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I have an old house with no insulation. The walls are 2x4 with plaster and lath. The outside is aluminum siding, in good shape. I would like to blow cellulose insulation inside the wall cavities from the inside, then hang paneling over the plaster.

Do I really need to worry about moisture if I'm actually keeping the warm air from inside reaching the cold air that would come into the cavity once filled?

All this talk about moisture problems is confusing me. And one step further would be to wrap the room with foil radiant insulation then install furring strips then hang paneling or drywall. What are your thoughts on this aside from loosing inside space?

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Where do you live? –  overslacked May 25 '11 at 16:08

1 Answer 1

Any recommendation depends on your location - I wouldn't provide the same answer for Yuma, AZ as I might for Edmonton, AB.

When water vapor diffuses through a wall and reaches the exterior sheathing, if that sheathing temperature is below the dew point the vapor will condense. Depending on the amount of water vapor and the rate at which the wall cavity is able to dry out, this may lead to moisture problems.

Installing insulation in the wall cavity will help reduce heating costs, but won't address the problem of sheathing temperature. As a result, some builders are specifying 2" to 4" or more foil faced polyiso panels be installed outside of the sheathing to raise the temperature above the dew point. In these designs, some don't even advocate using cavity insulation. Vapor will still diffuse into the cavity, but it will not condense on the sheathing surface.

Installing foil faced polyiso on the interior of the wall, properly air sealed and with taped joints, forms an effective vapor barrier which will reduce the problem of moisture diffusing through the walls. However it may not solve all of the problems with vapor diffusion so it's quite possible to still have problems.

Additionally, while most people look to insulation as a primary solution for energy savings, often older homes would find greater benefit from air sealing. There is almost no way you can make an older house with plaster walls "too tight." In fact, the idea of houses being "too tight" is something of a myth. Your goal should be to have "managed ventilation" rather than the unmanaged ventilation common in older homes.

In my 1870's New England house as an "inside" solution I removed the plaster, installed fiberglass batt insulation in the cavities, applied 2" foil faced polyiso over the studs (for a thermal break and vapor barrier), with 1x3 furring strips and gypsum on top.

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