Which insulation is better for the attic: comparison of the 6 most popular materials

Selecting the appropriate attic insulation is essential to preserving your home’s comfort and energy efficiency. Choosing the material that best fits your needs can be overwhelming with so many options available. To assist you in making an informed choice, we will compare six of the most widely used attic insulation materials in this post.

Because fiberglass insulation is so inexpensive and efficient, it’s one of the most popular options. It comes in rolls, batts, or loose-fill forms and is made of fine glass fibers. Because of its reputation for being moisture- and heat-resistant, fiberglass insulation is a popular choice among homeowners.

Cellulose insulation is another well-liked choice; it’s created from recycled paper products that have been fire-treated. The ability of cellulose to tightly fill spaces and minimize air leakage makes it an environmentally friendly material. It offers effective thermal insulation and is frequently selected due to its low cost and advantages for the environment.

Spray foam insulation is becoming more and more well-liked because of its superior insulating qualities and capacity to successfully seal cracks and gaps. When applied, it expands to form a seamless barrier that stops air from leaking in. Spray foam insulation provides better thermal resistance and can eventually reduce heating and cooling costs, even though it is more expensive than other options.

Mineral wool insulation is prized for its soundproofing and fire resistance properties. It can be made from synthetic or natural minerals. It effectively reduces noise transmission and provides thermal insulation because it is lightweight but dense. Because mineral wool resists moisture and doesn’t encourage the growth of mold or mildew, it is appropriate for humid environments.

Insulation with a radiant or reflective barrier disperses heat from your house instead of absorbing it. It is composed of insulating materials like cardboard, plastic film, or polyethylene bubbles that have a reflective surface (typically aluminum foil) applied to them. Reflective insulation works especially well in hot climates where it’s important to cut down on radiant heat gain.

Last but not least, rigid foam insulation provides excellent heat resistance in a comparatively thin shape. It is made of polyurethane, polyisocyanurate, or polystyrene and is renowned for being resilient to moisture and wear. In spaces with limited area but a need for high insulation values, like cathedral ceilings or unvented low-slope roofs, rigid foam insulation is frequently utilized.

Knowing which type of attic insulation is best is essential for homeowners making this decision. In order to assist you in making an informed decision, this article examines and contrasts six common insulation materials: mineral wool, mineral wool-based spray foam, fiberglass, cellulose, rigid foam boards, and natural fibers like cotton or wool. We’ll assess their efficacy in terms of cost-effectiveness, durability, ease of installation, and insulation value, offering helpful advice to help you make an informed choice. Regardless of your priorities—energy efficiency, environmental responsibility, or financial constraints—this guide will help you make sense of the confusing world of attic insulation options so you can select the best option for your house and requirements.

Attic requirements

Which insulation for the attic roof is therefore the best? It all depends on your expectations, as there isn’t much that can replace basalt insulation—which can withstand temperatures of up to 1000°C—for the thermal insulation of the attic and sauna, which house fireproof smoke pipes. However, basalt is not the best material for insulating the summer house’s regular attic because mice can eat it.

Every material has advantages and disadvantages of its own. Most people consider the following factors when selecting an attic insulation material:

  1. Thermal insulation qualities.
  2. Economy.
  3. Durability.
  4. Convenience of installation.
  5. Water -repellent properties.
  6. Noise insulation
  7. Universality

However, we shall tackle this matter from a professional standpoint. Naturally, the insulation’s capacity to stall heat still makes it the most valuable feature:

An additional crucial question is: can the attic’s floors and walls be heated and insulated using the same material? Consequently, take note of the following: if an insulation product’s name includes the term "universal," it means that it can be used for warming the roof as well as for walls, floors, and other surfaces. The best option for attic decoration is to buy the material of your choice and finish the walls, the gables, and the floor right away. All of the insulation will now function and have the same qualities over an extended period of time, making it quicker and less problematic.

And now for the part about sound absorption. However, why is there noise insulation on the roof when there are no neighbors or leg clatter noises behind it? Let’s assume that there are no such questions for people whose homes have metal roofing (corrugated board, metal tile), and who have at least had rain at some point. It is evident that a non-residential attic can continue to be left without sound insulation, but silence is the most important factor to consider when setting up a residential attic.

Additionally, the type of material used for the attic’s supporting structure—wood, metal, or reinforced concrete—determines the insulation option. In order to prevent the attic space from igniting like a match, the heater should have less fuel the more fuel the same rafters contain.

