We started as a roofing company then evolved into “Your Exterior Experts” and now we are full steam ahead as Kusiak Construction, Inc. “Your Complete Home Improvement Experts”
Homeowners in Lake County and Porter County that heat with natural gas can expect to pay 33.3% more for heating when compared to last year. The people that heat with electricity will also see significant increases. To make matters worse, we can expect the same bitter cold weather and conditions that caused severe ice damming last winter.
The only viable solution for homeowners is insulating their homes. But with insulation shortages, the perfect storm that is the winter of 2022 gets complicated. The conditions that caused so much inflation is also causing high energy costs and supply chain issues. That means waiting to act might mean you’re getting the wrong insulation recommended to you. But wait, the perfect storm gets worse. Waiting too long to have your attic insulation installed can mean you’ll also pay too much for insulation that doesn’t improve your home value.
This article is meant to demystify the unknown surrounding insulation so that you can make the best decision. Besides informing you of the best insulation options and the best way to insulate your attic, you’ll also learn who is most qualified to help you and who has the right insulation for your home in stock.
Way back in the ’70s, we happily cranked up the thermostat when it became bitter cold. When the heating bill went through the roof, we bundled up and started burning firewood. Some people would even shove newspapers in their walls and attics.
According to Dave Kusiak, who owns Kusiak Construction and hosts a WJOB program that talks about Home Improvement solutions, “growing up in Northwest Indiana, people would spend around half of their heating bill fighting drafts. People from the region would throw socks in front of the patio, blankets over windows, and anything else that might help reduce the draft. Sealing a home seemed to be the best defense against high energy bills. It was common for homeowners to walk around with a caulk gun, hitting everything, whether air could pass through or not.”
With an eye on conserving energy and reducing the cost of heating, homeowners started using insulation. Builders also started using sealed windows, doors, and modern siding. They also made vapor-barrier improvements.
Soon, new homes were designed and constructed to be air-tight. Builders used new materials that allowed homeowners to be thermally locked tight! However, when the pendulum of extremism pivoted too far in one direction, America woke up to realize that they were thermally correct. Without fresh air, a home becomes inhabitable.
It turns out that the cold drafts that people tried to seal out had a purpose in the ecosystem of their homes. These drafts provided fresh air to breathe. It also prevented condensation build-up that causes mold and respiratory concerns. Without realizing it, before the energy crisis, contractors were building homes with a natural and effective ventilation system. While heating bills were through the roof, the homeowner was healthier, safer, and less likely to have allergies and bacteria.
Your home generates both moisture and pollutants. Moisture can cause structural deterioration. According to Kusiak, excessive moisture is also a breeding ground for mold, fungi, dust mites, and bacteria. Mold spores and dust can become airborne and circulate freely throughout the house, causing respiratory and allergic reactions. In addition to moisture and biological contaminants, your home’s appliances have the potential for releasing gases which may include carbon monoxide and other pollutants to escape into the air.
Your home’s insulation ventilation system is critical to choosing the best type of application and insulation. Just adding insulation without correctly modifying your home’s fresh air ventilation system can cause short and long-term issues to both your safety and comfort. The best solution is to integrate your insulation installation with your existing roofing system, attic, electrical, and other variables. Be careful of anyone that suggests insulation installation without inspecting your attic’s existing insulation and ventilation system.
Huge insulation companies like Owens Corning and John Mansfield like to push insulation batts that can be conveniently sold in rolls at big box stores. This form of insulation is seldom recommended by experts for attic insulation, especially in homes over ten years old. The key to saving money on your heating bill is simple…keep warm air in and cold air out while keeping things ventilated. This is not possible when batts are rolled out. The only real solution is to choose the best type of attic insulation that fits your home like a glove. The best solution for saving money this winter starts with an assessment of your roofing system along with your existing insulation and ventilation systems.
So where do you find someone with the right credentials to assess the best type of insulation and your ventilation system? An experienced contractor with roofing credentials is uniquely qualified to recommend the best attic insulation and what is the best practice for keeping your family warm, comfortable, and safe. A handyman with expertise in roofing, ventilation systems, and has the equipment needed to blow insulation can also be a viable option…provided they are licensed and bonded. Quite often, a handyman lacks the insurance to protect the homeowner in the event someone gets hurt on the job. The homeowner is liable if the insulation team isn’t covered. Furthermore, attic insulation is more efficient and cost-effective when it is installed by a well-coordinated two-man team.
Homes that are ten years or older benefit from the experience of a contractor because older homes might have old electric boxes or other unique challenges. A good contractor with roofing experience will carefully inspect your home, attic, and roof system before making any recommendations or creating an estimate. They will also come prepared with the right tools and supplies. Most people want the job done quickly. Spending time picking up supplies after the job has started can add costs and delays to the insulation installation. A handyman with expertise in roofing, insulation, ventilation systems, and regulations can also be a candidate to help you, provided they are licensed and bonded. Kusiak recommends you request verification of insurance and confirm their expertise in attic insulation before getting started.
