May 23, 2017
Home Technology Insulation

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avoid basement insulation mistakes learn how to insulate a basement

Want to do more with your damp, energy-draining basement? Insulation can help.

Today, people want their basement to be a comfortable and moisture-free environment, suitable for human habitation and property storage. The cheapest and most effective way to achieve a livable basement is with insulation. Insulation is designed to keep conditioned air in and the elements out.

An insulated basement is optimally energy efficient. Basement wall insulation locks in expensive conditioned air and blocks outdoor temperatures to keep your home’s energy system functioning at maximum efficiency. The basement is often a major source of energy loss in homes, says the U.S. Department of Energy.

Insulating basement walls maximizes their longevity. Without proper insulation, homeowners eventually see the buildup of moisture and ultimately hazardous mold and mildew. Effective basement insulation acts a waterproof vapor barrier. It also helps prevent pest infestations and improves air quality.

How To Insulate A Basement

You can insulate a basement wall from the inside or the outside. The latter is usually done at the time of construction. Although exterior insulation is ideal for energy efficiency purposes, interior insulation is the easiest and cost-effective option for most home improvement projects. It is most practical when the basement has been constructed but is still unfinished.

Interior basement insulation can be done by a savvy do-it-yourselfer – although some people bring in a contractor to ensure the highest quality work. If you want to be your own handyman, learn how to insulate your slabs with our best tips for DIY basement wall insulation.

Type of Insulation

The most popular basement insulation materials are packaged as batts, rigid panels, or spray foam.

  • Batts are essentially rolls or blankets made from mineral fibers, such as fiberglass or wool. Fiberglass batts are a cheap insulation material, but they come with some disadvantages that are worth considering – see below.
  • Rigid foam insulation is both more effective and expensive compared to batts. Rigid sheets or panels of extruded polystyrene, or XPS, are the best choice of material for many homes. One or two inches of XPS provides tough and moisture-resistant insulation. However, XPS is flammable, so it must be installed with a thermal barrier, such as a half-inch of gypsum board.
  • Foam-in-place insulation, or spray foam, can be sprayed into empty cavities to fill the entire space. Spray foam insulation achieves a higher R-value with less thickness. Closed-cell spray foam is widely considered the best way to insulate a basement wall, but it is more expensive than rigid panels.

What is the best R-value for your insulation? It depends on your climate, home design, and other factors. The Department of Energy provides a handy tool for calculating appropriate R-values based on your zip code.

To achieve a higher overall R-value, many people use a combination of materials. It’s common to lay rigid foam board against the foundation, then construct a stud wall on top. The stud wall leaves space for electrical wiring and HVAC infrastructure, and can be further insulated with batts between the studs. If you plan to install additional insulative sheathing, you can use thinner foam boards for the first layer.

Did You Know? Moisture Control Tips

The main difficulty in insulating basment walls relates to moisture. Concrete walls absorb water like a sponge, easily transporting moisture inside from the outdoors. One of the benefits of insulation is its vapor resistance, but it must be installed correctly to prevent, rather than aggravate moisture issues.

If you have serious moisture infiltration, you must fix it before applying insulation so your efforts don’t go to waste. If you notice any visible wetness on the foundation under ordinary conditions, you probably need to install a drainage system first.

Basement wall insulation should be applied directly to the concrete foundation – unless you’re using fiberglass batts. If you insulate with fiberglass, there must be space between the insulation and concrete. Otherwise, the point of contact will acquire mold or mildew. This is a surprisingly commonplace mistake. Fiberglass is not moisture-resistant!

Should you include a plastic vapor barrier between your layer of insulation and the drywall? According to the Building Science Corporation, vapor barriers do more harm than good. Properly installed insulation is the best defense against moisture and avoids the air flow problems that accompany plastic barriers.

Installation Tips

When installing fiberglass insulation, safety precautions are important. You can protect your health by wearing eye, mouth and skin protection. Use shop goggles and a dust mask. Be sure all exposed skin is covered and wear work gloves.

When you place a fiberglass batt in a wall cavity, don’t press too hard. Instead of squishing the material in, cut the insulation with a sharp knife to the desired size or shape. You can cut small pieces to fill minor spaces and achieve airtight protection. Aim for a tight, but not pinched fit.

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should you insulate a garage door using garage door insulation kits

Insulation is one of the easiest and most effective ways at saving energy. Not only does it cut the cost of heating and cooling, it also reduces noise pollution. Many home owners wonder if garage door insulation fits into the scheme of things. Is it completely necessary?

Attached garages are typically not airtight. They are usually unfinished structures built for the purpose of extra storage, and they can be pretty leaky in some spots. The thermal boundary, which is the fine line between the conditioned indoor air and the outdoor air, is really the wall where the house and garage attach. So, to keep the home insulated, the walls and sometimes the ceiling of the garage must be insulated, not the garage door.

However, if the garage is used as a living space, workshop or recreational area, then garage door insulation becomes more legitimate. Garage door insulation kits are designed to fit snug with frames, carpet-like rolls or boards. From a Do-It-Yourself standpoint, it’s financially easier to learn how to insulate a garage door with garage door insulation kits.

First things first. Before even considering how to insulate a garage door, make sure that the weatherstripping is still intact. This is the seal between the door frame and the opening. It tends to get old and brittle, and it will let drafts and water into the building. Caulking can also be used alongside weatherstripping.

Types of Insulation

Batt – fast and efficient, this is flexible fiberglass that fits almost anywhere. Just take it out of its bag and stuff it where it needs to go. In a kit, they are often sandwiched in aluminum or paper, and the length of these usually match typical framing dimensions.

Foam board – these are thin panels that carry a higher insulation value. They are made from polystyrene and covered with vinyl or aluminum facing. Double paneling these together can be done for good for extra insulation.

Reflective insulation – as highly reflective boards for hot climates, they are usually polyethylene bubbles or cardboard covered with aluminum foil. These are usually about 5/16 of an inch, and they also have a dependable insulation value.

Now, it’s important to efficiently match the type and size of insulation with the garage door. A normal single wide garage door is usually 9 feet wide and 7 feet tall. Double doors average about 16 feet by 7 feet. Keep in mind that insulation adds weight, which isn’t normally a problem, but it could strain the automatic opening mechanism for bigger doors.

Types of Garage Doors

Steel or metal – at a 24 to 27 gauge metal thickness, these doors not only have insulation value on their own, they usually have recessed panels around the frames that can fit any kind of insulation. Top of the line insulating doors already have two sheets of metal with a polyurethane filling.

Wood – these doors don’t have much insulation value on their own. They need rigid panel or board insulation cut and installed around the frame.

Garage door insulation needs to be cut and framed exactly the right size and secured with adhesive to work properly. Common mistakes include cutting the insulation too long or too short, or packing it too tight or too loose. If the whole thing still isn’t working, it might be best to purchase a garage door that’s already insulated.

These insulation methods make a big difference in temperature. Nevertheless, first make sure that the existing walls and ceiling, especially where they are adjoined to the house, are completely insulated themselves. The only better thing that could be done is building a complete wall in front of the door.

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