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Blower Door Test

Posted by Xclusive (My Page) on
Wed, Jun 20, 12 at 10:15

Ok I'm not that familiar with blower door test but I have read several post on this forum and read up on it as well. My builder, Norfolk Homes, states they are an energy star builder on there website's front page but when I asked when the blower door test would be done they stated to me they build by energy star's standards but are no longer an energy star partner. Seems very deceiving to me but they stated I would get the blower test done on my house since I was under contract(we were on a contingency to sell for 6 months) when they were still an energy star builder. My concern is that I asked do they caulk the outlet boxes and switches and HVAC vents where they were cut thru the drywall because they are obvious gaps and they stated this is something that they do not do. I don't see how the house can be energy efficient with so many gaps throughout the whole house. Below are just a few pictures represenative of how the majority of outlets and vents are throughout the entire house. Any insight or suggestions would be greatly apprecited.

thanks

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Here is a link that might be useful: Our home sell/build blog


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Blower Door Test

This is by no means an expert or professional opinion, but I believe the blower door test is supposed to be done before drywall is up, and the outlets are supposed to be caulked behind the drywall.


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RE: Blower Door Test

yes a blower door test should be done before drywall so you can repair any leaks. still i would get it done just to see how well they did.
outlets dont need to be caulked. their sealing should be behind them. light boxes and vents in the ceiling are another matter. they should be foamed on the backside. anything exposed to outside air should be foamsealed.


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RE: Blower Door Test

OK thanks for the response and hopefully more people will chime in but I was thinking they needed to be sealed as well. I know for a fact one was not done before drywall went up :( Guess this will be on my list when I meet with the builder as well.

Thanks!


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RE: Blower Door Test

vhehn - "should be foam sealed" - based on what? Code? Energy star standards?

ES in our area only requires blower door after drywall. It also does not require foam or caulk at any electrical or plumbing penetration. The only additional air sealing beyond code is foam around windows and doors and it also requires all batts to be covered on both sides and fill the gap (the blocking does help to air seal a little bit).

What is acceptable in certain parts of the country are not acceptable in other parts. Where is the build taking place?


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RE: Blower Door Test

What does your contract say?

Anything not in the contract does not exist.


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RE: Blower Door Test

What is the point of doing a blower door test after the drywall is up? I have no idea what Energy Star standards are, however we plan on having the blower door test before the drywall goes up so we can walk around the house and caulk any identified problem areas.

After the drywall is up all it can really do is tell you how tight the house is it doesn't really give you the opportunity to correct many issues.


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RE: Blower Door Test

I specify 2 blower door tests on my projects. One at open framing and rough in, and one after the drywall is up and taped. Then again, I typically spec ADA, which that pic clearly is not (assuming they are exterior wall locations in the picture).
ES requires a certain infiltration rating. It does not mean all of those areas need caulked. However they certainly help. ES infiltration rating is by no means a hard rating to hit. Energy suppliers around here offer incentives based on BEATING ES by 3% and 5%, with ES 3.0 being the base requirement. Caulking around the boxes at this point will help some, but if the drywall is not installed with caulk or gaskets at your heads and sill plates, air will still get in. Also you will get air in from the back through the box where the wires enter.
Very very few drywallers know about it, and even fewer do it. 4 of the 5 drywallers I contacted in my area didnt know what I was talking about when I suggested air tight drywall, one even told me it didnt exist and I did not know what I was talking about. I was never asking them what it was, rather if they have done it. If not, I would show them. The lone 5th "recalled hearing about it, but have never done it and was interested in learning".
Drywalling does tighten the shell up some, even with gaps as in your picture. This is why many builders and ES builders test after the gyp is up. It will give them the tightest possible rating they can get. I like to test at the rough in with the walls open, get a good rating at 1.5 ach@50pac or below, knowing it will most likely be below 1 ach after the gyp is up.

As mentioned, if your contractor had it in the original bid or contract, they need to do it.


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RE: Blower Door Test

as an energy star partner I always did an
intermediate inspection before drywall was up.
inspect insulation, mastic seal of ductwork
flashing of windows etc.
trades on the job to seal any items needed.
prior to build starting was meeting about
sealing sole plates.

then when drywall is up testing of house.

second blower door was necessary for final
rating. done when house is complete
prior to move in.

