Home & Garden

Handyman: Is it OK to insulate without a vapor barrier?

Q: Is it OK to blow cellulose in the walls without a vapor barrier in an old house?

A: Yes, it is OK; insulation without a vapor barrier is less effective than insulation with a barrier, but there are ways to provide a barrier. You may already have one. In fact, if you have wet cellulose blown in (some companies do it), the well-packed insulation is a vapor barrier when it dries. Also, the interior face of your walls may be a vapor barrier; vinyl-coated wallpaper or wall-Tex is a vapor barrier; so are most oil paints and many latex paints.

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Q: I am having a bad time with my gutter on a full dormer. It freezes in winter, then melts and water runs over it, making big icycles and other messes of water running down the walls. Can I take that gutter off? Foundation bushes are very close to the house, and without the gutters, will get inundated. What can I do?

A: Yes, you can take that gutter off, but you must first move the bushes at least 3 feet from the house so they will not be inundated. Your 6-inch-wide overhang will allow good dripping without the gutter. You could build a concrete apron in the ground, so water will bounce away from the house when it drips to the ground. I say it can work because my hipped roof has no gutters, but there are other factors that might make it difficult to work.

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Q: Some of the floors slope in my condo on the third floor of a triple-decker. The slopes go from the sides of the house to the middle. I don’t mind the slopes, but recently they have gotten a bit steeper, and there are some squeaks when I walk on the floor. Can those floors be straightened out and the squeaks stopped? If so, how?

A: You might be able to straighten out the floors, but you would be better off keeping the slope from getting steeper. The squeaks can be stopped by screwing the top floor tighter to the subfloor and both floors to the joists.

Have an architect, structural engineer or a certified building inspector look at the beams in your building. It is possible to install new posts on proper footings to keep the slopes from increasing. Trying to straighten them out by jacking up the beam is difficult and iffy. This work is structural and should be done by, or with, a professional.

It appears that the beam has sagged a bit more. If that is so, then it is getting more and more urgent to find someone to fix it.

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