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How to insulate a heritage home

Renovating an old home is exciting. You want the old-world charm and heritage feel but also upgrade it to benefit from modern day building practices and available technology. One of the main components of renovating an older home is adding or renewing the insulation of the home.

It’s probably a good idea to prioritise how you’re going to insulate your home!

There are a few different types of insulation you can choose from. Each type of insulation comes with an R-value. The R-value measures how resistant the material is to heat flow (in and out) on a scale of 1.5 to 7 in order of increasing effectiveness.

  1. Reflective Insulation

The what: Materials used in this form of insulation include foil-faced kraft paper, plastic film, polyethylene bubbles, or cardboard. It is structured in a way that the top of the insulation material deflects radiant heat and the bottom / underside insulates the house. Fun fact: Space suits for NASA astronauts use reflective insulation to protect them from extremely hot and cold temperatures.

The where: This can be fitted within walls, in the roof/ceiling area and under the floor. Ideal for being fitted during a renovation due to its thickness.

  1. Bulk or batt insulation

The what: Batt insulation is the most commonly used insulation in Australian homes. If you’re living in a rental or a recently built property, poke your head into your attic and you might find this insulation being used! Bulk insulation can be found in rolls, boards or batts and is made of fiberglass, mineral (rock or slag), recycled paper, plastic fibers or natural fibers.

The where: The easiest and most effective place to install bulk insulation during a renovation is in the ceiling/ attic floors. Alternatively, you can also install them in the crawl space of your home if the property is on stumps.

The how: Bulk insulation contains millions of air bubbles or tiny pockets of air. Given that air is a bad conductor of heat, this form of insulation prevents the flow of heat from entering your home.

  1. Polyisocyanurate (PIR) insulation

The what: PIR insulation can be found in the form of rigid foam boards. Most typically, these boards are a sandwich created with two high performance aluminium foils on the outside and a rigid PIR insulation at the core. This creates an effective insulation board that is tough, durable, and lightweight. You can also find them bonded to plasterboard, plywood or coated with mineral glass.

The how: This type of insulation is effective to eliminate thermal bridges and are easy to cut to shape and get into tricky corners. Due to their make, they also guard against moisture and keep mould and mildew at bay.

  1. Blow-in or spray insulation

The what: This is exactly how it sounds. Unlike the first two types that need to be measured and cut to the shape of your space, spray insulation is simply sprayed into place. Made of small, loose fragments of fiberglass or organic cellulose, this insulation type can be used to fill spaces efficiently and effectively. While the organic material dwindles in effectiveness and is more prone to mould, fiberglass usually remains constant throughout its shelf life.

The where: The most common place this is used is in the attic and to fill in spaces within tight walls. Because of its lose nature, it is easy to fill in gaps or tricky corners with blow-in insulation.

The how: This is often used to complement one of the other two types of insulations. For example, if your batt roll has left some gaps due to tight / tricky corners, you can use blow-in insulation to fill them in.

  1. Eco-friendly insulation materials

The what: Insulation made from materials such as wool, dense pack cellulose, cork/wood fibres, hempcrete or straw bale are all examples of eco-friendly insulation. Using these materials in your build not only helps run an energy efficient home but also keep the carbon footprint of your overall build low.

The where: Depending on the material you use, this insulation can be available in the form of panels, bulk infills, or blow in sprays. They can be installed in any part of your house (e.g. roof, walls, or under the floor).

The how: Based on their format, this type of insulation has the same benefits as the others mentioned above.

The Queens Park project is a classic example of a hybrid insulation solution that made use of PIR, batt insulation and blow-in cellulose insulation.

Other budget friendly ways to improve the insulation in your home are to seal the space around your windows, draught proof your chimney/ fireplace to block off the draft and seal off cracks and gaps with a water-proof, mould resistant sealant.

If you’re thinking about a reno and need to improve the insulation in your home, get an expert to customise a solution to your space.

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