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Adding Insulation to the Home. How Much and Where?

March 15, 2016

While it's not necessary for a typical homeowner to get overly technical with home insulation, it's definitely an advantage to understand the basics. It will make for a better working relationship with a prospective insulation contractor, and decision making along the way will be much less stressful. The "big picture" with home insulation encompasses a number of considerations, all of which can be assessed with the contractor:

  • the home's original building construction (building envelope)
  • the existing condition of insulation in the roof, attic, and walls
  • the nature of the home's foundation walls and basement floor
  • the homeowner's insulation goals and energy-saving targets
  • the homeowner's project budget (incentives and/or rebates)

Whether the project includes adding insulation, removing insulation, or reinstalling insulation, it's essential to identify the best return-on-investment. Here, an experienced contractor can offer valuable advice on product options and installation techniques. Clearly, different types of retrofits will deliver different levels of energy savings. And in some cases, annual utility savings could even offset the original project investment.

  • improving airtightness is key to every insulation project
  • adding/topping up insulation to the roof and attic cavity
  • enhancing insulation to below-grade/above-grade walls
  • insulating the basement floor (as wells as exterior walls)

Another area of consideration when insulating the home is about how much insulation product to add. Once again, it's important to identify (along with the contractor) the target for energy savings. There's a dramatic difference between a homeowner who wants to reduce energy consumption by 25% and a homeowner who wants to reach for 50%. All of this will depend on the scope and extent of the insulation retrofit project. Regardless of energy saving targets, an expert insulation contractor will recommend eliminating air leakage prior to any insulating work. By any measure, this component of retrofitting will deliver energy efficiency while allowing newly installed insulation to perform much better. In fact, air sealing and adding R-Value to existing insulation will make a remarkable difference in energy consumption throughout the seasons. Beyond airtightness, the location of the insulation upgrade is also significant. This will clearly depend on the project budget, and will be reliant on a cost-benefit assessment from the contractor. In other words, which approach will allow the homeowner to achieve the best results in the most cost-effective manner? In short, this will be contingent on the insulation product, the amount of R-Value, and the location of the install. Experienced contractors are expert at making viable recommendations. There may be an option to insulate the home from the exterior. Or, it may be best to top-up the attic insulation, while installing an air barrier. It may also be possible to enhance the insulation in some of the above-grade walls, including interior walls. For some, the prospect of fully insulating a basement floor (and replacing the flooring) may be the best route. One of the best times to install home insulation is alongside other home improvements. It makes renovation sense, and it makes budget sense. And it's one of the best ways to do the job right the first time - energy efficiency will be optimized; home comfort will be enhanced; utility costs will be reduced; and in many cases the home will enjoy a higher resale value.

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Mike Holmes and his son Mike Jr. (MJ) convert MJ’s bachelor bungalow into a two-storey home for MJ and his girlfriend Lisa. Choosing the newest materials and build techniques, the father and son team follow Mike’s famous motto – “Make it right.” The show can be watched on HGTV and DIY Network.

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