If your electric bill soars in the winter, and your home always seems cold even with the heaters running on high, you may need new insulation. Insulation is a material that provides an additional barrier between the interior of your home and the elements outside. Old insulation can lose its effectiveness over time, and the exterior walls of older homes may not have any insulation at all. To help you decide if new insulation is the right move for you and your home, consider the following:
Homes with Brick Exteriors
Just because your home has a brick exterior, that doesn’t mean there is much helping you keep the heat inside where it belongs. First, you need to identify the actual structure of your walls construction. Some older homes feature solid brick walls. How well these insulate your home will depend on the actual thickness of the walls, as there is often no additional insulation involved.
A cavity wall will consist of two layers with an empty space, or cavity, between the two layers. Originally, these cavities were designed to help keep moisture from reaching the interior structure. However, leaving the space empty can lead to higher levels of heat loss. If your cavity walls are otherwise in good shape, you may be able to have the cavity filled with an insulating material. This will help improve the barrier and keep hot air inside. Older homes with cavity walls likely are not insulated, while those constructed from approximately 1980 to now may already have some insulation.
The condition of the brick can also lead to heat loss. If you see a number of cracks running across the bricks or mortar, you may have more airflow into the cavity space. This means that colder winter air can more easily reach into the cavity and can potentially lower the temperature in your home.
Homes with Traditional Siding
Since siding is most often a façade, it may only be providing limited insulating benefits. In some cases, siding is backed by a material designed to provide some insulation, but the majority of the insulation will be between the studs in the wall itself. Fiberglass insulation is a common choice, as it comes in rolls and in a size designed to fit snugly between the studs based on current building standards.
Newer homes may have spray foam behind the sheetrock instead of fiberglass options. Spray foam insulation can provide a strong barrier, and may be less irritating to install. The most challenging part of any insulation replacement efforts in walls tends to be the need to remove the sheetrock and expose the interior of the walls structure. This means that new sheetrock, taping, mudding, and painting may need to be figured into the budget.
Attics may host a range of insulation options. The materials may be made of cellulose, cotton, mineral wool, sheep’s wool, various foams, or fiberglass. Some fiberglass is blown into the attic space, resulting in small clumps being evenly distributed throughout the space, but left fairly loose. Rolled or sheeted insulation can also be used, as well as spray foams.
Depending on the kind of insulation you already have in place, you may have a few feasible insulation options. In some cases, blown in insulation can simply be supplemented with new insulation. Other times, it will make more sense to remove the current insulation and start from scratch. Depending on the spaces structure, a combination approach may also be suitable. For example, you may use spray foam or rolled insulation along the attic ceiling, and blow in insulation across the attic floor. If you plan to finish your attics, all blown in insulation should be removed, as it will not work as well within an attic you intended to turn into liveable space.
Regardless of your preferred insulation method, creating a thicker barrier between the interior of your home and the cold weather outside will produce benefits. Not only will you have a warmer space, you may also see a reduction in the amount of electricity being used. Over time, these savings alone may justify the expense of adding new insulation.