Types of Insulation for Basements
Properly insulating your basement can help keep the whole house warm
By Robert Ferguson
Regardless of what your basement is used for, adding insulation greatly decreases heat loss and helps the rest of the building retain its heat, saving money in energy costs. Older basements, whether stone, concrete blocks or poured concrete, have little insulating value. This causes a tremendous loss of heat, thus driving up energy costs to heat the building. Energy conservation is important, as it saves our dwindling supply of natural resources. The basement's use determines the best type of insulation to install. There are three types of insulation commonly used in basements: polyurethane foam, fiberglass batts and poly foam board.
Polyurethane foam has a high R-value. Installation requires spraying it onto a surface, which allows the foam to penetrate all of the cracks and crevices. After installation, install a fireproof covering. Another type of loose-fill insulation is rock and slag wool, which should be used for hard-to-reach places. Cellulose, made with recycled newspapers, is used in attics and walls. Loose fiberglass prevents air movement, making it a very efficient blown insulation. These types of insulation should be left to professionals trained in their application who have the proper equipment needed to install them.
Batts, Rolled Insulation and Poly Foam Board
Fiberglass batts or rolls work well with finished or unfinished basement applications. They are inexpensive, abundant and easy to install. The disadvantage is that fiberglass can cause your skin to itch, so have a professional safely install fiberglass insulation. Rigid poly foam board is suited for finished and unfinished basements. It has a high R-value, is very light and does not need a great deal of structural support during installation. It is, however, more expensive than fiberglass batts or rolls. As with the polyurethane foam, installing a fireproof covering, such as drywall, is recommended. These types of insulating materials should fit snugly between studs, floor joists and ceiling joists to maximize efficiency.
Before applying drywall or other wall covering, install a vapor barrier over the insulation to prevent condensation from affecting the finished wall. In addition, consider sealing a basement floor if condensation forms on the floor, itself. Once the moisture reaches the insulation, it may form mold or mildew and fill the basement with a musty odor.
About the Author
Robert Ferguson is a licensed building contractor with more than 30 years of experience, focusing primarily on residential remodeling, repair, renovation and construction.
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