Inexpensive Home Building

Cut through the jargon and nonsense of home building and house construction by starting from zero dollars and trying to figure best-value bang-for-your-buck when choosing construction methods or construction materials. My research might answer some of your questions and at other times perhaps you have the knowledge or experience to post the answers to my questions and thereby help others too. The goal is an affordable and sustainable home for all.


Monday, December 18, 2006

Best Insulation System, Home Wall and Roof?

"Stick-built" wood construction requires a cage of "studs" (vertical 2x4 or 2x6 beams) at regular intervals for structural support. The later insulation problem is:

  • The studs "go through" the typical insulation (inside wall to outside wall) and bleed heat to outside like fins on a radiator.
  • Each rectangle (between studs) is its own insulation project with a full perimeter to be sealed. Not sealing the edges is like installing a high-tech super-insulated window and then leaving it open.
Sprayed on (blown in) insulation could seal crevices but must be done correctly and some home owners reported that cellulose insulation shrank and needed re-application. Certain insulations lose effectiveness after shrinking, settling, getting wet, or being crushed. Like wearing layered clothing, batt insulation blankets (fiberglass, rockwool) rely on airspaces in the material and should not be compressed into the wall.

Your actual heat retention is not the advertised R rating of the insulation material, your "effective R value" is the "full wall" result of the entire system. You can check insulation without opening walls by measuring drafts (air leakage) or measuring temperature with thermometers or infrared (IR) cameras' thermograms (thermographic inspection).

Quick Tip: All else being equal (same sun time, etc.) , a roof which keeps its snow longer is insulated better than the roof next door which melts it snow faster from below by heat leaks.

I currently do not favor stick-built construction because every edge is an enemy to insulation. I currently am looking for solid information on the effective R value of an earth-sheltered solid-concrete construction with external foam board insulation. I also seek information on the value of radiant barriers and reflective paint (please leave a comment with tips).

15 Comments:

At 1:10 AM, Blogger AnalysisGuy said...

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At 1:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

what about hay bale walls?

 
At 4:12 PM, Blogger J said...

Hello. You raise a good point so I made my reply into a new post (see the next post).

Thank you for the comment.

 
At 4:18 PM, Blogger J said...

Correction, see two posts away on Dec. 28.

Thank you.

 
At 9:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes i agree i am also looking into a concrete building with an outer skin of insulation. also would like to put stone or brick over the insulation not sure how to attach to foam.the building codes are tough in the earthquake zone.

 
At 11:36 PM, Blogger J said...

Hello. I saw a reference to attaching the exterior insulation with some type of adhesive (but I forget the source). I'm shopping for the most cost-effective exterior foundation insulation. I haven't decided on a cladding (brick, cement board, wood panel).

 
At 11:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From reports and research (including my own research), I have found that straw is an excellent insulator, in the 20's to 30's range depending on the thickness. I am currently looking at building a house partially underground (cinder block) and just a greatroom with kitchen and bathroom above ground with strawbale construction. This will be heated with radiant floor and wood stove and propane backup. I also plan on being off grid using various "old day" apparatuses (spell check). Namely steam/stirling/propane generator etc. What do you think?

 
At 1:01 AM, Blogger J said...

It sounds good, especially the Stirling. My current thinking is close to yours. I don't have any ready access to straw so I'm happy with thinner and non-biodegradable foam insulation (since insulation is one application where non-biodegradable is an advantage). I just posted my latest plan if you'd like to look and comment.

Please keep me updated on any new or "old-time" innovations, especially for electricity/electricity-substitutes.

Happy New Year.

 
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