What is Insulation? Types of Insulation

List of advantages and places where the insulation could be installed.

Insulation is used to create thermal resistance around your building, saving you money and creating a comfortable place. Insulation, when installed properly, will reduce heating and cooling costs by keeping cool weather inside the building and reducing heat losses. The type of insulation and the form of insulation will depend on your climate and the R-value you would like to have. Remember every type of insulation has also its benefits and cons depending on the type of structure where insulation is being installed.

Insulation Type: SIP

Structural Insulated Panels
Structural Insulated Panel section. By Ashley Balsam Baz

SIP provides a superior and uniform insulation system when compared to traditional building methods. SIP-built houses take less time to build. SIP is made of foam board or liquid foam insulation core that can be used on unfinished walls, ceilings, floors, and roofs.


Insulation Type: Sprayed Foam

Spray-on Foam Insulation. Courtesy of diamondmountain.

Sprayed foam is made of cementitious or polyurethane materials, and applied using small spray containers (foamed-in-place). It is ideal for irregularly shaped areas, around obstructions, or can be used to add insulation over existing finished areas. It can be applied in new wall cavities, unfinished attic floors, or enclosed existing walls.


Insulation Type: Concrete

Concrete can provide increased R-values when insulated concrete blocks are used. Although it is more a specialized task, insulated concrete blocks can really moderate indoor temperatures. This type of insulation is ideal for use on new construction, over unfinished walls, foundation walls, or major renovations. Insulated concrete blocks consist of a foam board placed inside of a wall, or outside, depending on the type of construction, and installed without mortar and surface bonded. R-Values could be increased if the manufacturer incorporates beads or air into the concrete mix (Aerated concrete), achieving at least 10 times the insulating value of traditional concrete. Insulation is literally built into the home's walls, creating high thermal resistance and installed as part of the building structure.


Insulation Type: Blanket Batts and Rolls

Insulation in the form of blanket batts and rolls are made of fiberglass or mineral wool. This type of insulation can be used on unfinished walls, foundation walls, floors, and ceilings. Blanket batts can be installed between studs, joists, and beams. It is one of the most inexpensive forms of insulation and is really easy to install.

Insulation Type: Foam Board

Polystyrene or polyurethane foam boards provide superior insulating R-values for relatively little thickness. When used on interior applications, it is recommended to cover them with a ½ inch thick gypsum board panel, or other approved building material. This type of insulation is recommended for use in unvented low slope roofs, floors, ceilings, and walls, although exterior applications must be covered with weatherproof facing. Foam boards can block thermal short circuits when installed over frames or joists.

Insulation Type: Loose-Fill and Blown-In

Loose-fill and blown-in insulation can be installed on unfinished attic floor, on new wall cavities, and difficult to access places. It is installed by blowing into place using special equipment, and sometimes can also be poured in. Made out of fiberglass or cellulose materials, this type of insulation is excellent when used to add insulation to existing finished areas, or irregularly shaped areas.

Insulation Type: Reflective

Reflective type insulation could be found in the form of foil-faced kraft paper, plastic film, polyethylene bubbles, or cardboard. Great when used on unfinished walls, ceilings, and floors, this type of insulation consists of foils, films, or papers fitted between wood-frame studs, joists, rafters, and beams. Reflective insulation is suitable for framing at standard spacing, or if framing is irregular then the bubble-form insulation could be used. It is one of the best types of insulation preventing downward heat flow.

Insulation Type: Fiber Insulation

Normally used in places that will be affected by really high temperatures, and commonly used in HVAC systems. One the advantages of this type of insulation is that it can be installed at shops or at the job sites. They are made of fiberglass or mineral wool.