I don't do a lot of new construction these days.

but we had to meet with builders & tradespeople
and educate them as to what was required.

you can check epa.gov for energy star requirements.

if your completed home falls below .30 air changes
per hour ashrae 62.2 ventilation is required.

you should be talking to them now about fresh air
requirements.

I hope those supply boxes will be insulated...
don't know what they hoped to accomplish by
using mastic on the inside of the box. it is the
cut in the sheetrock to the box that should be sealed.

best of luck


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RE: Blower Door Test

"based on what? Code? Energy star standards?
ES in our area only requires blower door after drywall. It also does not require foam or caulk at any electrical or plumbing penetration"

based on common sense. are you telling me you dont foam light boxes and cans in the ceiling? your conditioned air will go right into the attic.


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RE: Blower Door Test

Common sense does not make it a requirement.

Foaming recessed cans is actually specifically disallowed and I believe that is an IRC specification. Recessed cans are not designed to be foamed.


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RE: Blower Door Test

What I'm hearing is that a blower door test before drywall is to find leaks and seal them, and after drywall is to be certified as energy star?

Personally, as a home owner I'm more concerned with the first test (I haven't seen an advantage to having my own home actually certified) and I would want any exterior penetration sealed before the drywall goes up, that includes can lights, electrical boxes on the exterior wall etc. Are you suggesting it is against code to seal around can lights? Wouldn't that be a heat loss/gain area to the attic?

Random related question - how much does a blower door test cost? (I'm in California so always on the high end of things price wise).


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RE: Blower Door Test

correct. you can not spray foam right over cans, even IC rated. What I have worked out on projects is 2 options dealing with spray foams- they can build a box to go around the can and spray foam up and over the box. Or they can wrap the box with a piece of batt and then foam up and over the batt.

Also you can not foam inside electrical boxes. You would have to do it on the backside where the wires enter.

Blower door tests around here run 400-600 each. well worth it to find the leaks, especially if done prior to insulation and gyp. Walking around with something as simple as a candle can find a lot of leaks.


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RE: Blower Door Test

ES cert for me got 5% off NG and electric for life.

I would suspect CA code to be strict enough to A) require a blower door and B) ES certification is not necessary.

CA code is strict enough that I personally wouldn't go higher. I'd put the money into solar panels/hot water and focus on window shading and orientation which code is probably not strict with.


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RE: Blower Door Test

California code is strict enough so that ES certification is not necessary, and I haven't been able to find any advantage to it here in terms of utilitily bills or anything else, though, that doesn't mean I didn't miss something!

That said, a blower door test is not required, and I'd like one to help find any leaks before drywall goes up. I have heard recommendations about sealing around electrical outlets and can lights though I didn't think about how that sealing would occur.

We aren't going with spray foam, I was just talking about using some time of spray foam/caulking around these items. Is there something else that should be done?

I'm probably worrying needlessly as my builder likely knows, but I want to make sure we aren't missing anything! :)


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RE: Blower Door Test

I find it truly shocking that CA doesn't require a blower door test. GA requires it. And the CA mandates generally are very strict.

But I guess common sense and CA law never go hand in hand.

That being said, depending on location in CA, the role of infiltration in heating and cooling maybe very low.


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RE: Blower Door Test

I too can not believe they would not require it. Iowa does for ES homes.

If the electrical RI has not been completed the easiest and best way to get air tight drywall is to use AT boxes. They typically come with a wide flange around the face of the box that is caulked or an adhesive backed gasket is installed on it that the gyp compresses into when installed. Some boxes come with a foam gasket already on it. These are the easiest and least messy boxes for drywallers to use, plus you know for sure the box was sealed. It is hard to check for caulking on the flanges after the gyp is up. They obviously do cost more, but try to reduce the amount of electrical on the exterior anyway. For instance stick 1 code required outlet on the bedroom wall. If you need more outlets close, stick them near the corners at the interior intersections.
If the boxes have already been installed, you can caulk the back side of the outlets where the wire enters with a firecaulk or a shot of spray foam in a can. spray foam around all other penetrations such as fresh air intakes, exhausts, exterior electrical, plumbing/hose bibs, etc.

However going to the efforts of sealing around the boxes is next to pointless if the top and bottom of the gyp is not sealed to the framing. This can be done again with gaskets or caulk.
Read up on Air tight drywall for more information.


