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Insulated buildings not only minimize the transmission of heat but also control the energy costs. Various forms of insulations are used in building construction to reduce the transmission of thermal energy within walls, floors, and ceilings to create a comfortable space.

Every building has its own insulation level which is measured by a scale called the R-value. When the building alone cannot generate sufficient R-value, it must be increased with additional insulation. The extra insulation is provided to the walls, ceilings, and floors.

Spray Foam Insulation
Figure-1: Spray Foam Insulation

With time and advancement in technology, several types of insulation materials have now emerged for buildings. The selection of the right insulation is dependent on the regional climate and the required R-value.

This article discusses the significant types of insulation materials for buildings and their applications. Based on the objective of the insulation, the right type of insulation can be selected.

Factors Affecting Selection of Building Insulation

Before selecting insulation material for a building, the following factors are to be considered:

  1. The climatic conditions of the region
  2. The material flammability in case of an accident
  3. Material toxicity
  4. The ease of replacement of the material
  5. The material affordability
  6. Material durability
  7. The ease of installation

In certain construction projects, a single type of insulation may not give the desired R-value, therefore, a combination of different insulation materials must be used to obtain an optimal solution.

Types of Insulation for Buildings

The table below mentions the common insulation materials used for buildings along with their application. Table-1 can help in selecting the right insulation based on the building conditions.

TYPE OF INSULATIONFEATURESAPPLICATIONPURPOSE
Batting InsulationBatting insulation is made of glass fibres. These are available in the form of puffy strips.Batting insulation is installed for walls, attics and crawlspace joists.The heat loss into the attic wall is prevented. Wall insulation keeps the space cool.
Blown-in InsulationThese are fiberglass or loose cellulose type insulation material that is blown into the attics.Blown-in insulation are used in attics and wall areas.All odd shapes, gaps and cracks can be filled easily by blown-in insulation.
Rigid Foam InsulationIt is a combination of sheets made out of extruded or expanded polystyrene.Rigid foam insulation is placed between the joist above the basement or crawlspace.The foam boards provide insulation and partial vapor barrier.
Spray FoamThe spray foam material undergoes enlargement during the curing process and serves the objective of insulation.Spray foam is commonly used at junctions or points where pipes or wires enter the house.Spray foams strongly fill the gaps and cracks to promote insulation.
Table-1: Different Insulation Material and Their Features

Selection of Insulation for Buildings

1. Insulations are mostly provided to floors, exterior walls, basements, attics, and crawl spaces.

2. The choice of insulation material is based on R-values. The R-values vary with the type of insulation material, its thickness, and density. An insulation material with a higher R-value performs better than the one with a lower value.

3. If the building is located in a warm region, choose a material with a lower R-value. Similarly, cold regions demand a higher R-value.

Fiber Glass Insulation
Figure-2: Fiber Glass Insulation

4. The layering of insulation one over the other during installation can increase the R-value of the building. Hence, the decision to buy an insulation material with a higher R-value can be compromised. A new insulation layer can be installed over the old one, if necessary.

5. Insulations can be provided to attics, ceilings, crawl spaces, walls, basements, gaps, and cracks present in the building. Insulating the attic space protects the home from humidity, cold, and heat. It also saves on energy and power bills. The insulation of the basement helps to reduce the cost of heating and moisture damages.

6. Insulating ceilings and walls improves moisture control. It also helps to reduce the exterior noise. When gaps and cracks are insulated for airtightness, it helps control mold, pest, and noise within the building. Based on the requirement and objectives, the areas that need insulation are chosen. This can help in determining the right type of insulation.

7. The insulation material chosen must have high compressive strength with high resistance to moisture absorption and chemicals. It should also be non-combustible.

8. The life of an insulating material must be a minimum of five years.

9. The most common wall insulation options are spray foams, cellulose, and fiberglass batts. Each insulation material has an area of efficiency. An insulation material is selected based on the required R-value of the building, the requirement of insulation, the area to be insulated, and finally, the budget.

Cellulose Insulation
Figure-3: Cellulose Insulation

FAQs

What are the factors affecting selection of insulation material for a building?

Before selecting insulation material for the buildings, the following factors are considered:
1. The climatic conditions of the region
2. The material flammability in case of an accident
3. Material toxicity
4. The ease of replacement of the material
5. The material affordability
6. Material durability
7. The ease of installation

What is the best building insulation?

The most common wall insulation options are spray foams, cellulose, and fiberglass batts. Each insulation material has an area of efficiency. An insulation material is selected based on the required R-value of the building, the requirement of insulation, the area to be insulated, and the budget.

How to choose insulation based on R-value?

The choice of insulation material is based on R-values. The R-values vary with the type of insulation material, its thickness, and density. An insulation material with a higher R-value performs better than the one with a lower value.

Read More

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Neenu Arjun

Neenu Arjun

EDITOR
Neenu is a Civil and Structural Engineer and has experience in Design of Concrete and Steel Structures. She is an Author, Editor and Partner at theconstructor.org.

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