Insulation Case Study – 2 Story Colonial Home

Welcome to Insulwise’s case study pages!  We made these to give home owners an idea of the types of energy efficiency and comfort enhancement results they can expect to receive from hiring the Insulwise team to re-insulate their home.  The concept of creating case studies for specific types of homes is not only unique to Pittsburgh, but the entire insulation industry in general.  You will not see these from any other insulation contractor!  What gives us confidence we can achieve these results?  Three things:

  • The experience that comes with having re- insulated over 2,000 homes in the area since 2008.
  • Our use of applied building science principles that comes from the owner, Andrew Haak’s, background as an energy auditor and credentialed building performance analyst (from the Building Performance Institute, BPI).
  • Before and after analysis of many of our customers utility bills over the years. In short, we’ll crunch the numbers, dot the i’s, and cross the t’s to deliver you the best results of any insulation company in Pittsburgh!

Insulation Case Study: 2 Story Colonial Home in Monroeville, PA


Photo1This 1970’s, 2 story colonial home, located in Monroeville, PA had several issues that bothered the homeowner, James Y. The first was that during the winter, the floors over the garage would become icy cold.  The second was that the house did not heat or cool evenly, leaving some upstairs bedrooms hot during the summer, and cold during the winter.  The last was that seasonal heating and cooling bills were both much higher than he wanted them to be.

Energy Efficiency & Comfort Enhancements Completed:

  1. Whole home air sealing measures performed (massive leaks found & sealed in attic).
  2. Attic insulation improved to R-49 by adding 10” of blown in cellulose insulation.
  3. Attic hatch insulated with R-10, 2” thick foam board.
  4. Basement ductwork sealed.
  5. Rim joists in basement air sealed & insulated with spray foam.
  6. Garage ceiling dense packed with cellulose insulation.

House Problems and Solutions:

Living Room Floor Above the Garage Was Freezing During the Winter:

Photo2The problem with the floor over the garage was that when the original fiberglass insulation was installed in the garage ceiling, it was stapled to the underside of the floor joists, rather than pressed firmly to the floor above.  This leaves a large gap between the floor and the insulation.  This gap permits cold air, which infiltrates from around the rim joist, to move between the floor and insulation, resulting in the cold floor above.

We solved this problem by dense packing the garage ceiling with blown in cellulose insulation.  When finished, the air infiltration is eliminated and the new insulation is pressed tightly and permanently to the floor. The result is a much warmer floor!

Second Floor Was Hot During Summer, Cold During Winter

Photo3The problem of the 2nd floor bedrooms was two-fold. During the summer the rooms heated up because the attic insulation was insufficient to stop the heat conducting into the home from the attic.  There were also significant air leaks in both the attic and the basement of the home. This allowed warm air to continually escape from the top of the home during the winter, causing the whole home to feel “dry” and the upstairs bedrooms to feel cold (this is called “Stack Effect”).

We solved the problem by air sealing the attic floor to prevent warm air from escaping from the top of the house.  Like most homes, this one had many large air leaks that were hidden beneath the existing fiberglass insulation.  Some of these leaks, such as ones around flu stacks, were so large they needed to be sealed with sheet metal and plywood. We then air sealed all the standard air leaks (top plates, wire holes, plumbing pipes, ceiling fixtures, etc) with spray foam.


Photo8Lastly we insulated the attic hatch with a 2” inch of R-10 rated foam board and blew in additional 10” of cellulose insulation to achieve a uniform R-49 insulation layer in the attic.

Access Hatch


To address air infiltration at the bottom of the home, we spray foamed the rim joists in the basement.  This eliminated cold air infiltration at the bottom of the home, which also reduces the updraft of warm air from the top of the home.

The Results?

Photo9Using a before and after air infiltration test (accomplished with a blower door), we confirmed that we reduced air leakage from the home by 33%! (or in other words tightened the home’s envelope by 33%!).  The heating and cooling bills decreased by an average of 30%.  And the house is now much more comfortable year round.  The upstairs bedrooms are cooler in the summer, and much warmer during the winter.

But don’t take our word for it, read the review that James wrote about us on Angie’s List:




James Y’s Angie’s List Review:

“After talking to the owner a few times he sent out someone to do an energy audit on the house and the gentleman that was sent out in early September was punctual, professional and knowledgeable.  The energy audit revealed we had some opportunities to improve insulation and decrease our energy bills. I was so impressed with the owner and his energy auditor that we decided to hire them to do work in our basement / garage ceiling and the attic.

It went well. Andy and his team showed up on the day they said they would and were able to get the insulation work done in our basement, garage, and attic. They had everything finished up and cleaned up by early evening which worked out well.  The team was very thorough and it’s obvious that Insulwise is all about doing the work correctly and professionally!   They uncovered a few issues in our attic and took the time to correct a vent pipe that had broken, a light fixture that was covered and could have represented a future fire hazard, and they also sealed off a huge void in our attic with plywood. The owner even let us contact his insurance company so we could be added to his insurance policy.  Real good experience. I have no doubt the work Insulwise did for us is going to mean a more comfortable home year round and lower utility bills.  Feels good knowing we will use less energy going forward and that we have lowered our carbon footprint.”

James Y. Monroeville, PA


We do not include costs for our jobs here because of the many variables involved in pricing each home.  We typically estimate a payback time of 2-5 years for most homes that we work on, given the substantial reductions in energy bills that most often result from our work! So call us today for a free energy and comfort analysis of your home!