How to Properly Heat a Cape Cod Style Home on Cape Cod

cape-cod-style-homeIt’s pretty ironic that the Cape Cod style home that is known, admired and loved all across the country is one of the worst types of homes that you could ever build on Cape Cod. The location of the Cape, with all of its amazing sea breezes, beaches and beautiful scenery, makes for a very chilly and uncomfortable winter, especially if you happen to own a Cape Cod style home that was built in this area.

In the summer, these homes are beautiful and glorious, as they allow the salty air to waft into the home, cooling residents down in even the hottest of summers. Unfortunately, their design and construction makes them very difficult to heat for year-round residents and they have become quite a challenge for insulation installers and contractors who are charged with improving the homeowner’s ability to control temperature.

What is the Appeal of the Cape Cod Style Home?
The Cape Cod style home originates back to the 17th century and is most known most for its pitched roof and end gables. A central chimney is very common and, for the most part, these homes have very little outer adornments and are built using a very simple symmetrical design. Throughout New England in the 1950s, there was a bit of a revival in the building of these traditional-style homes. Replicas were designed and built throughout Southeastern Massachusetts and many were built very cheaply using low-cost materials without a lot of regard to insulation and heating issues.

Aside from its iconic look and history in the region, the Cape Cod style home is popular in the New England area for a number of other reasons. The most appealing, is its tiny footprint. The design of this home allows for a lot of space and rooms to be packed into a small and compact area, which allows these homes to be much more affordable, even in an otherwise expensive area, compared to more modernly designed structures.

What Are Some of the Obstacles to Heating These Homes?
While the framing makes for great use of space, the design tends to make it leak air more than other types of roofing designs. Getting the warm air upstairs to the second floor is most often what makes these Cape Cod style homes the most difficult to heat. Combine that with some fairly old heating systems that are found in these homes and issues with old insulation materials, and you have a recipe for very poor temperature control. Unfortunately, it is very rare to find a Cape Cod with a good HVAC unit and adequate insulation.

As a result, insulation installers in this area will often have to completely pull out the old insulation and reinsulate in order to achieve desired R-values in a Cape Cod style home. They also often recommend that the homeowner contact an HVAC professional to upgrade the heating unit as well. Some of these homes do not have heat piped into the second floor at all or have hot water pipes that run outside the insulation, which can lead to a whole host of other problems. If creating a more energy efficient and cost-effective Cape Cod style home is your goal, be prepared to upgrade your insulation materials and your HVAC system as well.

Getting Started: Create an Air Barrier
One of the most important elements in properly insulating any structure is creating an air barrier that will keep the warm air out in summer and the cold air out in winter. However, air sealing can be very difficult in a Cape Cod style home, as the kneewall framing usually has a lot of built-in elements, such as closets, drawers and bookshelves. The kneewall itself sits directly on top of the joists for the first floor, allowing interior air to flow underneath, and the tops of the kneewall aren’t typically sealed, allowing air to flow up the walls and out the attic.

If moisture can be properly controlled, which is also another issue in many of these homes, it is possible to just seal the entire structure. However, if a vented approach is warranted, it is possible to insulate the roof deck and vent the attic if a clear path can be defined from the soffit to the peak. Sealing must be done on the eaves to prevent outdoor air from damaging the insulation materials and, of course, the kneewalls must be sealed around the vents.

Insulation installers must pay special attention to add insulation along the horizontal and vertical flats. Make sure that the tops and the bottoms of the kneewalls are air sealed to block out any unwanted outdoor air from coming indoors or any conditioned air from leaking outside. Energy efficiency was not the primary goal in the design of these homes, but good insulation installers can overcome these obstacles as long as they seal up the air leaks and provide quality, high R-value insulation.

Insulation Materials and Installation in Cape Cod
For contractors looking to obtain quality insulation materials or professional installation and air sealing in the Cape Cod area, look no further than Richie’s Insulation. Located in Westport, MA, Richie’s provides services to homeowners, contractors and business clients throughout the South Coast region, including Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Contact Richie’s for a free estimate on insulating a difficult to heat Cape Cod style home or any other type of home in the area by calling 508-678-4474.