Now that evening temps have dropped into the 30s, it’s perfect timing to talk about insulation for this edition of Buyer 101. Insulation works alongside many of your home’s systems that we have already discussed here in this series. There are several types of insulation made from different materials, all designed to keep your home warm. Every kind of insulation will have different R-values. R-values tell you how well a particular product keeps heat from leaving your home. You can increase the R-value by increasing the thickness or density of your chosen product. Let’s look at a few different types, from the lowest R-value product to the highest.
Blown-In/Loose-Fill – This type of insulation is made primarily of three materials. Cellulose (recycled paper), fiberglass (recycled glass), or rockwool (a combination of basalt rock and slag from the steel industry). All three are installed the same way: blown in with a machine to the open spaces in your attic, walls, or hard-to-reach areas. They can also be spread by hand if needed. When adding additional insulation to a home, many homeowners will use this option because of the ease of installation, the lower cost, and the fact that it can be blown right over the existing insulation.
Blanket Insulation: You may also see this called Batt or Roll Insulation, which is available in pre-cut sections. Typically, they will be made of fiberglass or rockwool and fit between wall studs, floor joists, and beams during construction. This is the type of insulation you will see primarily during a new home’s construction or renovation project. Also, a low-cost option, they may even have a protective foil or kraft paper backing for an additional barrier for your home.
Spray Foam: With the highest R-value rating, spray foam insulation is one of the most effective at insulating your home. Not only can it be used in new construction (you may have all seen the videos of it expanding as it is sprayed between wall studs), it can be used to re-insulate your home and can be applied over existing insulation. Spray foam will also help seal air out and provide an additional noise barrier from outside as it expands and fills every nook and cranny.
When inspecting a home for purchase, your inspector will be able to tell you what type of insulation you have if it is in a space that is accessible, like an attic or crawl space. They will even measure the depth and let you know if more may be needed or if you have an even layer across a given area. This will let you know if more may be necessary, allowing you and your agent or contractor to decide what is best for your situation. Also, remember that insulation works the other way in summer by keeping our homes cool. As a bonus, I have lighted another type of insulation below.
Radiant Barriers: Similar to the backing on blanket insulation, a radiant barrier or reflective insulation can be made from foil-faced kraft paper, cardboard, plastic film, or polyethylene bubbles. They are all designed to reflect the sun’s heat rather than absorb it into the home. Installed primarily in attic spaces, they are the most cost-effective in states like Arizona, where we have extremely hot summers. This barrier is the perfect type for older homes with attic spaces built without modern insulations with high R-values.
Written by Colby Shmeckpeper