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Dear Jim: Our house has very little, if any, wall insulation. Several of the rooms, especially the kitchen, feel chilly when I sit near a wall. What can I do to make it more comfortable on a limited budget? - Mary G.
A: I was raised in a house with chilly full masonry walls and I know exactly what you mean. The chilly feeling that you are experiencing is called radiant heat loss to the cold uninsulated walls.
It is basically the opposite effect of sitting in the warm sun by a window. Even though the air temperature in your house is warm enough, the cold exterior walls literally draw heat out of your body. This often forces you to set up the furnace thermostat driving up your utility bills.
Since your budget is limited, you will not be able to have the walls professionally insulated. If you have full masonry walls, there is no gap inside the walls for insulation anyway. Adding insulation on the exterior is a major job. Adding insulation on the interior surface loses floor space.
A low-cost do-it-yourself method to solve this problem is to build some attractive storage space on the outside wall. Every house can use some additional shelves, cabinets or an extra kitchen pantry.
Building a closet or storage area with a tight-sealing door creates an insulating dead air space. For even more insulation, attach a layer of insulation to the back of your new storage area. Rigid foam insulation provides the highest insulation value and is easy to install. Check your local fire codes because they may require foam insulation to be covered with drywall.
If you are not handy with tools, build simple wooden shelves. They will add only a slight amount of insulation, but they interfere with the chilly air currents that naturally occur down along a cold outside wall. There are also new modular wall storage kits that will produce the same effect.
A good weekend project is building a shallow kitchen pantry, with a door and drawers. An outdoor corner is the most efficient location and it will take up little usable floor space. Build it with plywood and standard lumber. Use drawer tracks and hinges available at any hardware store.
White Home Products makes attractive drawer/shelf units that glide on tracks in front of existing wall storage. There are also do-it-yourself decorative wall fabric/insulation systems that attach to hidden strips at the top and bottom of your walls. They literally snap together.
Instant Download Update Bulletin No. 484 - listing of 8 manufacturers of do-it-yourself storage systems, do-it-yourself instructions, illustrations and required materials for understair storage, kitchen pantry cabinet and laundry room shelves, listing of wall insulation products, tips on organizing your closet, illustrations with descriptions of several different storage products available.
Dear Jim: I need to refinish my hardwood floors near my fireplace. Sparks and hauling in wood have damaged them. How can I tell if oil-based urethane will adhere well to the floor? - John W.
A: First tape off two four-inch square spots on the floor. Select one near a corner and one in the middle of the floor. Sand the spots lightly with 150-grit sandpaper and apply the urethane.
Give it a day or so to cure and then try to scrape it off. If it flakes off easily from the old finish, you will have to sand the old finish off completely. Good luck because it is a dusty backbreaking job.