Owning a historic home can provide a number of benefits -- from federal and state income tax credits to the joy of unique features like hand-carved wooden trim, hand-glazed windows, and tiny closets and laundry chutes. However, historic homes in colder climates can become uncomfortably chilly during fall and winter due to their inadequate insulation. Many historic home renovations have removed features like indoor wooden stoves that could heat an entire floor and replaced them with furnaces that may not be sufficient to keep your home at a comfortable temperature. How can you best insulate your historic home without compromising its unique qualities? Read on to learn more about the factors you'll want to consider when deciding on insulation improvements, as well as some of the best home renovation insulation in historic homes.
What should you consider when insulating your historic home?
Your first step when undertaking any type of home improvement project on a historic home is to contact your local historic preservation council or city council. If your home is in a registered historic district, you may be required to request certain permits or have your project pre-approved in order to avoid fines and assessments by your city's historic board. This board may have a recommended list of materials or contractors you'll be required to choose from. In other cases, you may be able to pick your own contractor and materials as long as you ensure you avoid damaging any of the historic elements of your home.
Your next step is to determine the locations of your home most susceptible to heat loss during winter. In some homes, this can be the area around your window frames or old wooden doors that have shrunk over time. In other cases, you may have essentially no barrier between your interior walls and the exterior of your home except for an inch or two of studs and support frames. By determining the areas that are leaking the most heat, you'll be able to concentrate your efforts (and funds) on the areas that will reap the most reward.
Many states (along with the federal government) offer energy programs and grants that can allow professionals to conduct an "energy audit" of your home for free. This audit will tell you exactly how much heat is being lost and where it's coming from, giving you the information you need to begin your renovation.
What are your best insulation options for a historic home?
While historic homes built in the West and Southwest are often made of adobe and other materials that provide natural warmth in winter while keeping the sun's rays out in summer, historic homes built in the Midwest and North Atlantic are often made of clapboard or other wood-based materials that don't provide much shelter from the natural elements. As a result, insulating the interior walls, the roof, and the areas around windows and doors generally provides the most bang for your buck by thoroughly keeping heat inside and cold air out.
If your home has already been dry walled without insulation, spray foam insulation is usually your best bet. Depending upon your historical district's rules and regulations, you may be able to use crude oil-based foam insulation or a more eco-friendly soy foam insulation. Regardless of the insulation you choose, you'll be assured of easy installation and quick results, as this insulation can be sprayed into the area behind drywall from a single small hole, allowing you to minimize the visual effect of this renovation while still having your entire walls insulated.
Spray foam insulation can be a good option for small attic spaces, as well. If you'd prefer to use your attic for storage, you may instead opt for recycled denim insulation with a layer of drywall between the roof and attic space. This recycled denim is highly effective at resisting heat loss, absorbs moisture from the outside air to keep your roof and ceiling dry, and is an eco-friendly (and history-friendly) option.