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Newsletter #243

House Building Insulation

January 2006 Home Page

Special Report - Insulation Techniques


  1. Introduction
  2. The Basics
  3. How Much Insulation do I need
  4. Different Types of Insulation
  5. Add Insulation & Save Money
  6. Tools to Help You Decide
  7. Conclusion
  8. Thought for the Day
  9. Subscriptions/Removal Instructions

All past newsletters are archived online at:



Regardless of where you live, your home will be more comfortable and use less energy if you have the right amount of insulation. Even homes in the southern part of the US require insulation to prevent heat from flowing into the house increasing the energy you need for summer cooling. Homes in the northern US and Canada also need lots of insulation to help withstand the cold winter months and control your home energy use.

The amount of insulation that your home will require depends on where you live, how your home is built and whether you have a furnace, central air conditioner or you heat your home by some other means.

There are advantages and disadvantages to the various types of insulation that you can use in your home. We will cover some of these in the following sections of this newsletter. In addition to walls and attics, homes with basements require basement walls to be also insulated and homes built on concrete slabs should also have the floors insulated to prevent cold floors and heat loss.

In this issue we will help you understand some of the basics about insulation, how much insulation you really need to have. We will also discuss the different types of insulation and how insulation can save you money on heating and cooling bills and we will provide a reference to a site that will help you decide how much insulation you should add to your home.

As usual we have included some general references through out this article that you may refer to obtain addition information about insulation in general and about insulating your home.

Some Useful Links:

Insulation Fact Sheet - Department of Energy


The Basics

There are many different types of insulation that are used around the country. These include fiberglass, mineral wool, cellulose, cotton, straw and foam insulation. Prior to the 1970s, asbestos and urea formaldehyde foam insulation were also used to insulate homes. Neither of these types of insulation are used in homes today due to health concerns.

Insulation is usually quoted by indicating the R-value. The letter R stands for resistance to heat flow and therefore the greater the value, the greater the insulating ability. Attics are usually insulated with a higher R-value than walls. Attic insulation will typically have an R-Value of 30 or more, while walls with 2” x 6” construction will have an R-rating of R-19 or more.

Fire safety is an important concern that must be considered when choosing your insulation. Insulation should not come into contact with chimneys, heat producing light fixtures or electrical components.

Vapor barriers are required between the inside of the home and all insulation. This prevents the flow of air from inside the home to the outside and also prevents moisture moving through the insulation only to cool on the outside where the moisture will condense causing mold or rot.

Attic insulation is usually consists of fiberglass batts or blankets between the joists. A second layer of insulation over top of the fiberglass batts can be added to increase the total R-Value.

In addition to the Attic, another cost effective measure is to insulate the floor, basement or crawl spaces, particularly if the basement is to be heated now or in the future. In colder climates, many building codes require insulation to be placed in the basement on the walls to four or 5 ft. below grade.

In addition to properly insulating your home, you must also ensure that your attic is vented properly. In summer months, ventilation allows hot air in the attic to escape through soffit vents or ridge vents located on the roof. During the winter months cold air flows into the attic avoiding moisture from building up and also preventing ice dams which can cause significant leaking of water into your home.

Some useful links to check out

Home Insulation Basics: Higher R-Values = Higher Insulating Values

Home Energy Savings -- Ventilation and Insulation Basics,2037,DIY_13895_2274818,00.html

Home Insulation Buying Guide



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How Much Insulation do I Need

It is important to have the correct amount of insulation in your house to ensure that your home remains comfortable while at the same time reducing your monthly heating costs and/ or cooling bills. Generally speaking consumers will provide more insulation in the attic where the greatest heat loss occurs and less insulation on walls and floors.

The Department of Energy provides an excellent web site that provide you with basic information about how much insulation you require and why, and also a tool to help you calculate the amount of insulation that you should install in your house based on the zip code of where you live.

Useful Web Links

Do you have the right amount of insulation in your home?

R-Value Recommendations


Different Types of Insulation

Asbestos insulation and urea formaldehyde foam insulation are two types of insulation that have not been used since the 1970s due to health concerns. These two types of insulation are never used in new homes today, however if you are planning on purchasing and existing home to remodel or upgrade, we recommend you investigate the type of existing insulation in the home.

We will briefly summarize other types of insulation that is used today to insulate homes and for more information please refer to the useful web site links below.

Cellulose -- is ground wood or paper and is often blown into attics and walls. Additives are usually added to provide resistance to fire, mold and fungus growth. The resistance value per inch is 3.5 to 3.7

Fiberglass batt - made of strands of molten glass and is manufactured to best fit in between standard wood joists. It is also fire and mold resistant and has a rating of 3.0 to 3.8 per inch.