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RE: Blower Door Test

From what I understand it is required in some situations, not others, but maybe I misunderstood. I just told my builder I wanted it done either way before the drywall goes up to find leaks.


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RE: Blower Door Test

if the recessed lights are not ICAT
(insulation contact air tight) there
are ways to address them.

AT inserts installed from inside the
house.

building a box of fire rated materials
around them..IE sheetrock box sealed
at corners & to attic floor.

we were told by our state program that it
is acceptable to use a foam ice chest
cut to fit around legs of recessed light
and caulked to attic floor. only requirement
is 4" clearance on all sides and to top of ice chest.

you can tell if the recessed light is
air tight by looking at the housing in
the attic. if you see holes in the
housing..it is IC only.
no holes..ICAT
also inside the recessed lights themselves
are stickers. misleading stickers.
IC cans have a red & white sticker that says
in lg print..air tight..in smaller print
when used with the following inserts & trims.
ICAT has an orange and white sticker
tha says air tight. and it is.

it is more cost effective to simply purchase
ICAT to start with. maybe $20 more for a case of 6.
the inserts are about $15 each.
other methods are less expensive, but more labor
intensive.
personally I don't think IC only cans should be
allowed..but that is just my opinion.

you pay for the life of the light if they are not sealed, so
seal now, or pay forever for leakage they allow.

one of the biggest problem I see is that hvac supply
boxes are not sealed at the cut through the sheetrock.
this allows attic air, dust & insulation particles
to enter the house. I seal one box for each client
and have them do the rest. hardcast mastic tape
from sheetrock into lip of supply box. pressed
tightly to seal, and re-enforced at corners.
when when grill is installed the box stays
sealed in contact with sheetrock.
this works on all supply boxes located in
ceilings, walls and floors. this crack is covered
by supply grill but is a problem leakage site.

here are a few pics

best of luck.


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supply box sealed to sheetrock

and two
hardcast brand #1402 tape


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RE: Blower Door Test

Posted by energy_rater_la (My Page) on Fri, Jun 22, 12 at 14:27

"and two
hardcast brand #1402 tape"

Thanks for the pics, that really does help and guess I will definitely be doing that with all of the ducts I have. Do you do this around light fixtures and smoke detectors as well?

Thanks!

Here is a link that might be useful: Our home sell/build blog


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RE: Blower Door Test

any pictures of how you seal outlets and wall switches on exterior walls?

Thanks!


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RE: Blower Door Test

400-600$ is pretty steep for a blower door test. Our energy rater charges us 75$ for additional tests on a home that we are certifying. Probably not the biggest money maker for them but its more of a courtesy for using them on the certification. Yet another reason to build Energy Star as a minimum.

Here is a link that might be useful: Blower Door Test Explanation w pictures and diagrams


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RE: Blower Door Test

My builder had mentioned 300-400 for a blower door test, so I was excepting that.

Though again, California Title 24 pretty much covers the Energy Star standard, I can't imagine trying to meet yet another guideline!


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RE: Blower Door Test

foam gaskets on outlets and switches.
hd, lowes..about 10 to a pack.
I usually run a bead of caulk at sheetrock to
elec box before putting gasket in place.
a zero draft guy I know uses the punch
out piece for outlet boxes. he puts
those child resistant plugs with the punch
out piece on the plug.

light & smoke detectors..caulk.

you would also want to seal cuts around
bath fans & stove vent with the mastic tape.
I use mastic tape to attach back draft damper
to housing of bath fans, and to attach the
venting to the damper.

hardcast 1402 sticks to metal, plastic
wood..the only tape I've found that makes all
these transitions.

prices on blower door testing varies as we are
all independent.
builders get lower prices for multiple projects
homeowners higher as it is a one shot.

best of luck


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RE: Blower Door Test

Pictures 84-87 show electrical outlets.

Here is a link that might be useful: Delores house


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RE: Blower Door Test

delores house is what we all strive to do.
it should be a feature of this forum.

hey Rollie!


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RE: Blower Door Test

"Posted by rollie (My Page) on Sun, Jun 24, 12 at 7:59

Pictures 84-87 show electrical outlets.

Here is a link that might be useful: Delores house"

Now that is attention to detail!!! I only wish my builder paid 1/2 the attention yours did, I would probaly be happy...lol I agree that should be a sticky somewhere and a guide for how it should be done!

