Wall insulation is a simple and effective tool to increase the comfort and cost efficiency of any building, helping to regulate the internal temperature by restricting the transfer of heat in or out of the building. When used correctly, insulation can result in substantial savings on heating and cooling costs. Wall insulation is available in many varying forms that can be used in a new or existing building; however, there are far more options available to those building from scratch.
The most common type of loose wall insulation is the "blanket" type, which comes in the form of rolls or batts. These are typically made of fiberglass; however, they are also less commonly made from plastic or natural fibers. Batts are made in standard sizes designed to be placed between wall studs during construction, while rolls can be cut to fit any size space. Blanket insulation is also available with or without "facings," a lining designed to act as a vapor barrier while also promoting easy installation.
Rigid Foam Insulation
Rigid foam insulation is a polystyrene or polyurethane pressed board, which can be applied to walls, floors and ceilings. This type of insulation has the added benefit of reducing heat loss through structural elements of a building, because the entire face of the wall is insulated, not just the cavity space. It is important to note that foam insulation can pose a fire hazard and is not suitable as a final internal or external finish, and it should be covered with gypsum or other appropriate material.
Loose Fill Insulation
Loose fill insulation consists of small fibers that can be poured or sprayed into a wall cavity or other enclosed space. This method is ideal where access is limited or walls are partially finished. Materials used in loose fill insulation include fiberglass, cellulose or mineral fibers, which can be hazardous if precautions are not taken. Protective clothing and respiratory protection should always be worn when handling such fibers.
Insulated concrete is available in the form of hollow concrete blocks filled with foam insulation, such as polystyrene. The addition of insulating material increases the wall's thermal resistance, while maintaining the blocks' structural properties. However, they are not as efficient as face-applied insulation, because most of the heat transfers through the solid sections of the wall, such as concrete and mortar joints, and not the block cavities. They are designed to be used in new buildings or major structural renovations.
Liquid Foam Insulation
Liquid foam insulation can be sprayed, poured or injected into almost any space. Once in place, the foam expands to completely fill the area, providing a superior thermal barrier. It is an ideal option for difficult-to-reach spaces, odd-shaped areas or in existing buildings where insulation needs to be retrofitted. Liquid foam insulation requires installation by licensed contractors and is generally more expensive than traditional blanket insulation.
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