There are a number of different types of insulation for the home but determining which one is best can be a real challenge. Given the right circumstances every type of insulation will deliver some benefit. The thing is that some deliver a greater number of benefits in a wider variety of cases than others. In this guide we’re going to take a close look at the 4 most popular types of insulation. We’ll provide an overview of each and examine the strengths and weaknesses of each kind. Let’s get started.
Table Of Contents
- Different Types of Insulation
- Foam Board or Rigid Foam insulation
- Fiberglass Batt Insulation
- Blown-In Insulation
- Spray foam insulation
Different Types of Insulation
There are many different types of insulation currently available but only a relative handful that have proven their worth again and again and become staples of the building trade. Those 4 (in no particular order) are:
- Rigid Foam or Foam Board insulation
- Fiberglass batt insulation
- Blown in cellulose insulation
- Spray foam insulation
There are slight variations within each category and we’ll touch on some of those. But for the most part we’re going to discuss these insulation types in a general way, looking at their characteristics and the pros and cons of each. Starting with Rigid Foam insulation.
Foam Board or Rigid Foam insulation
Foam board or rigid foam insulation does a good job of providing an effective barrier against mold and moisture. However, there are 3 main types – expanded polystyrene, extruded polystyrene, and polyisocyanurate unfaced or foil faced – and that fact tends to confuse some folks. It shouldn’t though because each of the 3 different types does essentially the same job the same way. The main difference is in R-values.
Expanded polystyrene foam
This is the least expensive type of rigid foam insulation and is also, by all accounts, the least used. Much of that has to do with the fact that it, not surprisingly, has the lowest R-value of any of the 3 types.
Extruded polystyrene foam
This type of insulation comes in different thicknesses and with different edge profiles. This is a popular product that is used in all types of residential and commercial settings. Extruded polystyrene foam typically has an R-value of 4.5 to 5.0 per inch. About 25 to 30% better than its expanded polystyrene cousin.
Polyisocyanurate foam or “polyiso” for short has until recently been used mostly in commercial settings. Lately however it’s begun to find its way into residential building projects of all types and sizes. Polyiso has an excellent R-value of 7 to 8 per inch of thickness and its reflective foil face means it does a bang up job when radiant heat is in play.
Now that we have a better idea about rigid foam insulation let’s look at its pros and cons.
Pros of Rigid Foam insulation
- Some types of rigid foam insulation are actually waterproof and can be buried next to the exterior walls of the home to insulate the basement.
- Rigid foam insulation – particularly polyiso – offers high R-values when compared to some other types of insulation such as loose fill, even without the foil facing.
- Expanded polystyrene foam, while not the most popular choice, is nonetheless a ‘green’ choice because no HCFCs are used in its production.
- Polyiso foam board, while it does employ HCFCs in its production, is one of the most effective types of home insulation available, bar none.
- With a plastic or aluminum foil facing rigid foam insulation becomes even more effective, with R-values that reach up to 8.0 and even 9.0.
- All 3 types of rigid foam insulation are relatively easy to install as long as the site is properly prepared.
Cons of Rigid Foam insulation
- Rigid foam insulation – particularly extruded foam and polyiso – is more expensive than some other types of insulation.
- Care must be taken to thoroughly seal joints between panels with tape. This is essential if the rigid foam board is to do its job properly.
- When installing rigid foam insulation in wall cavities it must be fitted like a glove in order to stop air from infiltrating. A poor fit will undermine effectiveness.
- Rigid foam insulation can be damaged by UV rays from the sun. Therefore it should not be installed in a place that receives direct sunlight. You must also take care to store it out of the sun until you are ready to use it.
- Air bubbles inside expanded polystyrene board are effective at stopping heat transfer but they also have the unfortunate habit of accumulating moisture. When they do they can become ineffective. As such you may need to install a moisture barrier as well. Keep in mind though this is just the expanded polystyrene and not the other types of rigid foam board.
- Polyiso board is produced using HCFCs.
- The R-value of polyiso board decreases slightly over time.
