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Insulating a closet

suzyand's picture

Insulating a closet.  i have a really chilly closet. Wide closet with no insulation in the wall.  There is some room between the end of the hangers and the wall for insulation.  What could i put in that i can then paint???? Thanks.

(post #56451, reply #1 of 13)

There are several options I would consider if this were my closet. 

1.  Because I can hang and finish drywall, I'd rip out the drywall in the closet and insulate the stud cavities.  Hang new drywall, tape and finish with joint compound, primer and paint.  The only difference in the finished closet and the original, would be a difference in heat loss.

2.  Locate the studs along the walls, install firring strips, cut foam insulation to fit between the strips.  At this point, to finish the closet off, you'd still need to go through the whole drywall routine (unless you opt to cover the whole wall with paneling.)  The problem with this method is that you will lose some closet depth, and the insulating value will not be as great as with option #1.  If you were hiring me and wanted my opinion, I'd recommend option #1; in the end, it's a cleaner, more efficient solution.  And it wouldn't cost that much more, either.

3.  Price out someone to come in and put blown-in insulation in the wall cavities.  The job might be too small for most to consider, but there's no harm in asking.

Good Luck.

"I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul."  Invictus, by Henley.

(post #56451, reply #2 of 13)

thanks.  the house is old enough so that it has plaster walls, not sheetrock.   i am handy enough so that i could install sheetrock, but i am not sure that i want to do that big a project.   [the closet is about  12-15 feet wide.] i was thinking of putting somethng over the existing surface that i could then paint.  interesting thought to blow something into the wall.  i guess i could open up some part of the wall where it is not too noticeable-like on top-and blow something in.  hmmmm.  it beats putting blankets on the floor along the  width of the closet to keep the cold out all winter.  thanks

(post #56451, reply #3 of 13)

I would blow in celluose. A few holes in the drywall, wear a dust mask, blow in the insulation, patch the holes, paint. So easy, even I am almost good at it. Anyways, it isn't all that difficult.

Edit: OK, a few holes in the plaster, blah, blah, blah, patch the holes, blah.

Rich Beckman

Another day, another tool.

Edited 3/31/2003 8:50:23 AM ET by Rich Beckman

(post #56451, reply #4 of 13)

ok, i am handy.  how can i do that, myself.  ?????  sounds like somehting i can do , and noone will ever see the holes.  thanks

(post #56451, reply #5 of 13)

is your house insulated every where else?

(It seems odd that just the closet would be un-insulated). My guess would be that the whole place is underinsulated but you only really notice it in the closet because the closed door prevents your furnace from heating it up. Your heating bills might be higher than they need to be...

It sounds like you may want to have a cells contractor quote doing the whole place (remove some strategic siding, drill holes thru the sheething between every stud bay (top& bottom) and blow them all full of cellulose).


(post #56451, reply #7 of 13)

of course, none of the house is insulated.  but i do not think that i want to start that big a project.  i just patch and insulate where i can.

(post #56451, reply #6 of 13)

Is the closet over a porch?

I live in an old home. One bedroom got so cold in the winter it was almost unlivable. The closet is over the front porch. I removed the closet floor and packed cellulose insulation between the floor joists in the closet and as far into the room as I could reach.

This bedroom is now the warmest one in the house on cold winter days.

Mike K

Amateur Home Remodeler in Aurora, Illinois

(post #56451, reply #8 of 13)

hi, mike.  no, the closet is over a real, heated room. but of course, the closet is on an outside wall.  since there is some clearance between the far end of the hangers and the far wall of the closet, i thought i could do something easy, simple?, like putting up an insulated barrier.  i have used just plain styrofoam, something like that, tyat come in 1/2 inch? sheets, in the back of other closets, but i would like this one to look a little nicer. that is why i was looking for something that i can paint.  any ideas?  thanks

(post #56451, reply #9 of 13)


If I where you I would put the 2" holes in each stud bay and pack in cellulose insulation. The cellulose insulation is very cheap and they lend you the blower.

The old homes are ballon framed and the air travels up the outside walls and into the attic. By insulating the existings walls you stop the stack affect caused by hot air rising up the height of the outside walls.

Once your done insulating all you have to do is plug the holes and spackle. If the spackle is not 100% perfect who cares, after all it's just a closet.

