Tag Archives: exterior insulation

All About Blown-In Insulation

When you think about adding insulation to your home the image that usually comes to mind is long strips of fiberglass insulation in faced batts or unfaced rolls. Batts of faced fiberglass insulation is the standard material used to insulate wall and joist cavities during new construction, and improving the insulation in attics often involves laying a “blanket” of unfaced fiberglass rolls across the attic floor. Continue reading

About Water-Resistive Barriers

typical water-resistive barrier

Example of a widely-used water-resistive barrier

Keeping Bulk Water Away from Vulnerable Building Components
A water-resistive barrier (WRB) is a material installed between the sheathing (or studs if there is no sheathing) and the siding. It is designed to prevent water from reaching building components that could be damaged by moisture. Builders should assume that siding installations aren’t truly waterproof, and that some water will find its way through or around the siding (at least once in a while). Without a WRB, sheathing and other parts of the wall assembly would be much more susceptible to damage. Continue reading

Best Insulation for 2×4 and 2×6 Walls

When you are insulating two-by-four (2×4) and two-by-six (2×6) framed exterior walls and want to use fiberglass insulation, what thickness should you use?

This is a critical question. Adding too little insulation means a colder house. Adding too much insulation means insulation that isn’t properly doing its job, thus a colder house. Continue reading

Rock-Wool Insulation: What It Is and Where to Use It

The importance of a well-insulated home can’t be overstated: Properly sized and installed insulation can reduce energy usage, keep you warmer in winter and cooler in summer, and save you money with lower energy bills. Rock wool insulation provides thermal and sound insulation and can be used as a firestop between floors.
For homeowners and builders alike, fiberglass insulation has been the insulation of choice for many decades. While fiberglass remains very popular, there’s a relatively new type of insulation that’s making headway—and headlines—in the insulation industry. It’s called rock-wool insulation. Continue reading

What is Aerogel Insulation?

Aerogel is a low density solid state material derived from gel in which the liquid component of the gel has been replaced with gas. The result is an extremely low density solid with several remarkable properties, most notably its effectiveness as thermal insulation. Continue reading

Easy Ways to Seal Air Leaks Around the House

A typical family spends about a third of its annual heating and cooling budget — roughly $350 — on air that leaks into or out of the house through unintended gaps and cracks. With the money you waste in just one year, you can plug many of those leaks yourself. It’s among the most cost-effective things you can do to conserve energy and increase comfort. Continue reading

Thermal Insulation: Which is Best?

There are plenty of excellent insulation materials on the market today. Many of these have been around for quite some time. Each of these insulations have their own ups and downs. As a result, when deciding which insulation material you should use, you should be sure to be aware of which material would work the best in your situation. Considering differences like R-value, price, environmental impact, flammability, sound insulation and other factors, here are the 5 most common types of insulation materials:

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The 5 most common types of insulation on the market.

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All About Rainscreens

To lower the risk of wall rot, it’s increasingly seen as sensible to provide a ventilated air gap between the siding material (also known as cladding) and the structural sheathing. As rainscreens become more common, mainstream builders are more often being compelled to ask, “What is a rainscreen? How do I know if I need one?”. This article will discuss the most common questions about rainscreen gaps between siding and sheathing.

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Stopping the rain that gets past the siding. In most cases, the investment in a rainscreen siding installation pays dividends in paint longevity and siding durability.

What is a rainscreen?
A rainscreen siding installation is one that includes an air gap between the siding and the water-resistive barrier (the asphalt felt or housewrap). Every well-designed rainscreen wall needs:

  • a water-resistive barrier (WRB).
  • an air gap between the WRB and the back of the siding.
  • flashings at all penetrations and vulnerable areas.
  • weep holes at the bottom of the wall.
  • ventilation openings at the top of the wall on a case-by case basis.

Continue reading

The Dew Point in Insulating Wall Assemblies

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Diagram depicting dew point in relationship to elements of wall assembly. This assembly utilizes cork board as the exterior insulation (courtesy Siegel+Strain Architects, Emeryville)

A reader recently queried in response to our recent posting The Brave New World of Insulating Wall Assemblies, “will adding exterior insulation act to decrease the probability of a condensation issue”?

The short answer is, adding exterior insulation will always decrease the risk of condensation within the wall assembly.

That said, in the design of the entire wall assembly including insulation in the stud bay + outboard insulation, we want to design the whole assembly with the dew point outboard of the wall sheathing. That way condensation, in the rare event it does occur, does not take place within the stud bay.

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Ratio of exterior-interior insulation to control air leakage condensation. Courtesy Building Science Digests: Controlling Cold-Weather Condensation Using Insulation, John Straube,  03/10/11

The chart at right provides recommendation for balancing the insulation. In a commercial application we can assume indoor RH of 35%. In Santa Cruz, the average for the coldest three winter months (Dec, Jan, Feb) is 49.7 degrees. Cross-indexing these (35% x 50 deg F) results in 0.00. In other words, in our climate zone since temperatures are mild, insulation balancing is not likely to be a consideration.

The most conservative estimate might assume an indoor RH at the highest end of the spectrum i.e. 60%. In the same temperature range (50 deg F) this results in a 24% ratio for the exterior insulation. If we seeking to attain an R-20 wall this means it’s recommended to design R-4.8 into the exterior insulation, and the remainder (20.0 – 4.8 = 15.2) in the cavity. Using conventional insulation, options might include: A. R14 batt + R6 rigid = R20 target B. R19 batt + R1 rigid = R20 target. Since the ratio is less than 24%, Option A is the better of the two, since it is the least likely of the two option to result in condensation within the cavity.

There is a detailed and comprehensive article at Building Science.com: http://www.buildingscience.com/documents/digests/bsd-controlling-cold-weather-condensation-using-insulation. It’s author, Dr. John Straube of the University of Waterloo, is widely considered to be an authority on the subject of moisture transport within building materials and systems.