Discover 7 Key Home Insulation Areas

In every section of your house, it is important to address not only insulation but also moisture control and prevention of air leakage. If your locality is prone to radon, it is crucial to explore foundation insulation options that incorporate radon and radon-resistant construction techniques. Similarly, if your area is susceptible to termite infestation, you must consider how termite protection measures will impact your choice and placement of insulation. Additionally, it is essential to plan for a method of inspection to ensure ongoing termite prevention measures are effective.

Home Insulation

To achieve optimal energy efficiency, it is crucial to have proper home insulation throughout your entire house, from the roof to the foundation. The accompanying diagram illustrates the specific areas within your home that necessitate insulation. The corresponding numbered sections in the diagram are outlined below:

  1. In unfinished attic areas, home insulation is important to insulate between and over the floor joists to create a barrier between the attic space and the living areas below. This helps to prevent air leakage and maintain proper temperature control. If the HVAC system’s air distribution is located in the attic, it is advisable to insulate the rafters as well, effectively moving the distribution into the conditioned space.
  2. Specific home insulation measures should be implemented for finished attic rooms, whether they have dormers or not. Insulation should be placed (2A) between the studs of “knee” walls, (2B) between the studs and rafters of the exterior walls and roof, and (2C) in the ceiling that have unconditioned spaces above them. These steps ensure effective insulation and temperature regulation in the attic rooms.
  3. All exterior walls, including walls between living spaces and unheated garages, shed roofs, or storage areas (3A), foundation walls above ground level (3B), and foundation walls in heated basements (3C), should be insulated with home insulation. This comprehensive home insulation approach helps maintain a consistent temperature throughout the home, regardless of the specific areas or structures involved.
  4. Insulation with home insulation should also be applied to floors that are situated above unconditioned spaces, such as vented crawl spaces and unheated garages. Additionally, specific areas that require home insulation include (4A) portions of a floor that are cantilevered beyond the exterior wall below, (4B) slab floors built directly on the ground, and (4C) foundation walls in unvented crawl spaces (as an alternative to insulating the floor). To minimize airflows, it is recommended to extend the home insulation into the joist space.
  5. The band joists, which are located around the perimeter of the floor structure, should not be overlooked and should be properly insulated. This helps to prevent air leakage and maintain the overall energy efficiency of the home.
  6. To further enhance energy efficiency with home insulation, it is essential to caulk and seal around all windows and doors. This ensures that there are no gaps or cracks through which air can escape or enter, thereby improving home insulation and reducing energy loss. Proper sealing of windows and doors with home insulation is crucial for maintaining a comfortable indoor environment and reducing heating or cooling costs.
Home Insulation

Attic Insulation

When it comes to attic insulation, there are two common options: loose-fill insulation or batt insulation. Typically, loose-fill or batt insulation is installed in the attic. Loose-fill insulation, when properly installed, offers better coverage and is usually more cost-effective compared to batt insulation. You can explore different types of insulation to find the most suitable one for your needs.

To determine if your attic has sufficient insulation, you can measure the thickness of the existing insulation. If it measure less than the equivalent of R-30 (approximately 10 to 13 inches) it would be beneficial to add more insulation. Before proceeding with insulation, it is important to seal any air leaks and address any necessary roof repairs or other maintenance tasks. If your attic is located in a conditioned part of the house, don’t forget to insulate and air seal your attic access as well.

Knee walls, which are vertical walls with attic space directly behind them, also require insulation and air sealing. If you are constructing a new home or undergoing a remodeling project, ensure that any attic decking used for additional storage or as a platform for heating/cooling units or hot water tanks is elevated above the ceiling joists. This allows ample space for adequate insulation. In cases where the air distribution system is not within the conditioned space but located in the attic, insulating the rafters will effectively enclose the distribution system.

Lastly, if you reside in a hot or warm climate, it is worth considering the installation of a radiant barrier in your attic rafters. This barrier helps to reduce heat gain during the summer months and can contribute to improved energy efficiency.

Home Insulation

Duct Insulation

If the ducts in your residence are situated in unconditioned areas, it is essential to seal and insulate them. Alternatively, if you are in the process of constructing a new house, it is recommended to position the ducts within the conditioned space to prevent the energy losses commonly associated with duct systems.

Home Insulation

Cathedral Ceiling Insulation

When it comes to insulating cathedral ceilings, proper insulation is crucial for maintaining consistent temperatures throughout your home. By insulating these ceilings effectively, you can ensure that the ceiling temperatures align closely with the room temperatures. To achieve this, it is necessary to create space between the roof deck and the ceiling to accommodate adequate insulation and ventilation. This can be accomplished through various methods, such as using truss joists, scissor truss framing, or appropriately sized rafters. For instance, cathedral ceilings constructed with 2×12 rafters offer sufficient space for standard 10-inch batts (R-30) along with proper ventilation. Another option is the use of unvented cathedral ceilings, known as the hot roof design, which eliminates the need for a vent space and allows for increased insulation within the roof cavity. However, it is crucial to ensure a complete air seal between the roof cavity and the conditioned space below to prevent moisture intrusion and potential roof damage.

