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How To Check Your Walls For Existing Insulation





Sharon from Northern Virginia wrote:


I purchased a home 3 months ago. It's a townhouse built in 1987 in Northern Virginia. I discovered that there's no insulation on at least the back side of the house (fortunately I'm a middle unit).  The walls appear not to be insulated at all. I'm basing this on how cold the walls are, the air coming from the sockets, and word from a neighbor who discovered this when they removed their wall (heard word of mouth). I have the same problem on every level. I don't know about the ceilings and the home inspector didn't say anything about lack of insulation in the attic. What would you recommend for an inexpensive fix to this problem? I wish I knew who built my house - I'd love to hold them responsible for this!


Sharon, the first thing to do is to find out if your walls have any insulation installed. There are several methods for determining if you have any insulation in your walls and I'll show you how.

Method 1:

You can check for existing wall insulation by locating a electrical wall plate located on a exterior wall. Turn off the circuit breaker so you don't get yourself shocked. I've been hit several times by 110 volts and believe me it doesn't feel good. Before removing the wall plate plug something into it like a blow dryer or small lamp and make sure the power is off. Remove the wall place. Grab a clothes hanger or something similar and use some pliers to make a small hook at the end. Use a flashlight and look into the wall cavity for insulation. Take your hook and slide it into the wall to try to feel any existing insulation.

Method 2:

This is a more effective way to see if your exterior walls have insulation. Find a exterior wall in a closet or under the kitchen sink. You could also use a garage wall adjacent to your heated living space. Make sure the power supply to the wall is turned off at the circuit breaker. Using a hole saw or reciprocating saw cut a 1" to 2" hole in the exterior wall. Don't forget to grab a dust mask and goggles before you start. If you're under the kitchen sink make sure you don't jerk your head and hit the sink. Man let me tell you, that sure hurts and you'll be sorry you did that fool thing. Anyway, you now have a clear view of the insulation, if any, and you can also determine it's thickness and type to come up with the R-Value. The only drawback to this method of checking for existing wall insulation is that you will have to patch the wall when finished.

Method 3:

This is my final tip for determining if you have any wall insulation. Grab a pry bar and goggles. Head on outside and find a smaller section of siding. Gently remove it. You may encounter sheathing that you will need to cut through with a utility knife. Now you have a clear view of what's inside that wall. From this method you can easily determine if you have any insulation installed in the wall and how much insulation you have. Once done replace the sheathing and make sure it's sealed to prevent any insects from moving on into the house and re-attach the siding.

OK Sharon, that's all there is to it. If you don't have any existing insulation in the exterior walls than you should think about installing blown in insulation into existing walls.  It's a little messy but fairly inexpensive.

Related Tips and Advice:

How To Insulate A Wood Stud Wall With Fiberglass Batts
How To Insulate Your Attic With Fiberglass Batts or Blankets
How To Install Blown In Insulation In Your Attic
How To Insulate A Concrete Wall


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