Old homes have old home insulation, and some types are dangerous to handle. Home owners in Phoenix want to know what wall & attic insulation they have when they buy new homes or plan on renovating spaces. In the past couple of decades insulation has taken giant leaps. Leaps in performance, durability, and safety has meant improved efficiency and health for occupants. Now days to insulate your walls and attic you can use soy based or even recycled blue jeans to keep you comfortable all year long.
Older homes probably have the original insulation that was installed when the house was built. Knowing what is behind the walls is a big deal when you are dedicated to keeping your family safe, sound, and healthy. This is only more true if the yearly cleaning routine includes climbing up into the attic, or there are plans to renovate and use the space. This is what you need to understand about the three main types of insulation that is common in older homes.
What Is It? Fiberglass insulation is finely spun glass fibers that are tightly packed to create a lofted material. It is then made into sheets, cut into rolls, and usually backed with paper. It is also possible to spray fiberglass as loose fill into walls. It has been, and continues to be one of the most popular insulation types there is.
How Does It Work? The tiny air pockets inside of fiberglass insulation create a barrier against thermal transfer. This means both the heat and the cold outside of our homes meets that barrier when trying to come inside. The loft and compression of the material has a big effect on its performance. This is why its effect is diminished when heavy items or boxes are stored on top of it.
Potential Fiberglass Hazards
There was a time where people believed that there was a risk of carcinogen with fiberglass insulation. The world health organization has since removed this insulation material from their possible carcinogen list in 2001. While it isn’t proven to be a risk for cancer you still should use proper protection if you are working near it, or working with it. Microscopic slivers of glass can become airborne and irritate your throat, lungs, and skin.
What to do if you have it – If you need to work directly with the material make sure you wear goggles, gloves, a dust mask, a long sleeve loose fitting shirt and long pants. Otherwise it is best to just simply avoid disturbing the insulation. If you do work with your insulation make sure any dust is cleaned up and disposed of properly.
What Is It? Vermiculite is a light weight material used in insulation in years past. Its appearance is shiny and looks like mineral. It is a absorbent and fire retardant material that has been used in soundproofing and even to fluff up gardening soil.
How Does It Work? It was installed by simply pouring bags of it in between ceiling joists. Its light weight and porous material acts much like the gaps between fiberglass fibers. The air pockets act as a barrier to the thermal transfer from the hot and cold weather outside. It was a very popular option during a lot of the 20th century.
Possible Vermiculite Hazards
Vermiculite as a product isn’t harmful. In fact you can still buy vermiculite at gardening stores to help fluff up your gardening soil. However one of the sources that was widely used in the United States has asbestos content in the material. This material was used until about 1990. For homeowners that have homes built before 1990 and have vermiculite insulation, you must assume that it contains asbestos. The EPA states that asbestos exposure leads to lung cancer, asbestosis, and even mesothelioma.
What to do if you have it – Don’t touch it, don’t move it, and don’t disturb it in your attic. Trying to remove the insulation yourself poses serious risks to your health. Also storage around the material is a bad idea, any boxes or items you usually store in your attic should be moved carefully. If the home needs renovations that require holes being cut into the ceiling they should only be carried out by contractors that are trained and certified to work with asbestos.
Mineral Wool Insulation
What Is It? Mineral wool is an insulation material that was popular before World War II. There are two main forms of mineral wool, slag wool and rock wool. Slag wool is a byproduct that forms on the top of molten metal. Rock wool is a bit like making cotton candy from molten rock. The strands are similar to fiberglass and are tiny intertwined fibers.
How does it work? The materials are formed into batts, blankets, fiber blocks, or boards. They can be found being installed for the purpose of thermal insulation, or even soundproofing. Mineral wool can also be found in walls and attics as loose fill.
Possible Mineral Wool Hazards
Much like fiberglass insulation mineral wool particles can become airborne and pose an inhalation hazard. Care should be taken by wearing the same dust mask, goggles, and other protective clothing to prevent exposure to mineral wool. It shouldn’t be disturbed or worked with without your protective gear.
Updating Your Home’s Insulation
Some types of old home insulation lose their effectiveness, and others are down right dangerous to have in the home. Modern insulation options are better equipped to insulate, save money, and are healthier insulating materials. If you have a home that is older and contains some of these older insulation types we offer insulation removal in the Phoenix area, and we can install new modern insulation alternatives like spray foam insulation. Call 602-499-2922 or today to get the process started.