Home Remodeling in Alabama? Insulation Types and R Value Compared

Insulating a home in Alabama

For Alabama residents remodeling a home, insulation will improve comfort and reduce heating and cooling costs.

One of the benefits of remodeling, beyond of course having an exciting new space, is the ability to correct deficiencies in the original construction. For example, could you benefit from increasing your insulation R-Value when you remodel? Maybe you live in an older home and the perimeter walls were insulated with inferior material, or not at all. Or maybe you have one or two rooms that are hot in the summer and cold in the winter because they were improperly insulated when the home was built.

For many homeowners, and even some contractors, the confusing part comes when it's time to choose a material with which to insulate your home. Basically, there are three choices– fiberglass, cellulose or spray foam. All three can achieve the same end result provided they are installed correctly. Which material you choose depends on how and where you are insulating.

The truth is, the most important factor in purchasing quality insulation is not the material, but the contractor. Insulation must be installed properly in order to work. If you are doing a “gut-to-the-studs remodel, this is easily accomplished, if you need to insulate existing walls, the job becomes a little trickier.

Let's look at some of the properties of each material and how to properly install them for maximum insulation.

What is a Thermal Boundary?

When properly installed insulation creates a thermal boundary between the interior space and the exterior of your home. Basically, it keeps the conditioned air (heated or cooled) inside the home. The most important aspects of a true thermal barrier are:

  • The insulation and air barrier are in alignment
  • The insulator forms a continuous, even, uninterrupted, barrier around the entire building.

Fiberglass and cellulose are effective when installed correctly. As a material, they are not air barriers so the must be aligned with another material to prevent airflow through the insulation. Generally, in most homes, the air barrier includes drywall, framing, sheathing, rigid insulation board, spray foam insulation and building wrap.

Foam insulation is an air barrier when properly installed to achieve the goal of air sealing. Proper installation means making sure to insulate hard to reach areas to maximize effectiveness.

What is R-Value?

Insulation's resistance to conductive heat flow is measured as an R-Value. R-Value is generally given per inch of thickness. For example, on average blown cell foam is R-3.6, cellulose is R-3.7 and loose fill fiberglass is R-2.5 per inch. The R-value for different types of insulation can vary by how it was installed and the brand used.

The key to effective insulation is using the proper material for the job at hand. For example, your attic should use a minimum of R-49 which is equivalent of 16” of fiberglass insulation. Walls may have closer studs and insulating options may be limited to the width of the studs. Fiberglass insulation offers a range of low, medium and high-density products that can range from R-11 to R-28 depending on the product used. Your contractor can help you to determine the proper R-rating for the various areas to be insulated.

Blown in insulation or spray foam is an ideal material if you need to insulate existing walls. Simply drilling a hole and pumping in the foam means you can insulate existing walls without having to open them up and incur the expense of drywall, taping and painting.

Some tips for effective insulation

Work with your home designer to come up with a plan. If you are taking your remodel down to the studs, you may have more options. If you are adding an addition, your contractor will take into account the expanded air-barrier needed and will tie your new space into your existing home's air barrier.

If you are working in the attic, a fiberglass or cellulose insulation job will also include creating proper ventilation by taking into account air sealing and ventilation including soffits, ridge and gable vents to let summer heat escape, keeping your home cooler. If your home's HVAC system's ductwork is located in the attic, consider spray foam to encapsulate your attic for maximum efficiency. Spray foam is one of the most expensive options so be sure to evaluate your home's energy efficiency to understand your cost savings and ROI. If your ductwork is not located in the attic, blown in fiberglass installation will be the most cost effective solution.

In terms of sustainability, the “green” choice is cellulose. It's made from recycled newspaper treated with borate to repel insects, mold, and fire. When using cellulose in the attic, make sure your contractor seals the space properly to prevent cellulose “dust” from entering your home. Fiberglass offers comparative R-value to cellulose, but it requires more energy to produce but can include recycled glass. Spray foam emits a gas during installation and will require proper protection during installation.

The best solution is to work closely with the Toulmin Cabinetry & Design team to come up with the perfect solution for your home's unique needs. Contact us today and schedule a meeting with our design professionals.

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