Insulating Your Home


Unless you're fortunate enough to live in a new, “green” home that was built with energy efficiency in mind, chances are good that your home is costing you money. Heating and cooling costs can be drastically higher in homes without proper insulation. This means more wasted money for you, and a larger imprint on the environment.

Fortunately, there is a simple solution. Insulating your home is, in most cases, easier than it sounds. Many types of insulation can be tackled as do-it-yourself jobs, while others require the knowledge of a professional insulation contractor. Either way, the small investment you'll make initially will very quickly pay for itself in lowered heating and cooling costs, as well as a more comfortable home.

Here, we'll review some popular types of insulation, as well as areas which are commonly in need of insulation. We'll also give you a few hints for finding the right contractor, should you require a type of insulation which needs a professional touch.

Why is Insulation so Important?

Given the “hidden” nature of insulation, its often one of the last things homeowners think about when planning home improvement projects. This is unfortunate, since it's one project that can save a very significant amount of money. Just how much money? That all depends. The age of your home, the typical climate in your area, and how well your home was insulated in the past all play a role. A very old home in an extremely cold area which hasn't been insulated since its initial construction, for example, is likely losing its owner a great deal of money every year. On the other hand, a relatively newer home in an area with a moderate climate may be more efficient. Nearly every home, however, can benefit from adding insulation.

A staggering fifty to seventy percent of your home's energy is used for heating and cooling. Surely you can imagine the financial loss if this energy is being wasted! Not to mention the negative impact on the environment. Insulation is not only a great money-saver, but it's a fundamental part of living an earth-friendly existence.

Energy Loss Hot Spots

While its advisable to insulate your entire home for maximum energy, there are several spots which are notorious for energy loss. These should be tackled first in most cases, before moving on to other areas of the home. The edges of concrete slabs should always be insulated well, as should the interior door to your attic. The attic itself should also be insulated, as well as any floors which are directly above unheated areas such as basements or crawl spaces.

Before You Begin

Asbestos: A Dangerous Obstacle

Perhaps the most important step in any insulation project, whether DIY or professional, is asbestos detection and removal. Asbestos is a material which was one very popular in construction for insulation purposes. However, this substance has been proven to be very hazardous, causing a particularly dangerous type of cancer. If your home is older, or you spot a substance you think may be asbestos when in your attic or basement, don't' hesitate. Call a professional hazardous materials contractor or insulation contractor. Specialized training is required to safely remove asbestos, and it should never be attempted by amateurs.

Depending on the amount of asbestos in your home and where it is located, you may have to spend a few nights with friends or at a hotel while the substance is removed. While this may be inconvenient, it is vitally important for your health and the health of your entire household. Once the dangerous asbestos is removed, you can proceed with your insulation project.

Plugging Air Leaks

Before you begin any insulation project, it's a good idea to search for air leaks in your home. These leaks can play a very large role in energy loss, and plugging or sealing them before you insulate can boost the insulation's performance significantly.

Common places for leaks include doors and windows, attic stairways which pull down from the ceiling, electrical outlets, fireplaces and chimneys, the holes cut for ducts and pipes and the areas surrounding shower and tub inserts.

The methods for plugging and sealing these leaks vary. Consult a contractor or read up on the subject before attempting to seal them yourself. An experienced insulation contractor can also seal these leaks for you prior to installing installation.

Determining Your Recommended R-Value

A good insulation contractor will be very familiar with the recommended R-value for your area. However, if you plan on tackling some areas of insulation on your own, be sure to contact your local utility company or the Department of Energy. This will let you know how much insulation your home needs to be considered energy efficient.

Different Types of Insulation

  • Perhaps the most common and familiar type of insulation is known as blanket or batt insulation. This type of insulation comes in rolls, and is traditionally made of either fiberglass or rock wool.

One of the most popular features of blanket insulation is ease of installation. If you're working with an area such as an attic or basement with standard stud-and-joist walls, ceilings or floors, installing blanket insulation is extremely simple. All you have to do is unroll the insulation into the desired spaces. Most rolls are already cut to fit standard stud-and-joist spacing, so there's no cutting involved. You can lightly affix the insulation to the wall or ceiling, but most experts consider this unnecessary for little-used areas. 

Be sure not to pack blanket insulation too tightly. For example, if you are trying to attain the proper R-value and need two thicknesses of blanket insulation to reach it, don't simply smash them together. The air pockets in insulation are the biggest source of its efficiency, and squashing them flat will reduce effectiveness. Lightly place strips of blanket insulation on top of each other to maintain these air pockets.

  • For adding insulation to existing construction in areas which aren't as accessible as open stud-and-joist construction, loose-fill insulation is the current popular choice. This type of insulation must be installed by professionals, since it is usually blown or raked into place using specialized tools and machinery.

There are many options for materials when it comes to blown-in or loose-fill insulation. Polyurethane foam, cellulose, fiberglass and rock wool are the most common options. Consult your insulation contractor to determine the most appropriate material for your home, based on R-value recommendations and other individual considerations. 

Due to its ability to fit in irregular and small spaces, blown-in and loose-fill insulation is very popular in retrofitting. Retrofitting refers to adding insulation to already finished areas. These methods allow an area to be made much more efficient without drastic     measures, such as tearing down a wall.
  • Reflective materials are another popular do-it-yourself choice for unfinished areas such as attics and basements. These materials are reflective, and are available as cardboard, film or paper with a foil covering. You can also find foil-covered polyurethane bubbles for use in irregularly shaped or smaller areas.
  • If you're taking on a large remodeling project or adding on to your home, you may want to consider the use of rigid insulation materials. These thin boards are specifically designed to function as building materials and insulation at the same time, making them excellent choices for the earth-conscious homeowner. They're also usually most cost efficient than separate building materials and insulation. Ensure that you purchase and correct materials for your area, follow all fire-safety regulations, and place vapor barriers in the correct positions to avoid hazards. 

Rigid insulation can be difficult to work with, and for this reason most homeowners choose to enlist professional insulation contractors. The extra expense is worthwhile, however, since rigid insulation usually provides a high R-value for a relatively thin piece of material, especially when compared to blanket insulation.
    • Finding the Right Professional

      As you can see, there's a lot to think about when taking on an insulation project. This is one reason why many homeowners leave this type of project to the professionals, especially if anything more labor-intensive or intricate than simple blanket insulation is required.

      Thankfully, finding a qualified insulation contractor couldn't be simpler. Gone are the days when you had to take your chances with names from the phone book, or rely on the advice of friends and family. While these aren't bad methods (recommendations are always valuable), they don't' offer the speed and simplicity of home-improvement websites.

      Utilizing these sites may be the simplest way to make your home-improvement project turn out well. You can browse through local contractors, check their credentials, and even read reviews from former clients just like yourself!

      Always take the time to talk through your project before making a hiring decision. This ensures that any differences of opinion or other issues don't turn into major delays once work has begun. These delays aren't merely annoying, they're costly as well.

      Be sure that you find a contractor who has the proper knowledge and experience for your area and your project. This is especially important when dealing with hazardous materials such as asbestos.

      If you do decide to tackle an insulation project on your own and discover, partway through, that you just can't finish it properly, don't be embarrassed. This is a common occurrence, and contractors have dealt with it before. Having the job done right is more important than saving face, so don't be afraid to call in the professionals if you discover that you're in over your head.

      Once your new insulation is installed correctly, you're likely to see significant energy savings the very first month. You'll enjoy a more comfortable home and save money...what could be better?

      Posted by: TrustedPros
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