Home Insulation Types

The Best Insulation Services for Your Home.

When insulating your household, you can select from many types of home insulation. To choose the best kind of insulation, you should first determine the following:

  • Where you want to install/add insulation
  • The recommended R-values for areas you intend to insulate.

Installing Insulation

The maximum thermal performance or R-value of insulation depends on proper installation. Homeowners can install some types of thermal insulation — notably blankets and materials that can be poured in place. (Liquid foam insulation materials can be poured, but they need professional installation). Other types need professional installation.

When hiring a professional accredited installer:

  • Obtain written cost estimates from various contractors for the R-value you require and don’t be surprised if quoted prices for a given R-value installation vary by more than two.
  • Ask contractors about their air-sealing services and costs because it’s a good idea to seal air leaks before installing insulation.

To gauge blanket installation, you can measure batt thickness and check for gaps between batts as well as between batts and framing. Also, inspect insulation for a tight fit around building components that penetrate the insulation, like electrical boxes. To assess sprayed or blown-in types of insulation, measure the depth of the insulation, and check for gaps in coverage.

If you opt to install the insulation, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and safety precautions carefully, and check local building and fire codes. Do-it-yourself guidelines are available from the fiberglass and mineral wool trade group. It is recommendable to hire a professional, but if there isn’t a qualified installer in your area or you feel comfortable taking on the job, you may be able to find guidance from manufacturers.

Foam Board or Rigid Foam

Types of Thermal Insulation for Homes

Rigid panels materials

Foam boards — rigid panels of insulation — can be used to insulate almost every 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 like attic hatches.

Foam boards offer excellent thermal resistance (up to 2 times greater than most other insulating materials of the same thickness) and decrease heat conduction through structural elements, such as wood and steel studs. The most common forms of materials used in making foam board include polystyrene, polyisocyanurate (polyiso), and polyurethane.

Insulating Concrete Forms

Insulating concrete forms (ICFs) are fundamental forms for poured concrete walls, which remain as part of the wall assembly. This system forms walls with high thermal resistance, typically about R-20. Even though ICF homes are constructed using concrete, they look like traditional stick-built homes.

ICF systems comprise of interconnected foam boards or interlocking, hollow-core foam insulation blocks. Foam boards are attached using plastic ties. Along with the foam boards, steel rods (rebar) can be added for strengthening before the concrete is poured. When using foam blocks, steel rods are usually used inside the hollow cores to strengthen the walls.

The foam webbing around the concrete-filled cores of blocks provides easy access for insects and groundwater. To assist in preventing these problems, some manufacturers make insecticide-treated foam blocks and promote waterproofing methods. Installing an ICF system needs an experienced contractor, available through the Insulating Concrete Form Association.

Areas of Concern

Fire safety is a concern, but when the interior of the SIP is covered with a fire-rated material, like gypsum board, it protects the facing and foam long enough to give building occupants a chance to escape.

As in any home, insects and rodents can be a problem. In a few cases, insects and rodents have tunneled throughout the SIPs, and some manufacturers have issued tips for preventing these problems, including:

  • Applying insecticides to the panels
  • Treating the ground with insecticides both before and after initial construction and backfilling
  • Maintaining indoor humidity levels below 50%
  • Locating outdoor plantings at least two feet (0.6 meters) away from the walls
  • Trimming any over-hanging tree limbs.

Boric acid-treated insulation panels are also offered. These panels prevent insects but are relatively harmless to humans and pets.

Because it is so airtight, a well-built SIP structure needs to be controlled fresh-air ventilation for safety, health, and performance, and to meet many building codes. A well-designed, installed, and properly operated mechanical ventilation system can also help deter indoor moisture problems, which is significant in achieving the energy-saving benefits of a SIP structure.

References and Resources