The truth is, regardless of the scope of a home insulation project, it’s far better to work with a professional contractor than not. And when it comes to a major project, working with a professional is just fundamental. In most cases, unless the home is a new build, insulating a home is a retrofit project – it requires planning and execution that is best managed by those with experience. Retrofits require a good understanding of pre-existing conditions, potential problem areas, and preventive measures that will avoid worst-case scenarios.
Without doubt, an insulation retrofit will greatly improve energy efficiency, while providing home comfort and significant savings on monthly utility bills. The big question is how much to do? And for professional insulation contractor everything starts with improving the airtightness of the “building envelope”. This is considered to be the most cost-effective element when insulating a home. And while every project will have limitations on the scope of work, even basic improvements to airtightness will deliver positive results.
For some homeowners, a major insulation retrofit makes economic sense and fits into the budget. Here, a number of project options are possible, each with potential challenges, but each with potentials payoffs.
- exterior insulation – retrofitting the overall “building envelope”
- topping-up insulation – throughout the roof and/or attic cavity
- above-grade walls – installation of new air and moisture barrier
- below-grade walls – foundation walls insulation and finishing
- basement floor – air barrier plus vapor barrier plus insulation
- interior walls – air/vapor barrier plus insulation (if possible)
- attached garage – insulating garage walls adjacent to the home
When it comes to project costs and budgets, a cost-benefit assessment is extremely helpful when doing an insulation retrofit. Along with an expert contractor, the scope of the project can be better defined, and the potential benefits can be easily determined. For example, there are countless benefits to installing insulation while other home renovations are in the works. Other than a newly built home, this is the best opportunity to air-seal and insulate a home – and indeed, an opportunity to capitalize on combined cost savings.
With any major insulation project, there are also potential challenges that may emerge. Here again, working with professionals is valuable – they will consider any pre-existing conditions in the workspace; they will be aware of potential side effects after the retrofit; and they will understand the performance dynamics of the home’s HVAC system post-retrofit. Most importantly, a professional contractor knows how to troubleshoot, and how to provide viable solutions where problems arise. This is clearly not the right time for a DIY job.
One aspect of home insulation that’s too often overlooked is ventilation. On one hand, the building envelope has to be airtight – on the other hand, properly installed ventilation has be an integral part of the “system”. This will ensure optimum air circulation throughout the home, and will prevent moisture from collecting and causing other potential problems. Proper ventilation will also improve HVAC performance in winter and summer, while improving indoor comfort and air quality.