Since my builder (Norfolk Homes) and the GC state they don't do this, I have been caulking my light fixtures & smokes. I will do the rest of the light fixtures once we move in and I put the ceiling fans in (we had our rooms pre-wired) and I'll do the vents once we move in as well. Can't wait to see what we the actual numbers are once my blower door test is done which should be in the next week or so and I will post up my results.

Here is a link that might be useful: Our home sell/build blog


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RE: Blower Door Test

"Common sense does not make it a requirement.
Foaming recessed cans is actually specifically disallowed and I believe that is an IRC specification. Recessed cans are not designed to be foamed."

i never said anything about foaming over the whole can. at a minumum the gap between the light cans/boxes/hvac wall intrusions and the drywall cut should be sealed with foam. any builder who cant be bothered with such a simple fix even if its not a requirement is incompetent.


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RE: Blower Door Test

I have a question? So looking at the picture below, my builder Norfolk Homes put some of my bats in incorrectly which I did not catch before drywall went up.

Day 85 - Insulation added

Also, I just checked and I dont have any insulation in my attic (bats or blow in) on either side of my house. (you can see the attic in first picture as well)

attic over left side of the house

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attic over right side of house

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What recourse do I have? I know the builder should have done this properly but there was also an insulation inspection supposedly done by the city(at each stage of the building process) prior to drywall going up. Someone had to come out and approve the way the insulation was installed. Norfolk tried to convince me that bats were put in before drywall so I had to go check myself again and surely enough they were not. Oh well, guess I have some research to do!

Here is a link that might be useful: Our home sell/build blog


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RE: Blower Door Test

SO they are claiming they insulated your attic???

What climate zone are you in?


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RE: Blower Door Test

Blown attics are typically done later - like a few days before the CO is issued (in my area). Don't go around getting mad for no reason.

Vhehn - I guess you would consider every builder in my area incompetent. There is so much leakage in a can that just foaming the intrusion is not enough. You could foam all the intrusions and still have a very leaky ceiling.

What exactly is wrong with the batts as installed?


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RE: Blower Door Test

batts are compressed and not cut to fit the stud space. It further reduces the insulating value of fiberglass batts.


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RE: Blower Door Test

Hey ERLA!

I looked thru the insulation pictures from the blog..... and I agree with lzerarc... the batt insulation in the attic spaces is particularly disheartening..

Before I would worry about sealing outlets, I would be concerned with the attic bypass shown in your last picture.. It appears to be a room with a coffered cieling built down on all 4 walls.. 2 walls are outside walls already, so the bypass isnt nearly as important.. outside air to outside air.. but the other two walls appear to be inside walls (insulated) where the coffer was built down onto the interior wall, without any visible blocking to stop the interior air from bypassing into the attic. (disclamer: It is possible that there is in fact blocking between the studs at the coffer line, it just isnt apparent in the picture. )

I have always been of the opinion that the "Pink Panther" (batt insulation) should never be allowed in the attic..

in order to decide which is the best way to prepare for a blower door test, the specific climate of the build needs to have primary consideration..

Hot climate requires the "Air Barrier" to be on the outside of the envelope..

Cold climate requires the "Air Barrier" to be on the warm side of the insulation..

I dont claim to know anything about building in a warm/hot climate, so will refrain from saying anything further if this is the case..

Cold season "air barriers" want a tight interior surface and a less than tight exterior surface. A breathable envelope, per se.. That is why ADA (air tight drywall) technique is the preferred application, although few follow thru with all of the details to truly make it as tight as it could be.

Insulation does not make a house any tighter....unless its rigid insulation


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RE: Blower Door Test

I am located in Tennessee and today I called around to a couple of people who do insulation and they all stated that the paper side should be facing towards the heated/cooled space. Even went inside of two new homes being built and they both had the insulation with the paper facing towards the heated/cooled space as well. I did read the directions on the insulation (it was a bag laying around) and per instructions it stated the paper should be facing inward as well. Honestly I don't know what to think at this point. I am going to call my city codes department in the morning and see what they have to say.

I was wondering how my house would have passed an insulation inspection but was told by another company on new builds that the inspection doesn't happen to after the insulation has been blown into the attic and then they come out to inspect. With this being they case they wouldn't have any idea of how the insulation was put into the rest of the house since it has been covered by drywall. Good things I have a lot of pictures but I am very curious to see what the codes department has to say.

