DIY Home Guide: Top 3 Types of Insulation

By Chris Miller

A savvy do-it-yourselfer can come up with a dozen unconventional uses for insulation (spray foam as packing material, anyone?), which makes it tricky to find basic information online when you’re just dipping your toes in to the DIY pool. Here is an introduction to the three basic types of insulation and their most common uses.

1. Blown-in insulation

Blown-in insulation, also called cellulose or natural fiber insulation, is often made from recycled newspaper that has been treated with fire-retardant chemicals. This type of insulation is loose and fluffy, and is blown into spaces using a wide hose.

This kind of insulation is most often used when updating old homes. It’s usually blown in to holes drilled in the tops of walls or blown across the attic floor – as long as the attic is vacant, not used as a living space. Blown-in insulation is great for adding extra insulation after a home has been built, because it will fit around pipes and wiring within the walls.

Blown-in insulation will eventually settle in the space, but is still very good for preventing heat loss or gain within a home, providing heat retention better than or equal to fiberglass batting.

2. Spray foam insulation

Spray foam insulation is made from polyurethane, which is also the basis of other foams found in furniture, car seats, and footwear. It is piped into a space, where it expands as it dries.

Spray foam insulation comes in two types: open cell and closed cell. Open cell insulation is less dense because the cells of polyurethane are still open. It’s often used in interior walls because it provides an air barrier, but not a water vapor barrier. Closed cell insulation is much denser than open cell, and acts as a barrier against water vapor in addition to air.

Spray foam insulation is most often used to seal gaps in walls during the building process, because it provides an airtight seal. It can also be used to seal around window and door frames, but can get a bit messy if you’re not careful.

Spray foam is the most efficient form of insulation, but also the most expensive, so use it wisely. Look for soy foam insulation for the healthiest, non-toxic, and eco-friendly option.

3. Batt or blanket insulation

Batt and blanket insulation is made of spun fiberglass packed together in a mat, much like the cotton batting inside a quilt. The fiberglass is flame-resistant, though the insulation may have a facing made of paper. The difference between batts and blankets is that batts are precut and blankets are continuous rolls that will need to be cut to fit a space.

Fiberglass insulation is most often used between the studs of a wall, and is installed before the drywall goes up during the building process. It’s important that the insulation fills the space completely, because even small gaps can cause significant reductions in energy efficiency.

Of the three main types of insulation, fiberglass batts are the cheapest, but they can also be the trickiest to install and are the most toxic insulation option. The cost of formaldehyde-free fiberglass batts and conventional fiberglass bats is roughly equal so be sure to ask for the formaldehyde-free product when shopping. We recommend looking for alterative insulation options other than fiberglass. If you must use fiberglass, find a contractor that specializes in installing insulation in Toronto, or wherever you live, if you need help with the installation process.

Important Considerations

No matter which type of insulation you choose, it’s important that you’re prepared to handle it. You should use gloves, goggles, and a face mask to protect yourself. Some insulation types may require additional protective measures, so be sure to do your research before attempting any do-it-yourself project.

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About the author:
Chris Miller is a professional writer, blogger, and English grammar enthusiast. Chris enjoys learning about new products, procedures, and ideas from various industries. He finds helpful information for his articles from companies like Reitzel Insulation.

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