I recently finished a project on a home that was the inspiration for this article. This project will forever go down the annals of an expensive lesson learned for the home owners. Having someone that knows what they are doing, but also has the home owners best interests at heart are not only important traits in a contractor, but will also save the home owner at lot of aggravation and money in the end.
I got a call from Mrs. X who was referred to me by an HVAC buddy of mine. She told me that she had a “contractor” blow in some additional insulation into her attic a little while back. The problem was that her home was still uncomfortable and she had a terrible dust problem. So in steps The Energy Guy (cue the Superman theme). Now I try not to disparage the work of other contractors, but I believe the guy that did the works first name was Mo, last name Ron. WOW what a disaster.
First, he blew in cellulose over the existing blown in fiberglass which isn’t a major crime, but wait…..it gets better. The “contractor” dry blew in the cellulose. When you blow in cellulose (made from chemically treated recycled newspaper), the equipment has a water pump to add a little water vapor to the product so it doesn’t create so much dust during installation. Dry blowing causes the big chunks to separate from the smaller finer ones, making a big mess and you get a top layer that looks like very fine moon dust.
Next, the “contractor” completely ignored performing any kind of air sealing what so ever, so all that dust was allowed to migrate into the home and into the interior walls. Because interior walls are hollow, that dust will be slowly migrating out of every nook and cranny for years to come.
The piece de resistance was the fact that there is an HVAC unit in both of the attics. Not only were the ducts not sealed, but as you can see in the photo the holes were pretty big and hard to miss. So the HVAC equipment was sucking in the cellulose dust and blowing it all over the house. That sounds healthy (yes that was sarcasm).
So what was done to fix the problem? First, all the existing insulation had to be vacuumed out, which revealed the previous home owners serious rat issue denote by the mass quantities of rat droppings. EEEEWWWW! Then all the ducts were sealed, the penetrations, nooks, cracks, and crannies were sealed, and the knee walls (also ignored by the previous “contractor”) were properly insulated and sealed.
In the end, Mr. and Mrs. X would have paid twice as much to have all the work that SHOULD have been done in the first place. BUT that work would have cost them over $1,400 less than what they ended up paying, because the previous “contractors” work had to be undone first.
So the moral to this story is that you not only get what you pay for, but you may want to considering working with someone with a background in building science or it could cost you a lot more money and aggravation in the end. Remember……Don’t throw money at your problems, throw knowledge, it’s a lot cheaper.