As demand for energy-efficient housing rises and code requirements become more stringent, building airtight homes with proper insulation methods has never been more important.
In this article, we will share nine tips from our building material supplier professionals to keep your residential build project warm this winter.
1. Start with proper installation methods
You can invest tens of thousands of dollars in insulation, but see less than impressive performance if you fail to use proper installation methods. For example, when using rigid foam insulation on the home’s exterior, you need to establish a secure bond between the plywood and insulation boards.
While using a combination of screws and adhesives is a traditional method, if the screws are too tight and installed with too much force, they become stripped during the process. This can lead to air leaks. Using low force with a new drill bit is the best way to avoid this issue.
Another example is installing batt insulation on the interior using a staple gun. When tackling harder-to-reach areas, using a hammer tacker sees better results in getting a tighter seal and preventing moisture that can deteriorate insulation performance.
2. Design insulation-optimized building frames
With lumber shortages and skyrocketing prices, designing insulation-optimized building frames should always be top of mind. Not only does efficient framing reduce costs, but it also improves structure and insulation properties. New approaches to framing structures use insulation materials and methods such as:
- Insulated headers
- Turned-stud corners
- Modular construction methods
Known as optimum value engineering (OVE), you can improve structural integrity, make structures more efficient, reduce demand for lumber, and make insulating the building easier. Advanced framing increases stud spacing, from every 16” to every 24”, and uses two studs in corners instead of three.
Another new framing approach is double-wall construction using a gap of about 3” to 4” between two 2 x 4 walls or a combination of 2 x 4s with 2 x 6s and 2 x 3s to create more room for fiberglass batts.
When installed vertically between studs and then horizontally in the gaps, the filled gaps create a thermal break to reduce thermal bridging. All these steps provide more room for insulation without interfering with the home’s structural integrity.
3. Consider new insulation technology
As demand for energy efficiency increases, builders are looking to new technology to help inform building decisions. For example, hydrofluoroolefin (HFO)-based closed cell spray foams are replacing HFC blowing agents, which contribute to global warming. HFO has a significantly lower global warming potential than HFC-based agents.
In fact, choosing HFO over HFC spray foams offers many energy efficiency benefits including:
- Reduced thermal bridging
- Lower risk of moisture damage
- Lower condensation risks
4. Understand the impact of moisture
Choosing the right moisture resistance impacts the amount of moisture absorbed over time, which is an especially important consideration for below-grade insulation. Condensation impacts the thermal value of insulation, with dampness and moisture degrading insulation performance.
Choosing rigid, moisture-resistant materials such as extruded polystyrene insulation (XPS) is a better choice when looking for long-term performance for residential basements.
It’s also important to ensure you have redundancy at connection points, such as using the correct tape at overlaps between water-resistive barriers (WRB) and oriented strand board (OSB).
5. Pay attention to the details
The smallest gaps work together to create a less-than-airtight seal for homes. Paying attention to the details makes a big difference, including:
- Plugging small holes and cracks with sticky particle sealings.
- Applying caulk and sealant between concrete slabs and interior walls.
- Using polyethylene gasket material or foam-based drywall gaskets to form a seal between wood frames and drywall.
- Using gasketed outlet boxes.
- Reducing connection points using structural insulated panels (SIPs).
- Addressing weak points such as plumbing penetrations and recessed lighting with suitable materials such as tapes, foams, caulks, etc.
6. Calculate compressive resistance
Certain types of insulation can resist compression better than others, and if the insulation is overly compressed, it may not perform as intended.
To prevent excessive compression of the insulation, it is important to accurately calculate the load slabs. This step can save money on insulation while avoiding deforming the insulation and impeding its performance.
By calculating the load and choosing the proper insulation with suitable compressive resistance from your building material supplier, you achieve the right balance for energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
7. Manage interior and exterior air barriers properly
Interior and exterior air barriers work together to create an airtight home. However, if you don’t address the specific role for each, they won’t work together effectively.
Exterior barriers control airflow into the home, while interior barriers do the opposite. When done properly, you can manage infiltration and exfiltration to prevent heat loss, moisture issues, and poor building performance.
8. Test building envelope air tightness
Blower door tests measure the air tightness levels of a home. A new home should test less than 3.5 ACH50 as everything in the home is new and built according to the Ontario Building Code.
ACH (air changes per hour) measures how many times the conditioned air is replaced with unconditioned air, which should test at 2.5 to 3.5 ACH to meet today’s standards. Through proper blower door testing, you can determine where issues lie and address shortfalls to achieve optimum sealing requirements.
9. Consider the benefits of different home insulation options
The costs and benefits of different home insulation options available at your local building material supplier impact home warmth. Here are two effective options:
1. Fiberglass insulation
Fiberglass is a budget-friendly option that is easy to install, slows the spread of heat and cold in the home by trapping pockets of air, and also reduces noise levels. It is made of sand and recycled glass, which means it is not only eco-friendly, but also fire resistant and mould/mildew resistant. This, in turn, keeps homeowners safer and provides better indoor air quality.
2. Rockwool insulation
Rockwool is very similar to fiberglass. It is also made of recycled materials, has excellent heat retention, is fire resistant, and is great for soundproofing. However, while both offer excellent performance, rockwool insulation has a higher R-value of 3.0 to 3.3 per inch than fiberglass insulation’s 2.2 to 2.7 per inch.
Checking in with your local building material supplier to learn more about each option and the cost benefits will ensure you make the best choice.
Contact the Building Supply Experts
Following these tips can help you keep your residential build project warmer this winter.