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Preventing Our Cistern from Freezing in Winter: Part Three

by Tyler

This weekend, Tara and I experimented with two types of insulation we'd never used before. The first was blown cellulose, which we dense packed into the cavities between the wall studs of our cistern shed. In order to do this, we had to rent a blower machine from Home Depot. They loan it out for free with the purchase of twenty or more bags of cellulose, but weirdly, they also accept returns for those that go unused. What's the point in that?

Anyway, once we got the machine home, we watched this video to get an idea of what we'd be doing:

...then we got to work. It was pretty messy and dusty, so we didn't take too many photos.

Tyler Loading Cellulose into Blower Machine Tyler Filling Stud Cavities with Blown Cellulose Stud Cavity Filled with Blown Cellulose

The process went off without a hitch, save for when the rigid foam sheathing on the interior began to bow out from being stuffed too full of cellulose. We only noticed the bloated cavities when the cap nails holding the sheets down began popping off and flying across the shed! We were able to avoid disaster by affixing furring strips along each of the wall studs.

Tyler & Cistern Shed Worksite

In the end, we only used about twelve bags of cellulose and were able to return the rest. Despite the mess, working with blown cellulose was nowhere near as obnoxious as dealing with pink fiberglass insulation. All in all, it was pretty easy. I'd definitely do it again!

Next, to super insulate the ceiling, we used a second type of new-to-us insulation: a do-it-yourself spray foam kit. Ever since I saw professional spray foaming first-hand I've been wanting to try it out. The kit came with a full tyvek suit, booties, goggles, etc—it was quite the production to use! Basically I just sprayed (it's more like a vigorous splattering, actually) the material into the rafter space with a little hand-held gun and it instantly started hardening and expanding.

Spray Foam Canisters Tyler Suiting Up for Spray Foaming Tyler Suited Up for Spray Foaming Tyler Spray Foaming Cistern Shed Rafter Bays Tyler Spray Foaming Cistern Shed Rafter Bays Tyler Spray Foaming Cistern Shed Rafter Bays Tyler Spray Foaming Cistern Shed Rafter Bays

I am sure it will be very effective but I don't think I'll ever use it again. The stuff is crazy expensive, super gross, and it's actually not that much more insulating than blown cellulose.

In slightly unrelated news, our dear friends Shlomy, Britney, and Nehemiah are back on the homestead, this time for a couple of weeks. Shlomy helped us put wire lath on the exterior of the shed, as we've decided we'll plaster it to match the house. Unfortunately, temperatures are too cold to do that this season. We'll have to wait until spring!

Shlomy Cutting Wire Lath Nehemiah With Helmet On Nehemiah & Shlomy on Cistern Shed Roof


I can't watch the video right now, at least not with sound, so if my question can be answered by watching the video later, just say so :)
Q: Won't the blown-in insulation settle over time, leaving an uninsulated gap at the top?

Glad to see more posts! Keep em coming. The pic 'Tyler Spray Foaming Cistern Shed Rafter Bays' tickles my funny bone - the juxtaposition of Tyler in his space suit against the gorgeous fall backdrop makes it look not quite real.
Posted by Jennifer on October 28th, 2015 at 12:14 PM
"ever since I saw professional spray foaming first-hand I've been wanting to try it out." - said no one ever! The many and varied interests of Tyler Kellen :) You guys are great :) enjoying the posts lately. Love from all three of us in MN...
Posted by Elizabeth Shockman on October 28th, 2015 at 2:10 PM

I was concerned about that too, but dense packing is supposed to prevent this from happening. I don't think the cellulose is going to slump over timeā€”it is stuffed in so tight that it started to blow off the interior paneling.



Hahaha! I didn't really mean that I had a deep longing to commune with spray foam. It was more like "geez, this is really expensive and it looks really easy, I bet I could do it myself." :D
Posted by Tyler on October 28th, 2015 at 3:01 PM
glad to see the progress on the homestead and re-posting! hope to see an update on the orchard before the snow flies.

we just planted some wintergreen and huckleberries w/ our existing blueberries. gotta love planting and pruning in the fall!!

keep up the great work and content guys!

cheers from seattle
Posted by aaron on October 29th, 2015 at 3:40 PM
I have heard from some installers that rented equipment from big box stores can't quite hit the density required to prevent settling, but in such a short wall it should be minor. If a void ever forms it will be at the top, and you can just pack that void again - no big deal.
Posted by Sam on November 5th, 2015 at 8:14 PM