Gaines Group Architects

How to fix comfort issues in your home on cold days

As the season turns to colder weather, comfort issues can impact your daily life. A draft coming down an outside wall or around a window is a common issue for homes in our area. There are also areas in the home that you might overlook that impact comfort like attic access, electrical outlets, kitchen cabinets, tubs on outside walls, and basements / crawl spaces.

attic insulation

Sealing up the leaks in your home will increase your comfort all year, but most notably during the colder months. Finding the leaks and stopping them is a relatively easy thing to do in most cases but not all. In existing homes using caulk at key points, weather-stripping around doors, gaskets at electrical outlets, and foam insulation in the attic and basement / crawl space can get the job done. The harder leaks to stop come from missing insulation inside of walls,  insulation installed incorrectly inside of walls, leaky HVAC ducts, and leaks behind tubs and kitchen cabinets.


Take these simple steps to reduce your energy bills, increase comfort, and improve indoor air quality.

1. Insulate around wall and ceiling penetrations – recessed lights, electrical outlets, medicine cabinets, and light switches.

2. Plug up the leaks – attic access, doors and windows, crawl space, and basement

3. Foam the gaps – band board is a huge area of leakage

4. Inspect dirty insulation in the attic and make sure there is not an air path coming into your home.

5. Install storm windows

6. Make sure your fireplace flue it closed tightly when not in use.

7. Install seals / sweeps at the base of all exterior doors

8. Get an energy audit to verify you corrected all the issues.


Who Can You Trust in the Construction Industry?

Trust in the Construction Industry

I was called out to a house in Albemarle County yesterday to look at a window issue (I will not post any pictures of the actual project to protect all involved). After some discussion about windows and energy efficiency the home owners moved the discussion to upgrades they had made at their home over the past year. A new 2.5 ton HVAC system was installed on the second floor to supplement the 10 ton unit already installed. The HVAC contractor said it was needed and also rebuilt the entire duct system. As you might expect this work came with a high cost. The home owners also encapsulated part of their crawl space, but did not condition it or insulate. The HVAC system which was probably (most likely) already oversized was made larger leading to short cycling and higher humidity. The crawl space now has no ventilation leading to a humidity problem even with a HUGE dehumidifier running in the space. Nobody looked at the building science behind the problems trying to be addressed. As a result, the home owners have high electric bills, moisture issues, and are feeling defeated.

Trust in the Construction Industry

So how do you find someone you can trust in the industry? These home owners did get references that said the work done at their homes was good. I agree that should be the first place to start. However, this simply narrows the list to contractors that have done what they said they were going to do, it does not mean they have any knowledge of building science or look at holistic solutions. A home is the most complicated machine you will ever own. It performs different on a cloudy day than sunshine filled day. It performs different on a cold day to a hot day. It performs different as it gets older. So how can you ever really trust someone to deliver the right solution?

There are certifications in the industry that show the person doing the work has the added training on a particular topic. To learn about these certifications, read our previous post. You can also ask questions about their experience to see if they know about building science – for instance “what climate are we in?” and “how does our climate impact insulation recommendations?” and “did you do a Manual J to make sure the size of the HVAC unit will work efficiently?”

Trust in the Construction Industry

I was heart-broken yesterday for this retired couple that has used their monetary resources for solutions that are not optimal. There is no going back, just trying to finish and fix what was already put in place spending more money. If you are facing comfort, efficiency, or durability issues in your home, ask lots of questions.

What should I know when selecting a contractor?

What questions should I ask before building our new home?

What questions should I ask when looking for the perfect green product?

My house is cold and I need my HVAC system fixed. Who do I call?

You will almost certainly need a holistic solution as one change will impact many other aspects of your home. It is difficult to know who to trust in our industry. Who is just trying to sell a product and who understands the science behind the problem? I am happy to discuss your home issues, just give me a call.

Comfort Issues in Your Home – Building Science Issues Identified

Comfort issues in your home are often caused by things behind the walls.

Air tight and vapor permeable is a known goal for any home that is built today to a higher standard. We want comfort in our rooms, even temperatures, and lower electric bills. It is important to get the details right during construction to achieve those goals. We spend 90% of our time indoors. Building your home right will improve the indoor air quality, energy efficiency, and durability of your home.

Comfort issuesThis particular home used fiberglass insulation in the sloped ceiling. This does not allow for the attic space to be air tight, enough room for ventilation, or enough room to properly insulate the space. A leak in the top of the home (joints in the drywall) allows warm moist air to flow through the existing insulation building up moisture. This can lead to rot and greatly diminishes the effective insulation of the material. The eaves allow some air to infiltrate from outside, but not enough to allow the air to dry the sloped ceiling space. All of these issues can be avoided with a sloped ceiling with a good understanding of building science. Whether the space is above a garage, finished attic, or a vaulted space in your living room – proper insulation strategies are critical to reduce comfort issues in your home.

Read about this home addition’s building science issues in our blog post.

Comfort issues in your home caused by issues behind the walls – Building Science issues identified

Sloped ceilings are a common solution when trying to maximize a space. This photo was taken in a carriage house that was renovated into a living quarters. What are the issues in this space that can cause comfort issues in the rest of the home? We see the same condition in rooms over garages and cape cod homes. Stay tuned to our blog for an analysis of things typically found in this kind of space.