Fiberglass Batt Insulation
Fiberglass batt insulation is the most common form of home insulation. Also known as “batt and roll” or “blanket” insulation it’s sold in rolls, is made of fiberglass and typically has a foil backing. In most cases it is the cheapest way to insulate your home.
Fiberglass batt insulation has a lot of things going for it, including the fact that it’s easy to install. Any dedicated DIYer will usually be able to handle an insulation job using this type of fiberglass insulation. This type of insulation is most often installed between the joists in unfinished walls during construction or renovation and has a fairly pedestrian R-value of 2.9 to 3.8 per inch. While blanket insulation like this is familiar to most people there are aspects of it that actually make it a less than ideal insulating material for some homes. To begin with it gets ruined if it gets wet. And it’s not that unusual for moisture to infiltrate exterior walls. It’s also not great at stopping drafts that come through the same cracks or small gaps in the exterior walls that let the moisture in. Because this type of insulation can be potentially problematic it’s important that whoever is installing it knows what they’re doing because even small mistakes could cost a lot in lost heat.
Pros of Fiberglass Batt Insulation
- This type of insulation is often produced using recycled material which means it’s actually a fairly ‘green’ building material.
- Since it doesn’t burn it’s an effective fire barrier, which is another reason it’s so popular in residential settings. Be mindful though that the foil backing itself may burn.
- It typically maintains its shape well over time as long as it does not get wet.
- It’s easy for a DIYer to install, which makes it an even better value. However, that DIYer needs to know what he or she is doing if they are to attain optimal benefits from this type of insulation.
- While other forms of insulation offer higher R-values the low cost and generally decent insulation abilities make this a cost effective insulation solution.
- It provides excellent sound insulation and will greatly reduce the amount of sound that travels between rooms or from outside to inside the home.
Cons of Fiberglass Batt Insulation
- One has to be careful when working with this type of fiberglass insulation. The ultra-fine slivers of fiberglass that make up the product should not be inhaled and can cause significant irritation if they come in contact with the skin. Masks and gloves and long sleeve clothing should be worn at all times when installing blanket insulation.
- If there is a crack in your exterior wall or roof and the insulation gets wet is will lose its integrity and be rendered basically useless. You can fix the hole in the wall or roof but it won’t make any difference to the insulation. There’s no drying it out and moving on. You’ll need to replace it.
- If you need to cut it to fit it to a particular space you’re likely to have a less than perfect seal around the edges.
- Rats and other vermin actually take a shine to this type of insulation and are fond of setting up home in walls, floors and ceilings that are insulated with this material.
- Moisture build-up over time can be a problem so it should be installed using a vapour barrier.
- While fiberglass won’t burn, it will melt. So if there is a minor fire in the home you’ll need to check and be sure the insulation wasn’t affected.
Contact Leading Fiberglass Batt Insulation Company in GTA @ 416-613-5881
Blown-in or loose fill insulation is blown into the empty spaces within walls. This is done by way of creating an access hole at the top of the wall to be insulated and then blowing the material through a hose into that hole to fill up the space. It does a good job of getting into all the cracks and crevices of a space but has the unfortunate tendency to settle as it ages. If you wish to retroactively insulate an existing wall your only practical choices are to either remove the existing drywall and start from scratch or use blown in insulation. This type of insulation is typically made of recycled paper products which makes this a very green type of insulation. The recycled paper is usually treated with boric acid which makes is somewhat fire resistant, although not entirely fireproof. Insulating a wall or walls with this type of material in not really a DIY job as it’s rather labour intensive and requires special equipment.
Pros of Blown-In Insulation
- The fact that it’s made almost completely from recycled material is a major plus.
- After being treated with boric acid the cellulose is certainly fire resistant although it cannot be made 100% fireproof as we mentioned.
- Some cellulose insulation is engineered to get all its settling out of the way during installation, thereby reducing long term problems.
- The R-value of this type of insulation is typically greater than that of standard batt insulation.
- The material is much safer to work with than fiberglass blanket insulation.
- The cellulose itself is very affordable although having it professionally installed can negate any material savings.
Cons of Blown-In Insulation
- This type of insulation generates a lot of dust when it’s being installed. A proper mask is a must.
