Envelope Efficacy

Now that we are a good month into wintry weather here in the hinterlands we have at least a few data points for evaluating the work on the cabin over that past year.

Last January I hired a local electrician/chimneysweep/handyman/spelunker to work with me to insulate the walls of the crawlspace underneath the cabin (actually he did the overwhelming proportion of the work, mostly because he loved squirming around in the spaces where I would not even fit).  We also installed a heavyweight vapor barrier and a sump pump to lower the moisture encroachment and empty the pond that had been constructed underneath the kitchen.

Then, over the summer we had the log cabin  portion of the home re-chinked, which involved chipping out the thousand linear feet of c.1965 chinking that had been done skillfully but improperly.  The new chinking both enhanced the aesthetics of the cabin but also, as we hoped even more, would provide a much “tighter” envelope for the domicile.  Given that we live in a windy region and in previous winters we could literally observe tissues in the living room waving in the breeze on a stiff winter night, anything to slow down the wind through the house was a good thing.

The effects on the home are notable, one curious and the other remarkably beneficial.  As to the first, the subsequent “dry out” of the crawl space resulted in shrinkage of the sub flooring and thus buckling the underlayment beneath the vinyl flooring.  As a result I will almost certainly have to re-floor the new part of the house (c.1985), probably with some selection from the tongue-and-groove bamboo menu.

As to the issue of tightening the log cabin front half of the house, it is nothing short of astoundingly good.  There is no observable flow of air through the space.  Admittedly, we have plastic taped over all of the c.1985 triple-track windows (which provide excellent ventilation open or closed) we hope to replace with high efficiency units this coming summer.

Combined, all these elements result in a cozy home for the first time since we bought it two decades ago.  It has always been charming, but now it is cozy, too.  Mrs. Barn is now comfortable walking around the house in normal attire and footwear rather than bundled with multiple layers of wintry clothing.  One important outcome for me is that we will probably only need about half as much firewood as before.   A full morning charge in the wood stove’s large firebox suffices pretty much for the full day, adding only the occasional piece of firewood from time to time, and a second full charge at bedtime will keep the house warm though the night.  In previous winters I needed to load up the stove again late in the after noon then get up around 3AM to re-load the wood stove in order to be comfortable in the morning.  Now the house stays about 68 degrees through the night with a nice bed of glowing coals ready to start up again first thing in the morning.

I call that a good development.