What is home insulation? That’s a good question to be asking if you are new to insulation. Insulation is available in a variety of forms and materials. The three most common forms are flexible insulation, loose-fill insulation, and rigid insulation. Flexible insulation is manufactured in two types, batts and blankets. Both are made of fibrous materials such as glass fibers, rock wool, wood fibers, or cotton. Organic fibers are treated chemically to make them resistant to fire and decay. Batts are precut in 4- or 8-foot lengths and are available in thicknesses between 2 and 6 inches. Blankets are furnished in continuous rolls and are available in thickness between 1½ and 3 inches. Both batts and blankets are manufactured in 15- and 23-inch widths so that they can be readily used in homes that have been constructed with joist and stud spacing of 16 or 24 inches.

Loose-fill insulation is generally made from rock wool, glass fibers, vermiculite, pearlite, cellulose, granulated cork, shredded redwood bark, sawdust or wood shavings. It is normally supplied in bags or bales and can be poured, blown, or placed by hand. Loose-fill insulation is suited for use in the sidewalls of homes that were not insulated during construction or between the floor joists of unheated attics. However, if there is no floor covering, it is not recommended for use between the floor joists when an attic fan could blow the loose material around.

Rigid insulation is generally made from extruded polystyrene, polystyrene bead board, urethane, fiberglass, or wood fiberboard. It is often used to insulate masonry walls and comes in widths of 24 and 48 inches. Most rigid insulation boards are not fire resistant and should be covered with at least ½-inch gypsum wallboard to ensure fire safety. Rigid insulation boards are also used as backer boards for aluminum and vinyl exterior siding.

Another type of insulation that was popular in the late 1970s was foamed-in-place insulation. It was made from urea formaldehyde. In many homes, the foam ingredients were improperly mixed and installed. This resulted in excessive formaldehyde vapor being released into the house, causing adverse health effects. Urea formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI) is no longer being installed; however, many homes have UFFI in their walls. Therefore, if your house is built in the 70s, you should take note of this.

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