Fashionably Green Houses are Wearing Blue Jeans…On the Inside

There are many options to consider when choosing insulation for your home. Traditional fiberglass batts, spray-in cellulose, spray foam and blue jean insulation are among the choices. So what are the advantages, pro’s and con’s of each type? Here’s an insulation comparison.

Blue Jean Insulation contains the scraps and waste material that is left over as a result of the denim manufacturing process.

  • Advantages: Using recycled/recyclable materials reduces loads on landfills; Good thermal performance; Good sound control; Most brands do not include harmful chemicals; does not contain skin-irritating fiberglass; works for do-it-youself insulation projects.
  • Downsides: It comes in batts which don’t fill gaps as tightly as foam; Blue jean insulation tends to be more expensive than other types of insulation.

Spray Foam Insulation is sprayed in place and expands to fill in the spaces between the studs and does a great job filling tiny cracks, creating a tightly sealed home when properly applied. There are different types of spray foam; closed or open cell, polyurethane or soy based. Some spray foam insulation products do not contain harmul chemicals.

  • Advantages: Spray foam provides the tightest seal, excellent thermal performance, and can easily be applied to attic ceilings, creating an insulated space for a/c ducting and pipes.
  • Downsides: Spray foam usually costs more than traditional batts or cellulose, and is not an easy project for a do-it-yourselfer.

Cellulose Insulation is also sprayed in place. Containing primarily recycled newspaper, cellulose insulation proves to be a viable alternative for those seeking a green alternative to traditional batts.

  • Advantages: Recycled content is a green choice; Provides good thermal performance; Many brands do not contain formaldehyde; Cost effective.
  • Downsides: Rumored to sag over time, reducing thermal performance; not an easy project for a do-it-yourself homeowner.

Traditional Fiberglass Batts are the most widely used type of insulation, having been around since the 1930’s. More recently, many people are seeking alternatives to fiberglass batts as concerns over health hazards related to breathing in fiberglass particles, skin irritation, and the controversial potential dangers of formaldehyde (used to preserve many brands insulation) have grown.

  • Advantages: Most cost effective; easier for do-it-yourself projects than spray-in insulation types.
  • Downsides: Does not seal the building as tightly as spray foam; possible health concerns; not a “green” building material.

Our top pick for total building insulation, assuming budget is not a concern, is spray foam. Our favorite for sound dampening (between floors or in plumbing walls) is blue jean insulation.