As far as the insulation for the attic I don't have a problem with blown insulation or when it is done. My problem was that the GC was telling me that they put bats in the attic and that my attic insulation was already done and by the pics posted above it has not been done yet!

Our estimated closing date was 7/13 but that was a stretch in itself before all of these other problems occured. If the insulation is put is wrong unfortunately the builder is going to have to take down all of the drywall on the exterior walls and correct the insulation. I am sure I will be in for alot of excuses tomorrow if this is the case so should be fun times ahead! :)

Here is a link that might be useful: our home sell/build


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RE: Blower Door Test

Where in Tenn might be helpful but I'll assume not the mountains.

I asked about your problem with the batt install to see what you were talking about. It is a little sloppy but it sounds like you were concerned about the paper? It is my understanding that the paper backing is nearly ineffective and not an issue in a sealed wall. Sure installers put paper on the inside often enough so they can staple it in place. Far better to cut the insulation so it fits well and a lot of that room is done pretty well.

In my area (NC - similar climate, stricter regs), we have 2 insulation inspections. There actually should be more and Energy star has an extra one or two. We have a pre drywall preliminary inspection and a final. You most likely have 2 and the final is after the blown insulation. I see nothing in that picture that will make your inspector wince.

While your situation may not lead to the lowest HVAC cost possible, you can't really compare to a build in the North. Things like air tight drywall etc are not essential in the South. Far more important are your East and West window counts.

I paid about $300 last winter to heat 5000 sqft with conventional build techniques (with some extra sealing from me at the ceiling) and energy star blocking/sealing. I suspect it would be $400 without those 2 addons. So it isn't like your house is going to fall down or run you to the poor house. Sure it could be better, but don't panic.

When it comes to cooling, wall and attic insulation is worth about 20% of total cost. So the difference between perfect insulation and average code compliant is probably less that $50 a year.

And your electricity costs are probably lower than mine.


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RE: Blower Door Test

Well said David..

I dont think theres a reason to panic, either.. its just not as good as it couldve been..

R


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RE: Blower Door Test

X- as mentioned a mild Tennessee climate will not break your house. I certainly would not make them remove the sheetrock. Bring it to their attention and discuss it. Batts are a bottom line insulating tool anyway...in Tenn. you will never notice any difference. Did not mean to stir a paniced response, rather bring it to yours and others attention of things to look for in the field.
Just because it passed inspection doesnt mean it would pass mine. I would have made them take out the batts around the fireplace, but leave the rest in that image. Would not be the first time I made the contractor remove batts on a project (I do not use them anymore however).
Also just because you do not see a paper face does not
mean they installed it facing the exterior. The batts they used may not have had paper on it at all. Paper faced batts is a horrible marketing pile of crap. The only things its good for is to aid installers with stapling the batts in place instead of using compression fit, and even then all installers I have talked to dont use it anyway because it takes a lot more time. Your walls are better off without paper faced batts in them.


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RE: Blower Door Test

"Your walls are better off without paper faced batts in them. "

Huge portions of the US have pretty evenly divided heating and cooling requirements, making vapor barriers not all that useful.

They are in the wrong place half the time.

The older editions of the 'Wood Engineering Handbook' (USDA) used to have a map of the USA with a wide swatch in the middle noted as 'vapor barrier optional.'

It disappeared a couple editions ago, most likely as USDA abandoned the field to the DOE.


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RE: Blower Door Test

Well I do have pics of whole house and there just isn't any reasoning to me where the bats are placed.

This is the garage with bats faceing into the garage (foyer is on other side of wall)

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This is the other side of wall of garage

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Master bedroom wall(other side is 3rd car garage)

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Other side of master bedroom into garage

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so on these it looks like it was added correctly but others it wasnt

Here is the bonus rm. you can see the bats are correct in the ceiling but on the other side of the wall is the attic

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Opposite side of bonus room

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foyer pics

to the front is facing outside and to the right is going into the attic

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I did call my city codes dept today not giving any info on my build or the builder and asked what was code for our area. The director of codes(not sure why I got the director) stated the directions on the insulation were to be followed and the paper should always be facing the heated/cooled area. He wanted my name, number, the builer, etc and wanted to go take a look at the house today. I told him I wanted to wait and not blow this up into something as I am suppose to meet with the builder tomorrow. We shall see what happens!

