Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Insulating Your Home
by Adam Helfman

Don’t you hate spending money on home improvement projects with no visible change to your house?  New landscaping produces instant curb appeal.  A remodeled kitchen increases functionality and makes your neighbors jealous.  Painting your bedroom provides a fresh, clean look that you can enjoy every morning.

How about insulation?  Doesn't that just get you really excited and ready to drop big bucks?!  Imagine the next party at your house when you start bragging to your friends that your attic now has an R-Value of 60! 

Insulation is one of those projects with delayed gratification; you pay now and “hopefully” see a savings in your heating and cooling bills. 

Let’s look at the basic requirements established by the Michigan Uniform Energy Code (MUEC) for your home.  The standards are defined for new home construction, but there is no reason your house can’t be insulated like it was build yesterday.

There is a simple standard for insulation across the country: the R-Value.  R-Value is a measure of insulation’s ability to resist heat traveling through it. The higher the R-Value the better the thermal performance of the insulation.  The MUEC requires the following R-Values for new home construction in this area:

·          Walls                                      R-21
·          Roof/Ceilings (Attics):         R-49
·          Floors over open spaces   R-21
·          Crawl Space Walls             R-20
·          Basement Walls                  R-11

So if your home experiences any of the following, you may want to contact Hire it Done for a professional contractor to see insulation can be improved to solve the problems.
  • Drafty rooms
  • Hot or cold ceilings, walls, or whole rooms; uneven temperature between rooms
  • High heating or cooling bills
  • Ice dams in the winter
Different insulations have different purposes and different home owners have different budgets. Spray foam insulation, for instance, is a little more costly and is used mainly for smaller areas, like around a door or window frame. Before you can figure out what type of insulation is best for you, you have to know where the insulation is going, what R-value is required in your area, how much time you can dedicate to the project, and how much money you can sink into the project.

Batt insulation is the easiest insulation to install and is naturally fire resistant. You simply unroll it, staple it into place, and cover it with a vapor shield. A vapor shield is usually a sheet of 6 mm plastic used to prevent condensation that forms in climates with cold weather from damaging the insulation. If fiberglass insulation gets wet, it will retain its R-value once it dries out again. These types of insulation are great because they won't settle over time. If you're looking to install insulation in a wall that has already been finished batt insulation will require a lot of demolition before they can be installed. 

If you're installing insulation in a previously finished wall you may want to use blown in insulation. This type of insulation requires the least amount of demolition, but can be a bit costly because it's best installed in walls by a professional. A hole has to be cut into your wall and the insulation blown in. The hole is then patched up and openings like doors and windows must be sealed with caulk. If you're installing insulation in an attic, blown in cellulose insulation is a fairly good choice. Blown in insulation can be any R-value you need simply by making the insulation deeper.  Blown in insulation does take a little bit of know-how and it will settle over time, so you may need to go back to add more at a later date.

Spray foam insulation has begun to be used in homes fairly recently. There are two types of spray foam insulation: open cell and closed cell. Closed cell insulation typically has a higher R-value, so you get more bang for your buck. Spray foam insulation is very expensive. The product is more expensive inch for inch, and requires installation by a professional. It's sprayed in your walls as a liquid, then expands and hardens. Spray foam insulation is great because it fills every little nook and cranny creating an air tight seal. It doesn't biodegrade, so once installed it will be there for the life of your home. It also doesn't shrink or settle. Spray foam is a great option if you're sealing small spaces like outlets, around window frames, and doorways. If you're going to install spray foam insulation in your walls, be prepared to pay dearly for it. This is your most expensive insulation option.
Insulation isn't the most exciting home improvement project, but knowing that your home is a comfortable and energy efficient as possible just might make you want to brag about it to your friends. So the next party when your friend is talking up his new granite countertops, you can top that by telling him you just saved 15% on your heating bills by insulating your attic.