Fiberglass Insulation – The Inside Story

Fiberglass is a family of products widely used in countless applications – everything from automobiles, to boats, to roofing, to insulation. In residential and commercial buildings, we know it as a thermal insulator. The idea behind fiberglass insulation is to slow down the spread of heat and/or cold (in addition to sound). The structure of the fabricated fiberglass essentially traps air, and therefore keeps a home nice and warm in winter, and nice and cool in summer. As a thermal insulator, fiberglass enhances energy efficiency.

In residential homes, fiberglass insulation can be easily installed throughout the “building envelope” – the walls, the ceiling, the attic cavity, even in the garage. Fiberglass “batts” are quite common, and are available in pre-cut widths and lengths that are customized for easy installation. Fiberglass is also sold as a “loose fill” product, which is blown into a given space and provides an effective thermal blanket of insulation. The fiberglass products have become quite attractive as a cost-effective approach to home insulation.

In terms of installation, a professional approach is highly recommended. Indeed, there are some risks with exposure to fiberglass, especially during the installation. Skin contact can be problematic, and inhalation of fiberglass particles can be quite serious. This is why professional installers are specially outfitted with the proper equipment and appropriate protective wear. Experienced insulation contractors are well equipped to install and/or remove fiberglass insulation – something that is not suitable for a DIY project.

Inasmuch as fiberglass products provide effective thermal insulation and enhanced energy efficiency, there are also some downsides to the installation. To begin with, even a professional install will not entirely stop air movement in a given space. Additionally, fiberglass does not fully prevent vapor and moisture from accumulating. These are big issues in a space like the attic or roof, because air and moisture can compromise the effectiveness of insulation. In short, fiberglass is not totally effective as a standalone product.

One of the big downsides with fiberglass insulation is wetness, especially in spaces like the attic and roof. A wetted fiberglass environment will slowly lose its product integrity, and will eventually lose its valuable R-Value. If a situation like this were left to deteriorate, the only recourse would be to remove and reinstall all of the insulation. Even worse, wetted fiberglass insulation may cultivate mold – and here, nothing short of expert remediation will suffice. Safe removal and reinstallation of the insulation will be required.

For the experienced professional, a good alternative to fiberglass insulation as a standalone product is the “hybrid” method. This method combines fibreglass insulation with spray foam insulation into one install. And while each product delivers specific benefits, together they deliver excellent results, along with a cost effective element to the overall project. The spray foam provides exceptional sealing and thermal insulation and the fibreglass provides added thermal insulation and significant dollar savings throughout.

The “hybrid” installation is well regarded by professional installers, both as a highly effective approach to insulation, and a very cost-conscious approach for the homeowner.