Good luck and let us know how it work out


Mike K

Amateur Home Remodeler in Aurora, Illinois

(post #56451, reply #10 of 13)

We have a similar sized closet facing an outside wall in our master bedroom. For several years we kept the closet doors closed and could feel the cold air seeping in along the bottom of the closet doors.

There is a plumbing vent line coming up from the basement and through the closet and into the attic.

It turns out there was a huge gap on the side of the vent pipe that was not visible to us where it enters the attic.

Got a can of GreatStuff and squirted away - we can now leave the closet doors open whenever we need to.

This vent pipe is in the rear corner of the closet and I had to get a step ladder to peer around the back side of the pipe to discover the gap around 3/4". Depending on the situation either heat was chimneying up or cold air was dropping down through the gap.

Unbelieveable difference after the gap was plugged and feeling stupid for not bothering to investigate sooner.

(post #56451, reply #11 of 13)

I would not bother to insulate small portions of the house because the benefits will not tend to repay the efforts required.

Think of your house as you, standing out in the cold with no insulation, no coat or warm clothes.

You will be very cold and will have to eat/burn a great deal of food to keep warm.

If you put a very warm mitten on one part of your body will that make any real difference in your comfort?


The way to keep your whole body warm is to

1) insulate the attic (your head) with the warmest hat that will fit

2) insulate the walls (your sides) with a continuous layer of warm insulation (clothes that hold in your heat, that resist wind from blowing that heat away and with no big gaps that let the heat escape).

a patchwork of un-connected, insulated portions of your house envelope (like insulating the closets) will only waste your time and gain you very little warmth.

If you only want to make that closet warmer, adding insulation in it will not gain you much anyway because there is no heat source in there (you have to have a higher BTU input than you have loss in order to keep something warm). I suggest that you leave the light on all the time (make sure that no clothes or combustibles are within 2 feet of the bulb!). This will keep your closet warm, and will waste energy, but an uninsulated home is wasting so much heat energy that you'll hardly notice.



(post #56451, reply #12 of 13)

The assessment of this situation is correct, the closet is cold because heat doesn't get into it, not because it needs more insulation. And I suspect the problem isn't that the closet is cold, but that clothes in the closet are cold and therefore unpleasant to put on. Insulating the closet won't help unless the doors are left open to provide heat in the first place. Doing this will increase your heating bill slightly since more exterior wall is now exposed to the conditioned part of the house. Another concern is that moisture could be condensing in that colder closet wall and causing paint to bubble and peel on the exterior, as happens when people close off and don't heat rooms in a house.

Last Fall I removed the rockwool insulation in our attic (4-6") and replaced it with a layer of faced R19 between the joists and a layer of unfaced R19 run perpendicular to the first layer. I did this as we were expecting a child in January and the old days of barely heating the house and wearing heavy clothes was over. In comparison months of February and March, we went from sporadic heating to 65 when we were home and mobile to continuous 24 heating to 70 degrees. Our energy use went from 2Therms a day to 3.5 therms, which translated into a $60/month gas bill going to $100 a month. We also have two full stories of uninsulated walls, and quite frankly, I'm having a hard time coming up with reasons to insulate them, given the cost and the potential return. I may do the front side of the house on the second floor as it gets the bulk of the east winds in the winter, but given the energy numbers from this last winter I see no reason to rush into it. I'll build exterior storm sash's first.

Also, in older homes with plaster walls, one has to consider the presence of vertical knob and tube wiring, which should never have insulation placed around it. Similarly, if doing the insulating yourself, make sure you know where the wires are before cutting into walls with a hole saw.

The suggestion of sealing all the penetrations between the the walls and the attic with fire rated caulk is a good one. It provides one more source of a cold draft going down the wall. Foam box insulators will also cut down on drafts, since a hole penetrating the top plate for the electric wire will then have a natural outlet for that air at the outlet.

(post #56451, reply #13 of 13)

hi, norm.  you are right.  just insulating a closet is no big deal.  what i did not mention is that i have a home office, that i sit in that office a LOT, and that this closet is NEXT to my desk.  so, this is not just some casual space in my house.  the closet is about 12 feet wide.  when the doors are closed, a draft comes from under the doors and chills my feet.  i often keep the doors open, since i have business files in some parts of it [and the doors do not slide smoothly-old house] and feel the chill. the room was an addition, and there is not attic space above the room to insulate.  that is why i feel that this particular wall is important.