Considering an upgrade to your vintage or historic home? In this ongoing energy retrofit series, master craftsman Daniel Westbrook interviews industry expert Mark LaLiberte, founding partner and president of Construction Instruction. Mark has been educating the building industry on the science and physics of construction for more than 30 years, and is sharing the benefits of constructing durable, energy efficient, healthy homes in this series.

Today, Daniel and Mark are chatting about how to improve insulation to increase your home's energy efficiency. In this video, you’ll learn about:

Insulation Products that Do Well with Moisture

Products like ROCKWOOL insulation have some important benefits—like being resistant to fire and insects. ROCKWOOL is also hydrophobic which means it resists water, and if any happens to accumulate, there’s no organic matter that can mold. ROCKWOOL comes in sheets or dense cut pieces (also known as batts) that can fit into cavities. It’s one of those insulation products that’s been around forever but is still finding new life and demand, and it's a great product for homes in the Pacific Northwest. 

Insulation Choices for Homes in the Pacific Northwest

There are plenty of insulation choices (including ROCKWOOL described above), but some options work better in certain applications because of their unique features and benefits. Certain insulations are even made of natural or recycled materials. Common options include:

  • Fiberglass insulation which can be blown in, or comes in rolls or batts.
  • Cellulose made from recycled newsprint and paper that can be blown into cavities (and has high-grade buffer attributes)
  • Foams including spray foams, open-cell foams, closed-cell foams, and sheet foams

Where to Use Each Type of Insulation in Your Home

In Pacific Northwest homes, we usually have wood-frame walls with wood cladding. If the cladding is going to stay in place, you'll have to insulate from the inside. That means blowing cellulose or fiberglass insulation into cavities and sealing things up with caulking elsewhere.

Blown insulation is a preferred choice for attics, however, we see some markets where forced air systems are installed in the attic, or a new attic living space is added—which may mean the thermal boundary of the house has to be changed during a retrofit, and a different type of insulation pushed up to the roof deck.

Remember, each choice has implications. A spray foam will tighten up a wall, while cellulose will require extra care to caulk and seal the wall properly. Each option affects factors such as the thermodynamics of the wall while also providing improved comfort. 

Watch previous installments of our energy retrofit series on the Dunn Solutions blog, and stay tuned for more from Daniel and Mark as they continue to discuss energy retrofitting over the coming months.