Insulation is essential to buildings. Without it, you would have sky-high utility bills to pay, because you wouldn’t be able to regulate the temperature. That is why you find insulation stuffed in the crannies, around the attic, in the floor, and between walls. But if you have project to complete that requires insulation, like finishing your basement, you may have realized that there is more than one kind of insulation—and that it all has different strengths and weaknesses.
That is why you need to know how to choose the right kind of insulation. It breaks down to the following three things:
Learn About R-Value
All insulation has an R-value, and it’s vital for selecting the best insulation. The R-value is defined as a measure of a material’s resistance to heat transfer. Understanding R-value is simple: the higher the R-value, the slower heat disperses through the material. In other words, insulation with a high R-value will shield your home from the extreme heat of the sun better than one with lower R-value.
Depending on where you live, the minimal required R-value will differ. For instance, houses in Texas usually need an R-value between 13 and 19 for the floor, while Idaho requires an R-value between 25 and 30.
Now, while you might think loading up a space with sheets of insulation is a good idea, that’s not always true. Improperly installed insulation, like fiberglass batts stuffed into tight nooks, can actually reduce overall R-value by 50 percent.
Be sure to check where certain types of insulation are applicable, as well as the installation methods, so you don’t make a costly mistake.
Know The Different Kinds of Insulation
There are many types of insulation available, some of them more suited for residential appliances over commercial while others work well with both. Some have better R-values that others, too. Knowing which type to choose can be daunting, but the more you know about each type, the easier it is to choose. Furthermore, many of the materials types come in a couple of forms, such as blown-in/loose fill, batts, and foam boards.
Blown-in insulation usually refers to fiberglass and cellulose, made from recycled paper. It is either blow in or sprayed around the space using a special machine. It is mainly used for hard to reach places, like attics. Sometimes, blown-in insulation is used to fill holes or to cover older insulation that is already in place.
Batts are sections of fiberglass or rock wool that have been pre-cut. These are easy to install and are perfect for between frames, joists and studs. Lastly, foam boards are rigid sections of insulation that can be found in almost any area of a house, from foundation to attics and roofs.
We will get more into which forms of insulation are available per type below.
Fiberglass is the easiest kind of insulation to install and is also most cost-effective. Also, it is made from recycled glass and sand, making it an environmentally-friendly option. You can purchase fiberglass insulation in pre-cut batts and rolls that can be pressed into place. Fiberglass batts are also available in various thicknesses and R-values, so you can use it throughout the building. If you want a better R-value, however, consider using blown-in fiberglass. This type is perfect for crawl spaces and attics.
Foam Board Insulation
Foam board is produced from polystyrene or polysio and is sometimes referred to as “bean board.” The R-value is pretty low for both types, though polysio is slightly better. Purchased in sheets of 4×8 feet, you can easily cut it down to the required size. Foam board insulation is best used along concrete foundations or in the basement to reduce drafts and leaks in lower levels.
Briefly mentioned earlier, cellulose is created from recycled paper treated with boric acid and blown into a space. It’s environmentally-friendly, fire retardant, and also resists mold and pests. It can also reduce noise from outside.
Spray Foam Insulation
One advantage of spray foam is that it will expand as it dries, ensuring that there are no interstices left between one section of insulation and the next. By doing so, you reduce humidity, heat, and drafts greatly. The downside? Spray foam is crafted from polyurethane and releases fumes when applied, so it cannot by installed without professional help. However, it is cost-effective and has great R-value.
Insulating Concrete Forms (ICFs)
These are basically the forms of poured concrete walls that remain a piece of the whole assembly. The end result is a section with a high R-value, around R-20. An entire ICF system has interlocked foam boards or hollow-core foam blocks fastened together with ties. Steel rebar is added for reinforcement. Since there is the possibly of webbing around the cores, many contractors will spray ICF blocks with insecticide and waterproofing materials.
Consult a Specialist
The last part of figuring out which type of insulation is ideal for your situation, you should consult with a specialist. Many forms of insulation do require a professional touch, such as ICFs and spray foam. Plus, you can get advice on the ideal R-value for your home when you discuss your options.
Selecting insulation for your building depends on the following five points: where you have to add insulation, how much insulation R-value you need, the type of insulation you want, the quality, and whether you plan on doing it yourself or hiring someone to professionally install the insulation. Once you have answers to these things, you will be able to pick the right insulation for your needs.
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And if you want more information on roofing, insulation, and other home improvement tips and tricks, be sure to read more of our blog.