We’ve got helpful information for you about what the R-value is all about and how to maintain that rating when you’re installing insulation. Then you’ll learn what the four main types of insulting material are to help you decide what the best choice is for your project.
More About the Insulation R-Value
All insulation materials will have an R-value associated with it, which is generally found on the packaging. The number indicates how well the material resists heat flow – heat leaving your home and heat entering your home. The higher the R-value, the better it will keep heat in (in the cold months) and keep heat out (in the summer months).
While all insulation material has an R-value, the way it is installed can effect the actual insulating properties of the material. The R-value will decrease if you:
- compress the material under or over wires, beside electrical boxes or other surfaces, or within the studs
- leave gaps in the stud cavity
- don’t have a proper air barrier before insulating
- haven’t sealed all air leaks in the shell of your house
You should be achieving a minimum R50 in the attic, R24 in the above-grade walls, and R20 in basement walls. But don’t hesitate to get better insulation power so you get better energy efficiency. The insulation R-value can be increased by increasing layers of insulation. So just by adding a lower R-value product to existing insulation, you can create a better resistance against heat flow.
Insulation Types and Applications
When it comes to insulation you have a bit of choice in material and application process.
Blown in insulation (or loose fill) can be made of fiberglass, recycled paper fibre (cellulose) or mineral fibre (mineral or rock wool). You can rent a blowing machine to install this type of insulation yourself, but this one is best left to the pros. It’s most commonly installed in attics and other areas that may be hard to move around in. This can also be helpful to fill wall cavities to add to existing insulation when walls are kept in place.
Batt or blanket insulation can come in a variety of materials, but the most popular is fiberglass or rock-wool batts. You’ll get them in bags or large rolls that are sized to fit snugly in 16-in. or 24-in. standard wall stud spaces. This type is pretty easy to install yourself and is adaptable to a variety of surface irregularities. A utility knife and proper personal protection (gloves, dust mask, long-sleeved shirt, etc) are all the tools you’ll needed to install batt insulation.
Check out this video for lots of insulating tips and an installation done by a pro :
Spray-foam insulation is available in a closed-cell or open-cell polyurethane foam. It’s most popular in new builds, but has gained popularity in recent years to re-insulate attics. It is applied directly on the building surface with a pump-driven applicator and expands and sets in seconds. The closed-cell can be used as an air barrier, and can be used as a vapour barrier when applied to a certain thickness. The open-cell can only be used as an air barrier.
Unless you’ve got training and experience hire this one out to a reputable professional. You want to be sure you’re getting the best results and not suffer any spray foam nightmares like the ones shown in this CBC Marketplace show.
You can also get spray foam in cans to fill gaps around doors and windows, which works in a similar fashion to the professional applications.
Rigid board insulation is made from mineral fibre or foam plastic materials. These insulation boards can be used in various ways, but are especially useful on the exterior foundation to reduce heat loss.
More Help for Your Renovation
Want to get even more educated on energy efficiency in your reno project? Check out Natural Resources Canada’s guide “Keeping the Heat In” for a wealth of information on building science and how they relate to installing insulation and air sealing your home.
If you’re in the North Kawartha or surrounding areas and not feeling up to the drywalling bit, we are the pros that craft walls. The mudding and taping stage tends to require a bit of skill to get it right so let us know if we can help you out with your walls. Our crew will be happy to help you out with whatever drywalling services you need.