How to Properly Insulate an Old House and Maintain ROI

Because the tenant is the source of the landlord’s income, it’s a landlord’s top priority to keep the quality of living for a tenant high and the cost of living low.  If a tenant is uncomfortable or must pay too much in rent, utility costs, etc. they may vacate the property sooner than you would have liked.  Old houses have a tendency of being very drafty and are very inefficient in conserving energy.  This makes the tenant’s heating bills go through the roof.  If the tenant tries to cut on their costs by keeping the thermostat lower, they may be very uncomfortable in their stay.

Many landlords have the impression that there are little to no viable options for insulating these homes. Some low cost options of insulating the walls have the risk of further complications to the property that negatively impacts the landlord’s net operating income.  If the landlord tries to install the insulation properly, the costs very often outweigh the return on investment.

Problems with Traditional Methods for Insulation in Old Homes

Because the house is already built, your options are limited in terms of installation.  The easiest and most cost effective means of installing insulation is using a loose fill material of either fiberglass or cellulose.  This material is blown into the wall through a 1-2 inch hole in the wall and then plastered shut.  Any other method would require gutting the whole house to install the insulation.  While it’s cost effective to use loose fill, it causes a number of serious problems in older homes.

Old houses have a lot of micro fractures in the wall that allow moisture to get through.  Loose fill insulation can suffer significantly from soaking up this moisture.  If it builds up a lot of moisture, it can…

  • Permanently remove paint from the exterior
  • Makes an excellent home for termites
  • Develops mold
  • Rots the wood of an already aging house

Instead of saving money, the insulation has become a significant cost to the landlord.

But fear not.  There are a lot of alternative solutions to consider.  All of the following options are low-cost, high-benefit options that will make your tenants very happy in their home!


Insulate The Attic First

The attic is more accessible than the inside of your walls so you will be able to use vapor blockers and/or other materials to ensure that moisture does not get through to the insulation.  Because hot air rises, insulation in the attic is also going to provide the most benefit to keeping the house warm.  This makes attic insulation a no brainer for every home.

Use Window Insulation

Either you or your tenant can quickly and easily use window insulation to prevent a draft.  Windows are like giant holes in your house for heat to escape.  Window insulation is very inexpensive and makes a significant contribution to keeping the house snug and warm.

You can find different types of window insulation here.

Seal Air Leaks With Caulking

There may be some areas that allow air through, causing a draft.  This is easily remedied with a little sealant.  You can…

  • Add sealant to doors and attic windows.
  • Foam sealant is good for pipes, air ducts, and exhaust fans.
  • You also can use a special high temperature caulking around chimneys.

Kill Two Birds With One Stone When Adding New Siding

If you have an old house, you may have considered replacing the siding to increase the overall value of the home.  This is the perfect opportunity to add new insulation.  While it may not have been cost effective to do heavier construction for insulation, when coupled with replacing old siding, it might be.  You now have the access you need to install the insulation correctly so that it doesn’t build up moisture and cause your home a serious problem.

Check For Local Rebates And Tax Credits

If your major concern about adding insulation is cost, there may be a tax credit for you to add insulation properly to your home.  This is dependent on the state and local laws in which you reside so you will need to do a little research first.

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Great sources. No doubt, you’re an authority in the industry.


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