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About Interior Insulation

Most communities have building codes that require a minimum amount of insulation in a house’s exterior walls and ceiling. Insulating interior walls isn’t as common, although it offers homeowners some energy saving and sound-dampening benefits. The best time to insulate all walls is during new construction, but it’s possible to add insulation to existing walls without tearing off the drywall.

Sound Dampening

Insulating interior walls reduces some sound transfer from room to room. Because sound also travels through wood framing, insulating a standard interior wall doesn’t provide a completely soundproof barrier. In rooms that require heavy sound dampening, such as home theaters, a double-framed wall consisting of offset studs in addition to insulation is usually necessary.

Energy Efficiency

Interior wall insulation can save on home utility costs, especially if the house has rooms that are not in use year-round. Three-season rooms, unused guest rooms or even storage rooms are expensive to heat and cool. Interior wall insulation will reduce heat transfer. Although you’ll save some money by closing off rooms when not in use, if you live in a region with extreme temperature fluctuations, it’s not always a good idea to skip heating or cooling altogether. When rooms are not temperature controlled, the framing is more likely to expand and contract, which contributes to cracked drywall.

Party Walls

Interior walls that separate individual living spaces in duplexes or apartments, known as “party walls,” frequently require insulation, not only to reduce sound and thermal transfer but also to stop the spread of fire from one side of the wall to the other. In this case, the insulation must be fire-rated, along with the drywall, tape and compound used to construct the wall. Consult your local building authority before building or altering a party wall. You might need a permit, and a code-enforcement official will inspect the wall to ensure it complies with fire codes.

Insulation Choices

Fiberglass batt insulation is the least expensive and most do-it-yourself-friendly option. For new construction, choose unfaced batts and fit them between wall studs without compressing the batts. The batts come in widths to fit standard 16-, 19.2- and 24-inch stud spacing. Expandable foam insulation is available but requires professional installation. Blown-in cellulose is an option for existing walls. It requires holes drilled at the top of each stud space and patching afterward to repair the wall.

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Always follow the insulation manufacturer’s specific installation instructions, and be sure to adhere to local building code requirements. Codes in some areas may require you to staple the insulation flanges on the front (exposed) side of the framing to create a continuous vapor barrier. In very humid climates, building codes may not allow faced insulation at all.

Interior wall insulation can save on home utility costs, especially if the house has rooms that are not in use year-round. Three-season rooms, unused guest rooms or even storage rooms are expensive to heat and cool. Interior wall insulation will reduce heat transfer.

Interior wall insulation can help lower your energy bills. In winter, insulated walls will hold the heat in and prevent warmth from escaping. In summer, it will reduce the heat coming through the walls and retain the coolness inside the home.

Fiberglass batts, foam or cellulose can be used to insulate the interior walls. The third area that needs proper insulation is the floors. Rigid foam boards and traditional fiberglass batts work best on the floors.

Do the touch test. The interior ceilings, walls and floors in your home should feel warm and dry. When drywall and paneling inside a home feels damp or cold, there is not enough insulation. Alternatively, when touching an exterior wall, it should feel cold because insulation is keeping warm air inside a home.

Typical Insulation Lifespan

The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors states that spray foam insulation, wrap tape and housewrap insulation can last for more than 80 years. At the same time, cellulose, loose-fill, foamboard, loose fill and rock wool insulation can last up to 100 years.

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