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Staying warmer in the winter: there is help for old mobile homes.

We originally bought our old 1964 fixer-upper as a rental property. I had the grand idea that if we bought a fixer-upper and rented it out it would pay for a nice house in the country. However, it didn't get fixed prior to my husband's congestive heart failure and we ended up having to move into it, warts and all. But hey, I'm not complaining. We bought the place the day before 9/11 and we paid it off last year.

When we first bought the place, we suddenly found ourselves in a financial bind and were barely making ends meet. There wasn't any money to fix the place up. We've been so tight, the mortgage was about all we could handle at slightly less than $300 a month.

This old leaky mobile home became a nightmare to try to heat. It has gotten so cold that jars of tomatoes next to the wall froze and burst!

I've had to get creative out of desperation. My husband isn't physically capable of doing a lot so I needed something that I could do. Zoning wouldn't let us add onto the mobile home so an addition with a wood burning stove was out. After a lot of prayer for inexpensive solutions this is what I've learned:

Staying warm at night

Nylon is the great insulator. They use it on sleeping bags because it reflects back heat. A simple sheet of nylon fabric can keep you warm and toasty simply by laying it over your blankets. If it slides off, simply attach the corners with safety pins. The looseness of the nylon is what helps it hold in heat. Once it is snuggly fastened to anything else, where there is no slight air barrier between, it loses some of its insulating quality, so don't pull it too tight.

If you use mattress covers, placing a sheet of nylon beneath it will also help reflect back body heat from beneath you. Nylon lining can be found in discount bins at your fabric store.

Most people still use the method of making a bed that I grew up with: The sheet goes next to the body and the blanket on top of that. However, in the winter, the sheet should be on the outside or on the top layer of that comforter to help hold in body heat.

The leaky home

In really old mobile homes, it's difficult to keep the heat in, mainly due to insulation problems. In our case, the walls are two-inches thick, the ductwork is old and uninsulated, and cracks are everywhere, especially with the crank-type windows.

If you have crank-type windows that don't shut tightly, screw in clips around the outside to make sure the windows are fastened down. Use self-tapping metal screws with rubber grommets. These can be found in the section where they sell corrugated fiberglass and PVC sheets at your local building supply.

It is better to get a few nail holes in your thin walls than it is to freeze to death. Make wood frames from 1" x 2" or 2" x 2" that will fit your windows. Cover them in heavy plastic and nail them over your windows on the inside. This creates an air pocket and slows down transfer of cold air coming in and heat going out.

If you don't want to go that far, and you have removable screens on the inside of your windows, slide the screen into a clear plastic trash bag and put it back into place. The plastic will keep down drafts, but won't seal it completely. The brand that is available at our store is Home Life and it has a nice square bottom. The clear bag allows sunlight in. We had to ask them to carry it.

Block off rooms that you don't use. Our doors are hung with a two-inch clearance at the bottom. Place folded rugs at the base of doors or make tubes filled with plastic shopping bags and pebbles (rice and beans attracts mice) to stop air flow and hold them in place. We hang sheets up in the doorways to keep heat from going down the hall where it isn't needed. We'll eventually hang a door there.

In our situation, our two-inch-thick walls have very little insulation. We had an oil-burning furnace that pumped heat through ductwork but the ductwork was old and there were a lot of air holes around the vents where there had previously been mice coming in. Some of the ductwork was even coming apart when we first moved in.

The heater would run for 10 minutes pumping in cold air from beneath the house and it would take about 20 minutes before any actual heat would be pumped into the house. To eliminate this waste, we closed off all our vents in the house (including the air return for the furnace) and installed a wall mount propane radiant heater by Pro-Com. It doesn't require a large clearance, however, hubby decided to build a wood frame between it and the wall for an added measure of safety. He didn't want it falling off the wall.

We use less fuel; it actually heats the house and is safe for installation in mobile homes. They also come with blowers and low oxygen detectors. Get one with slightly higher BTU output than a regular house would need to help make up for lack of insulation.

We also bought large propane tanks so that we could take them to get filled instead of having propane delivered. There are two propane companies in our area. Their prices vary, especially in the delivery charges. We have two small tanks and two large tanks (100 pounds). We actually save money by not having our propane delivered. Now, we have spare tanks as backup and they are filled on our schedule when we have the money available.

An inexpensive method of re-insulating

Re-insulating your mobile home doesn't have to be a major project with a huge outlay of cash all at once. It can actually be done, one wall at a time, or one panel at a time. And it is something any woman can do! The beautiful part about this method is that instead of having to contend with thick batts of itchy horrid fiberglass, the cellulose insulation doesn't irritate.

Tools and supplies:

Staple gun and lots of staples


Heavy kraft paper (like paper bags are made out of), feed bags or heavy plastic


Screw driver or screw gun with a bit to remove the stress

Small pry bar

Cellulose insulation (about $7 a bag) or aged dry sawdust

Saw and screws for repairing any wood around your windows, if necessary


Remove any curtain rod brackets, light switch and outlet plates. Remove the trim work at the top and bottom with a small pry bar and any trim around window. Remove the screws holding up one or two sheets of paneling and the old insulation. Save the old insulation if it is still in decent shape. It can go right back over the new or you can use it elsewhere.

When you remove a sheet of paneling you may be surprised at what is not behind your walls! You will not, if you live in a very old mobile home, find 2" x 4"s. You will probably find 2" x 2" studs holding your house together with a very thin layer of insulation. Our insulation was about 1/4" thick. That's all there was between the metal on the outside and the paneling on the inside!

Before you start replacing the insulation, now is the time for some quick maintenance. This will give you an opportunity to check your wiring to make sure that it isn't frayed or exposed. Make sure that if there are exposed wires you turn the power off prior to attempting to rewrap the wiring with electrical tape. This may be a good time to replace any old switch boxes or outlets.

While you are in there, repair any rotted wood around windows, re-caulk them, fill any holes with caulking where you can see outside. You'd be surprised! Sometimes the screws are missing. This will also be an opportunity to notice if your roof is leaking around the top. This needs to be sealed from outside.

One last thing: this is a good opportunity to see where mice have chewed through. Mixing some agricultural lime with the cellulose at the base of the walls is a good way to inhibit them from making forays through your walls in the future. You can also seal the holes with steel wool and nail some hardware cloth or metal screen on top. If you are good at handling tin snips, you could even recycle an aluminum soda can by cutting a piece wide enough and long enough to be nailed over the hole.

To insulate

Cut pieces of kraft paper to fit each void, leaving enough lip for stapling the paper to the wood. Or, if using plastic, you will fill the voids as wide as you can within the uprights. Starting at the bottom of the wall, staple the kraft paper along the bottom and halfway up the first void. Fill it with cellulose insulation or a mixture of aged sawdust and agricultural lime. Don't pack it in tight as this will reduce its insulating qualities. As the void is filled, staple higher until it is completely filled. Then staple it shut. You can use this as the vapor barrier or you can cover the paper in plastic after you finish the whole section or even put the old insulation on top if you used paper.

Screw the paneling back on. Now, your mobile home will be a lot less drafty, more fuel efficient and it was cost effective to do.


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Title Annotation:Homestead hints
Author:Nosacek, Stephanie C.
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2008
Previous Article:Make some mittens!
Next Article:One more try: this time, without the childhood illusions.

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