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Loose Fill Insulation

By Jim Sulski

Summary: Loose fill insulation is a quick way to lower your heating bills. This alternative to blanket or batt insulation is ideal for older homes.

The couple's home was a wood frame house that was built in the 1920s. After their first winter in the home, they noticed it was hard to heat.
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They contacted a heating contractor who told them their furnace was fine but the house was lacking insulation. Because of the wood frame construction of the house, however, he recommended loose fill insulation, an insulation alternative that is becoming more popular.

Because of its flexibility, loose fill insulation is often a good alternative to blanket or batt insulation - those big roles of insulation you commonly see in home improvement store - when someone has an older wood or brick home.

Loose fill insulation is just that - clumps of insulation blown into the wall or ceiling cavities.

Material-wise, you'll find cellulose (made from wastepaper such as used newspaper), fiberglass and rock wool.

The contractor recommended loose fill insulation for the home for a couple of reasons.

The first is that blanket or batt insulation is best to install in a new home or during new construction before the drywall is put over the wall and ceiling frames.

Unless you're planning to a tear open your existing walls, loose fill insulation makes more sense as it's injected into the cavities by small holes that are drilled through the walls. Loose fill insulation also works better around obstacles such as pipes or chimneys.

About 10 to 12 inches of loose fill insulation in an attic floor will give you an R-value of 38, the recommended R-value for the upper Midwest section of the country and about the same sort of insulation value you would get from rolls of blanket insulation.

Because of the weight of loose fill insulation, however, you may need to shore up the ceiling joists a bit. This will prevent the ceiling from sagging under the weight of the insulation.

Loose fill provides an R-value of R-13 to 15 for a two-by-four wall cavity and R-18 to 21 for a two-by-six wall cavity.

Here's another plus: loose fill insulation has a tighter, more compact fill in the walls and does a better job at sealing the home than blanket or batt insulation does.

Overall, loose fill insulation is going to cost more mostly because of labor costs, especially when it comes to installing it in wall cavities. Installing it in attics takes a lot less work.

While most do-it-yourselfers can easily add blanket insulation to wall and floor cavities, it's nearly impossible to do the same with loose fill because of the equipment needed to blow it in. That's why you'll need a contractor.

Before you hire a contractor to do the job, ask neighbors and friends for references. Then ask a prospective contractor for referrals. Also, get several bids from several contractors.

Remember that insulation has a good return for the investment you make into it. You're heating bill will be lower, plus your home will feel more comfortable.

Finally, don't just depend on the insulation to keep your home warm and toasty. Don't forget to seal windows, doors, the area around pipes and ductwork, light switches, wall outlets and anywhere else where cold air can infiltrate into a home.

© by Jim Sulski. All rights reserved. April 10, 2005.

NOTE: This column is distributed by Real Estate Matters Syndicate, PO Box 366, Glencoe, Illinois, 60022. This column may not be resold, reprinted, resyndicated or redistributed without written permission from the publisher. 

2005 by Ilyce R. Glink. Distributed by Real Estate Matters Syndicate.




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