I'm pretty sure I've never seen this stuff before. It's installed in rafters as batts, held in place by cardboard sheets below. Papery consistency, now crumbling. The house is ~1923, but no idea when this was installed.

Anyone know what it might be? Thanks for any help here.

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We've seen this before on several occasions.  It is a cellulosic based product - essentially crenulated or creped paper.

http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/1099183575035133639rVRBwi

http://www.ebay.com/itm/1939-KIMSUL-INSULATION-Catalog-Photos-Home-...


http://www.ebay.com/sch/sis.html?_nkw=1937%20AD%20KIMSUL%20BUILDING...

1933
Kimsul Insulation- Seeking new ways to introduce its products for consumer use, Kimberley-Clark created Kimsul, a home insulating product made of creped wadding, impregnated with asphalt. Originally, Kimsul began as insulation paneling for refrigerators. Later, the product appeared in automobiles as dashboard insulation.
Kimsul was promoted as the insulation with many-layer construction; unlike then-typical loose bulk insulation, Kimsul had layers stitched together to form a blanket of uniform thickness.
In connection with a famous 1948 movie, "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House," starring Cary Grant and Myrna Loy, Kimsul was advertised as the insulation used in the dream house. The product was easy to install and was resistant to fire, moisture, fungus, vermin and termites. National advertising for the product urged consumers to "Wrap your home in a blanket of Kimsul." 
Earlier, Kimsul had been the standard material for insulating Navy quonset huts (prefabricated metal buildings) during World War II. It gave protection against the tropical heat and Alaskan cold.

Hi Brian,

Thanks for sharing the brochures.   The middle link shows a lot of detail.  I found their heat loss savings calulations really interesting but way off if they are considering a house with no insulation to maybe an R-11.   I would love to know how they did the math.  For maybe a small two story home the pre insulation Btu numbers are pretty accurate for a home in the mid west with 6000 HHD's/

That IS an interesting link Brian!  I've seen a straw version of that material: 

Hey Rem, 2,000,000,000 BTU annual load?  What "small house" are you thinking?  

Most houses I've seen have 500-1800 total therm usage (insulated or not) until you get to great big houses.  If you factor in all the efficiencies of combustion and distribution before you even get to enclosure load, you cut the fuel BTU carrying the load by what, 25-75%?  

IDK, I think the layer of insulation vs none can have surprising results.  Those saving seem like good faith numbers, particularly when there is no accountability for saving being delivered.  They certainly could have projected a lot higher.  Think about 1990's window claims of cutting energy bills in half!  

We need tracking of results, that'll bring accountability to this field.  Promises of savings without tracking, how is that supposed to work?  How are you supposed to know if your promises come true?  

Imagine, Home Performance could actually be a rare industry that consumers could count on GETTING what they're PROMISED if results were tracked.  (The Solar industry has this figured out, we need to.) 

i agree with the others that's it's old rock or mineral wool bats

Actually, you are incorrect.  I just removed an entire attic full of Kimsul insulation from my 1930 home after doing considerable research on it.  I know what I have is Kimsul because the brand name is clearly marked on the paper backing of every section of it and it is EXACTLY what is shown in the OP's original photos. It does somewhat resemble a paper-wasp nest in that it is a crinkly cellular mass. This product does NOT have any rock wool, mineral wool or asbestos in it and is probably one of the least noxious forms of old or modern insulation.  It is 100% made of cellulose based crepe paper with a paper backing with a light asphalt coating.  Other than dust, there are no hazards associated with it.  I will swear to that because I found numerous reports where insulation contractors and inspection engineers had Kimsul tested and it has NEVER been found to have asbestos.  The Kimberly Clark Paper Company has also confirmed this.  If you find Kimsul in an old house you are inspecting or remodelling you should rejoice because it is simple to remove and can be safely sent to a land fill or even burned, though it does not combust that easily, surprising for a paper product.  It will catch fire but burns very slowly. As has been mentioned, the US military used it to insulation Quonset huts on bases during WW II.   In fact, really the only problem with it (besides that it insn't that good of an insulator once it is old and deteriorating) is that in the case of a housefire it will smolder for a long time so it does make it hard for fire fighters to be sure it is extinguished.

It is called Kimsul insulation made and manufactured by a paper company. Made of all paper except for the vapor barrier which is tar paper

It is Kimsul, we see it in 5-10% of our housing stock here in the Syracuse,NY area.  We have a large "Depression Era" housing stock in the city.

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