How to Choose Your Home's Insulation

A collection of tiny houses made from different types of insulation.
  • Intermediate

Insulation makes a huge difference in the climate of your home. In the winter months, insulation is there to keep your home warmer. In the summer, it serves as a barrier to keep the heat out. Without it, your home can face brutal summers and frigid winters. Not only that, but insulation can greatly reduce the energy costs of powering your home (think air conditioner and heater). Though it can be a costly undertaking to install, replace, or update your insulation, there are some benefits you just won't get without it.

When considering insulation installation for your house, there are several varieties of insulation to choose from. The choice is not one-size-fits-all. Insulation is more of a custom project. There are several factors that play into which kind to choose, as outlined below.


Measuring pink insulation with a ruler.

In reference to insulation, an R-value is a thermal resistance value of the insulation. The higher the R-value, the more it will resist heat transfer and the more effective it will be at insulating your home. The R-value you need for your home depends on several factors, but one of the most important is the zone in which you live. Other factors include where you are planning on installing it: in the wall, ceiling, or floor. The type of insulation you choose also makes a difference, whether it’s batts, foam, blown-in, or foam board. Each of these factors plays a role when it comes to R-value.

Geographical Zones

Colder zones (such as Minnesota or Alaska) typically require higher R-values. You may want to research a chart that will tell you which zone you are in and what R-value your insulation job requires. In the United States, regions are assigned a 1-8 rating to help determine which R-value is needed.

Blanket Batts and Rolls

Blanket batts and blanket rolls are used for floors, ceilings, attics, and unfinished walls. Typically made of fiberglass, this insulation can cause irritation in your lungs and on your skin, so you will want to use extreme caution when handling it. With long sleeves, gloves, eye protection, and a dust mask, you can install this insulation yourself. You can cut rolls of insulation yourself to fit between studs, while batts are pre-cut. Blanket batts or rolls are likely the cheapest option of all the insulation methods, especially when you do it yourself. It takes a little more time and effort but can save you money.

Liquid Foam Insulation

Liquid foam insulation sprayer.

This type of insulation is great for hard-to-reach or finished areas, but sprayed foam insulation is a little trickier than it seems. Typically, people hire experts to install this type of insulation. It can be sprayed, foamed, injected, or poured. There are also different types of liquid foam: open-cell and closed-cell. Open-cell is cheaper and lighter, but shouldn’t be used under your house. Closed-cell foam has a higher R-value and can withstand moisture, but is also pricier. Either way, spray foam is going to cost you but in the long run, spray foam can save you money in the form of energy costs.

Blown-In Insulation

Blown-in insulation is often found in attics. It's also a good choice for older homes that were built without any insulation because it can be installed through a tiny hole in a wall. This insulation is made of loose particles that are blown over an area through a hose. It fills any kind of odd shapes and cracks, which works to your benefit. The pieces are usually made up of fiber and foam that have been recycled from other things.

Foam Board Insulation

A construction worker looking at insulation boards installed in an attic.

Usually, foam board is used for the outside of your house during a renovation or underneath a concrete floor, and it works well in basements. The semipermeable boards are the perfect match for places prone to moisture because they let the moisture go through them, which keeps them from rotting. If it's being used outdoors, it needs to be coated with weatherproof facing. If the foam board is inside, it needs to be covered with a building code-approved material for fire safety reasons. Foam board can definitely be installed without hiring a professional.