Here are a few questions to ask before answering that question and adding insulation.
- How old is my house?
- Are there any government grants available?
- Am I planning any renovations soon?
- What impact will this update have on my home’s efficiency and energy bills.
The sole purpose of insulation in any house, especially in Canada, is to regulate the flow of heat in a home. In the winter, if a house is properly insulated, it will retain warmth and keep the energy bills low. In the summer, it will allow the house to be cooler.
Have you heard the term R-Value of insulation before? Insulation is measured by its R-flow, which is the insulation’s resistance to heat. The higher the R-flow, the more the house is insulated.
The building code in Ontario has changed over the years and houses are now built with a higher R-value, as governments at all levels are trying to keep energy costs and demands low. The current Ontario Code requirement for attic insulation is R-60. Just 30 years ago the requirement was R-32. The reason the attic insulation has changed so much is that heat rises and a lot of heat loss can occur from the attic. The graphic below is based on older standards but it can show you the required depth of insulation for each R-Value. With the current R-60 requirement, the required depth for the insulation types listed below is about 24”.
When is it time to add insulation in an older home?
If your house was built more than 15 years ago then it’s time to add insulation in your attic. Insulation does not have to be replaced unless it was damaged by pests, animals, or water damage. The costs of adding and replacing insulation are different. It is highly recommended to bring your attic insulation to current standards so that you don’t have to worry about it for a long time.
What about adding insulation to the exterior walls?
Replacing insulation in the walls is not easy and not necessary or feasible in some cases. Most heat loss from the walls structure is from the windows, therefore updating windows is what is needed here. Current insulation levels for walls require 2 x 6 framing, therefore if your house was built with 2 x 4 framing, updating is not feasible. If your house is older than 20 years old, we would recommend looking into the replacement of the windows with modern efficient double-glazed windows and not to worry about the wall insulation.
Why is the basement insulation different in older homes than in hewer homes?
The basement insulation requirements have changed over time. Current requirements are for R20 insulation at the full height of the basement wall. When finishing or renovating the basement, it is highly recommended to bring your basement insulation to current standards. In some cases, you will have to remove the older insulation and install new one. We see basement renovations all the time, where the insulation is only 4 ft high (Pre 2000 standards) and the homeowner does not update the insulation to the full height of the wall. This will create condensation issues and sometimes shows on the drywall as water damage. If you will do something, do it right and think of the long term.
Is spray foam insulation better for homes?
Spray foam insulation is a relatively new product and is used mostly in custom-built homes and in specific areas of subdivision homes because of its high cost. It is good insulation for exterior walls, hard-to-reach areas and garage ceilings. It is not recommended to use spray foam insulation in the attic unless it is to insulate heating ducts. Using spray foam in the attic will make any future changes very difficult. Spray foam insulation is also required to be covered with drywall inside the home, therefore the costs add up.
- Why is the room above the garage colder? This is typical and the reason for it is that the temperatures in the garage are typically cooler, whether the garage is insulated or not. The current insulation requirement for the garage ceiling is R32. Older homes may have lower insulation levels. If you do plan to reinsulate your garage ceiling, we highly recommend using spray foam insulation. Even though it is more expensive, it is highly recommended for this area.
- Could I update my attic insulation myself? You could, but if you are not familiar with the structure of the attic, you may block your soffit ventilation and create a big issue.
- Are government grants available all the time? This largely depends on government policy.
- Is there a better type of insulation? All currently used types of insulation are good when installed properly. It has been noted that cellulose insulation is not particularly liked by pests like mice.
- Should I spray foam my attic? Not recommended for different reasons. Once you spray foam, it is very difficult to do anything else like installing pot lights. Also, spray foam costs are high and the energy savings are the same. You could use spray foam for heating ducts, skylights, and other similar locations though.