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Best Practice - Window And Door Insulation

How often have we complained about cold air near and around windows and doors?  It could be that upon installation, the Best Practice - window and door insulation was not employed.

On a new construction, pre-drywall inspection I ran across something that I really like to see.  Proper insulation around the windows and doors!

This is how insulation around windows and doors has been done for a long time.

If properly done, it is, in a word, OK.

However, there is a trick to it.

Fiberglass insulation is intended to provide a thermal barrier by trapping air.

If it is crammed in there too tightly, it is ineffective because there is no room for air to be trapped and heat escapes.  Hence you feel cold!

If it is crammed in there too loosely, it is ineffective because there is so much room for air that heat escapes.  Hence you feel cold!

In my experience, many insulators are NOT careful.

So one window may feel fine, another not.  It pays not to be haphazard.

Running across this door I saw something that I consider to be a

 Best Practice

 

The gap between this installed door and the framing is filled with a minimally expansive foam.

It is an open-celled poly-foam, a very good product.

Why is it Best Practice?

Because it absolutely fills the gap preventing any air flow. 

Once air flow is controlled, the thermal movement of air is inhibited almost to zero.

I SAW THAT ALL THE DOORS AND WINDOWS WERE DONE THE SAME WAY.

This space will eventually be covered with drywall and some wood molding.

Altogether, the foam and subsequent products, a good R-value, resistance value of Btu control, is provided.

It was very good to see.

All gaps from indoors to outdoors - such as corners, where the sill plate meets the floor, the pre-fab studded sections of wall that were placed together - ALL SUCH GAPS - were also sealed with a caulk that seals air movement completely.

All that, accompanied with the properly-applied plastic thermal wrap on the outside of the house will contribute to great comfort of those inside, summer and winter.

All this was done in preparation for the insulation to be installed.  I will swing by to check that as well, when done.

My recommendation:  best practices are just that.  Often they precede and exceed code recommendations and implementation.  They represent current, and sometimes forward, thinking.  You should always look for Best Practices when you look at any home, but particularly new construction.  If you aren't familiar with what the best practices are, ask your home inspector!

 

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 19 commentsJay Markanich • October 12 2011 05:23AM

Comments

Jay: great explanation about good, better, best insulation practices. It's great to see builders using forward thnking business practices.

Posted by Anne M. Costello (Weidel Realtors) almost 9 years ago

Anne - the poly-foam around windows and doors has been used for a while, but not by many builders around here.  It's good to see the employment here.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

Good morning, Jay. Most of the time I see batting packed in tighter than Dick's hat band. Oh well, can we say undalay???

Posted by Michael Thornton, Nashville Area - Photography & Videography (RadnorLake Video) almost 9 years ago

Um, we say it's too tight Michael?   That's the equivalent of putting plywood and storing boxes all over the attic space, and then later complaining how hot the upper level is.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

 Insulation will be on the top of every list as the leaves fall and winds blow here...good to know what works best...and consistently is the key to being cozy and keeping the cold outside...

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) almost 9 years ago

Jay, I've often suspected that the builders of our home didn't do a great job insulating our windows/doors.  Nothing I can see for sure though, but eventually our window will get replaced and it can be addressed then.

Posted by Liz and Bill Spear, RE/MAX Elite Warren County OH (Cincinnati/Dayton) (RE/MAX Elite 513.520.5305 www.LizTour.com) almost 9 years ago

S&D - and the technique is so very important.  No matter what the insulation, the installation is critical.

Bliz - you CAN see it with a thermal camera!  That's how I check windows and doors on the one-year inspection.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

It's funny how we have our regional preferences of how things should be done.  I'd call fiberglass insulation around a window or door 'dumb'... although it's a lot less mess than foam.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 9 years ago

But very traditional Reubs!  But that's all there was.  And how many people know the proper amount to shove in there?  If done right, it is OK, as I say.  But not great!

This is exactly the kind of thing I was saying in my History Mystery post.  When foam first came out it was super expansive.  It had minimal opportunity for application.  Then they figured it out to make it with different expansion grades so it could be used in small spaces like around windows and doors.  Now it is a great product for exactly that application. 

A history mystery solved!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

Jay, great explanation of why it is not recommended to pack in fiberglass insulation, and to suggest a better medium for gap insulation.

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) almost 9 years ago

Jay, to add to your reply to Reuben the first stuff that came out was super "expansive" and pushed jambs to the point that windows and doors would not operate properly.  The newer less expansive stuff is certainly the way to go.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 9 years ago

I would also add that even packed fiberglass is better than the wood on both sides :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 9 years ago

Jay -- Now you have me thinking, did the company that replaced our windows a few years ago put in foam, fiberglass or just leave what was there?  Hmm.

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) almost 9 years ago

That's the idea Chris, best practice!

Charlie - for sure, and thanks.  I have seen door thresh holds so bowed upward with expansive foam the door could not close!  It took them a while to figure out the minimally-expansive stuff.  And wood is fairly conductive - that is especially evident with thermal imaging!

Steven - hard to know!  Why don't you cut a test hole and find out!  And send me a picture!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

Good morning Jay,

Great blog, so nice to see a job well done...there are a lot of great, professional contractors out there!

Posted by Lisa Von Domek, ....Experience Isn't Expensive.... It's Priceless! (Lisa Von Domek Team) almost 9 years ago

There are and here and there I see some really great stuff Lisa.  I am glad to have a forum where I can display such work and teach proper techniques.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

Nice post Jay. As a new carpenter back in the 70s, I was taught to do it the way shown in your first example. You had to fill the space and leave no gaps but not pack it tight.

There were guy who rammed it in there like they were chinking a boat seam. If you do that it's too dense and actually becomes a thermal bridge. Dense mass transmits or conducts thermal energy.

The new minimally expanding foams do a perfect job so look for that product use.

Posted by Robert Butler, Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection (Aspect Inspection) almost 9 years ago

I like your closing line;

My recommendation:  best practices are just that.  Often they precede and exceed code recommendations and implementation.  They represent current, and sometimes forward, thinking.  You should always look for Best Practices when you look at any home, but particularly new construction.  If you aren't familiar with what the best practices are, ask your home inspector!

I may use it or a version of it for my recommendations.

Posted by Robert Butler, Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection (Aspect Inspection) almost 9 years ago

Robert - thanks for both compliments!  Agreed - too tighto, no worko.  That's perfect Spanish.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

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