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Thread: What is it??

  1. #1
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    Default What is it??

    What is this substance? (yes I see the other deficiencies in the photos).
    I am wondering what the fiberous brown material is? There was one section of the attic that had a pretty good coating of it. The 1st photo is a close up.

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    Default Re: What is it??

    Can't quite tell from the photo, but something looks like it is eating the roof sheathing - see all those holes in your second photo.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: What is it??

    I was worried about that too, Jerry, but I think I found my answer. I think it is called Silva-Wool, a type of insulation made from wood fibers with fire-retardent added to it. It was popular in the 50's which is about the era of this house. It is also known as Balsa-wool. It was probably underneath the layer of fiberglass that was blown in later.


  4. #4
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    Default Re: What is it??

    Looks like pine bark mulch! My vote is on a critter eating the house up.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
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  5. #5
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    Default Re: What is it??

    Looks like it is 'falling from above' as it is on top of other things and is in piles.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  6. #6
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    Default Re: What is it??

    Bats?

    It Might have Choked Artie But it ain't gone'a choke Stymie! Our Gang " The Pooch " (1932)
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    Default Re: What is it??

    Down here bats don't eat wood.
    Talk about WDO

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: What is it??

    I think it must be that Norwegian Roof Beaver.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: What is it??

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Cantrell View Post
    Down here bats don't eat wood.
    Talk about WDO

    They Do Poop!

    It Might have Choked Artie But it ain't gone'a choke Stymie! Our Gang " The Pooch " (1932)
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    Default Re: What is it??

    so did those bugs sweep it off the tops of the joists after they ate? Or do they just poop in between?


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    Default Re: What is it??

    Quote Originally Posted by wayne soper View Post
    so did those bugs sweep it off the tops of the joists after they ate? Or do they just poop in between?
    Looks Like Your Right.

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  12. #12
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    Default Re: What is it??

    Quote Originally Posted by wayne soper View Post
    so did those bugs sweep it off the tops of the joists after they ate? Or do they just poop in between?
    I was not considering it to be 'bug poop', just 'damaged wood from above', however ... I believe you are correct as moat bugs are not that neat of a house keeper.

    I looked up Silva-wool and it could be that as that was typically cedar, and that could be cedar (although I must admit that it does look like, as Scott said, pine bark mulch). I also looked up Balsa-wool and it is not that.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: What is it??

    I don't see any reference to where Matthew is from. Where I live (Western Montana) being in the middle of timber and logging country, it is not uncommon to find all sorts of wood products used as attic insulation in 1890-1950 homes including untreated sawdust and wood chips (used to be a lot of lumber companies around here until they all went out of business - but that a different economic story of hard times in a region that used to rely on timber products for many of its jobs). Not to say that the materials are safe, just to say that it is not uncommon; when you are poor, you use whatever is cheap (or free) and plentiful. There is also a lot of pink, cellulose (cedar) insulation material, but that was treated with a fire retardant.

    Unrelated, but not far from here is also where all of the Zonolite vermiculite (asbestos) attic insulation comes from (Libby MT). That town is still suffering from all the medical side effects.


  14. #14
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    Default Re: What is it??

    Hard to say without a better close-up pic, or actually seeing it in person to assess the texture. However, it reminds me of that old dark fiberglass insulation you used to see in old duct wrap -- the stuff looked like it was made from brown glass. I've never seen it blown as attic insulation, but maybe it was.


  15. #15
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    Default Re: What is it??

    I have a question about the white insulation in your picture. House yesterday had that and I had not seen it before. It feels like cotton but doesn't seem to have the consistency of cellulose. I took some to Lowes and the "resident expert" said that it is cotton and they only use it in warm climates. The last I checked, Minnesota is not a warm climate.


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    Default Re: What is it??

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Dull View Post
    House yesterday had that and I had not seen it before. It feels like cotton but doesn't seem to have the consistency of cellulose.
    Did it ignite when you tried to light it?

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  17. #17
    Henry Valenzano's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is it??

    We see that used as insulation quite often in Colorado. And it is very flammable.


  18. #18
    Nolan Kienitz's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is it??

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Dull View Post
    I have a question about the white insulation in your picture. House yesterday had that and I had not seen it before. It feels like cotton but doesn't seem to have the consistency of cellulose. I took some to Lowes and the "resident expert" said that it is cotton and they only use it in warm climates. The last I checked, Minnesota is not a warm climate.
    The product is one of the 'better' blown insulation products. It is a new version of fiberglas and is a tad pricier. Knauf Jet-Stream. Some of the 'better' home builders use this product in their construction.