Lastly, the most valuable property for the attic insulation because of the continuous presence of water vapor in the space is hydrophobic:

Which heat is best for your home’s attic roof in particular.

How the attic is insulated today?

The most widely used materials for attic insulation are fiberglass and mineral wool insulation, as well as more recent and less thoroughly researched natural materials, foil plates, and ecowata.

Glass wool: and I want and pricks

Wool made of fiberglass is among the least expensive options. It is easy to install, contains no toxicity when closed, and deters small rodents from using it because it doesn’t contain any organic materials. Most significantly, there is a second degree of fire safety with glass wool, which is numerous.

The only real negative is that fine glass dust can cause damage to mucous membranes and intense skin itching when it gets inside. You therefore need specific closed-clothing, gloves, a respirator, and glasses for this kind of work. After installation work is completed, clothing cannot be saved by washing; it must be destroyed. Take note that anyone who has ever worked with glassy bare hands due to carelessness or stupidity will always be around her.

Isover and URSA are two common glass wing grades used for attic insulation.

Izover has excellent noise absorption capabilities in addition to its thermal insulation, making it a valuable heater. For this reason, if you plan to outfit your attic for a home theater or a kid’s play area, go with this insulation rather than that one. Your evenings will then be peaceful!

It all comes down to these insulation’s unique air lenses. The combination of materials with varying densities significantly impedes the propagation of sound waves. For instance, sound from rain will no longer be audible after covering a metal tile roof with insulation.

The URSA heater is composed of natural materials, specifically quartz sand and fiberglass, as promised by the manufacturer. This place poses no threat or harm to people or the environment. In addition, the material manages to retain heat quite well, muffles sound, and, due to its inorganic origin, repels rodents and insects.

Mineral (basalt) cotton wool: in priority – heat

Fibers made of basalt make up mineral wool. It is difficult to overestimate this material because of its excellent vapor permeability, low hygroscopicity, and slight weight. It is available for purchase as plates ranging in thickness and size from 50 to 150 mm.

Because of its multi-layered structure, which delays air in certain layers, mineral wool retains heat. Additionally, a password like "Breathing" is also a heater of this kind.

One of the drawbacks of mineral wool is that it can absorb moisture to a small extent and quickly gathers dust within itself. Regarding the fire safety of mineral wool, quartz sand can even put out a fire if it starts, which is a nuisance.

Basalt is the most well-known and safest variety of mineral wool. Remember that basalt is a naturally occurring substance—a stone that is melted and manufactured into tiny fibers. Yes, since this is the melting point, the insulation does not actually burn up to 1000 °C. However, his mice are able to chew.

"Rochelite" is a well-known brand of basalt cotton wool because of its superior heat and noise insulation, non-flammability, and simplicity of installation. Furthermore, this insulation’s cost is pleasantly surprising. Enough quality has been achieved. This insulation’s fire safety at a height is due to its capacity to sustain temperatures of up to +1000C for a brief period of time.

Additionally, Rozlaite is very resilient, doesn’t cake, and maintains its vapor-permeable qualities for the duration of its service life. Because the walls are "breathing," the fungus never gets a chance to grow in this insulation, which is crucial for the attic.

Extruded polystyrene foam: easy solution

Many find extruded polystyrene foam appealing due to its water resistance, simplicity, and ease of installation. Insulation installation itself resembles assembling a puzzle. But you might be surprised to learn how inexpensive this insulation is.

However, on its own, polystyrene is rarely used to insulate attics because it works better in combination with other materials. Similar to this instance:

Foam: cheap, angry and risky

One of the most affordable roof heaters available. The main reason foam is beneficial is that it is simple to install with your hands without the need for any special tools, and it works particularly well for attic or roof slopes.

There are various densities in foam. Because of this material’s excellent sound insulation, loud noises like raindrops on a metal roof can be ignored. Another benefit of foam is that it does not settle over time.

The degree to which the foam used is stiff will determine how robust the material is for bending and squeezing. It is not advisable to choose the hardest heaters for roof insulation because the denser the material, the more combustible it will be.

PPU: We reach the most inaccessible places

The area beneath the roof will be entirely residential when the attic is heated from the inside using PPU, or polyurethane foam. Along with some other benefits, I must add that this is really good thermal insulation.

