Monday, December 10, 2007

Insulation Made of (Human?) Hair

Our kitchen's breakfast nook is a bump-out over a crawlspace next to our kitchen. We originally thought this was added on, but after peeling back layers of the house, we now realize this was part of the original home. This latest discovery helped confirm that. We had to remove an odd covering that was above the ceiling joists in the nook, and it turned out to be hair! Yes, indeed Hair! After removing this, our floor looked like Cousin It got a trim.

But what exactly is it? We had briefly seen hints of the mysterious building material, but nothing quite prepared me for seeing the whole thing on our floor. It was quite a hairy mess! (sorry, I couldn't resist a pun). For those curious about this material, it was basically a 1/2" of hair sandwiched between 2 layers of building paper. It was clearly very old and practically disintegrated on touch. Unfortunately I don't have any "before" photos of this, but it was placed (not fastened) above 1x6 boards running perpendicular the ceiling joists. Above the paper/hair sandwich, another run of 1x1's were nailed to other framing to hold the thing in place. Here's a photo:

I simply can't believe this was used. Especially since elsewhere in the home (e.g. the walls, floors) there is no insulation! Maybe this was an attempt to keep the naturally cooler addition warmer? It probably only had an R-value of like 1. Also, exactly what kind of hair is it? Part of me wants to take it and get it tested. Is it horse hair, or some other animal? Perhaps human? Maybe a long lost relative? Will I find the body belonging to this hair buried in the crawlspace? All very engaging questions, you be the judge.

Jen and I will be making a tight building envelope and having soy-based foam insulation installed in our walls (more on that later), but while we were getting estimates, one contractor said he had seen this only a few times and it was clearly a sign of a pre-1920 building technique (our house was built in 1912). Hair. I never would have believed it. I'm left in wonder.


Jim said...

Wow, and here I thought that *we* had bizarre insulation in our old house! (Our attic had a few inches of redwood mulch between the ceiling joists. It was surprisingly effective, which we discovered when the mulch was removed over part of the ceiling.)

aka SonicChicken

Jen said...

Do you think it is horse hair like in plaster? Yikes and Gross at the same time.... However it kinda looks like "Cousin It".

Stewart said...

really i can also not simply believe that human hair was used, you house is really very old, it may be possible when it was the technique for home insulation. It's really an interesting information.

Kiwi31 said...

I decided since I needed a hair cut I would try this in the spaces around a new window I installed. I wasn't sure if I was the only one to think of this or try it, but now I know. I will shave my head completely bald every few months and put it around the window spaces.

Johann W. Coltrane said...

Perhaps it was owned by a barber. My barber and I were discussing this just today (12 Aug '15). I asked him if he knew the relative insulation value between human hair and goose down.
He said no. I guess they did not talk about this at barber school. But ask anyone who has ever had a good trim in February and then walked outside! Brrrrr . . . . The ole nape of the neck gets cold!

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