I have no insulation in my walls. What are the best insulation options for my home, which was built in 1926?

Asked by Susan Free
York, PA

I have no insulation in my walls. The first floor is a brick exterior, and the second floor is stucco. I have changed my heating system from steam to forced hot air, and my heating bills are still extremely high, plus I still have problems with humidity in winter and summer even though I have a whole-house humidifier.  Also, what are good options for kitchen/bathroom flooring? The kitchen flooring is vinyl with asbestos undercoating. My neighbor who does flooring said I could replace it myself and just spray with water while I'm pulling it up. In both the bathroom and kitchen, I need an insulating flooring since the floors are cold as well. All the rest is hardwood. Any ideas?


Kevin Holdridge

Answered by Kevin Holdridge

Charlotte, NC

KDH Residential Design, LLC

March 21, 2011

Let's start with the first statement, "I have no insulation in my walls."

  • Your heating bills in a northern climate will continue to be high until you remedy your insulation problem.
  • If you have an unheated basement then insulation can be added between the floors joists very easily throughout the entire first floor.

I would also have the home tested for lead paint if you plan on opening the walls in order to insulate. Lead dust and asbestos dust are not good to have in your home and will adversely affect your family’s health, especially the health of any children that frequent the home.

Dealing with the kitchen flooring

Adding insulation in the floor of the kitchen and bathroom only will do very little for the overall heating bill.

The asbestos tile in the kitchen should be removed by an approved asbestos abatement contractor because your health could be at risk if dust from the tile or glue is airborne and gets into your HVAC system, not to mention that the waste would have to be disposed of properly.

If it is a comfort "warm floor" that you are looking for, I would suggest a heated tile floor system, with an electric mat under your tile that you can turn on and off (installed as per manufacturer’s recommendations).

This doesn't sound like a DIY project

My advice is that you will need to contact a local energy auditor as well as a hazardous materials expert to do this project properly.

  • The house sounds like it is leaking air uncontrollably, which will in turn affect the efficiency of your HVAC system.
  • The more you insulate and tighten up the house, the more you will have to properly ventilate the house (especially in older homes) and the HVAC may not be sized right for these new conditions.

This doesn't sound like a DIY project, as there seem to be too many variables that could be hazardous.


For more information:

Read "I want to add wall insulation to my 1920 home. I have two locally available options -- Icynene and Tri-polymer foam. Can you advise me?" a Q&A answered by Alex Georgiou.

Tagged In: energy audit

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