You should insulate your basement ceiling if you don't use the basement as part of your home's living space and you need to keep the floor overhead warm. Insulation can help reduce energy costs, and insulating the ceiling will cost less than insulating the walls, since the ceiling has less square footage. All types of insulation receive a grade called an R-value, which indicates its heat resistance per square inch. The more resistant the material, the greater the R-value.
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Blanket insulation, commonly recommended for insulating basement ceilings, comes in large rolls called "batts," which you must cut into squares by hand to fit them into the ceiling. Usually incorporating fibreglass, this type of insulation comes in natural and plastic fibres. You can buy blankets with or without facings (a material that holds the fibres together and protects the insulation's surface). Standard blankets have an R-value per inch of thickness ranging from R-2.9 to R-3.8; thicker blankets fall between R-3.7 and R-4.3.
Foam boards are stiff insulated sheets made from such chemicals as polyurethane, polyisocyanurate and polystyrene. They reduce the amount of heat transferred through building materials, such as wood, and improve the strength of the floor above them when installed in a basement ceiling. Moulded expanded polystyrene boards have an R-value that runs from 3.8 to 4.4, and extruded expanded polystyrene boards average an R-value of about 5. Polyisocyanurate and polyurethane boards' R-values range from 5.6 to 8. Have a certified technician put the boards in place, since their performance hinges on correct installation.
Loose-fill insulation, a type of insulation made of tiny fibres or particles from such materials as mineral wool and fibreglass, derives its name from the fact that the fibres conform to fit the space into which you spray the insulation with pressure equipment. Thus, it makes a good choice for basement ceilings with difficult-to-insulate areas, such as the area around rim joints. Loose-fill insulation has an R-value between 2.2 and 3.8, depending on the type of fibres it contains.
Spray foam insulation is similar to loose-fill insulation in the sense that you must pressure-spray it into your basement ceiling. The liquid foam expands after you've sprayed into place. Because it completely seals in all areas (especially awkward spots) it offers a superior option to blanket insulation, providing two times more R-value per inch. After applying the foam, cover it with an appropriate thermal barrier, such as drywall. Pressure-sprayed foam costs more than other insulation because working with it usually requires special training and certification.
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