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There Is Only One Way To Check Up On Builder Insulation Claims

Often the R-value of insulation is touted by builders and there is only one way to check up on builder insulation claims.

You have to look.  I measure it!

How does insulation work?  Insulation blocks or traps air.  R-value, or resistance value, expresses the thermal resistance of the material used.  The material blocks the passage of heat toward the cooler place.  Heat seeks cold.

Every insulation material has a resistance value attached.  And they differ per inch!  R-value is calculated by multiplying the material's stated resistance value per inch by its depth.  (That's the easy way.  There are ways using division, but multiplying is easier for me.)

So, if a builder claims in the sales literature that they will be blowing loose, fiberglass insulation to a depth of R-30 or R-38 into the attic space, the easiest way to check that is by measuring depth.

HERE IS A RECENT TREND I AM SEEING IN NEW CONSTRUCTION.  IT IS A CHART PLACED IN THE ATTIC SPACE, VISIBLE FROM THE ACCESS HOLE OR LADDER.  IT SHOWS R-VALUES FOR INSULATION BASED ON THE SQUARE FOOTAGE OF THE ATTIC AND THE NUMBER OF BAGS OF INSULATION BLOWN INTO IT.

WHY DON'T I LIKE THAT?  BECAUSE THERE IS TOO MUCH SLIP BETWEEN CUP AND LIP.  WHO CALCULATED THE SQUARE FOOTAGE?  WHO MADE SURE SO MANY BAGS WERE BLOWN INTO THE SPACE?  IS THERE ANY FIBBING?

This new construction is supposed to meet energy standards that desire R-38 in the attic space.  The chart at the top of the attic access ladder had a number circled for square feet and for number of bags used for the space.  Therefore, it claimed, the R-value is 38.

Yet when I measured the depth of the insulation I got an average depth of 9".

That is not much insulation!

R-38 is a good value!  9" of loose, blown-in fiberglass puffs is not!

SO I DISPUTE THE ENERGY CRITERIA USED TO DETERMINE THE R-VALUE!  THIS CHART SIMPLY CANNOT BE USED AND BE CONSIDERED ACCURATE!

Blown-in fiberglass puffs have a stated R-value of 2.2 to 2.5 per inch.

It is more toward 2.2 for sure, but let's calculate the R-value.

2.2 x 9 = 19.8 R-value
2.5 x 9 = 22.5 R-value

THIS LEADS ME TO QUESTION THE ENERGY-RATING AGENCY (OR AGENT) CHECKING OFF THE BOX THAT SAYS THIS INSULATION IS SUBSTANTIAL ENOUGH.  WHAT, THEY LOOK AT A CHART AND SAY "YEP" AND CHECK A BOX?

This is not sufficient insulation by any measure!

Topping off my beef with this insulation, beside the wonderfully-installed attic access ladder, apparently the guys needed a spot for some tools.

So what better way to create a little work bench than to scrape away the insulation! 

Oh, and "forget" to put it back.

Notice that no dam has been created high enough to contain insulation from falling down the access hole.  So all around that ladder the insulation will be NECESSARILY THIN!

My recommendation:  new construction inspections investigate many things.  They are always conducted after the supervisor has made his "final" walk around to insure that the house is completed and after the County has given final approval to the house.  In this case it was done after the energy "professional" rated the house as RESNET compliant.  All those other approvals MUST be taken with a grain of salt.  HIRE A 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 18 commentsJay Markanich • August 26 2012 04:17AM

Comments

Good one Jay! And howm many times have you seen them blow the insulation over the little dams in front of the soffit vents and cover them up, therefore blocking any air ventilation at all? Duh!

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) almost 6 years ago

They do that a lot too Fred.  Do you see that new chart they are using?  What do you think?  I don't like it. Well, that's obvious, when I use the word "dispute."

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

I remember my first lesson years ago in "R" ratings.... This is a very useful lesson in a different kind of r-ratings.  You need to bundle all these new construction posts into one little e-book!

Posted by Gary L. Waters, Broker Owner, Waters Realty of Brevard, LLC, ... a small office, delivering big service! (Waters Realty of Brevard, LLC) almost 6 years ago

Thank you Gary.  Every material has a different R-value.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

Many people believe insulation is insulation and it would not have occured to them that there ARE varying R values .

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) almost 6 years ago

S&D - or that varying depths give different thermal barrier protection!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

Jay, The insulation issue is true because I have seen it for myself. Good psot.

Posted by Debbie Reynolds, Your Dedicated Clarksville TN Real Estate Agent (Platinum Properties) almost 6 years ago

Thanks Debbie.  We inspectors see it often and often insulation is a problem!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

Unfortunately this is quite common to find. And don't forget that wonderful uninsulated opening significantly reduces the over all R value of any insultion in the attic. Small detail. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 6 years ago

Unfortunately builders are deceptive and take shorts cuts to save money in many areas, the attick being only one. You are absolutely right.. who measured the square footage of the attic, and who can honesly say how many bags of insulation were blown in? 

The only tried and tue way to see if the R factor is up to code is to measure, and that's what my home inspector does when he is up in the attic

Posted by Gloria Valvasori, Accredited Senior Agent, REAL Experience | REAL Commitment | REAL Results! (BETTER HOMES AND GARDENS REAL ESTATE SIGNATURE SERVICE) almost 6 years ago

Morning Jay Don't know much about the R value so I'm at a loss of what to say about the post.  Have a great day

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty AR LLC) almost 6 years ago

I think it was a nice touch though Jim.  Maybe that was their table for lunch.

Gloria - that's right.  Depth and quality of the laid insulation (uniform and level) is the only determinant of R-value.

James - I explained it to you!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

Good afternoon Jay. Here in Michigan a few numbers on the R-factor scale means a ton. No place to cut corners.

Posted by Randy Ostrander, Real Estate Broker, Serving Big Rapids and West Central MI (Lake and Lodge Realty LLC ) almost 6 years ago

Jay - Lots of good information on insulation. Thanks for the detailed post about there is only one way to check up on builder insulation claims.

Posted by John Pusa, Your All Time Realtor With Exceptional Service (Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Crest) almost 6 years ago

I'm sure of that Randy!  And in all northern states!  I bet in your neighborhood the value was more than R-20 before the oil embargo!

John - that seems to be about the best way!  I am sure that chart doesn't work!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

Jay -- I am sure the builder is not going to be happy with you, when he has to come back and add the "dams" and another 50% to the insulation.

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) almost 6 years ago

Fibbing? Of course there is fibbing Jay. It's up to the inspector to find out where.  :)

Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366) almost 6 years ago

He does in my opinion Steven, but, as you know, I have little juice.

GQ - a friend of mine, a home inspector, came home to his own home's insulation job to check up on the installers.  They were almost done, and he thought that was quick.  They had claimed to need, and would be using, 25 bags of insulation.  He found 11 empties in the truck and a bunch unusued.  Of course, they were busted.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

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