Break-down of Insulation Types

Wall Insulation and Tools

There are many different types of insulation used in homes and commercial buildings. The particular kind of insulation used in any one home or building will depend on variety of factors such as the area's climate and the cost of materials. In some cases, the age of the building is a big factor, as certain methods of insulation were very prevalent in past decades and have since become less popular.

The need for insulation is unquestioned nowadays since having a well-insulated home not only helps you regulate the living temperature for those inside, but also saves on energy costs. Most homes are insulated using different types of insulating materials to prevent heat from escaping during the winter season and entering the home during hot summer days. Insulation saves on energy bills because it offers lower home heating needs during winter.

Here are some of the most common types of insulation.

Blanket Insulation

Blanket insulation is any insulation that takes the form of batts or rolls of mineral fiber. The term is less about the insulation material and more about the structure of the material that is being used to insulate a home.

Insulation materials that have been used in blanket insulation include mineral fibers processed from rock, wool, and fiberglass. One form of blanket insulation that was largely ignored in the past and is gaining popularity currently is cellulose insulation, which is made from plant fibers that come mainly from recycled newspapers. While it was once thought that cellulose was to be avoided as a fire hazard, modern cellulose can be treated with flame-resistant chemicals. Plus, it is overall less flammable than fiberglass because its naturally denser makeup doesn't allow for as much oxygen to circulate and burn.

Blanket insulation can be used on walls, ceilings, and floors. Although this type of insulation is the least expensive among all four, it requires careful attention during installation to be at its most effective.

Rigid Board Insulation

rigid board insulation

Rigid board insulation can be made out of different materials including polystyrene, polyurethane, or fiberglass. Taking the form of a series of rigid boards, this method has a relatively good insulating value compared to its relative thickness. It can be used to insulate ceilings and walls and is especially useful for basements.

Since the boards also act an effective sound barrier, they're sometimes installed in recording studios, churches, and commercial areas to insulate sound in addition to heat. When installing any of these insulating materials, make sure to check the local codes for any requirements or permits prior to installation.

Usually, these boards are covered with moisture barriers and other protective coverings, such as drywall. When these materials are installed outside the home, they are usually covered with weatherproof material to protect it from the damage caused by external elements.

Loose-fill Insulation

Loose-fill insulation makes use of loose and fibrous materials from fiberglass, rock, wool, and cellulose. It's also sometimes called blown-in insulation, depending on whether the loose fibers are poured into place or propelled into the cavities of walls using equipment designed to fill the interior spaces of walls.

Although this is the most expensive of all insulation types, it provides the most effective insulation. Looser materials mean that fibers fill out the entire space inside a wall, providing better thermal and acoustic insulation compared with the other types.

Spray Foam Insulation

installer spraying foam insulation

Spray foam insulation is a very versatile way of insulating a home because it does not need to conform to any size and shape. If your home or office has strange dimensions or irregular gap spaces between walls, the foam is free moving enough to get in there a fill the space.

The biggest problems with this form of insulation come from improper installations. People and professionals can get complacent because of the convenience of the foam spray, but when not installed carefully, the foam can leave behind varying pockets of irregular insulation.

This type of insulation is a mixture of foaming agent and polymer agent. When applied, it fills the area with liquid foam that quickly expands to form into solid plastic. Spray foam creates better insulation than blanket type insulation because it forms an airtight barrier. A professional may work on the insulation process on a home during large insulation projects. However, small insulation projects can be DIY.

Reflective System Insulation

While much less common and more small scale than others, reflective system insulation is another method of insulation that can be done on your own. Films, papers, boards, and bubble with foiled and reflective surfaces are all spaced and arranged between walls to strategically reflect or allow the passage of heat.

Structural Insulated Panels

Shortened to SIPs, these consist of an insulated core, usually foam or fiber, sandwiched between two panels of oriented strand board. They are relatively new but in terms of uniform insulation in a structure they are superior to all other options and are also easier to make. As things move forward in home construction, it's possible that these SIPs will become the standard.