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What You Need to Know About Home Insulation

Last updated on November 6, 2020

When insulating your home, there are many home insulation categories that you can choose from. To choose the best kind of insulation, you should first determine the following:

  • Where you want or need to install/add insulation
  • The recommended R-values for areas you want to insulate.

Installing Insulation

The maximum thermal performance or R-value of insulation is very dependent on proper installation. Homeowners can install foam insulation to reduce heat from your home with Star Spray Foam floor insulation service— notably blankets and materials that can be poured in place. (Liquid foam insulation materials can be poured, but they require professional installation). Other types require professional installation.

When hiring a professional certified installer:

  • Obtain written cost estimates from several contractors for the R-value you need, and don’t be surprised if quoted prices for a given R-value installation vary by more than a factor of two.
  • Ask contractors about their air-sealing services and costs as well, because it’s a good idea to seal air leaks before installing insulation.

To evaluate blanket installation, you can measure batt thickness and check for gaps between batts and batts and framing. Inspect insulation for a tight fit around building components that penetrate the insulation, such as electrical boxes. To evaluate sprayed or blown-in types of insulation, measure the insulation’s depth and check for gaps in coverage.

If you choose to install the insulation yourself, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and safety precautions carefully, and check local building and fire codes. Do-it-yourself instructions are available from the fiberglass and mineral wool trade group. The cellulose trade group recommends hiring a professional. Still, suppose there isn’t a qualified installer in your area, or you feel comfortable taking on the job. In that case, you may be able to find guidance from manufacturers.

The table below provides an overview of the most available insulation materials, how they are installed, where they’re typically installed, and their advantages.

Sprayed-Foam

Liquid foam insulation materials can be sprayed, foamed-in-place, injected, or poured. Foam insulation can be blown into walls, on attic surfaces, or under floors to insulate and reduce air leakage. Some installations can yield a higher R-value than traditional batt insulation for the same thickness and fill even the smallest cavities, creating a significant air barrier. You can use the small pressurized cans of foam-in-place insulation to reduce air leakage in holes and cracks, such as window and door frames, and electrical and plumbing penetrations.

Types of Foam Insulation

Today, most foam materials use foaming agents that don’t use chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) or hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which are harmful to the earth’s ozone layer.

There are two types of foam-in-place insulation: closed-cell and open-cell. Both are typically made with polyurethane. With closed-cell foam, the high-density cells are closed and filled with a gas that helps the foam expand to fill the spaces around it. Open-cell foam cells are not as dense and are filled with air, which gives the insulation a spongy texture.

The type of insulation you should choose depends on how you will use it and on your budget. Closed-cell foam has a greater R-value and provides stronger resistance against moisture and air leakage. The material is also much denser and more expensive to install. Open-cell foam is lighter and less expensive but should not be used below ground level to absorb water. Consult a professional insulation installer to decide what type of insulation is best for you.