The type of insulation needed for your project will depend largely on where in your home it’s going to be installed. There are a number of options available, each with their own purpose, benefits and efficiency. We’ll walk you through the common types of insulation available and their uses to help determine what insulation will be best for your next project.
Insulation is given an R-Value. This is a numbered rating that indicates how well the insulation resists heat. Different projects require different R-Values and these required minimums are set by your region’s building codes. If you are building a home, doing renovations or topping up existing insulation in your home, be sure that you know the R-Value required by your local building code.
Blown-in, or loose fill insulation is made of fluffy strands of fibre that are blown with a machine into hard to reach places like attics. Typically made of fiberglass or cellulose, this type of insulation is great for filling tight spaces or adding insulation to cold spots as it fills all the nooks and crannies. This type of insulation is very fluffy and can compact over time, particularly fiberglass blown insulation, so it will lose some of its insulating quality. However, existing blown-in insulation can be topped up with more loose fill or blanket insulation to regain or improve the R-Value.
Batt insulation will be familiar to most and is commonly used to insulate walls, floors, ceilings and attics. These pre-cut batts, typically made of fiberglass or rock wool, come in standard thicknesses and widths designed to fit easily between joists and studs. Blankets, or rolls, are very similar to batt insulation but come in larger, thinner sections, rolled up for easy transport and installation and are ideal for areas that need a longer run of insulation, like a floor. Rolls typically come in 20- or 40-foot lengths. Both of these types of insulation are quite soft and have a lot of give, making it tempting to squish and stuff them into corners and around pipes and plumbing. But if condensed, these insulators will lose a lot of their effectiveness, so be sure to cut the pieces to fit and make way for plumbing and other obstacles.
Foam board insulation comes in large, solid boards that resemble styrofoam. This type of paneled insulation, typically made from polystyrene and polyurethane, can be used to insulate many areas in your home from floors to walls to attics. Similar to batt insulation, foam boards come in sizes meant to easily fit between rafters, joists and studs. Some even come with tongue and groove edges like you would find in laminate flooring to make installation even easier while increasing the effectiveness of the boards. These boards will also need to be cut around wall penetrations with the remaining gaps to be filled with spray foam insulation. Unfortunately, foam board insulation is susceptible to pests that can tunnel through the panels and it’s recommended that the boards are treated with insecticide before installing.
Spray foam is a plastic insulation that begins as a liquid and turns into a foam that expands to fill a space. Typically made from latex or polyurethane, spray foam insulation is available in small, do-it-yourself aerosol cans and in large specialized machines used to fill larger spaces. Spray foam sets and dries quickly and then the access is trimmed or cut off to leave a smooth or flat surface. Spray foam is typically a more expensive option for insulation but also carries a higher R-Value. Spray foam provides an excellent air barrier and is great for sealing gaps around windows, vents or doors and can often be used in place of caulking.
When installing insulation, you might also use other supporting materials such as vapour barrier, commonly used when framing a house’s exterior walls. Or radiant barriers that are designed to deflect heat and reduce heat transfer to improve the energy efficiency of your home.
Before you insulate your home, it’s important to make sure your house has adequate ventilation to prevent the build-up of heat and condensation around your insulation. This condensation can cause mould and rot in your home. You should also take the time to address any other issues in the area to be insulated, such as repairing holes or filling leaks around doors, as they will likely be difficult to repair once the insulation is in.