Thanks for all of the comments!

Here is a link that might be useful: Our home sell/build blog


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RE: Blower Door Test

what about bib systems?
retaining fabric is installed on the
walls then blown insulation is blown
into the stud bays. no vapor barrier.

people dislike different insulations for different
reasons. personally I hate cellulose in attics.
but the fact is that any insulation will perform
well ...IF..the air movement through it is stopped.

put rice hulls in the walls sandwiched between
a good air barrier to the exterior and air tight
drywall..and they insulate.

its because the walls (which we actuall do fairly well)
and attic floor (that we turn sheetrock air barrier of the ceiling into swiss cheese)
have poor air barriers that foam insulation
has become so popular. air seal and insulate in
one fell swoop...@ 3x the cost to homeowner.

I would as Rollie stated be concerned,
with the knee walls in the attic.
these change of ceiling heights should
not only be insulated, but also air sealed.

the way we do it is to go back with a foam/foil
sheathing board. cut it to fit, install with
button cap nails..and caulk.
caulk bottom to 2x and top to 2x.

when blown insulation is used, you can
extend the foam board to create a dam for
the blown insulation on attic floor for
the ceiling below. extend the foam/foil board
to the depth of insulation to be installed.
this will allow full depth of insulation to
be installed, and it will stay in place.

the latter is usually done just prior
to insulation. if you make the dams earlier
and tradespeople knock them down
and break them you'll have a hard time
achieving the air seal again.

the reasons you want to use the foam/foil board
is twofold.
when caulked in place the foam will
provide the air seal.
the foil (faced into the attic space)
will reflect heat out of the wall.

with these kneewalls not air sealed, when the
hvac system runs attic air and heat will be
drawn down into these walls.
this adds to the hvac load.

when we thermal scanned kneewalls
(with no air sealing) while depressurizing
the house with a blower door..these walls
turn red first at the top, then down the walls
as air & heat is drawn down them.
when the walls were air sealed the wall temp
stayed the same.

its all about minimizing air flow so the insulation can do its job.

thermal bypasses are a big deal.
areas like fireplaces should be air sealed
at flue into conditioned space. otherwise
the fireplace is open to the attic.
blown insulation is installed and simply
falls down into the wall.
the flue should have a metal fire stop at the
attic floor.
the rest of the opening at the attic floor
should be sheetrocked. this is usually several
joist bays wide.
its a pita to retrofit from in the attic.
we have sheetrock guys install the sheetrock
on the ceiling from below, up to the firestop.
caulked to firestop and corners to ceiling taped.
stopping air movement & sealing what otherwise
is a big thermal bypass.

in your case, since the fireplace is on an exterior
wall..there is no need for insulation in the framing
adjacent to the living space at all.
the insulation should be in the exterior wall.

while you have the chance..go to the exterior wall
sole plates and caulk them to the slab.
Ideally the builder would have used sill seal
or caulked under the sole plate to the slab
as walls were being installed. if this is done
you can usually see the caulking as it will
squeeze out between sole plate & slab. the sill
seal is also visible. I don't see either.
sealing the air that penetrates under the sole plate
contributes a lot to tightness of house.

energy star builder/rater should do a thermal
bypass check list on the house.

you may need to be the one to pay attention
to the details. its a worth wile investment
that you won't have easy access to later.

best of luck.


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RE: Blower Door Test

That is some pretty sloppy batt work. I agree the paper facing has no rhyme or reason but it doesn't really matter despite what the inspector director says. The sloppiness is the real issue.

The batts in the attic are just terrible. As has been said, batts have no role in an attic.

ERLA - I just have to ask, why the funny margins?


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RE: Blower Door Test

I could, in effect do a absolutely perfect job of installing kraft faced job that would get a rave review from the insulation inspector, and be a complete failure as far as the insulations performance..

Imagine that attic insulation job with a nice looking kraft face over top of it.. Thats why I dont like kraft faced insulation either..

Give me a unfaced/friction fit high density fibreglass batt to work with, and I'll show you an insulation job worthy of the money spent.. The difference between a "stuff and run" installation and a correctly installed insulation is a function of how lazy the stuffer is..


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