Attic Insulation ? The Choices
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Fiberglass batts offer the easiest way to add attic insulation or just about any area of your home. However, typically batts offer the worst insulation performance for any job. But grabbing a bundle at the store and rolling it out takes little effort, so people use them frequently.
The cellulose insulation method creates lots of dust, but it gets the job done. If you hire a pro, they use wet-spray cellulose, which adds a small amount of water to help control the dust and to slightly increase the insulation value per inch.
I also contacted several insulation manufacturers about this. They said the same thing and sent me some great information to back it up. Loose-fill fiberglass attic insulation still experiences convection, but not nearly as much as old fiberglass used to.
The R-Value insulation that your attic should maintain depends on where you live and what the climate is like. Hot climates call for an R30, cold climates command an R49, and moderate climates like may settle near the middle.
By far, the most frequently purchased type of attic insulation material is fiberglass, extremely delicate glass fibers that are comprised of recycled material and sand and look uncannily like cotton candy. The most common form that fiberglass insulation takes is in batts, large rolled-up sheets that are held together by an adhesive vapor barrier like reflective foil backing or paper.
Fiberglass also comes in the form of loose-fill insulation, tiny chunks packaged in large bags. These chunks get installed courtesy of a blowing machine that spreads the chunks to fill in necessary spaces.
From a usage standpoint, blown-in cellulose can thrive in the same situations as blown-in fiberglass, however, there has been a lot of marketing behind false claims surrounding cellulose that make it a less than preferred option for attic insulation.
There are several different routes you can take for installing attic insulation, which unfortunately means there are countless ways to do it incorrectly. Thankfully, Attic Construction is here to help!
Joseph Sheiner is a construction industry professional with over 15 years of experience. He began his career in the insulation industry in 2012, and co-founded Attic Construction Inc in 2013. As CEO of the company, Joe oversees all operations and is in charge of training and product knowledge.
Attic Construction is the #1 rated attic insulation, attic cleaning, rodent proofing, and rodent decontamination company in San Diego, CA, Orange County, CA, and Phoenix, AZ. We are dedicated to our customers and seek to be the most professional company in the attic restoration industry.
The maximum thermal performance or R-value of insulation is very dependent on proper installation. Homeowners can install some types of insulation -- notably blankets, boards, and materials that can be poured in place. (Liquid foam insulation materials can be poured, but they require professional installation). Other types require professional installation.
To evaluate blanket installation, you can measure batt thickness and check for gaps between batts as well as between batts and framing. In addition, inspect insulation for a tight fit around building components that penetrate the insulation, such as electrical boxes. To evaluate sprayed or blown-in types of insulation, measure the depth of the insulation and check for gaps in coverage.
Blanket insulation -- the most common and widely available type of insulation -- comes in the form of batts or rolls. It consists of flexible fibers, most commonly fiberglass. You also can find batts and rolls made from mineral (rock and slag) wool, plastic fibers, and natural fibers, such as cotton and sheep's wool. Learn more about these insulation materials.
Batts and rolls are available in widths suited to standard spacing of wall studs, attic trusses or rafters, and floor joists: 2 inch x 4 inch walls can hold R-13 or R-15 batts; 2 inch x 6 inch walls can use R-19 or R-21 products. Continuous rolls can be hand-cut and trimmed to fit. They are available with or without facings. Manufacturers often attach a facing (such as kraft paper, foil-kraft paper, or vinyl) to act as a vapor barrier and/or air barrier. Batts with a special flame-resistant facing are available in various widths for basement walls and other places where the insulation will be left exposed. A facing also helps facilitate handling and fastening during installation.
It is more effective to install insulation over the surface of the blocks either on the exterior or interior of the foundation walls. Placing insulation on the exterior has the added advantage of containing the thermal mass of the blocks within the conditioned space, which can moderate indoor temperatures.
Concrete block walls are typically insulated or built with insulating concrete blocks during new home construction or major renovations. Block walls in existing homes can be insulated from the inside. Go to insulation materials for more information about the products commonly used to insulate concrete block.
