A person laying insulation down in an attic. They are wearing appropriate protective gear. In the foreground, there is a stack of insulation waiting to be placed.

How to Install Insulation For Homes, Portables, or Other Structures

Installing insulation in your metal building or home doesn’t have to be difficult. Even if you’re not a professional, this is a task that you can likely tackle on your own. There are, however, a few tips and tricks you can take advantage of to make the process easier.

Calculating How Much Insulation You Need

Each structure will require a different amount of insulation. First, measure out the windows and doors by gathering their height and width. Then multiply the two numbers together to get the area. After measuring out the total square footage of the wall, you will then subtract the areas for the doors and windows. 

Depending on the size and style of your home, you may require more or less insulation and different materials, all of which are factors that can directly influence the overall cost. Buildings like greenhouses can be best served from plastic insulation, whereas barns may best benefit from fiberglass insulation.

Types of Insulation

You’ll want to figure out the type of material you’ll use for your insulation, as there are several different options, and each has its associated cost. 

Loose-Fill Insulation

You may also hear loose-fill insulation referred to as blown-in insulation. If you have a house with spaces that are hard to reach, this may be your best choice.

This type of insulation is made up of small particles that form fibers or foam, and there are a few common materials that can be used for loose-fill insulation:

  • Fiberglass;
  • Cellulose; 
  • Rock Wool. 

Blanket Insulation

This type of insulation is also referred to as “batts” or “rolls” of insulation. To get the most from this type, you will have to correctly install it and follow your local ordinances for insulating your home. 

A few common materials can be used for blanket insulation; all of them vary in price. 

  • Fiberglass: 
  • Natural Fibers:
  • Plastic Fibers. 

Rigid Board Insulation

This is a good choice of insulation if you have a large area to cover and need a high r-value. Some people choose to mix and match their insulation types, using rigid board to cover the bigger areas in their homes. This insulation works as a barricade that prevents water condensation. There are three main types of rigid board insulation materials you will find: 

  • Expanded Polystyrene (EPS): This is a lightweight material that is made up of cellular plastic material. It’s budget-friendly and can be used for various applications. 
  • Extruded Polystyrene (XPS): You will typically find this used in attics, walls, or ceilings. It’s a rigid thermoplastic material. 
  • Polyisocyanurate: This is a rigid foam board that is stapled to facers in a house. It can be used for at-home specialty applications. 

Spray Foam Insulation

If you have a home with many irregular spaces, this is a good option. It provides heat and cold barriers in walls and can be placed strategically. This type of insulation seals gaps and resists heat transfer. Most spray foam is made of Polyurethane, composed of organic units.

Insulating Walls vs. Floors vs. Attics

When you’re planning out your project and accounting for cost and how much of the material you’ll need, don’t forget to consider attics and floors. There are a few notable differences between insulating walls, floors, and attics that you’ll want to be aware of. 

  • To insulate walls: You will need to remove the drywall to add insulation to your walls. If there are no braces, you will need to build those in. You will then fill each of these cavities until they are snug with insulation. 
  • To insulate floors: If you have a room that touches the ground outside, you will want to insulate it, and this can be especially true for basements. The best way to insulate these floors is by accessing the floorboards from underneath, if you can, or by attaching wood frames to the floor. In each of these cavities, you will add in the insulation. 
  • To insulate attics: Fill up the floor of your attic with blanket insulation; if you’re trying to finish your attic and make it liveable, however, then you will not want to do this. If the roof of your attic has frames, fill those cavities with insulation instead. 

You may need to build braces that hold the insulation and then place drywall on top of the braces. If you have covered spaces you want to insulate, you will want to remove the drywall to install the new insulation. 

Cutting Insulation

Not all insulation will fit by default inside the spaces that you want it to, and it will be important to ensure you have no gaps. Some city codes may even require you to overlap pieces of insulation, so don’t be surprised if you find that you need to cut the pieces to fit properly. 

Cut to Width

Take the time to make precise measurements so you’ll have your insulation at the right dimensions before installation. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when cutting the width of insulation: 

  1. Roll out your insulation: Ensure that you do this over a firm surface to keep the mess minimal and to ensure you don’t cut through to any carpet or flooring. Ensure that the vapor barrier is facing upwards. 
  2. Use a 2×4 plank: Use an extra piece of wood that is cut 12 inches longer than the width of the insulation piece. Then, press the piece of wood where you’d like to cut and put pressure on the piece of wood. 
  3. Use a box knife: Cut through the insulation at the cutting line using a utility or box knife. As you are cutting, you will want to keep pressure on the wood piece. This will ensure you get a nice and even cut. 

To keep safe while cutting the insulation, you should consider wearing long sleeve shirts, long pants, a dust mask, gloves, and safety goggles. 

Cut to Length

The next step is to cut your insulation to length. Follow the same safety measures you deployed while cutting your insulation to width. Be sure to again take the time to double-check your measurements before making any cuts.

Fastening Insulation

Fastening insulation can be time-consuming, depending on how big your space is. To begin this process, make sure to follow these steps:

  1. Press the insulation between two studs, also known as the cavities. The moisture barrier should be facing up or away from the wall. Do not press it too hard. 
  2. There will be a mounting tab on each edge of the batt that you will need to unfold. 
  3. Flatten each tab on the front edge of the studs. 
  4. Use one-fourth-inch staples to fasten in the insulation. 
  5. Tap down any staples that are not flat. 

Adding the Vapor Barrier  

Depending on where you live, your local ordinances may require you to add a vapor barrier to your insulation. Primarily used in colder climates, this helps prevent moisture from penetrating the insulation. If insulation gets wet, there’s a chance it may not dry completely out, which could contribute to a host of issues including mold. 

You will need to purchase this separately and place it over the insulation once it is all finished. After the vapor barrier, you’ll then be able to reinstall the drywall.

Running into Obstacles

You may run into any host of potential challenges once you decide to dive in and start taking down the drywall of your home. You might find that doors and windows are hard to work around, or you may unintentionally damage your home during the process. 

If you find that you’re in over your head, there’s no shame in calling a professional. Handling fiberglass can be hazardous to your health, but a pro will know how to work with the material.

If you’re thinking about installing your own insulation, make sure that you give yourself the time to prepare your space and your materials. This will not only help set you up for a smooth process, but it will also allow you to plan for expenses and account for the necessary materials accordingly.