the basement to stop the ‘chimney effect’.

Locating Basement Air Leaks

A common place for air to leak into a basement is along the top of the basement wall where the perimeter wood framing of the house (called the rim joist, or band joist) rests on the concrete foundation or on blocks. The floor joists end at the rim joist creating multiple cavities along the length of the wall. In addition, there may be penetrations in this perimeter where you water, or electric service comes in. Since the top of the basement wall is above ground, outside air can sneak in through cracks and gaps all along this perimeter framing.

Stay tuned for the next installment to find out how to seal and insulate your basement.

Have a question for us? Visit our “Ask an Expert” page and let us know what’s on your mind! We’ll get back to you ASAP.

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