Comparing 5 types of home insulation

July 28, 2015

Choosing the right insulation depends on many factors, including where you live and the design of your home. Use this comparison to determine what type of insulation is best for you.

Comparing 5 types of home insulation

1. Fibreglass

  • R-3.0–R-3.8
  • Easy to install
  • Can irritate skin and lungs
  • Comes in standard stud and joist widths
  • Air gaps may form during installation
  • Can be trimmed to size
  • Available with or without vapour barrier backing
  • Low cost

2. Loose fill (cellulose, rock wool)

  • R-2.2–R-4.0
  • Can be poured or blown into walls
  • Can be messy to use
  • Excellent coverage over trusses and in irregular spaces
  • Variable quality
  • Low cost
  • Materials can shift or settle
  • May require mechanical blower

3. Expanded foam

  • R-3.8–R-4.3
  • Lowest-cost foam insulation
  • Not for underground use
  • Needs to be covered by drywall or fireproof material

4. Extruded foam

  • R-5.2
  • Provides excellent thermal and moisture resistance
  • Expensive
  • High compressive strength
  • Needs to be covered by drywall or fireproof material
  • Good for underground use

5. Sprayed urethane foam

  • R-6.0–R-7.3
  • Provides a dense, seamless thermal and moisture barrier
  • Very expensive
  • Covers irregularly-shaped surfaces
  • Must be professionally installed
  • Enhances structure strength
  • Needs to be covered by drywall or fireproof material

What is an R-value?

  • The R-value rating assigned to insulation material designates its resistance to heat loss; the higher the R-value, the better it insulates.
  • When shopping for materials and trying to judge your needs, go by the insulation's R-value, not its thickness.
  • Recommended R-values differ for various parts of your house and in different parts of the country. In general, a cumulative ceiling insulation value of R-38 to R-49 is recommended in cold climates; in warmer regions, a cumulative floor insulation value of R-11 to R-13 should be sufficient.
  • Calculate the R-value of insulation you plan to install by multiplying inches of thickness by the value.
  • You can ask your local city building inspections office what the recommended R-values are in your area, or get a copy of your local building code.
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