Wall insulation

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Posted by: from Bridgewater
6/1/2012 at 5:00:17 PM

I am looking at buying a house that needs improvements. It has panelling as wall coverings which I'd like to replace. I want to know some green options for insultation and dry wall. Exterior is log.

I have researched concrete homes and know that they are very efficient... can you 'insulate' with concrete? or poor pre mold forms to fit between the supports?

Thank you


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David in Toronto
Date/Time6/1/2012 at 6:34:23 PM

Hi Crystal,

The concrete forms that you're referring to are insulated concrete forms (ICF). The insulating property is not the concrete but rather styrofoam that sandwiches the concrete. It doesn't sound like this would be appropriate for this application.

The greenest option is soy-based spray foam (unless your green values include the harms of monoculture). Spray foam (soy or otherwise) is the holy grail of insulation. When properly applied, it gets into the smallest nooks and crannies and expands to fill them so no air leakage is possible and, typically, no critters of any size can get in to create other problems. It also serves as a moisture barrier which is great for basements. Also, it's adhesive properties actually provide structural stability and durability for a long, long time.

Hope this helps.

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Jacques from Stellium Renovations in Montreal
Date/Time6/1/2012 at 9:38:04 PM


I agree with what David has said, I would like to add however, that certain meaures must be taken to get the most out of a spray foam application. You really want to avoid certain pitfalls, notably, the forgetting of any elements that you'd like to have enclosed in the wall.

Spray foam, by it's very nature is monolithic, meaning that, once installed, it is difficult to add or include any systems into the space where it has been applied. That means planning is a must. Be certain to include any cables, pipes, conduits, that might be used in the insulated area and have them run and checked first.

The application can be a bit messy, so plan for the use of plastic wherever you don't want the insulation applied. I'm not familiar with the blowing agents used in Soy although just to be certain, plan on being out of the house during application and maybe for some time after application.

One last thing, the cost of insulation with spray foam (and the insulation's thermal efficiency), depends on the depth, or thickness of the application. This is very dependent on the skill of the person installing the foam. I would recommend that you tell the contractor that you'll check the depth in a few randomly selected places, chosen by you, in order to confirm the promised depth of insulation has been delivered. Once satisfied that they did what they said you give them the check.

Most contractors will find this a bit of a pain, although anyone who refuses to have their work checked should be viewed with suspicion. After all, if you paid for a dozen donuts, would you let them only put ten in the box?

Good luck with your project,

Jacques Bouchard, MBA


Stellium Renovations

Montreal, Quebec

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Date/Time6/2/2012 at 10:28:58 AM

Hi Crystal,

concrete is not known for being the best insulator. I believe there are some concrete mixes which have some sort of R-Value but not enough to compete with modern insulation.

The good insulation with the concrete homes is do to the foam forms they get poured in. There are many different products and names out there.

To answer your question about green insulation: There is more than enviromently friendly sprayfoam out there. Every recycled material is green. An option, and most likely cheaper than spray foam, is recycled paper or cellulose or even fiber glass.

You can google green insulation for more info.

I hope that will help you.


The Carpenter Edmonton Ltd.

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Date/Time6/2/2012 at 12:29:25 PM


You might consider "cellulose fibre" insulation for your project as it is the greenest insulation available at 85% recycled material. Don't be fooled by urethane foam that is primarily a crude oil based product.


Brent Murray

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Date/Time8/24/2013 at 7:03:40 AM

I work on environmental issues and was so sure spray foam insulation was the best choice to reduce my heating and cooling costs and reduce my carbon footprint. I was totally blown away (pardon the pun) to find out I was so wrong.

It is not widely known, but spray foam insulation uses a blowing agent that is a very potent greenhouse gas (HFC). This gas has been used to replace CFC which has been phased out because it damages the ozone layer. Efforts are underway (Under the Montreal Protocol) to phase out the use of HFC which although they do not damage the ozone layer, this gas is over 1000 time more potent than carbon dioxide in causing climate change.

Apparently Honeywell is developing a next generation blowing agent for home insulation products that use a blowing agent with a much lower global warming potential.

To my knowledge all spray foam insulation is propelled using HFC and therefore is not a climate-friendly choice. Using spray foam will reduce your heating and cooling costs, but it will not reduce your carbon the risk of being overly dramatic, if you have children or grandchildren you might want to rethink this.

In the spring of 2013, without fan fair or much notice the world passed the point where our atmospheric emissions passed 400 parts per million...we are on a course that seems uncorrectable. I came across as study that indicated it would take 40 - 60 years for home owners to offset the GHG emissions from their spray foam through reduced carbon dioxide emissions associated with fuel savings. Unfortunately those rigid foam boards are also made using HFCs.

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