Foil-faced batt insulation is commonly utilized in cathedral ceilings due to its permeability rating, which is often required for ceilings without attics. To maintain proper ventilation, it is recommended to install a vent baffle between the insulation and the roof decking, creating an effective ventilation channel.

Consider using high-density R-30 batts, which are as thick as R-25 batts but are designed to fit into 2×10 framing. Another option is to incorporate rigid foam insulation underneath the rafters, which enhances the overall R-value and eliminates thermal bridging caused by wood rafters. However, it is important to note that when using rigid foam insulation on the interior of a building, it must be covered with a fire-rated material. Typically, half-inch drywall is sufficient, but it is advisable to consult with local building officials before proceeding with the installation.

Home Insulation

Exterior Wall Insulation

If you have sufficient insulation and proper air sealing in your attic, yet your home still experiences drafts and feels cold during winter or excessively warm during summer, it is likely that you need to add insulation to the exterior walls. While this can be a more expensive endeavor that typically requires the expertise of a contractor, it may be a worthwhile investment, especially if you reside in a very cold climate. If you are planning to replace the exterior siding of your home, it is recommended to consider adding insulation concurrently.

For existing homes, blow-in insulation is worth considering, particularly when installed using the dense pack technique, as it provides a higher R-value. This type of insulation can be added to exterior walls with minimal disturbance to finished areas of your home. If you are undertaking a remodeling project and the wall cavities will be exposed, two-part spray foam or wet spray cellulose insulation should be explored. Alternatively, if the wall cavities will not be accessible, injectable spray foam insulation can be a viable option. If you intend to tackle the insulation project yourself, blanket (batt and roll) insulation, while not offering the same level of air sealing capabilities as two-part spray foam, may be a more affordable choice.

In the case of a new home, it is recommended to consult our information on insulating a new home, which will assist you in selecting from the various insulation types available in the market. During the design phase of your new home, consider materials such as structural insulated panels, insulating concrete forms, and insulated concrete blocks. These materials possess built-in insulation, and houses constructed using them often exhibit superior insulating properties and minimal thermal bridging.

When constructing a conventional framed house, it is worth considering the adoption of advanced wall framing techniques. These techniques aim to enhance the overall R-value of the entire wall by minimizing thermal bridging and maximizing the insulated wall area.

Additionally, contemplate the utilization of insulating foam wall sheathing as an alternative to traditional wood sheathing products. This is because foam sheathing offers enhanced R-value, providing superior insulation properties.

  • Offers a continuous insulation layer that minimizes thermal bridging through wooden studs, resulting in energy savings and improved comfort
  • Facilitates easier cutting and installation compared to heavier sheathing materials
  • Acts as a barrier against interior wall condensation by maintaining the interior of the wall closer to the internal conditions
  • Generally comes at a lower cost compared to plywood or oriented strand board (OSB).

When substituting plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) with foam sheathing, it is important to note that your walls will necessitate bracing or alternative structural reinforcement.

Home Insulation

Efficient Insulation for Floors over Unheated Garage Spaces

Before insulating floors above unconditioned garages, it is essential to start by sealing any potential air leaks. This approach not only helps improve energy efficiency but also mitigates the risk of contaminants such as car exhaust, paint, solvents, or gardening supplies from infiltrating the conditioned space. Additionally, installing an air barrier is crucial to prevent cold air within the garage from bypassing the insulation beneath the subfloor, ensuring optimal thermal performance.

Home Insulation

Basement Insulation

By ensuring proper insulation in your basement, you can enjoy cost savings on heating expenses while creating a dry and comfortable living area. Typically, if insulation is applied to the exterior walls of a basement, it should be considered a conditioned space. Even in homes with unconditioned basements, the basement is more closely connected to other living areas rather than the external environment, making basement wall insulation more advantageous compared to ceiling insulation.

When it comes to new construction, incorporating insulation on the exterior of basement walls will yield the following benefits:

  • Decrease heat loss and minimize thermal bridging via the foundation, improving energy efficiency.
  • Safeguard the damp-proof coating from potential damage during backfilling.
  • Offer a certain level of protection against moisture intrusion.
  • Incorporate the foundation into the thermal mass of the conditioned space, resulting in reduced temperature fluctuations indoors.
  • Mitigate the risk of condensation forming on basement surfaces.
  • Save room space compared to interior insulation installation.