    BTW - It is "not" flammable. It also doesn't 'itch'. It won't settle. You can take a bath in it (pun intended) and, as noted, it won't cause itching. You can also 'form' it around can lights and it will hold the shape to be sure you have clearance if they are not IC rated.

    After I put radiant barrier in my home a year ago and replaced all my flex ducts with R-8 value products I then had another many inches of the product installed.

    Here is the URL for the website:

    KNAUF: Knauf Jet Stream 73.3 Blowing Wool


  19. #19
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    Default Re: What is it??

    Does anyone have any un-biased information about cellulose loose fill insulation in regard to chemicals and toxicity?
    I recently heard a popular home improvement show host really down cellulose as "bad" stuff that has rat poison mixed in it and several states do not allow it to be installed.
    On the other hand, they market the stuff as "green" and ecologically friendly.
    It is outlawed anywhere? Why?
    I don't particularly like it just because it settles.
    Any opinions?

    Jim Luttrall
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    Dallas, Texas

  20. #20
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    Default Re: What is it??

    Perhaps the MSDS for one of the products would help.

    And Another MSDS


  21. #21
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    Default Re: What is it??

    Michael, forgive my ignorance, but trying to glean useful information out of MSDS is beyond my energy level. They seem to hide the information out in plain site on those things
    The gist of the radio host's argument was that pumping even small amounts of toxic chemicals into you house was dumb. The MSDS sheets seem to confirm that there are toxic additives... but is it really an issue that would be of concern to anyone except the hyper-sensitive types?

    Jim Luttrall
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  22. #22
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    Default Re: What is it??

    Jim,

    Cellulose insulation is considered non-toxic,

    What radio program did you hear that dissed cellulose?


  23. #23
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    Default Re: What is it??

    Thank you Nolan. I was fearful I would have to write the stuff up in my report as "unknown". Not something I wanted to do.


  24. #24
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    Default Re: What is it??

    Michael, the radio show was a local (Texas) show by a builder that operates out of the Houston area, can't call his name or the name of the show right now.
    I have been getting a lower opinion of him recently, but that is beside the point.
    He basically took issue with the additives to prevent insect, rodent problems, not the cellulose itself.
    It makes sense not to surround yourself with toxins in the grand scheme of things, but maybe someone with more knowledge than I can put it into perspective.
    After all, even pure water is toxic in large amounts, but try to live without it!

    Jim Luttrall
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  25. #25
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    Default Re: What is it??

    From the MSDS

    "This product contains less than 20 percent (%) by weight boric acid (H3BO3), CAS No. 10043-35-3. Boric acid is added for purposes of superior fire resistance and insecticide properties within the insulation. A small quantity of distillate mineral oil, CAS No. 6471-88-4, is added to the product for dust suppression and enhanced bonding of the fire retardant. Regarding information on the chronic and ecological toxicity of this product, we have reviewed the available medical and toxicological literature for 100% boric acid. Boric acid is hazardous under the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard based on animal chronic toxicity studies. This product is not considered hazardous under the criteria of Federal OSHA Hazard Communication Standard 29CFR 1910.1220."

    The above seems reasonably clear to me.

    Though the additive to the ground cellulose is boric acid it is not considered toxic at the 20% concentration used in the product.

    As with all toxins, the dose determines whether it is toxic or not.


  26. #26
    Nolan Kienitz's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is it??

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Luttrall View Post
    Does anyone have any un-biased information about cellulose loose fill insulation in regard to chemicals and toxicity?
    I recently heard a popular home improvement show host really down cellulose as "bad" stuff that has rat poison mixed in it and several states do not allow it to be installed. ... Any opinions?
    Jim,

    Opinions are plentiful and mine are definitely "not" un-biased when it comes to cellulose. That being said you will know where I'm coming from -

    Back in my early years of construction work I was helping a friend blow both rock wool and fiberglass insulation. At that time cellulose was also being touted as the "new, best, most economocal" insulating product. The legitimate companies who were in the business (obviously) were not impressed with the product.

    Bottom line it was/is ground up newsprint that is being fluffed and sprayed into a home. Settles like a rock and at the time did not have "all" the chemical preservatives/additives/whatever sprayed or soaked on the product. It was know to have been a participant in some house fires, but here again there may have been other causes of the conflagration. I just had to use the $1.25 word there.