Fiberglass loose fill -- is also strands of molten glass provided as loose fill insulation available however during its installation precautions must be taken to avoid eye, nose and throat irritation. It has a rating of 2.2 to 3.0 per inch.

Rock wool or mineral wool -- is molten rock or slag and is available in blankets or batts, it is fire and mold resistant however they can irritate eyes and throat during installation. It has a rating of 2.7 to 3.0 per inch.

Rigid board expanded polystyrene -- is made from petrochemical compounds and has a high rating of 4.0 per inch, however a fire barrier is required if used inside the home, it burns with toxic smoke and can absorb water and irritate the eyes skin and throat.

Rigid board extruded polystyrene -- is also made from petrochemical compounds with a rating of 4.6 to 5.0 per inch and will serve as a vapor barrier. It is good for exterior use including below grade insulation however it also needs a fire barrier if used inside.

Rigid board Polyurethane -- is also made from a petrochemical compounds with a rating of 6.0 to 8.7 per inch and is often used as exterior sheathing above grade, and serves as a vapor barrier.

Vermiculite -- is made from silicate minerals and is good for chimney flue insulation however it is rarely used now in home construction due to the weight of the insulation. It has a rating of 2.2 per inch.

Wood shavings -- has a rating of 2.5 per inch and is found to be hard to treat against fire vermin, and fungal growth. It is also considered too heavy for most attics.

Useful Web Links

Insulation: The different types and their advantages and disadvantages

Home Insulation

Types Of Fiber Glass And Rock And Slag Wool Building Insulation Products


Add Insulation & Save Money

Providing high R-Value insulation in your new home is an investment guaranteed to provide you with long term savings in terms of energy and comfort. As heating and energy costs continue to increase the money you spend on insulation will continue to pay dividends every year for many years! Many suppliers of insulation will provide you with calculators that will help you also identify how much money you will save by using their particular type insulation. We cannot recommend products on this web site, however we do encourage consumers to compare the insulation planned or recommended by your builder with increased insulation values as well as some of the alternatives that are also provided.

In addition to saving on your energy bills, your home will also be quieter, less drafty and generally more comfortable when you increase the R-Value insulation levels in your home. Combine high R-Value insulation values with proper ventilation and fresh air intake and you will enjoy many years of comfort in your new home.

Consumers also make a positive contribution to the environment by using less energy to heat their homes when they properly insulate their homes. Less energy consumption means less pollution and less heating of the planets atmosphere and green house gas buildup.

Useful Web Links

Building Insulation Applications


Tools & Recommendations to Help you Decide

There are a number of useful web sites that will provide not only information about the types of insulation to use, they also will calculate the amount of insulation in terms of R-Value that you should apply in your home – Attic, walls, floors and basement walls. This is very useful since there are so many different heating systems and climate conditions across North America .

These tools are simple to use. The one that we have provided a link to in this newsletter simply requires the answers to a few simple questions. Your house status i.e. new or existing; fuel type i.e. Natural gas, oil, electrical, heat pump or LPG gas and the zip code of were you live. Visitors to this web site will be provided with recommendations for the R-Value for all portions of your home including the attic, walls, and basement for several different construction techniques.

Our second web site link provides a number of publications that you can refer to for additional information and recommendations with regards to insulation of your home.

Useful Web Links

R-Value Recommendations

Recommendations for Installation in Residential and Other Light-Frame Construction (Fiber Glass Home Insulation)


We have provided a great deal of information in this newsletter about home insulation and we encourage new home owners to do their research and turn to experts if needed to help make decision regarding the insulation in your home. Higher R-Values in your home will return many years of savings in home energy costs, provide a quieter more comfortable home, increase your homes overall resale value and also make a positive contribution to reducing green house gas and other pollutants that are generated while heating your home.

Attics are always insulated to higher R-Value levels than walls and floors. Basements particularly in cold climates must also be insulated below the frost line and most building codes will designate the amount of insulation that is required.

Vapor barriers are also required to avoid the buildup of moisture in the insulation causing potential water damage as well as a decrease in the effectiveness of the insulation. Take advantage of the insulation calculator provided by the department of energy to determine what you need for your home in your area.

Investing in insulation will return many years of comfort and energy savings for you and your family especially as the cost of energy continues to rise.


Thought For The Day

"It's a funny thing about life: If you refuse to accept anything but the very best, you will often get it." --Anonymous


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