Most Common Insulation Material Types

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Choosing the right insulation for your home means considering more than just the cost. While we know it’s important to stay on budget, it’s also important to consider the performance, longevity, and pros/cons of each material. By doing so, you’ll find that each insulation option has its own unique qualities. You’ll also find that some materials are better suited for certain places in your home than others. If you’d like to compare your options to see which insulation you can benefit from, the guide below can help.

Comparison of Popular Insulation Material Types


What’s it Made of? Fiberglass insulation is made of glass fibers that are bound together to create a fluffy yet strong material. It works as excellent insulation and is available in batts/blankets of various thicknesses. Fiberglass is also available in loose-fill if you’re looking for an alternative to blankets.

R-Value? Loose fiberglass has an R-value of around 2.2 to 2.9 per inch. Batts of fiberglass insulation have an R-value of 2.9 to 3.8 per inch.

Average Cost? Installation for fiberglass batts can range from $0.64 to $1.19 per square foot. The cost for loose-fill fiberglass normally runs from $1 to $1.50 per square foot.

Where to Install? Blown-in and blanket fiberglass insulation can be installed between wall studs, in ceiling joists, in attics, and even in basements. However, loose-fill insulation can be easier to install in hard-to-reach areas.


What’s it Made of? Cellulose insulation is made from 15% ammonium sulfate or boric acid and 85% recycled paper fiber. This is one of the most environmentally-friendly insulation options, especially if you want to maximize the use of recycled materials. It is easily found in small pieces, which is suitable for blown-in applications with a special machine.

R-Value? The R-value of batt or blown-in cellulose is around R-3.5 per inch. However, cellulose batt insulation is not nearly as common as its blown-in counterpart.

Average Cost?

Where to Install? You’ll find cellulose installed mostly inside of attics and walls. If using blown-in materials, you must have the right machinery to do the installation.

Rockwool (Mineral Wool)

What’s it Made of? There are two different types of mineral wool insulation you can have installed in your home. The first is generally made from molten basalt that’s heated and then spun to create small fibers that resemble wool. The next type of mineral wool is made from the waste of steel manufacturing that’s also spun into small fibers.

R-Value? There R-value of this type of insulation can range from 3.7 to 4.2 per inch.

Average Cost? The average price of mineral wool insulation can range from $1 to $1.20 per square foot to have installed.

Where to Install? Since mineral wool is denser than other insulation materials, it’s a great option for areas you would like to soundproof. This can include ceilings, floors, and interior walls, as long as the proper preparation is done.

Cotton (Denim)

What’s it Made of? As the name states, this type of insulation is made from cotton and denim fibers that are leftover from denim clothing manufacturing. After zippers, buttons, and tags are removed, the fabric is placed in an industrial shredder that will grind everything together. After being moved to a baler, the material is treated with a special solution to make it fireproof and resistant to mold/mildew. After adding a bonding agent, this insulation will look similar to the batts of fiberglass you’re used to seeing inside of homes.

R-Value? The average R-value of denim insulation is roughly 3.5 per inch.

Average Cost? The average cost to install this insulation starts at $1.12 per square foot.

Where to Install? You can install this between wall studs, inside ceiling joists, in roof rafters, and anywhere else you’d use fiberglass insulation.


What’s it Made of? Vinyl insulation is generally used in addition to fiberglass blanket insulation as a facing material that helps prevent moisture from going through.

R-Value? You can expect this insulation to have an R-value of around R-2 to R-2.7.

Average Cost? The cost will vary depending on the material and thickness that you choose; we recommend speaking with your contractor about your available options.

Where to Install? Mainly used in attics and garages to help improve energy efficiency.

Vacuum Insulated Panels

What’s it Made of? Although this type of insulation is ultra-thin, it is said to be 20x more effective than traditional insulation materials. It’s made with a rigid core that is surrounded by a gas-tight outer envelope, which makes it incredibly thermal resistant and excellent for use as insulation.

R-Value? The R-value of the panel will vary depending on the brand you purchase. However, most panels being at R-40 per inch.

Average Cost? The price of a 1″ panel can begin at $10 per square foot, although panels with a higher R-value will cost more.

Where to Install? This insulation can be used in both residential and commercial properties because it performs so well. However, the high price point makes it out of reach for many homeowners who want to stick to a budget.

Spray Foam

What’s it Made of? Spray foam is made by combining isocyanate and polyol resin together in a spray gun, which will become a foam once applied. Many homeowners choose this because it creates a tight seal that doesn’t move over time. The foam also expands to reach small cracks and gaps, which reduces the chance of air leaks quite well. Open-cell and closed-cell spray foam are both options to use around the house, depending on your budget and the performance you desire.

R-Value? Closed-cell spray foam has an R-value of 6.5 per inch while open-cell has an R-value of 3.7 per inch.

Average Cost? Open-cell spray foam averages $1 to $1.20 per square foot while closed-cell spray foam averages $1.25 to $1.50 per square foot for 1″ of coverage.

Where to Install? You can use spray foam insulation inside of walls, attics, ceilings, and floors.

Radiant Barriers

What’s it Made of?

Radiant barriers are made out of reflective materials, which usually means the outside material is aluminum foil. While some barriers have two reflective sides, others have Kraft paper, cardboard, plastic film, or other materials on the opposite side.

R-Value? Since radiant barriers do not absorb heat, they do not have an R-value like traditional insulation materials.

Average Cost? The materials for a radiant barrier start at $0.10 per square foot, while the labor to install can run from $30 to $80 an hour.

Where to Install? Radiant barriers can be installed on garage doors, in crawl spaces, in attics, in roofs, and many other areas around the home.

Rigid Foam Board

What’s it Made of? Rigid foam board insulation is made from different types of foam that are made into dense sheets that are hard and rigid. This can include polyurethane, polyiso, or polystyrene foam. Each of these are good insulators although they do perform differently once installed.

R-Value? Polystyrene has an R-value of 3.8 per inch, polystyrene has an R-value of 5 per inch, and polyiso has an R-value of 6.5 to 6.8.

Average Cost? The cost can vary depending on the exact material you choose and the thickness that you need. The insulation cost, including materials, can range from $1.43 to $2.52 per square foot.

Where to Install? This material can be stalled inside of walls, in the ceiling, garage floors, and even exterior walls with the right barriers in place.

How the Action 1 Insulation Team Can Help You With the Right Choices

The contractors we work with at Action 1 Insulation are the best in the area. They have experience working with each of the insulation materials above, which means they can offer you custom advice about what will work best in your home. This can ensure you make a sound decision and that you don’t make mistakes with the insulation you put in your home. This can also ensure you choose the insulation that works for your budget and the performance you’d like to achieve.

Beyond helping you choose an insulation option, our team will also take care of the installation. This is done with attention to detail because we know how important results are when it comes to insulation. We’ll do the hard work so you can enjoy a more energy-efficient home for years to come.

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