    I was likely indoctrinated to not like cellulose back then and I still don't today.

    Sorry I don't have any definitive statistics for you, but have offered up my experience and opinion.


  27. #27
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    Default Re: What is it??

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Dull View Post
    ... I took some to Lowes and the "resident expert" said that it is cotton and they only use it in warm climates. ...
    Jim,

    Bold is my add to your notation about the local big box store "resident expert".

    I'm sure he or she meant well, but it is always good to check/re-check items as you learn more.

    The first time I ran across the the Knauf product I was asking a lot of questions until I got to the right person/source.

    I ask questions all the time and keep adding the data to my library. And it is always changing and/or improving.

    Sometimes (and likely more often than not) the data from the big box stores can be marginal. I'm sure that cotton may have been used as insulation somewhere and sometime in history ... but for such a comment in today's environment is a bit bold. Oh well ... it is what it is!


  28. #28
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    Default Re: What is it??

    It's still in use and being sold as a "green" product.

    80% + recycled cotton fiber content

    Cotton Insulation


  29. #29
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    Default Re: What is it??

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Larson View Post
    It's still in use and being sold as a "green" product.

    80% + recycled cotton fiber content

    Cotton Insulation
    Michael,

    Thanks ... as noted ... learn something new each/every day.

    Not sure I like it, but it is good to learn more.


  30. #30
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    Default Re: What is it??

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Larson View Post
    Is is just me who cannot find it, or does that link not say anything about being fire retardant treated?

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    Default Re: What is it??

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    anything about being fire retardant treated?
    Mr.Peck,

    Email answer from manufacturer Rated A or Class 1 ASTM E-84
    Located at link,click Tech,Proper,AST,

    ICAA (Insulation Contractors Association of America)

    Tech Info

    Proper Applications

    ASTME84-05

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  32. #32
    Nolan Kienitz's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is it??

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Is is just me who cannot find it, or does that link not say anything about being fire retardant treated?
    Jerry - I agree ... at the first URL I can't find anything related to fire retardant treatment on this product. The other URL goes to a location in Colorado and they do make some statements that it has the same fire characteristics as fiberglas.

    Product's focus seems to be "noise reduction" or "containment".


  33. #33
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    Default Re: What is it??

    I tried lighting the sample that I had taken to Lowes. After about 60 seconds under a cigarette lighter, it never burnt but did get a little warm to the touch.
    I'm guessing it is the fiberglass that Nolan described. I downloaded the info from Knauf and it sure looks like the same stuff.


  34. #34
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    Default Re: What is it??

    Matt,

    Half way down this link is a photo and description of what you encountered

    Wood bark insulation

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  35. #35
    Brian Hoagland's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is it??

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Did it ignite when you tried to light it?
    Wow that's a brilliant idea to see if the insulation will substain a flame. Who in this buisiness would think it is not appropriate to conduct such a field test? I had ongoing arguments on the NACHI site regarding this same subject. I think what we do is aimed at the safety and expense of maintainence aspects of home ownership. Flammable insulation products in a confined area such as an attic space can pose a major health and safety concern. I hope all you get it. If you have never seen the insulation before, do a simple field test to determine it's flammability and report the results. This is what we get paid to do, observe and report. When we fail to do both accurately we get sued.By the way I have seen this stuff before and believe it was correctly identified as balsa wool but, I could be wrong will be intersest in finding out the actual fact.

    Last edited by Brian Hoagland; 12-02-2007 at 06:05 PM.

  36. #36
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    Default Re: What is it??

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Hoagland View Post
    If you have never seen the insulation before, do a simple field test to determine it's flammability and report the results.
    But make sure you do that *outside* so you don't drop something which is very flammable back down into more of that very flammable stuff.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  37. #37
    Brian Hoagland's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is it??

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    But make sure you do that *outside* so you don't drop something which is very flammable back down into more of that very flammable stuff.
    Duh! ( this message was to short had to add this to make it work). Actually I think the best idea is for all the inspectors to carry oxyacetylene torches into all the attics. By reducing the # of homes for sale we may be able to stabilize the market?

    Last edited by Brian Hoagland; 12-02-2007 at 06:24 PM. Reason: to make a joke

  38. #38

    Default Re: What is it??

    That is older redwood insulation used in older homes 40s-50s somewhat common in older houses, most has been covered up by later type insulation. I found this in many homes in Oakland Calif. When I was inspecting.







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