Neither option is very attractive, for reasons we’ll get in to. But first, here’s a secret: there’s a better option, one that is less intrusive, more cost effective, and solves all the problems that traditional insulation can’t address for exterior wall cavities.
YOU SAY YOU WANT A (INSULATION) REVOLUTION
You’ve insulated your attic and crawl spaces and the band board in your basement. Maybe you’ve had new windows installed and undergone other weatherization projects to further reduce your energy bill and/or need for fossil fuels. You’ve seen improvement because of your efforts, but you want to do more. Or, maybe the weatherization projects didn’t have the desired effect and you’re looking for other options. How about insulating your exterior walls? (Caveat: we usually only recommend insulating your walls if you’ve explored—and exhausted-- all other avenues.)
LET 'R RIP
Your options for insulating your walls give you pause. Ripping down all the drywall or plaster in order to access the stud cavities can be dirty and time consuming and very expensive. You’ll have a big mess to clean up, the project will be extended by a couple of days, depending on the size of the building, and you’ll have to replace all the walls you ripped down. Not exactly what you signed up for when you decided to insulate the walls.
DRILL, BABY, DRILL
Your other option isn’t much better. Drilling large holes in the walls to install traditional insulation? No thanks. And while fiberglass and cellulose are popular products for insulating new and existing walls, they don’t come without their drawbacks. They are known for their insulating properties, but neither product is an air barrier. Which means they can still allow unconditioned air to infiltrate buildings. Plus, the insulating value of these types of insulations are null and void if they get wet. In fact, wet fiberglass and cellulose can lead to mold and mildew issues down the road if left untreated. So if a roof leak or other water damage occurs and it gets inside your walls, or if air is allowed to condense inside your walls and creates moisture, you might be setting yourself up for a much larger problem than a cold building. Finally, neither cellulose nor fiberglass can reach all the nooks and crannies and crevices in a wall cavity, leaving areas of your walls inadequately insulated or un-insulated. Plus, these products can settle over time—again, leaving gaps plentiful enough for air to get in.
Why go through all the hassle of ripping down your walls or drilling large holes for products that, in the long run, may cause more problems than they solve?
There’s another way.
INJECT YOUR WAY TO A WARMER BUILDING
Injectable foam is a non-expanding foam for new and existing walls that insulates and air seals. With the consistency of shaving cream, it expands fully before entering the wall, flowing through wall cavities and hardening in place as it dries. It completely fills wall cavities full, even if the walls are partially filled with older insulation. Injectable foam can be installed from inside or outside the home, making it a versatile solution with high thermal value—an R-16 in 2x4 walls and R-24 in 2x6 walls!
Non-toxic and non-hazardous with a Class 1 fire rating, injectable foam has minimal shrinkage and can also reduce noise. It’s a permanent insulation solution idea for many applications!
If there’s one down fall to injectable foam, it’s this: holes must be drilled in the walls in order to access the stud cavities. Two to three holes per stud cavity is standard. But the holes required are small—only about 5/8”—and can easily be patched and painted.
Not a lot of people know about injectable foam. And they should, because it’s an attractive way to insulate walls when “traditional” options are out of the question. Not only is injectable foam less intrusive than ripping down walls, but it offers benefits above and beyond what fiberglass and cellulose can do.
So before you consider ripping down walls or drilling large holes—or not doing anything at all—consider injectable foam for all the reasons mentioned above.
NEXT ARTICLE: Let The Battle Of The Buildings Begin