I know, I know, the week of Christmas is an odd time to be planning for spring home improvement projects, what with all the cold weather offering plenty of time for tackling all of my 3/4 finished inside projects. (Not to mention celebrating those end of year holidays…but I digress.) Actually, the holidays and the cold are what got me thinking in the first place, and requesting gift cards to home improvement stores on my wishlist. Why? Because, while hilarious, asking for 56 sheets of rigid insulation is a little impractical. Yes, I am 90% sure that the huge project of spring and summer 2010 will be….siding and insulation.
My home was built in 1947. It’s an adorable (in my biased opinion) cape cod….that might as well be open to the great outdoors. Last summer (of 2008) my husband undertook the insulation of our attic, which it desperately needed. We had about an inch of highly flammable balsa wood up there serving basically no purpose. He painstakingly hauled it all out, installed baffles and paper faced insulation, and gave the whole thing a dusting of recycled, eco-friendly cellulose. We waited for our first winter in our new old house, expecting to be toasty warm and laugh at those energy bills aaaaand….nothin. (Well, maybe not NOTHING, but not. warm.) As it turns out….our walls have virtually no insulation. We’re talking they range from an R3 to an R1, depending on how it has settled. In layman’s terms, it’s like wearing a windbreaker in the arctic. It stops the wind (sort of, I swear I can feel drafts) but not much else.
Last summer (of 2009) we tore out basically our entire yard to fix some drainage problems, a toppling, pointless retaining wall that didn’t retain and that everyone kept hitting with their cars, and to remedy some general ugliness. We went from this:
(The removal of the pine tree on the left is still pending – it’s actually about 30 or 40 feet tall! Too big to DIY. Also, we did manage to grow some grass.) We planned to put in some new landscaping next summer, but thought to maybe hold off on anything near the house in case we decided to re-do the siding…which is aluminum, dirty, chalking, falling off at the corners, and is the second layer over some very lovely peach/pink stock. Well, here we are starting another long Wisconsin winter, and the decision is in – we MUST do the insulation project sooner rather than later, and in order to get at the innards of the walls, we must also do the siding. (True, you CAN drill holes and repair…but we have nothing worth saving.) So, my early December has been filled with not only holiday preparations, but with number crunching to try and make this project a reality next summer. The plan so far involves a LOT of sweat labor on behalf of my husband and myself, and we’re weighing the pros and cons of vinyl siding vs. cement board. The pros of cement board is a 50 year lifespan, and the ability to easily change color, should a future owner actually want to have a white house (we don’t), and it’s more environmentally friendly as it avoids the use of PVC, and the pro of vinyl is…cost. In the end we might sacrifice doing the garage siding at the same time in order to go with the higher quality material, but time will tell.
In the meantime, however, I have plans for the interior of my home, as well as a follow up as to how I solved my holiday card problem this year! (I meant to post this today, but didn’t manage to take pictures, so stay tuned!)