Foam boards -- rigid panels of insulation -- can be used to insulate almost any part of your home, from the roof down to the foundation. They are very effective in exterior wall sheathing, interior sheathing for basement walls, and special applications such as attic hatches. They provide good thermal resistance (up to 2 times greater than most other insulating materials of the same thickness), and reduce heat conduction through structural elements, like wood and steel studs. The most common types of materials used in making foam board include polystyrene, polyisocyanurate (polyiso), and polyurethane.
ICF systems consist of interconnected foam boards or interlocking, hollow-core foam insulation blocks. Foam boards are fastened together using plastic ties. Along with the foam boards, steel rods (rebar) can be added for reinforcement before the concrete is poured. When using foam blocks, steel rods are often used inside the hollow cores to strengthen the walls.
Loose-fill insulation consists of small particles of fiber, foam, or other materials. These small particles form an insulation material that can conform to any space without disturbing structures or finishes. This ability to conform makes loose-fill insulation well suited for retrofits and locations where it would be difficult to install other types of insulation.
The most common types of materials used for loose-fill insulation include cellulose, fiberglass, and mineral (rock or slag) wool. All of these materials are produced using recycled waste materials. Cellulose is primarily made from recycled newsprint. Most fiberglass products contain 40% to 60% recycled glass. Mineral wool is usually produced from 75% post-industrial recycled content.
For loose-fill insulation, each manufacturer must determine the R-value of its product at settled density and create coverage charts showing the minimum settled thickness, minimum weight per square foot, and coverage area per bag for various total R-values.
Unlike most common insulation systems, which resist conductive and convective heat flow, radiant barriers and reflective insulation work by reflecting radiant heat. Radiant barriers are installed in homes -- usually in attics -- primarily to reduce summer heat gain, which helps lower cooling costs. Reflective insulation incorporates reflective surfaces -- typically aluminum foils -- into insulation systems that can include a variety of backings, such as kraft paper, plastic film, polyethylene bubbles, or cardboard, as well as thermal insulation materials.
Radiant heat travels in a straight line away from any surface and heats anything solid that absorbs its energy. When the sun heats a roof, it's primarily the sun's radiant energy that makes the roof hot. A large portion of this heat travels by conduction through the roofing materials to the attic side of the roof. The hot roof material then radiates its gained heat energy onto the cooler attic surfaces, including the air ducts and the attic floor. A radiant barrier reduces the radiant heat transfer from the underside of the roof to the other surfaces in the attic. To be effective, it must face a large air space.
Radiant barriers are more effective in hot climates, especially when cooling air ducts are located in the attic. Some studies show that radiant barriers can lower cooling costs 5% to 10% when used in a warm, sunny climate. The reduced heat gain may even allow for a smaller air conditioning system. In cool climates, however, it's usually more cost-effective to install more thermal insulation.
Rigid fiber or fibrous board insulation consists of either fiberglass or mineral wool material and is primarily used for insulating air ducts in homes. It is also used when there's a need for insulation that can withstand high temperatures. These products come in a range of thicknesses from 1 inch to 2.5 inches.
Installation in air ducts is usually done by HVAC contractors, who fabricate the insulation at their shops or at job sites. On exterior duct surfaces, they can install the insulation by impaling it on weld pins and securing with speed clips or washers. They can also use special weld pins with integral-cupped head washers. Unfaced boards can then be finished with reinforced insulating cement, canvas, or weatherproof mastic. Faced boards can be installed in the same way, and the joints between boards sealed with pressure-sensitive tape or glass fabric and mastic.
Liquid foam insulation materials can be sprayed, foamed-in-place, injected, or poured. Foam-in-place insulation can be blown into walls, on attic surfaces, or under floors to insulate and reduce air leakage. Some installations can yield a higher R-value than traditional batt insulation for the same thickness, and can fill even the smallest cavities, creating an effective air barrier. You can use the small pressurized cans of foam-in-place insulation to reduce air leakage in holes and cracks, such as window and door frames, and electrical and plumbing penetrations. 2b1af7f3a8