Understanding Insulation Options When Building or Renovating


Understanding Insulation Options When Building or Renovating

Determining the right type of insulation to use for your home construction project will depend on a range of factors. The budget will play a role, but it will also depend on the type of home building project you’re undertaking. Custom home building projects or additions will allow you to use a wide range of insulation types. If you’re renovating an existing property, certain types of insulation may be more appropriate than others.

Insulation Photo

One of the most common types of insulation comes in batts and blankets, long rolls of material that are stapled inside your walls as the home is constructed. These generally come in three types: fiberglass, rock wool, and cotton. Fiberglass is the most widely available option, and it is generally the most popular. Its relatively low heat retention rating, or R-rating, is offset by its resistance to mold, unlike rock wool. Fiberglass is also less costly. Batts and blankets are “all-purpose“ insulation and can be used in walls, floors, and ceilings. However, it’s more appropriate for spaces that are easy to reach.

Loose fill, on the other hand, consists of piles of material such as fiberglass, and is generally blown into the wall with tubing. This makes it perfect for difficult spaces such as narrow rooms and ceilings. It can also be appropriate for home renovations where you need to fill existing walls that already have Sheetrock in place. Loose fill insulation is available in both fiberglass and cellulose. Cellulose is more environmentally friendly, has a higher R-rating, and costs virtually the same.

Your custom homebuilder may recommend two newer options. The first is structural insulated panels, or SIPs, which have almost twice the R-rating of traditional insulation. SIPs are composed of a rigid insulated core sandwiched between two panels. The panel material is most frequently oriented strand board (OSB) but can also be plywood or other materials. When a new home is constructed using SIPs, they may contribute to the home being so airtight that ventilation will need to be installed to meet housing code requirements.

Another option that your contractor may recommend is spray foam insulation. Spray foam is more expensive than loose fill or blankets, but it is quite effective. One of the primary benefits of spray foam is that it fills cracks and voids that other insulation types cannot. Spray foam makes for a very tight house.

The insulation type that’s right for your home building project will depend on the job. New homes stand to benefit from SIPs or spray foam. They are more efficient in the long term; as a result, they require less work from your heating system. Reducing the draw on your system will cause it less wear and tear, giving the equipment a longer life.

Insulation is a different story for renovations. If you plan to remove the Sheetrock and tear down to the studs, you’ll have easy access to apply the insulation of your choice. If you’re not opening the walls, need to preserve historic features, or simply wish to install insulation in difficult-to-reach places, use spray foam or loose fill insulation. It will involve less overall work while still offering strong heat retention.