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What are the Different Types of Building Insulation?

By Ken Black
Updated May 17, 2024
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Types of building insulation can be broken down in many different ways. From the material used to how it is installed, building insulation is remarkably diverse. In many cases, it is best to install insulation before a wall is completed, but even if this is not done, there are types of insulation that can help. Choosing the best insulation will depend on your particular circumstance.

One of the cheapest and most effective types of building insulation is fiberglass. This material is usually applied in rolls with a paper backing. For walls that have already been completed, a small incision can be made and the fiberglass can be blown in. This is a particularly effective method that does minimal damage to the walls.

Another type of insulation is foam. This usually takes the form of rigid boards of polystyrene or some other similar material. While this material can only be applied in unfinished walls, it is somewhat easier and less irritating to deal with than rolls of fiberglass. Foam is also a good choice when trying to insulate in between concrete blocks. It can be poured-in-place foam or come in pre-sized pieces.

The types of building insulation can also be broken down by where it will be used. Most of the types of insulation discussed so far have been for walls, though some of these types are also appropriate for ceiling or roof insulation, such as rolls of fiberglass. However, many choose to give the ceiling special consideration, given how much energy can be gained and lost through it.

Reflective insulation makes for a very good ceiling insulation. One side is a more typical insulating material, but the insulation does not stop there. The other side is a reflective surface, meant to reflect extremely hot or cold air back in the direction it came from. Reflective insulation is most effective where the heat flow is in a downward direction and the reflective portion is facing up.

Whether in homes, offices, or commercial buildings, the types of building insulation used are often very similar to each other. In some cases, the building insulation may be more exposed in some commercial buildings, where aesthetics are more of a secondary concern, such as in industrial settings. However, insulation is often meant to be used underneath a completed surface. Not completing the wall or ceiling could substantially cut down the effectiveness of building insulation.

In most cases, installing building insulation is a task that is easy for the person who likes to do home improvement projects by themselves. This is especially true of rolled insulation and rigid foam insulation. Insulation that is blown in place requires specialized equipment. Though it may be possible to rent this equipment, this may be a job better left to the experts.

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Discussion Comments
By Animandel — On Jan 31, 2015

@mobilian33 - It's a little difficult to apply yourself and it is more expensive, but spray foam seems to be the insulation of choice. I have friends who used the spray foam in their car garage, which was a very cold place. Now, with the insulation you notice the difference when you walk into the space. The garage isn't freezing anymore and there are no noticeable drafts.

By Drentel — On Jan 30, 2015

@mobilian33 - I had a company come to the house and build an outside shed for my garden tools and my mower. They put the building up in less than a day's time. It was unfinished on the inside. I went to the home improvement store where I bought several rolls of fiberglass building insulation. With the help of a neighbor, I was able to place the fiberglass in the spaces between the boards on the walls and on the ceiling of the shed.

This was really simple and the fiberglass batts worked perfectly because I had to pack them into the spaces and they practically stayed in place. I added pieces of cut plywood to hide the insulation, and I just nailed them in place. The insulation makes a big difference, especially in the winter time.

By mobilian33 — On Jan 29, 2015

I have an outside building that I use for storage and as a workshop of sorts. The space gets really cold in the winter, and way too warm for comfort in the summer. This means I don't get to spend as much time out there as I want to.

I don't want to spend a lot of money on getting a professional to insulate the building, but I want to put in some type of building insulation that is simple to put in and something that actually helps regulate the temperature in the building so that being inside of it is bearable during the cold months and also during the middle of summer.

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