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House Project #2: Insulating the Garage

March 13, 2023

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Our Longest and Coldest Winter

At this point, it's been months of freezing temperatures—often times in the single digits or below zero. Each sporadic storm is treated with caution as they can quickly intensify on a whim. As we slide back the curtains in the morning, a pillowy, monochromatic landscape greets us. However, despite the dynamic and unrelenting winter, we haven't felt like it was harsh or bitter. We find tremendous beauty and warmth in it all.

The birds are extremely lively in the morning as we laugh at their playfulness. The ground glistens in the afternoon sun, although rather blinding if you catch it at the wrong angle. And the early evenings' dense air exposes the glow of the town, so thick you could almost reach out and gather a fistful of it.

However, no matter how much we are enjoying a proper winter, we can't escape the realities of the cold and how certain house projects are limited due to it. So to change that, I needed to insulate the garage to increase our workspace when it's cold.

Since the walls were already insulated (but not sheet rocked yet - more on that later this year), I only had to focus on the roll up door and the attic. My buddy, Jason, helped me with every step of this process, making working in the frigid temps that much shorter.

Phase 1: The garage door

This was the quickest and cheapest tasks to tackle, and surprisingly offered significant warmth performance. In one day, roughly four hours, we installed a double layer of insulation onto the door for a combined R-value of 24. I would have liked higher, but it is just the garage, so that was perfect.

Our first step was stuffing each section with a pink fiberglass panel. After a little bit of trimming, the sections were filled in. The garage was already starting to stay warmer.

Next, we unrolled and cut to size sheets of a thinner foam & air-celled insulation. This would go over each section keeping the fiberglass secured, offer more insulation, and have a cleaner, finished look.

This last step took the longest as it was more finesse work and the cold temps made the adhesive tape less adhesive-y. I finished putting up the last few layer on my own in the evening. It was about 15-20 degrees, with flurries, for much of the day. I prolonged my hand washing to bring feeling back to my fingers under the warm faucet.

Unfortunately, not all of the panel stayed secure. By borrowed Jason's heat gun to warm up the ape again and that eventually did the trick to keep them in place.

Phase #2: The attic

The next weekend, we had 32 rolls of pink R-32 fiberglass batt to carry up into the attic to lay down. This was the simplest, but most laborious task to complete.

The access panel to the attic was smaller than the rolls so pulling them through was quite sweat inducing. After we squeezed up enough rolls, we began stuffing them into place. Jason, slithered on his stomach towards the edges while I fed him rolls and filled in the center sections between the joists.

It wasn't easy. Jason got a bit scratched up, we both hit our heads on a few exposed roofing nails, he unknowingly had his pocket knife fall out of his pocket and now it's covered by a foot of insulation somewhere, and my foot slipped twice almost punching holes through the drywall panels.

We took breaks between each cycle of pulling up and laying rolls, but eventually finished up in a few hours.

The End Results

With the garage fully insulated now it's much warmer and temperature stable. Before it was within 15 degrees of whatever it was outside. Always trailing behind like a snake's tail. A bit colder during the day and a bit warmer at night. Now I'm seeing a 30-40 degree difference!

This now means the garage can be used as a workspace. For colder days, I will still need a heater to take the edge off or when working with paint or stain so it'll dry, but a whole new world is open for us now as we continue to work through our home improvement list.

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