Making the Most of Wall Insulation: It All Starts With Proper Installation

December 15th, 2014

Appropriate wall insulation for residential and commercial buildings is what keeps their interiors temperate and comfortable, regardless of exterior weather conditions. Basically, this entails keeping cold air out/warm air in during the winter and cool air in/warm air out during the summer. A well-insulated building provides those who use it year-round comfort, cutting cooling and heating bills by up to 40 or 50 percent. In turn, this helps reduce the carbon footprint of the building.

Properly insulating the roofs, walls, and (in some cases) floors helps meet these overarching goals. Whether a home or a commercial structure, deciding what with and how to sufficiently insulate a building depends on many factors, including where the building project is located and what types of building materials are used. Climates vary widely throughout the nation, which means different areas will have unique climate and weather conditions that will dictate how to properly insulate the building.

Wall Insulation's Crucial Role

Utilizing wall insulation is a key component in designing and constructing an energy- efficient building. While it can be retrofitted to existing buildings, the most efficient time to install wall insulation is during construction.

Builders and contractors have a variety of options when choosing wall insulation. One of the most energy-efficient and cost-effective ways to insulate walls is with continuous wall insulation, also known as CI. As the name implies, CI is continuous across all structural members, and can be installed on the interior (certain issues apply) or exterior of the building envelope. This method can provide an air and vapor barrier, drainage plane, and potentially high R-values.

Benefits of Continuous Insulation (CI)

What are the benefits of CI products? One of the biggest benefits is that it provides an uninterrupted thermal barrier over an entire opaque wall, not just in wall cavities between studs. Without CI, thermal energy or heat bypasses the batt insulation and moves through the “thermal shorts” of the wall studs. Think of CI as a thermal blanket for a building's walls, one that can reduce air loss and can act as a weather resistant barrier beneath the cladding if it is installed to do so. As a leader in the wall insulation manufacture industry, Atlas offers wall CI products to suit many types of projects, including its EnergyShield® Wall Insulation series.

The EnergyShield® Advantage

Atlas EnergyShield® wall insulation is made of closed cell polyisocyanurate (polyiso) foam core, faced in the front with reflective foil, and in the back with a non-reflective facer. Walls sheathed with EnergyShield® achieve high R-value and water resistance, making this rigid foam insulation suitable for a variety of CI applications. It can create a water resistant barrier that prevents liquid moisture (usually from rain) that has breached the exterior wall cladding from continuing into the exterior wall, thus preventing damage.

To insure high performance from the water resistant barrier, during installation all boards must have their joints taped or sealed to a joining board and appropriate flashing must be used for rough window and door openings. Atlas recommends sealing into rough opening flashing and to other portions of the building, including the roof and below grade. Each Atlas EnergyShield® CI product has specific instructions for use, including conditions of use, examination of board requirements, and preparation of boards, all of which are provided in the installation guides.

Proper installation of continuous wall insulation is the key to its success. Why? When constructed correctly, the continuous barrier envelops all structural components and surfaces—it provides a continuous "seal," which offers superior insulating properties. This polices air and moisture transfer. Using CI allows the temperatures inside the wall cavity to rise; resulting in a drier interior, so any moisture that does leak in, whether during construction and installation, or later because of leaks or water-related damage, is able to dry out.