As a home owner, it’s important to check the insulation in your property on a pretty regular basis. It can be a crucial aspect of living a comfortable life that is often overlooked. If your home is poorly insulated, it may be costing you more money on your energy bills over time. You’ll need to rely on your boiler and internal radiators to keep the house warm during the colder months, or you may find it’s retaining too much heat in the summer.
If you have just moved into a new home or you have never checked the existing insulation before, it can often be difficult to know where to start. In this guide, we’ll take you through the different types of home insulation and explain how to go about checking each one.
How To Check Your Loft Insulation
A good place to start when checking the insulation in your home is the loft, as roughly a quarter of heat is lost through poor roof insulation. Depending on the age of your home, the quality of the loft insulation will vary. Many older homes in the UK often have insulation that is poorly installed or is under the regulation amount. To check your loft insulation, it’s important to take the following steps:
- Make sure you know what you are looking for. Essentially, before you do anything, you should know what the regulations suggest. As best practice, loft insulation should be at least 270mm thick, which has been increased from 100mm in previous years.
- Try to find out when the last time the loft insulation was checked. As mentioned, regulations have changed in recent years, so if you know your loft insulation hasn’t been topped up in the last five years, it will be due a check.
- Know the indicators of poor loft insulation. If you find that you’re paying over the odds on your heating bills or there are specific cold spots throughout your home, the chances are that your insulation is not working as it should.
- Decide whether to lay the insulation yourself. If you need to add layers of insulation, you’ll need to decide who’s doing it. If you have experience laying insulation, then you may prefer to do it yourself. Remember that protective gear should be worn, and to account for things such as electrical wiring, water tanks and ventilation. Sometimes if you’re unsure of anything, it’s best to hire a professional for the job. Make sure to check out our guide to loft insulation.
- Lag your pipes and water tanks. It’s also important to check these, as lagging them can prevent freezing.
- Ensure there are no gaps. Any gaps in the insulation can mean that heat escapes, vastly reducing its efficiency.
- Take the following steps:
- Measure the depth of the existing insulation using a tape measure and make a note.
- Measure the spacing between the joists. Begin at the mid-point of one joist and measure to the mid-point of the next one along. Usually, the distance will either be 400 or 600mm. This will then show you what the width of the insulation you may need is.
The Benefits of Loft Insulation
There are plenty of reasons to make sure the insulation in your loft is of an optimal standard, including:
- Saving money on your energy bills.
- Loft insulation is effective for at least 40 years.
- It is relatively easy and quick to install, if you know what you’re doing.
- Helps retain a large portion of heat in your home in winter.
- Can keep the property cool in the summer months.
- Increase the value and energy efficiency of your home.
How To Check Your Wall Insulation
While it’s quite straightforward to head to the attic and check on the current loft insulation for your home, it’s much more difficult to check your walls.
There are a few different options you can take when checking your wall insulation. In some cases, you may need to create a small hole in the wall that should be easy enough to cover up, while others may be less invasive.
Inspect Through an Electrical Box
- You can try to remove the cover plate on an electrical switch, then reviewing the gaps around the box for an evidence of fiberglass or loose-fill insulation.
- Removing the entire electrical box may be possible, to look into the wall cavity, but not if the box is nailed to the studs.
- Before doing so, it’s extremely important to shut off the circuit that powers this switch and ensure the power is completely off.
- Once this has been done, disconnect the device from the wires and remove the box from the wall. You can then see the inside of the walls, to check for any signs of insulation.
Check Behind the Baseboard
- Sometimes there may be a gap at the bottom of drywall panels, which are covered by the baseboard trim molding, which are often nailed in place.
- If you can remove a section of the baseboard for a short time, you should be able to see if there is insulation in the walls.
- While making sure you’re careful, work a flat pry bar behind the moulding while ensuring that you also protect the wall from damage.
- You may then be able to see either the kraft-paper of fiberglass batt insulation or traces of loose-fill insulation in the gaps.
Cut A Hole in the Wall
- If you’ve followed the above steps and can’t see signs of insulation, keep the baseboard left off for now and cut a small hole into the bottom of the wall, just above the wooden soleplate, between studs, but lower than the top of the baseboard.
- Use a small hole saw to drill a small hole into the wall.
- If insulation can be seen, it’s highly likely that it runs the length of the wall cavity. After the check, make sure to reinstall the baseboard molding, covering the hole that was left.
