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Insulation 101 - Choosing and Installing Insulation


The purpose of insulation is to help control the temperature of a building. Insulation prevents the transfer of heat from one area to another. Insulation blocks air from moving from one area to another. It can also block heat or cold from radiating from one surface to another.

Insulation comes in a variety of ratings, called R values. The R value of a given insulation is the rate at which it prevents heat transfer from one surface to another. The higher the R value, the more heat transfer is prevented.

Determining the proper insulation type and value is dependent on several factors such as climate, quality of the construction of your home, and the other components that make up your home. Don't assume that a higher value necessarily means it's better or the right material for your home. You need to allow some room for allowing the house to breathe for optimal health. If you need help in choosing the proper R value for your home consult your utility company or ask someone at the home improvement center.

Foam and weather stripping are also used often in homes to prevent the movement of air and heat. Weather stripping is a rubber gasket placed around doors and windows. Replacing weather stripping is very simple; just remove the old strip, remove the old adhesive, and apply the new one.

Foam insulation usually comes in two versions, sheets and particle. Foam sheets are strips of insulation available in long rolls. Foam insulation materials look similar to cotton candy. The foam is a material of woven fiberglass strands used to prevent air movement and heat transfer. To install foam insulation you just unroll the material into the space between studs, cut it to the proper length, and staple the paper covering to the wood.

Particulate insulation is small chunks, often of shredded, recycled paper, that's blown into the area to insulate with a machine. These materials can also be made from silicates or fiberglass pieces. You will need to buy enough bags of this material to give you the desired coverage. As with other insulation materials ask someone at the home improvement store or building supply house where you purchase your material how much is needed given the dimensions and insulating needs of your home.

When installing either type of insulation in attics take care to only step on beams so as not to fall through the flooring. Also, wear protective gloves, goggles, and dust mask. Getting fiberglass particles in your skin, eyes, and lungs is no fun.

When finished with your project it is best to do a thorough cleanup. Sweep up the work area or if available use a dry vac. It is best to remove all clothing worn during installation and wash as a separate load of laundry. Then take a much-needed rest in a warm shower; with the direct water stream hits all parts of your body. This will ensure no remaining fiberglass is clinging to your skin or hair.

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