When it comes to existing homes, implementing insulation on the exterior of basement walls may not be feasible. In such cases, interior basement wall insulation offers the following advantages:

  • Installing interior insulation for existing buildings is a significantly more cost-effective option compared to exterior insulation.
  • Virtually any type of insulation can be utilized for interior basement wall insulation.
  • It effectively eliminates the risk of insect infestation.

When embarking on the installation of interior basement wall insulation, take into account the following considerations:

  • Several insulation types necessitate a fire-rated covering due to the release of toxic gases when ignited.
  • Interior insulation results in a slight reduction of usable interior space by a few inches.
  • Unlike exterior insulation, it does not offer the same level of protection for the damp-proof coating.
  • In cases of inadequate perimeter drainage, moisture seeping through foundation walls may saturate the insulation.
  • To ensure satisfactory performance, it is crucial to incorporate superior air-sealing details and vapor diffusion retarders.

To ascertain the suitable R-values for basement walls in your region, refer to the following R-value recommendations. Subsequently, select the appropriate insulation type:

  • Insulation in the form of blanket (batt and roll)
  • Insulating concrete blocks (for new construction)
  • Foam board insulation
  • Insulating concrete forms (for new construction)
  • Loose-fill insulation
  • Sprayed foam insulation (an excellent option for finished basements)

Effective moisture control is of utmost significance in basements, given their well-known susceptibility to issues related to water intrusion, high humidity levels, and mold growth.

Home Insulation

Foundation Insulation

Aside from the cost-saving benefits in heating, a well-insulated foundation also ensures enhanced comfort in below-grade rooms and serves as a preventive measure against moisture issues, insect infestation, and radon infiltration. In new construction projects, it is advisable to explore construction techniques that integrate both foundation structure and insulation, such as insulating concrete forms and insulating concrete blocks.

While some builders opt to insulate the exterior of foundation walls during the construction phase before backfilling, this approach can be impractical and disruptive for existing homes. The choice of optimal foundation insulation materials and their placement varies based on the climate, thus seeking guidance from a local insulation professional is recommended when planning for a new home.

Home Insulation

Crawlspace Insulation

The approach to insulating a crawlspace depends on whether it is ventilated or unventilated. Building codes often require vents in order to facilitate moisture removal from the crawlspace. However, there is a growing recognition among building professionals that constructing an unventilated crawlspace (or sealing vents once the crawlspace has dried out after construction) is the optimal choice for homes in hot and humid climates, provided proper moisture control and exterior drainage techniques are implemented.

If you have an unventilated crawlspace or plan to create one, the recommended method is to seal and insulate the foundation walls rather than insulating the floor between the crawlspace and the house. This approach offers the advantage of keeping the piping and ductwork within the conditioned area of the house, eliminating the need for insulation to enhance energy efficiency or protect against freezing. However, it is important to note that this strategy requires the crawlspace to be constructed in an airtight manner, with proper maintenance of the air barrier, as rodents, pests, or water can damage the insulation. To reduce moisture infiltration from the ground, it is advisable to cover the ground with a thick vapor barrier. Ideally, the access door to the crawlspace should be located inside the home through the subfloor, unless an airtight and insulated access door is constructed and properly maintained in the perimeter wall.

Home Insulation

Slab-on-Grade Insulation

A home’s comfort can be compromised by cold concrete slabs. However, by insulating the slab, heating becomes more efficient, and incorporating the slab within the thermal envelope of the home helps regulates indoor temperatures.

Insulating an existing home’s slab can be a costly and disruptive endeavor. However, if you’re experiencing coldness from the slab in your home, one option is to excavate around the house’s perimeter and install insulation, typically in the form of foam board. This approach, known as insulating the exterior edge of the slab, can result in significant energy savings, reducing heating bills by 10% to 20% in many parts of the United States.

The installation of slab insulation is more straightforward when done during the construction process. Typically, foam board insulation is used and it can be installed either directly against the exterior of the slab and footing before backfilling or beneath the slab and along the inside of the foundation’s stem wall. It’s important to note that construction methods may vary, so consulting with a local building professional is advisable. Additionally, Building America’s publications tailored to specific climate zones offer helpful construction details.

It’s crucial to consider termite prevention when using exterior slab insulation. Termites have the ability to tunnel through the insulation undetected and reach the wooden framework of the walls. Consequently, some insurance companies may refuse to provide termite guarantees for homes with slab insulation. Building codes in certain southern U.S. states explicitly prohibit the installation of foam insulation in direct contact with the ground. While slab foundations with interior insulation offer better termite resistance, there have been instances of termite infestations reported by builders in the southeastern United States, even through foam insulation on encapsulated slabs.

Home Insulation