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Zappo 06-18-2009 05:25 PM

Mystery Insulation
I'm renovating an old house, and a couple exterior doors needed replacing. They were weird dimensions, so I'm going to modify the framing to fit standard 80"x32 doors. When I was removing the old door frame, I started taking down down some wall material. It's cement and lathe, and I want to put new wiring in too, so I was planning on removing some wall coverings and putting up drywall later. Anyway, as I was taking down this plaster and lathe, I came across some insulation that appears to have been sprayed in. I have no idea what this **** is, but it looks like it's going to make a mess removing it. I want to get rid of this stuff, and put in modern fibreglass batt insulation then do my wiring and drywall.

The house was built sometime in the 20's, but the seller had no idea about anything about the place. He could basically only tell me the same things I could see looking around which was pretty useless.

Here are some pictures of the insulation:

Can anyone identify what this stuff is? It's extremely lightweight and airy. There's a small chunk resting on a piece of wood, and that small chunk came from me sticking a piece of scrapwood in and pulling it out. It looks like very fine grained offwhite snow or dust. Anyone ever come across this before? What's the best way to remove it?

Zappo 06-18-2009 09:53 PM

Those horizontal slats, by the way, are about an inch and a quarter wide, and maybe 3/16 thick. I can tell it was blown in because it surrounds wiring. Isn't blow-in insulation an afterthought? How could they not have originally insulated the walls?!

handyguys 06-19-2009 01:01 PM

The slats are called lath. They are used for old fashioned plaster installation.

The insulation looks like a modern blown in or sprayed in insulation. My guess is someone added insulation to the old house in the past 20 years or even more recently.

I wouldn't go out of my way to remove it. It is absolutely something added after the house was built and finished.

Zappo 06-19-2009 02:38 PM

There's about an inch gap between it and the studs and other boards. Should I be concerned about that for insulation efficiency sake? I am pretty sure that in any cavity that has old wiring, that stuff is going to fall loose when I pull on the wiring. Same for when I adjust the frame of the doorway. Should I try to find the same stuff, for replacement, or get fiberglass? Or try to staplegun some plastic up and scoop the stuff back in before the drywall goes up? The seller didn't think it was insulated originally.

Nestor_Kelebay 06-19-2009 09:59 PM

It's urea formaldehyde foam insulation and it was installed in the 1970's in the US.

It caused a real uproar up here in Canada because the Canadian government wanted people to upgrade their insulation for greater energy efficiency and offered a rebate program on the cost of re-insulating. Lots of people opted to use this new urea formaldehyde foam which was injected through a hole drilled in the exterior wall, and the hole then plugged.

The problem was that lots of people with UFFI foam insulation in their walls started complaining about nausea, headaches, fatigue, respiratory difficulties and even nose bleeds. However, when these people's houses were tested, the formaldehyde concentration in the air was found to be well within Health Canada's exposure standards. It was found that you would be exposed to much higher levels of formaldehyde if you had a new carpet installed or sat in the smoking section of a cafeteria.

UFFI foam insulation was banned in Canada in 1980, but it was never banned in Europe and is still used there today. In fact, in Europe, UFFI foam insulation is considered one of the better products to retro-insulate your home with.

Google urea formaledehyde foam insulation

Alternatively, click on the Google "Images" link and search for pictures of other urea formaldehyde foam insulation to confirm it looks just like the stuff in your wall.

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