How to Insulate the Exterior Walls of an Old House


Just because you've got an old house that was built before modern insulating methods were developed doesn't mean you have to put up with heat loss through the exterior walls. While there's no way to install regular rolls of fiberglass insulation without ripping open the walls, you can blow "loose'" insulation into them, filling each space between every pair of studs, with a rented insulation blower. To get the insulation into the wall, you'll need to cut holes near the ceiling and then patch them, so plan on re-painting the whole room.

Things You'll Need

  • Electronic stud finder
  • Insulation blower
  • Power drill
  • Hole-saw drill bit, as wide as the hose on the insulation blower
  • Loose insulation
  • Dish towel
  • Joint compound
  • Self-adhesive mesh drywall tape
  • Drywall knife
  • Drywall sander
  • Locate all the studs in the exterior wall of the room, using an electronic stud finder.

  • Drill a hole between every two studs, about 6 inches from the ceiling; use a drill with a hole-saw bit. Save the cutouts.

  • Fill the insulation blower with loose insulation. Stick the end of the hose into the first hole, threading it into the wall as far as it will go. Tuck a dish towel around the hose where it enters the hole.

  • Start the blower. Listen as it fills the wall space and pull it partway up when you hear it straining (which means the insulation is piling up around the end of the hose). Gradually pull the hose up until the wall section is filled and the end of the hose comes out the holes. Repeat for each hole.

  • Set one of the cutout pieces from the wall into the first hole. Lay self-adhesive mesh drywall tape over the cutout piece, so it stays in place and plugs the hole. Spread joint compound over the cutout piece with a drywall knife, covering the tape completely. Repeat for each hole.

  • Let the compound dry for about six hours. Apply a second layer of compound over the first, again getting it smooth and flat. Let it dry and apply a third layer. When the third layer dries, sand it smooth. Paint the wall.

Tips & Warnings

  • Always wear a paper dust mask when using the insulation blower.

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