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What to do when home insulation gets soaked; sealing a chimney

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Q Four years ago we insulated our century-old clapboard house by having cellulose blown into the walls. Recently a heavy rainstorm made clogged gutters overflow, sending torrents of water into the walls and soaking the insulation. Workmen, in repairing the gutters, told us the insulation has not settled. Will the moisture rot the wood studs? Should the insulation be removed from the inside or outside, if necessary? What should we do? Robert Baker Malden, Mass.

The degree of wetness and the subsequent drainage of the stud cavities may determine the answer to your questions. Certainly any continuing dampness of the framing should be avoided, not only because of the potential damage to the structure, but also it could trigger mold and an unwelcome odor.

I am surprised that the insulation has not settled. If it were my house, I'd verify the workmen's opinion that it has not.

Should the insulation have to be removed, its access, whether from inside or out, should be determined by a comparison between the interior and exterior wall finishes. Likely, the removal would be through an outside access. If your 100 -year-old framed walls have a fire stop at mid-point, insulation removal would then have to be from above that midpoint as well as from above the bottom plate.

Before doing anything drastic, I'd have the insulation contractor make an on-site inspection and recommendation. Further, ask a local veteran builder for advice on how best to remove the wet insulation, if indeed it has to be removed and replaced.

The water problem may be covered under a residential insurance policy. Get in touch with your insurance agent before proceeding with any corrections.

This problem may serve to raise a red flag to homeowners who have gutters on their houses. All gutters should be seasonally checked and cleaned in order that rain water may flow freely.


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