At Home with Lisa: Insulation

One really cool feature of a lot of older houses is what my boyfriend’s daughter calls “hobbit holes” and what people who know better call knee walls. I have a couple of these, one of which is in her room. These are on the second floor of old houses if the ceilings are slanted like the roof and the walls are probably four- or five-feet tall. This creates a small triangular space for storage.

In my 1910 house, there was some insulation missing in spots in my hobbit hole. Filling in those gaps can help keep the heat inside during the winter months. In some cases, if you insulate your attic spaces you can get a rebate from Avista.

I was hoping to just insulate the actual knee wall, which you can do, but there was already insulation in place there, but there were several spaces along the roof that needed insulation. I was looking at bare wood and the old door to the space is old and doesn’t completely seal off the area.

I measured the spaces and figured out I can get away with buying one big package of fiberglass insulation. I chose R13, since the higher the number means the better insulated the area will be.

I was nervous about using the fiberglass: anyone who has ever touched this stuff as a child knows how itchy any exposed skin can be after touching it. So, I also bought a good pair of work gloves.

In preparation, I watched a lot of videos online for this. In the videos I watched, they just lightly stuffed the insulation into the space between the two-by-fours. Seemed easy! I also bought a large flat piece of foam insulation to install over the fiberglass. In retrospect, I should have bought smaller pieces of this, since the large one couldn’t fit into my car to take home from the hardware store, and because I had to cut it anyway to get it into the space.

I gathered my gloves, a utility knife, a facemask, a hammer and nails and took them upstairs with the insulation.

If I had any outlets up here, I would have used spray foam around them, but I lucked out.

I took a large strip of fiberglass and stuffed it into place, not too hard, though, since you don’t want to flatten the fiberglass. Keeping it fluffy creates space between the fibers and adds to the insulating properties. I used my utility knife to cut off the excess at the bottom, which was easy enough. I also cut some smaller pieces to fill in some of the smaller gaps.

When the fiberglass was in place, I cut some of the foam insulation and tried to use my hammer and nails to put it into place.

This week I learned that hobbit holes are small and the weird, triangular space makes it very difficult to use a hammer and nails. After about 30 minutes of this, I took off my mask and gloves, opened up my laptop and ordered a staple gun for curbside pickup at the hardware store.

I also realized I was going to need help holding the foam insulation in place, so my boyfriend held it for me. In all, it probably took me a couple of hours to complete the project. This weekend, we’re going to cut small pieces of fiberglass to fill in the smaller holes at the bottom of the roof.

With the extra insulation in place, I hope a lot more of the heat in my house will stay there this winter, rather than seeping through my roof.

Lisa, an Avista customer, bought her 1910 house because she loved the old-world character, some of which doesn’t make her house very energy efficient. Lisa is sharing her experience on taking some simple do-it-yourself improvements to inspire others to do the same. You’ll find her stories right here every Tuesday morning.

In some cases, insulation rebates are available.

Rebate overview


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