Saturday, 25 August 2012

Cotton insulation - love it!

Don’t throw out those old worn out jeans you’ve been hanging onto; recycle them!  There’s a good chance they could end up as insulation.  We struggled with what insulation to use and still adhere to our goal of a healthy, sustainable renovation.  We were caught in the Goldilocks syndrome; the fibreglass was cheap but too toxic, the spray foam was too toxic and expensive, the wool sounded great but was too expensive.  The cotton, though, was just right! 

Our double brick house has zero insulation in the exterior walls.  Mia did the research on this and found that cotton was our best alternative. It is made from natural, renewable, recyclable material that is only treated with borax to prevent mould growth.  The fibres are not damaging to the lungs and it contains no toxic chemicals.  It is more expensive than fibreglass but much cheaper than wool and not toxic like spray foam insulation.  For our kitchen reno we only needed one exterior wall insulated so the cost was not prohibitive. 

We contacted Kevin at the Eco Building Resource in Aurora who carries two types of cotton insulation.  We went with UltraTouch 3.5" X 16" X 94" (8 batt/bag). One bag covers 85 sq.ft.  We also ordered 2 x 24 oz. cans of Durafoam 0-VOC low density spray foam insulation to fill in some holes and cracks in the wall.  
Insulation just arrived

We love the product. Here are a couple of trouble shooting points:

1. The insulation batts are perforated lengthways and fairly easy to tear to fit for places with narrower spaces between the studs.  Cutting them horizontally to reduce the length proved more difficult for our contractor.  The batts are not perforated horizontally and a knife did not work.  He ended up tearing it which proved difficult.  When we contacted our supplier he suggested using a non-serrated knife, just ripping it as we did or for larger projects using a skill saw with the blade in backwards.

2. I was not present when the insulation was installed and I was surprised to see that it was all used up when I got home.  We ordered two bags which should have covered the wall with 60 sq. ft. to spare.  Our contractor, who is not familiar with this product, did not unfold the insulation and used it doubled over.  He thought that it was too thin unfolded.  There are instructions to shake it to increase  it’s volume as it is compressed during packaging and shipping.  I checked with the supplier who confirmed that it is meant to be unrolled in a single layer and that it will expand over time. 

Insulation done and ready for the drywall

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