- The material will cost less than fiberglass batts but the installation will be more expensive.
- Most types of cellulose insulation settle with age and lose some of their effectiveness.
- You’ll need to install a vapour barrier with this type of insulation. If you don’t the cellulose will absorb moisture and become moldy or rotten.
Spray City Insulation is Leading Spray Foam Insulation Company in Toronto @ 416-613-5881
Spray foam insulation
Spray foam insulation is sprayed directly onto a surface adhering to it, filling every nook and cranny and providing effective moisture and air barriers at the same time. This type of insulation is ideal for many attics, basements, crawlspaces and roofs. Spray foam insulation is composed of two compounds which, when mixed, experience a chemical reaction and turn temporarily to foam. Once the foam is sprayed onto the surface it expands, filling even the tiniest of crevices. In short order it then becomes fixed and stays where you’ve put it without sagging or losing its integrity.
There are 2 types of spray foam; open and closed cell. Open cell foam is light in density and expands voraciously when sprayed. The final product has a somewhat spongy feel to it. Open cell foam is used in commercial and residential interiors where it also provides effective noise insulation. Closed cell foam by comparison is a higher density foam that is impermeable to water and air. Closed cell foam can be used in either interior or exterior applications and is harder to the touch than open cell once is cures. Both types of spray foam have outstanding R-values and both create effective moisture and noise barriers.
Pros of Spray foam insulation
- Spray foam insulation provides a virtually airtight seal. It clearly does the best job of any type of insulation when it comes to filling all the various cracks and crevices in a space.
- This type of insulation keeps more of your expensive heat inside during the winter and more of Mother Nature’s hot air outside during the summer.
- One of the unsung pros of spray foam insulation is its ability to create an effective noise barrier between spaces.
- Spray foam insulation can actually reinforce the structural integrity of a wall. Whether that’s an interior wall that is between a bedroom and a hall, or and exterior wall between indoors and outdoors.
- Spray foam insulation is more resistant to fire than wood or cellulose although it is not entirely fireproof.
- Spray foam insulation cuts down on air movement through walls and makes the airflow in your home more predictable and efficient. Your furnace won’t have to work as hard.
- Spray foam insulation will also help you keep certain rooms warmer than others as heat loss through the walls is minimized.
- Spray foam is an extremely cost effective solution for businesses and homes.
Cons of Spray foam insulation
- Spray foam insulation is more expensive than some other types of insulation.
- Because of how thoroughly it fills every crack and crevice spray foam insulation is typically more difficult to remove.
- You’ll need to have it installed by a professional with the right equipment and plenty of experience.
- In some cases you may notice a lingering odour after installation that will be slow to subside.
- During installation all family members should be well clear of the work area since the material is potentially dangerous until it cures.
- A mask, gloves and goggles should be worn at all times during installation.
When all is said and done spray foam insulation is typically the best choice for a number of reasons. It forms the most robust sound and moisture barriers of any insulating material, it has a high R-value, it doesn’t sag, it isn’t ruined by contact with water and it will last for many years without losing its insulating properties. In addition spray foam insulation:
- Is an effective mold deterrent – The inert polymers spray foam insulation is composed of give mold and bacteria nowhere to set up shop. As a result your entire home will be more effectively protected against the spread of harmful and smelly molds and mildew.
- It’s environmentally friendly – Spray foam insulation provides a number of environmentally friendly benefits. Those include the fact that it protects against the aforementioned mold and mildew, that it drastically reduces energy consumption and that there are certain recycling centres that will accept this type of insulation, should it ever need to be removed.
- It lasts forever – Okay so nothing lasts forever, but in the world of insulation spray foam is as close as you are going to come to eternity. The inert polymers in the insulation are slow to break down and should be providing virtually the same level of insulation 20 years after installation that they did when first installed.
The different types of insulation used on most homes all have their upside. However, when it comes to determining the best all-around insulation – one that’s also the best overall value – spray foam insulation, whether open or closed cell, is the clear winner. Speak to the pros at Spray City Insulation to learn more about installing this amazing, versatile and durable type of insulation in your home or business.