Types of Insulation for Residential Construction

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    There are a variety of insulation types that can be used around your home and selecting the right one for the job you are working on can be a little confusing.

    For most jobs you will probably want to stick with fiberglass insulation. Whether in batt form or loose fill it gives a decent R-Value per square inch and with proper precautions working with it can be quick, easy and clean.

    This does not mean that fiberglass should be the only choice you make and the following list of features should provide an overview to help you make your application choices.


     

    Insulation Type Method of Installation Application Pros / Cons
    Blankets: Batts or Rolls

    • Fiberglass

    Comes in pre cut widths to fit within standard wall and floor cavities. Comes with a paper moisture backer that is stapled to the 2x material.

    This is easy to install before drywall goes up or can be used in attic or crawl spaces after construction is completed.

    Very easy to install by the professional or home owner. Cost is relatively low and it is available at most home stores.

    Loose-Fill (blown-in) or Spray-applied

    • Rock wool
    • Fiber glass
    • Cellulose
    • Polyurethane foam

    Blown into place or spray applied by special equipment

    Enclosed existing wall cavities or open new wall cavitiesUnfinished attic floors and hard to reach places

    Loose fill is often used for new home attic spaces. Spray Foam Good for irregularly shaped areas and around obstructions. Both are usually installed by a professional.

    Rigid Insulation Board

    • Extruded polystyrene foam (XPS)
    • Expanded polystyrene foam (EPS or beadboard)
    • Polyurethane foam
    • Polyisocyanurate foam

    This product is not fire safe or UV rated so it must be covered with drywall and covered with siding on the exterior of the home. 

    Basement wallsExterior walls under finishingUnvented low slope roofs

    High insulating value for relatively little thicknessCost is high
    Can not be used where fire or heat is a consern.

    Loose-Fill (poured in)
    Vermiculite or Perlite
    Found in older homes and may or may not be safe for continued use.

    Some Information in this table came from the DOE Insulation Fact Sheet

    There are other specialty insulation types such as Spray Foam in a can that can be used for sealing and insulating leaks and we must mention that the proper use of a moisture barrier is always required to reduce water vapor from entering the insulation and rendering it useless.

    If you are building new you should look at a product like Tyvek from Dupont as a main house wrap and for attic spaces you will want to use a poly tarp material between the heated house and the insulation.

    Tars and latex materials can be used for water protection in basements but if you are building a livable area you should also apply a moisture barrier between the concrete and the insulation.

    When in doubt ask your supplier for specific information and manufacturer product literature that will state the limitations and application methods.

    For more information check our other HowTos and our Book Store

    Insulate and Weatherize: Expert Advice from Start to Finish
    Residential Windows: A Guide to New Technologies and Energy Performance
    Popular Mechanics Weatherproofing & Insulation (Popular Mechanics)
    Do-It-Yourself Home Insulation (Do-It-Yourself Essentials…)

    Purchase similar items by category:
    Heating & Cooling 
    Weatherproofing 
    Window Insulation Kits 
    Home Improvement 

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