Cut A Hole in A Cupboard
- If you’re unable to remove the baseboard, another option you can take is to cut a hole in the wall that is not visible, such as in the back of a cupboard.
- Use a stud finder to locate the wall studs, to ensure that you don’t drill into one.
- Mark a point on the wall and cut a 3 or 4 inch hole, before checking for signs of insulation. You can use a coat hanger to probe into the wall, which will likely snag pieces of insulation if there are any.
The Benefits of Wall Insulation
Similar to loft insulation, there are loads of benefits to making sure your walls are insulated to an optimum standard, such as:
- Reduces the heat escaping through your walls and save on the energy bills.
- Protects against weatherproofing, due to keeping the building dry and warm.
- Reduces your carbon emissions.
- Keeps the house at the right temperature, both in the summer to protect it from becoming too warm and in the winter to keep the house warmer.
- Reduces damp and condensation, by slowing the rate of heat transfer through the walls.
- It can be quick and easy to install.
- Noise pollution is also reduced, through lowering the amount of noise that enters your home.
If you need to start from scratch or add to what you already have, our guide to wall insulation offers in depth details on steps you will need to take.
How To Check Your Floor Insulation
How you go about checking if your floors are insulated will depend on the type of underfloor insulation:
Underfloor Foil Insulation
- Note: Avoid touching the foil yourself unless you’ve had it checked by a registered electrician, as it could cause an electric shock.
- The foil is usually silver in colour and will often be looped between the joists with a sag of 100mm or more or stapled to them.
- Make sure the foil is in a good condition and is not tarnished or torn.
- All joins between foil runs should be overlapped and sealed with an adhesive foil tape.
- The airspace between the floor and foil should also be properly sealed.
- Ensure that the foil insulation covers all parts of the floor.
Underfloor Bulk or Polystyrene Insulation
- Bulk and Polystyrene insulation should be at least 50mm thick.
- Check that there are no gaps between the joists and the insulation itself.
- Ensure that the insulation is securely installed against the underside of the flooring.
- Make sure all parts of the floor are covered.
If you need to install new insulation, your underfloor must be accessible and more than half a metre off the ground.
The Benefits of Floor Insulation
Much the same as the loft and wall insulation, there are so many benefits to insulating your floors properly.
- Eliminates any drafts from entering the house via gaps in the flooring, keeping the home at a more optimal temperature.
- Prevents heat loss through impeding temperature change. More than 10% of an average home’s heat is lost through the floor, which can be even larger in older style homes with hardwood floors.
- It helps prevent pipes from freezing, particularly in the winter when pipes are prone to cracking and even bursting when the water freezes. Insulation between the pipes and the exterior of the home can lower the risks of this.
- Floor insulation can help create a vapor barrier, preventing moisture from creeping in and soaking the floor.
Our floor insulation guide goes into detail on the steps you need to take if you are insulating your floor for the first time.
How To Check Your Roof Insulation
Different to the loft insulation explained above, insulation for your roof can vastly improve the efficiency of your home. The type of roof insulation you’ll need can vary depending on the type of roof you have.
Pitched Roof Insulation
This type is applied directly to the underside of the roof and is often undergone when insulating the loft area is impractical or not possible. Pitched roof insulation often comes in a variety of forms, which includes boards and foil. Useful products for a pitched roof insulation include Celotex XR4000 Insulation Board and Kingspan Kooltherm K15 Rainscreen Board.
Flat Roof Insulation
Flat roofs are often found on home extensions, garages and dormer windows. They can let in the cold pretty easily and often prove quite difficult to insulate effectively. Having a flat roof can decrease the energy efficiency of your home, as cold can seep in and leaks can occur. To help reduce these issues, the best time to insulate a flat roof is when replacing the roof covering. Put a weatherproof layer on top, with rigid insulation with an R-Value that’s greater than 3.7m ²K/W and a weatherproof membrane before the timber or concrete below.
Benefits of Roof Insulation
- As with the other types of insulation, you can save money on your energy bills, with some homeowners reporting 20% savings once their roof has been insulated.
- Roof insulation can help prevent structural damage to the roof caused by things such as melted snow.
- By reducing the energy your home consumes, it’s better for the environment.
Our guide to roof and loft insulation can help with any questions you may have about the process.
No matter the type of home insulation you’re looking at, each will have large benefits. It’s important to check if your home does have the necessary insulation and that it is to an optimal standard. Don’t forget that you can buy any insulation board for your home here at Insulation Express.