Attic insulation is available in several different types: blanket, spray foam, radiant foil, foam boards, and Blow Insulation.
Blanket insulation is one of the most common types of insulation for walls and attic floors; however, don’t use it in open spaces because the fiberglass particles can affect the air quality in your home. This can be very messy work. The thick pieces of insulation need to fit tightly between the gaps in wooden frames or around pipes, wires, and other obstacles. Because blanket insulation is highly profitable and can be sold in big box stores, companies like Owens Corning and Johns Manville flood the market promoting blanket insulation. This type of insulation is seldom used by contractors and roofers when insulating a home over ten years old.
Spray Foam insulation is expensive, in part, because it requires professional installation. It is meant to pair with blanket insulation to better insulate edges and corners as well as seal gaps in existing walls. Not the cheapest, this insulation is seldom used by the professionals that are qualified to use it. This is especially true of homes over ten years old.
The spray foam is made of liquid polyurethane which expands and hardens into a solid foam when sprayed into the cavity of your wall or attic. Spray Foam comes in two varieties, each with its own shortcomings. Closed-cell foam has a decent R-value but doesn’t breathe. In contrast, the open-cell foam doesn’t insulate well but can breathe. While it is recommended for certain applications, it seldom is the best choice for attic insulation in Northwest Indiana.
Because radiant foil reflects heat away from your home, radiant foil insulation is more common in warmer climates. It works through its reflective foil barrier, which is attached to kraft paper or polyethylene bubbles. The kraft paper or bubbles help prevent the transfer of heat through the barrier via a pocket of air that helps reduce the amount of heat that can move through the material.
While standard insulation reduces the flow of heat, radiant foil reflects it. Because of this difference, radiant foil cannot be measured using the same factors attributed to blanket, spray, or foam board insulation. Similar to spray foam, radiant foil is used for certain applications, such as the inside roof of an uninsulated garage or around electrical boxes. It is seldom the choice for attic insulation.
Low in cost and easy to install, foam board insulation is generally made of polyurethane, polystyrene, or polyisocyanurate. Sheets of foam board can be cut to fit tightly between wall studs or attic ceiling joists. Because they are ineffective at insulating, foam boards are not as popular as blanket insulation or blow insulation. Caution should be taken with foam boards because they can cause condensation issues and are not fire-rated.
This fiberglass blowing insulation is designed for thermal protection and noise reduction. It is ideal for open area attics as it creates a custom uniform blanket that fills all of the nooks and crannies where heat can escape. It’s the perfect choice for Northwest Indiana’s extreme weather conditions and is equally effective in summer and winter. It is also ideal for homes that are over ten years old and can be applied to existing attic insulation. While blown insulation seems to fit most attics like a glove, it is best installed by a company with familiarity with ventilation systems and capable of making modifications to your attic and roof.
While Blown Insulation with fiberglass is our top pick, be cautious of contractors that use low-quality cellulose. Cellulose is made from cellulosic materials like newspapers, hemp, cardboard, straw, and sawdust. Cellulose is cheap and offers high margins, so it is often sold in lieu of fiberglass by installers that sell on price alone. Cellulose flattens and loses insulation value when it is introduced to moisture. It also creates dust and bacteria that can cause respiratory issues and allergies. With supply issues, this will be pushed by many contractors that have blow insulation vacuums.
Blown insulation can also seal small gaps and spaces as it settles, filling the hidden spots where cold air would otherwise come in. This will also reduce water leaks that cause drywall issues. In addition to creating an insulating blanket, fiberglass blown-in insulation serves as an acoustic barrier from the outside. Heavy rainstorms, street noise, and other unwanted sounds are isolated.
Be careful of estimates that come without an evaluation of your home specifications, including house area & existing insulation. When asking, “How much does it cost?” nobody wants to hear, “It depends.” With so many factors that go into your home’s unique construction and ventilation system, an accurate estimate will require an attic and roof inspection.
Adding insulation to your attic without consideration for your home’s air ventilation system can lead to numerous issues. While your insulation & ventilation systems are not mutually exclusive, they depend on each other for comfort, efficiency, and safety. With the average winter heating bill climbing over 33.3% compared to previous years, the supply chain issue for fiberglass insulation is critically low.
Using the right insulation can be a game-changer, especially for homes that are over ten years old. While blow insulation fits Northwest Indiana like a glove, don’t compromise fiberglass with low-grade cellulose. Cellulose flattens and loses its insulation values when it is introduced to moisture and condensation. It also creates dust and bacteria that can cause respiratory issues and allergies. With supply issues, this will be pushed by many contractors that have blow insulation vacuums.
Finally, choose your insulation installation professional carefully. Look for a contractor with roofing expertise that is fully insured and bonded. They can efficiently help you find solutions to both your home’s fresh air ventilation system and assure insulation keeps the cold air out while allowing fresh air to circulate. But don’t wait too long, or you might be left in the cold!
Article by Jim Jano Janesheski