Pros and Cons of Different Types of Insulation

Before beginning and insulation project, there are some things an installer will need to know. These are the R-value, where the insulation is being installed, and the pros and cons of the different kinds of insulation.

Insulation R-Value

R-value is the maximum amount of thermal performance necessary to keep a home cool during the summer months and warm during the winter months. It is a measurement of the insulation’s capability to resist heat moving through it. The higher it is, the better the thermal performance of the insulation will be, and the less energy will be expended to heat or cool a space.

The R-value for an uninsulated attic in Florida is much different than that of an uninsulated attic in Maine. They are R30-R49 and R49-R60 respectively. Therefore, it is important to look up the R-value needed for the location where the insulation will be installed before purchasing.

Location of Installation

The other consideration is where the insulation will be installed. For an already existing wall, blow-in insulation is going to be a much easier option for do-it-yourselfers. If the insulation is for an existing crawl space or attic, then blanket or foam board insulation can be used. If it will be used to insulate around wires and pipes, then blow-in insulation will be better.

For an unfinished wall, ceiling, or floor, blanket batts and rolls, concrete blocks, rigid foam and foam board, loose-fill and blow-in insulation, and spray-foam insulation are recommended. Discover the pros and cons of each one in the following sections.

Pros and Cons of Blanket Batts and Rolls

This type of insulation will be made of fiberglass, plastic fiber, mineral wool, or natural fibers, and comes without facing, with facing such as foil or paper, or with fire retardant facing, which should be used in areas where it will be left exposed, such as in a basement.

Benefits of blanket batts and rolls include being easily available and easy to install in unfinished floors, ceilings, crawl spaces, and attic spaces.

Drawbacks of this type of insulation include having an R-value of between R-2.9 and R-3.8 for every inch of thickness, meaning some areas might need up to a foot of insulation thickness to achieve the proper amount of insulation. If the space has already been built, there will need to be plenty of space for the insulation.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Concrete Block Insulation

Concrete block insulation is simply concrete blocks filled with insulation to increase the wall’s R-value. Some pros of insulating the concrete blocks in new construction include taking advantage of building materials used in making the foundation to add an extra layer of insulation to a home.

However, insulating concrete blocks is not very good at improving insulation because the heat is still able to pass through the concrete that has not been insulated. Insulation still has to be installed over the block for proper insulation of a home.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Rigid Foam or Foam Board Insulation

Rigid foam or foam board insulation is able to be used on just about any part of a building, from the roof to the foundation. Some advantages include a higher R-value than other insulating materials of the same depth, and they’re simple to install.

Drawbacks include not being able to use this type of insulation in existing walls unless the wall is knocked down, the board is installed, and the wall is re-drywalled and painted.

Pros and Cons of Blow-In and Loose-Fill Insulation

Loose-fill and blown-in insulation are made of small particles of foam, fiber, or another material that is blown into a space, which means it can be used for ceilings, walls, crawl spaces, and attics without much preparation.

Some benefits include it being environmentally friendly because it is made from recycled waste material, such as cellulose from recycled fiberglass, mineral wool, and newsprint.

Cons of blow-in and loose-fill insulation include needing to thoroughly air seal the area to be insulated, as well as make sure the insulation will not come in contact with any wet areas, such as pipes. Blow-in and loose-fill insulation can succumb to molding if it is blown into an area that has moisture.

Spray-foam Insulation Benefits and Drawbacks

Liquid foam insulation is sprayed where it is needed, and then it hardens into an insulating material. It’s able to be blown into attics, walls, roofs, and under floors. Some benefits of this type of insulation include being twice as insulating as batt of fiberglass insulation and able to fill small areas to prevent air leakage.

Drawbacks of this form of insulation depend on the type of being purchased. There is open-cell and closed-cell spray-foam insulation. Open-cell insulation is less expensive but not able to be used below ground level because it will absorb moisture, and closed-cell insulation is more expensive but able to be used in lightly moist areas.