Q. We are in a quandary about insulation. Our house was built in 1948, and isn’t insulated well. We decided to add a master bedroom and kitchen extension and insulate as much as we can. Our building plans examiner wants something call a ResCheck from our architect, and wants to know how much of the house we’re going to do. We only want to tell them about the additions, even though we want to do our attic and the whole exterior from the outside, if we can. We understand that if we tell the plans examiner about the rest of the house, they can make us do a more expensive energy analysis, which we don’t think is necessary. Also, our contractor wants to only insulate the attic floor, but the architect said that the latest energy code requires us to insulate the roof and not the attic floor. Can you advise?
A. It’s frustrating that if you were not in the permit process, you would just insulate, but the moment government learns that you are doing everything the right way, with permits, they make things more involved.
A ResCheck is the name given to a 10-page energy-analysis document, complete with areas of windows and doors, walls, floors and ceilings along with calculated heat loss and energy coefficients. It’s like taking an exam and the way it is done, to be registered with the state online, we don’t get to know if the numbers provided will pass until we get to the end of the document. If it’s failing the requirements, we aren’t shown why, so we have to start over, trying to guess what needs to be beefed up.
I like to do these in the presence of clients so they understand that it’s serious business, not just some form to fill out. Unfortunately, I don’t get to do these analyses in front of the contractors who often contradict the ResCheck by substituting lesser fiberglass batting for the higher-rated foam material, to save money and labor, since they usually need to get a subcontractor to install foam instead of using their own cheaper laborers.
In general, when your project constitutes more than 50 percent of home building area or dollar value compared with the home value, then the examiner wants a more expensive and involved Home Energy Rating System engineer to provide a much more detailed report. This includes a test at the end of the construction in which the home is pressurized using air fans, then gauges are applied, usually at a front door opening, to determine how quickly the house loses pressure, thereby gauging the amount of gaps where air can leak to the atmosphere. This gives an accurate idea of how much cold or heated air can get into the house, which you’re trying to avoid by insulating.
Since this is a big question, tune in to my next column for the rest of the answer. Stay warm and good luck!
© 2023 Monte Leeper. Readers are encouraged to send questions to email@example.com, with “Herald question” in the subject line, or to Herald Homes, 2 Endo Blvd., Garden City, NY 11530, Attn: Monte Leeper, architect.