Q: I would like to re-insulate my attic because the second floor is always warm in the summers and cold in the winters. There is currently loose fill insulation in there, but it barely comes halfway up the joist. I am not sure what would be the best option to re-insulate: adding more loose insulation or removing the old insulation and applying new batts?

A: I’ve always been a fan of loose fill insulation in attics. It does a better job of covering all the joists without gaps or cold spots, and correctly applied the loose fill material traps a lot of air in it, and it’s actually all those millions of tiny air pockets that do the insulating.

New fiberglass insulation should be able to be blown right over the old material with no problems, which saves you the time, mess and expense of removing the old stuff. Blown fiberglass is a professional installation only, and the contractor will evaluate the condition of the attic, the old material that’s there, any heat-producing vents or lights that need to be protected, etc.

The only real drawback is if you were hoping to do this project yourself. The only blown-in material you can do yourself is cellulose — you can purchase the bags of material from a home center, and then you can rent the blower from them for a nominal cost (sometimes free). I’m not a big fan of cellulose in attics, however, because it’s heavier than fiberglass and tends to settle more, and the blower you’re provided with doesn’t have the pressure to really "loft" the material and create a lot of air space. You can also do batts yourself, either with or without removing the old material.

A call to your local building department will tell you what the current code is for your area as far as R-value is concerned, and that’s the level you want to shoot for. Before you undertake this, I would also suggest that you talk with your local utility company about an energy audit. This is a free service, and they can offer advice on other areas in your home where you can save energy. There are sometimes rebates and other financial incentives available as well.

By the way, you should see a big difference in both your comfort levels and your energy bills, so this is a great project to be undertaking.

Q: We had our basement finished, which included installing a bathroom. The ceiling fan is vented into the crawl space, which does not seem like a good idea, either for odors or moisture. Where is the proper place to vent a ceiling fan in a basement bathroom? I do not think that there is easy access to the roof or other vents that go to the roof.

A: Your best bet is going to be to vent the fan out horizontally through the stemwall that encloses the crawl space. If you have a sufficient number of crawl space vents for proper underfloor ventilation, then you can run the duct out through one of the vents without having to cut into the foundation. If not, you can hire a concrete cutting company to come out and drill a hole through the concrete stemwall, which is not a particularly difficult thing to do. After you have directed the vent pipe to the outside, finish off the installation with a vent cap that has a damper to prevent cold air from coming in and a rain hood to keep the rain out of the vent opening. All of the parts you need are commonly available at home centers or any retailer that has sheet metal fittings.

Incidentally, most building codes require that ventilation fans be taken all the way to the outside of the structure, for just the reasons you mention (particularly moisture). You said that you just had the basement finished, and in my opinion it is definitely the contractor’s responsibility to have vented the fan correctly in the first place. I would talk with the contractor about remedying the situation before you undertake any of the expense yourself.

Q: My bathroom basins consist of a white plastic or fiberglass shell that fits over the metal bowl. The white shell on one basin chipped and the dark metal shows through. Is there a white-colored patch I can apply to the shell that will cover the exposed metal and not wash away when the basin is used?

A: Most home centers and paint stores sell small bottles of appliance and fixture touchup paint that is specially formulated for this use. All you need to do is clean and dry the chipped area, then brush on the repair paint — it usually comes in a bottle with a brush attached to the cap. Allow it to dry, and you’ll have a completely waterproof and chip-resistant patch. Complete instructions are included with the product.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paulbianchina@inman.com.

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