What is Cellulose Insulation Used For? (Benefits and Types)


Having warmth during the cold months of the year, or simply being cold in your own home can be a problem, which is where cellulose comes into play.

Cellulose insulation regulates temperatures to decrease the loss of heat when it is too cold, and increase the capacity of coolness when it is too hot. Cellulose insulation is also strong enough to reduce the transference of noise between walls.

Cellulose is comparable to fiberglass, but has significant differences that make it its own entity. Keep reading to learn more about the benefits and most effective way of using it.

What Is Cellulose Insulation Made From?

Cellulose is a classic form of insulation and has been around since the use of recycling, which is how cellulose is created. Fun fact: cellulose is one of the best insulation solutions if you’re into saving the environment.

This thick, packed block of insulation material is made from approximately 80-85% recycled paper, mostly newsprint considering that is the most common type of paper thrown away.

Cellulose can also be made out of denim print, which are scraps of denim fabric that is mixed in with the recycled newsprint paper. Typically, manufacturers will shred the paper and fabric down to its smallest size to make it easier to condense and significantly reduce air flow.

It is then fiberized and treated with (mostly) safe chemicals to make it more adhesive and increase life expectancy of the insulation. Fire-retardant chemicals like sodium borate, ammonium sulfate, and borax are used to keep the paper from trapping too much heat and becoming a flame within your home.

How Does Cellulose Insulation Work?

After being shredded and treated, cellulose starts with being packed into the walls, nooks, and crannies of residences and commercial buildings. With proper installation, cellulose helps keep air circulating effectively by creating a solid heat barricade around its designated area.

Air pockets are a major issue when it comes to regulating temperature, which is why a massive amount of the material is needed to get the job done. Let’s also add that air pockets are the cause of almost one-third of the average home’s heat loss, making a surplus amount necessary.

Multiple layers of the material are layered to create a stronger barrier and prevent major and minor air pockets from forming. This makes it very challenging for heat or cold (depending on your location) to travel or leak out, creating temperature-regulation for your home or building.

Cellulose insulation also keeps air from coming into the protected area, which keeps the balance of cold-to-warm air that flows through the walls and air conditioning systems.

Types of Cellulose Insulation

Cellulose insulation comes in different forms including:

  • Dense-packed: Typically used in walls and ceilings, dense-packed cellulose insulation is one the most common forms of application. It fits well between small and large-spaced walls and can be cut into smaller shapes for even fitting. It also is a popular choice for houses that are being remodeled and renovated and can come in att or rolled-out forms.
  • Loose-fill: This option is great for efficient and quick installation. Since the cellulose is already shredded and treated, a machine is used to “blow in” the material across the floor or in walls.

Loose-fill is a noted choice for areas like attics due to the size of the surface area that needs to be covered. Using it to fill walls can be practical as well, but requires more effort to keep it packed tight since the material is, well, loose.

  • Wet-applied spray: The main difference in this form of cellulose insulation is that water is added as a solution during the creation process, which makes it more moist than the others.

Wet-applied spray cellulose is typically installed during the construction of a new home, or complete renovation of an old one prior to drywall being installed.

Pros and Cons of Cellulose Insulation

The benefits and disadvantages of cellulose depend heavily on where you live, what type of house you have, and the environmental temperature that surrounds your residence.

Some of the advantages include:

  • Fewer health risks! Cellulose has a moderately lower risk of causing harm to your skin or lungs from chemical inhalation, compared to fiberglass.
  • Because of the fire-retardant chemicals used, like boric acid, cellulose has a minimal-to-no chance of catching fire.
  • Cellulose is eco-friendly! It helps to save and use ample amounts of discarded paper, and is put to use effectively, saving about 15-20% of used material from entering landfills.
  • Cellulose is thicker than fiberglass, making it more effective for getting rid of air pockets and increasing efficiency of temperature regulation inside and outside the applied area.
  • Acrylic binder is a solution used for helping cellulose hold together, making the quality of the insulation longer-lasting over time.

However, some of the shortcomings are:

  • Breathing masks are officially required during installation because cellulose releases tons of dust when being placed or blown-in.
  • Cellulose insulation is moisture-prone, and can become wet over time. This reduces the value of the material and could cause mold or rot.
  • A vapor barrier is necessary during dry, wet, and loose-fill installation.
  • Cellulose insulation costs more than fiberglass.

How Long Will Cellulose Insulation Last?

The lifeline of cellulose insulation is based on the R-value and other associated factors. (R)esistance value is the level at which an insulation material can resist heat flow.

The higher the number, the better the resistance, and cellulose has an R-value of approximately R-3.2, which is higher than the industry standard of R-2.8-3.0, and fiberglass at an average of R-3.0.

When it comes to loose-fill, cellulose ranges between R-3.1 and R-3.8, while batts and roll-outs are rated at approximately R-3.5 per inch of thickness. When packed correctly, cellulose insulation can last up to 30 years before becoming ineffective.

However, factors like mildew, mold, and excess moisture can shorten the lifespan down to about 20-25 years depending on how long it remains within the material. If not properly packed, you can expect on average 15 years of strong cellulose insulation before needing to re-pack it.

How Much Does Cellulose Insulation Cost?

You should know tht different types of insulation have different prices. Based on the average size of an American home being around 1,500-1,600 square foot cellulose insulation can cost around $1.20 per square foot for blown-in insulation, equalling between $2,000 and $3,000.

Dense-packed cellulose insulation ranges from $2.00-$2.30 per square foot, while wet-spray is moderately more affordable at $0.60. However, there is a way to make this endeavor cheaper and that’s by turning it into a do-it-yourself project!

Labor cost is more than the cost of the actual materials, so if you choose to take matters into your own hands, the cost drops approximately 55% between $1,300 and $1,900. Explore the options to see which format is best for your home renovation.

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