When insulating our homes, most of us need help to figure out the best solution to the problem. You want something that gives you the insulation you need but still doesn’t cost a fortune.
From fiberglass batt insulation to rigid foam board, you need to know the basics of how insulation is measured and rated. Once you know how to understand insulation, you are ready to go to the hardware store with confidence.
Insulation is rated for a specific R-value. At it’s most basic, the higher the R-value, the more insulative effect an insulation would have. R-13 is typically the lowest that you will find at most home improvement stores and typically, I recommend it as the bare minimum for walls and unacceptable for floors or attics. R-60 is very high and, in chillier territories, you will appreciate a snugglier house due to its effects.
People ask if you can have too high of an R-value. The short answer is: no. However, it is more difficult than that. If you don’t live in a climate demanding a high R-value, you will be wasting money doing using it. Higher R-values are also found only in thicker insulations which won’t always suit your application. If you compress an insulation, it will reduce its R-value, which is again…a waste of money.
Size of Insulation
Batt insulation comes in 2 main widths. There are batts that are suited for 24″ OC and 16″ OC. What that means, is that your studs are 24″ apart from the center of one stud to the center of another stud. Or, 16″ from the center of one stud to the center of another stud. These measurements are the 2 most common measurements for the walls of a home.
Insulation thickness is, typically, directly related to the R-value of an insulation. As stated earlier, you should not compress an insulation or else you lose R-value. That is why it is important to know the dimensions of the lumber in your wall, ceiling, or floor. If you have 2x4s, make sure to tell the salesperson. If you are looking for a higher R-value, you should ask how thick it is to make sure you aren’t going to compress it.
Faced vs Unfaced Batts
Now, you have a thickness determined and an R-value selected. The only question that you still need to answer is whether you want your insulation faced or unfaced. This is a term that just means: do you want paper on one side of the batts or not. Faced insulation has paper on one side of the batt so that you can staple the batts to the studs in order to hold them in as you install them.
The faced version is my favorite because it not only is WAY easier to install but it also includes the paper as a built in vapor barrier to help resist mold and mildew. For those watching their budgets, it is better to install unfaced insulation than no insulation at all. In moist areas, you will probably want to combine it with a 6 mil plastic stapled on as a vapor barrier. But I won’t lie to you and I will fully admit that I have personally installed unfaced insulation without an additional vapor barrier so I won’t judge.
There is a specific insulation for every situation but remember, when choosing fiberglass batt insulation, any insulation is better than no insulation. The question of which insulation will be perfect for you is a simple one that most people working at your home improvement center will be able to help you with. Don’t hesitate to ask them their opinion when you are trying to decide. You can also request advice from your local utility company or a local handyman. Don’t be afraid of getting it too wrong. This is an easy project for any home owner. By the way, toss any extra insulation you have up into your attic and you’ll find you can save even more money on your power bills.