What is the Best Attic Insulation? (Spray Foam vs Fiberglass vs Cellulose)
You are looking to insulate your attic to keep heat from escaping, but you’re not sure which insulation type will meet your needs.
The types of insulation commonly found in attics are cellulose, fiberglass, and spray foam.
Unless your home was built for energy efficiency, you can probably reduce your monthly energy bills by adding or updating the insulation in your home. Many older homes have inadequate, damaged, or improper insulation than homes built today, but adding insulation to a newer home can pay for itself in just a few years, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. This includes the attic where many homes lose heat during the winter months.
RetroFoam of Michigan has more than 15 years of experience insulating thousands of homes across the lower peninsula. While our experience is with spray and injection foam insulation, we also know quite a bit about traditional insulations like fiberglass and cellulose.
As part of our ongoing mission to educate our customers, we are here to discuss the kinds of insulation used in attics and the pros and cons that go along with each one.
Cellulose Attic Insulation: Pros vs Cons
Cellulose insulation is the oldest material used in home insulation. It can be either a loose-fill material or blown-in.
Cellulose is primarily made up of recycled newsprint or denim.
- Boric acid, borax or aluminum sulfate used in cellulose insulation provide resistance to mold, pests, and fire that can occur in the attic.
- When blown-in, cellulose gets into some of the tight corners and hard to reach areas in the attic cavities.
- Cellulose is very inexpensive when it comes to attic projects in comparison to other materials.
- Cellulose doesn’t use any greenhouse gases as propellants.
- Cellulose has more recycled material than any other commercially available insulation.
- Can be a Do-It-Yourself attic project.
- Cellulose weighs several times as much as fiberglass, which isn’t an issue unless it’s used to insulate an attic slope.
- Cellulose can shift and settle to one side of the attic due to airflow, which can make some areas of the ceiling thinly insulated over time. This means the insulation must be maintained and actively raked to be spread evenly every so often.
- Even though cellulose can fill the attic cavities, it is not an air seal. That means cold and hot air can move through the space without any barriers, raising monthly energy bills.
- Homes with furnace duct systems in the attic can expect some of the cellulose dust to recirculate through the home.
- Cellulose must be kept dry in the attic as it absorbs up to 130 percent water by weight.
- After cellulose insulation absorbs water, the chemical fire treatment is destroyed.
- It dries very slowly after absorbing water, which causes it to deteriorate and settle in the attic cavities.
- Modern cellulose settles up to 20 percent, which is problematic in relation to closed cavities in attics causing the home to be uncomfortable and energy bills to rise. This also means more cellulose may need to be added over time due to this settling.
Fiberglass Attic Insulation: Pros vs Cons
Fiberglass is an insulation material that consists of extremely fine glass fibers and is found in most homes. It is commonly used in two forms – blankets, which is batts and rolls, and loose fill.
Fiberglass insulation is made of plastic reinforced by tiny glass fibers. This composition gives the plastic additional strength while improving its insulation capacity.
- Can be a Do-It-Yourself attic project for an experienced handy man.
- Relatively inexpensive for attic projects compared to other materials.
- Suited for standard stud and joist spacing in attics that is relatively free from obstructions.
- Fiberglass in the attic can trap allergens, dust, and moisture which can lead to mold growth.
- When it is disturbed in the attic fiberglass insulation releases particulates into the air which may be inhaled.
- When inhaled, particles can cause coughing, nosebleeds, and other respiratory ailments.
- If a person must disturb fiberglass installed in the attic, they should wear gloves, long-sleeved shirts, pants, and goggles.
- Fiberglass in the attic still allows for airflow, which is a major source of high energy bills and uncomfortable homes.
- Small particles that come into contact with skin can lodge in pores, causing itchiness, rashes, and irritation.
Spray Foam Attic Insulation: Pros vs Cons
Spray foam insulation is an air barrier material that creates a seal against air movement. Open cell spray foam insulation can expand up to 100 times its original size to fill every nook and cranny in the cavity.
Icynene spray foam insulation’s main ingredients are water-blown and organic chemical compounds derived from petroleum extracts.
- Environmentally safe.
- Class one fire rated for the attic and other open cavities in the home.
- Doesn’t retain water, meaning it doesn’t promote mold and mildew growth if the roof leaks into the attic.
- Insulates the attic by creating an air seal, helping to lower monthly energy bills.
- Can create a semi-conditioned space by insulating the roof deck in an unvented attic.
- Spray foam insulation isn’t a food source for pests that can get into the attic.
- More costly than traditional forms of insulation used in the attic.
- Spray foam is too complex for a DIY attic project. It must be installed by a professional.
- Some brands of open cell spray foam have a slight odor after it has been applied, so it is important to watch which brand is being installed.
Now that you have reviewed the pros and cons of spray foam, fiberglass, and cellulose insulation you may have come to a conclusion on the best insulation choice for your attic.
If you are considering spray foam for your attic and live in Michigan’s lower peninsula, give us a call at 866-900-3626 for a free estimate, or fill out the form on our website.