Basement Insulation

Basement, Blog, Home / Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

Do you ever think to yourself, “Well I might as well, before it’s too late”? That’s what Ellie and I thought before we started hanging the pile of drywall we bought. We might as well insulate the basement walls, before it was too late and they were covered in drywall forever.

When we bought the house, the basement had studs attached to the concrete walls on one half of the basement. We thought that meant the hard work was done because we didn’t know how to attach anything to concrete. After that, it would simply be hanging drywall and stuff. So we bought the drywall and the flooring all in one go. We had it delivered because we couldn’t move it otherwise and there was a flat fee for delivery. However, we did not order the insulation at the same time, so we had to figure out how to get that home.

We decided to go with 1 in. pink foam board for the insulation. We had two reasons for it. One, we didn’t want to have to worry about moisture with the rolls of insulation on the basement walls. And two, the studs weren’t hung the proper way for a wall, so we had only a little over an inch of wall depth to fill with insulation.

Since we couldn’t find smaller panels of insulation anywhere, we decided to get 4×8 sheets of it and we would break it down before installing. However, we needed twenty-some sheets of it for the basement and I don’t think one would have fit in my car. I had to rent a truck to haul it all. The truck held it all and it was easy to unload. 

Before hauling the sheets of foam board into the basement, I broke each sheet in two by scoring it down the middle and then just snapping it. The snaps weren’t precise, but they were good enough. I’d need to further trim them to fit between the studs anyway. With the smaller pieces, it was easy for Ellie and I to carry them down the basement stairs. 

So here’s the thing, I thought having the studs installed for me would be a blessing but in reality, it was a curse. Whoever installed the studs was only loosely familiar with the concept of sixteen on center (space between the center of the studs). The space between the studs varied from 15 inches up to 24 inches and there was no sense of consistency or rhyme or reason to it. It was a job of, “that looks about right.” And really, since these are not load bearing studs, the only reason it mattered is that I needed to cut the foam board insulation to size to fit between the studs and every single stud was a unique case. Not only was the spacing inconsistent, but the studs were also hung at slight angles and some of the studs were bowed. So whatever the measurement was on the floor, it was not necessarily the measurement at the ceiling.

So my process to fit the insulation looked like this:

  • Measure the stud spacing at the floor
  • Measure the stud spacing at the ceiling
  • Mark those measurements on a piece of foam board
  • Using a 2×4 as a straightedge, score a line between the two marks with a utility knife
  • Snap off the off-cut
  • Test fit the insulation
  • Use a saw to trim as needed
  • Press into place

But that’s not all!

There were electrical outlets running throughout the basement, six in the area I was working. Each of these had the wire running to them with the plastic covers over the wire. Not only did I need to cut a hole for the electrical outlet, but I also needed to carve out a groove for the wire to sit in. It was a tedious process and made surprisingly easier by using a clay working tool I had in an art box somewhere. Fun fact, while you’re scooping out the groove, your finger is going to rub up against the insulation and it will start to burn. Fast.

It was a slow going process to hang all of the insulation. I think I knocked it out over the course of two weeks, doing an hour or two of work here or there in the evenings. Once it was done, however, it was a very satisfying feeling. I called Ellie down to show it off and asked her if she noticed a difference in the air temperature. We both claimed we did, but I’m wondering if it actually made that much of a difference. The walls themselves, will surely be warmer.

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