  1. PPU has excellent heat protection indicators: only 2.5 cm will protect the attic from the cold in the same way as 8 cm of mineral wool. For comparison, the polystyrene foam copes with its task almost twice worse.
  2. Another valuable advantage: when warming with polyurethane foam, you will not need a frame or special mounts. The sprayed PPU has no seams, because it is always the bridge of the cold.
  3. If hoods and chimneys pass through the attic, around which it is especially difficult to create sealing, give preference to this insulation. The same applies to any complex shapes and surfaces.
  4. PPU does not dive and calmly contacts any roofing material.
  5. Polyurethane foam has excellent adhesion with any surface.
  6. Unlike polystyrene foam, which is close to PPU in its thermal insulation properties, this material is vapor permeable, t.e. "Breathing". What for the attic is a valuable quality.
  7. PPUs do not eat mice, insects do not sharpen, it does not rot and does not mold.

One drawback of this type of insulation is that it is unfeasible to spray PPU by hand without the necessary equipment. Either hire an entire construction crew, or find a qualified contractor.

Natural wool: environmentally friendly, but problematic

Certainly, felt and natural wool are widely utilized as roofing insulation in various regions, particularly in the Caucasus region. These are also perfectly acceptable materials: SNiP lists woolen felt as a vapor-permeable building material. Additionally, the insulation coefficient is the same as that of basalt insulation.

These wools are typically placed in bags and are already arranged in thick rows inside the roof. However, occasionally they use it as a complete insulation in a roof pie, already processed to remove an unwanted smell.

Because there are so many sheep in the Caucasus, wool is extremely inexpensive there. Consequently, using this material in excess makes insulation easier than buying pricey ready-made insulation. And the drawbacks are substantial: these are rodents and insects that merely adore everything natural.

Ecowata: Simple and environmentally friendly

The so-called ecovata is another intriguing novelty. Prepare it by finely chopping waste newspapers and treating them with antiseptics and anti-piren agents. Regarding the widespread concerns that newspapers contain hazardous lead, this technology has long since been obsolete.

It’s true that you won’t be able to accomplish this with your hands alone; special tools are required.

We’re going to practice now. When purchasing attic insulation, one of the things you consider is whether to use rolls or mats.

Fiberglass Pros: Good thermal performance, widely available. Cons: Can be irritating to skin and lungs during installation.
Cellulose Pros: Made from recycled paper, good at reducing air leaks. Cons: Can settle over time, potentially reducing effectiveness.
Spray Foam Pros: Excellent air sealing, high R-value per inch. Cons: Expensive, may require professional installation.
Rigid Foam Pros: High R-value, moisture resistant. Cons: More costly, can be difficult to install without gaps.
Mineral Wool Pros: Fire resistant, excellent sound insulation. Cons: Higher cost than fiberglass or cellulose.
Natural Wool Pros: Renewable, good moisture management. Cons: More expensive, can be a habitat for pests if not treated.

Selecting the appropriate attic insulation is essential for your home’s comfort and energy efficiency. Depending on your particular requirements, each of the six well-liked materials—fiberglass, cellulose, rigid foam, mineral wool, spray foam, and natural fibers—offers a different set of advantages.

Fiberglass insulation is a popular option because of its low cost and simplicity of installation. It fits tightly into different attic spaces and effectively reduces heat transfer. Though it may settle over time, cellulose, which is made from recycled paper, is excellent at filling in spaces and is environmentally friendly.

Spray foam insulation creates a seamless barrier against air leaks and has excellent air sealing qualities, making it perfect for attics with irregular shapes. Mineral wool is a safe and effective option because it is made from natural minerals and has excellent fire resistance and soundproofing capabilities.

In colder climates, rigid foam insulation performs exceptionally well, offering better insulation for every inch of thickness. It doesn’t settle or deteriorate with time and is resistant to moisture. Natural fiber insulation with good thermal performance, like cotton or wool, is appealing to people looking for sustainable solutions.

The ideal insulation for your attic ultimately depends on variables like climate, spending capacity, and desired level of performance. You can evaluate these aspects and make an informed choice that optimizes your home’s comfort and energy efficiency by speaking with insulation specialists.

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Alexandra Fedorova

Journalist, author of articles on construction and repair. I will help you understand the complex issues related to the choice and installation of the roof.

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