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Batt vs. Blown-In Insulation in Walls: What Should You Use?

Wall insulation on home.

Which is better: batt insulation vs. blow in insulation? Learn their differences, how each is installed, and the labor costs that make it important to choose wisely when insulating your home. Batt insulation is easier for homeowners to install but requires more demolition and time compared to blow in insulation.

No matter the climate in which your home is located, insulation makes it a better living space. A properly insulated home stays cooler in the summer and warmer during the winter. A home with properly insulated exterior walls, ceiling, and the roof has fewer drafts, holds its temperature better, and costs less to keep comfortable. You get a much more livable space that saves money on heating and cooling costs. And insulation does a great job of deadening outside noise intrusion.

Most likely, you need insulation for two reasons. You either are building a home, or you are renovating one. Either way, insulation is the best way for you to keep it comfortable and quiet. Generally, you have two options for home insulation. Those are batt insulation and blown-in insulation.

Different Types of Batt vs Blown-In Insulation

Man holding a fiberglass batt.

Batt insulation often comes rolled up in layers that you cut to size and install with staple guns. Batt insulation often punishes installers with fiberglass fibers that cause itching and scratching. That is because it usually is made out of fiberglass in varying thicknesses. Coated cellulose is another commonly used insulator. It often is recycled paper shredded up into tiny bits and coated with fire-retardant substances to improve safety and insulating quality. Batt insulation has been around for many years and has insulating qualities that ensure it will continue insulating homes across the nation.

Blown insulation is a more recent development that greatly simplifies the application process. Instead of rolling out layers and cutting them to size, you simply cut a hole in a wall and blow in the insulation. The insulation usually is made of a combination of fiberglass and treated cellulose. That makes it a lot like batt insulation but much easier to install. The ease of installation greatly speeds up the time it takes to insulate your home.

What the R-Values Are for Each

Man measuring insulated wall.

The R-value of batt insulation varies based on the thickness and type of density. So does its cost. The U.S. Department of Energy says a 3.5-inch fiberglass batt provides an R-value of 11 at a cost varying between 12 cents and 16 cents per square foot. That same batt in high-density form delivers an R-value of 15 and costs between 34 cents and 40 cents per square foot. That is a lot of additional cost for a relatively small gain in insulation value.

At the high-end of the R-value and cost spectrum is the 12-inch fiberglass batt. Is carries an R-value of 38 and costs between 35 cents and 60 cents per square foot. The thicker batt works great for insulating external walls and the rooftop. The thinner batt works best for internal walls and sound dampening. Most builders do not use the thinnest or thickest batts. A 9.5-inch batt is a standard for fiberglass batt insulation. That gives you an R-value of 30 at a cost of between 39 cents and 43 cents per square foot, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Blown-in insulation often is a combination of loose fiberglass and treated cellulose fibers. The insulation usually is blended and provides an R-value ranging from around 32 to 38 per square foot. Loosely blown fiberglass alone carries an R-value of about 22 to 27 per square foot. The depth and thickness of the blown insulation affect the R-value. So does the amount of fiberglass and cellulose material mixed? Colder climate zones require deeper and thicker layering of blown insulation.

The cost to install blown-in insulation varies depending on contractor costs and the amount of filler used. You can start with the average costs for batt insulation, and at least double that for installation costs. You can get more affordable install rates by doing it yourself, but that can add to complications if you are not skilled at drilling and patching wall holes to create access for the blown-in insulation. The baseline is to start with what the relative cost for bat insulations would be, and then find out what the hourly rates are local. You do wind up ahead slightly when factoring in the savings in reduced time and intrusion on your home life during installation compared to batt insulation.

Life Expectancy for Insulation Types

Man applying an insulating foam to the wall of the house.

When properly applied, there is no reason either type of insulation cannot last the lifetime of your home. Whether it is batt insulation of blown-in insulation, all manufacturers say they will last a lifetime. For practical purposes, that means 100 years. Given what insulation does and how long most people own their homes, when properly installed, both batt insulation and blown-in insulation should last for longer than you will own your home. Insulation only decomposes or loses its insulating quality if other factors impact it. Exposed walls, flooding, and similar issues are about all that could cause problems for your insulated home. So long as you maintain your home properly, your insulation should last a lifetime.

The best way to ensure the longest life from either batt or blown-in insulation is to have them installed professionally. Although it often looks simple to most homeowners, it is easy to improperly install insulation and get reduced life and efficiency from the job. The proper preparations need to be made, including installing exterior layers of protecting paper that helps shield the insulation and interior walls against outdoor elements. Some people even install batt insulation backward, which can lead to a draft and degradation of the insulating material. Careful preparation and using skilled and experienced labor can make the job last much longer.

Using Batt Insulation vs. Blown-In Insulation in Walls

Room with walls covered with pink colored thermal insulation.

Walls have a simple rule of thumb when it comes to insulation. Batt insulation works best in exposed walls and blown-in insulation in closed walls. In an existing home with drywall already in place, you need to remove all of the drywall to install the batt insulation. That greatly increases costs and time.

When drywall or other wall coverings already are in place, blown-in insulation is the fastest and most cost-efficient solution. As a homeowner, you need to be skilled at drywall removal and installation if you want to install batt insulation yourself to save money. Either way, removing drywall and installing batt insulation will take several days. That can be very invasive to your home life.

Blown-in insulation with existing wall coverings requires only an entry hole in each wall space. A skilled professional or even a talented homeowner can cut the requisite holes and install the blown-in insulation much more quickly and with less intrusion to your home life.

When to Use Batt vs. Blown-In Insulation for Your Entire Home

Man applying insulation on wall.

Each insulation type clearly has many great advantages. Batt insulation is much easier for the common homeowner to install correctly and greatly improve living conditions with a much better-insulated home. The potential for damaging an existing home and encountering unexpected costs rise the more you need to do your own demolition. When a home is fully finished, the scales of batt vs. blown-in insulation clearly lean toward using blown-in insulation. You can hire a contractor carrying relevant business insurance and using skilled and trained workers to install your batt insulation much more quickly than a batt insulation install might take.

When the walls, ceilings, and attic spaces already are exposed, you have a much easier time installing batt insulation. You just measure twice, cut once, and apply the batt insulation with the film coating on the inside. Then you can install any drywall or other covering you need to finish the job. That will make your home look better, stay warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer, and cost less to maintain all year long.

Blown-in insulation works best when your home already is in place and you need the job done well, fast, and with the least intrusion. Blown-in insulation is much easier on installers. Instead of cutting and stapling rolled-up layers into place, they get to spray the insulation where it needs to go. That makes it fast to install, but costlier than batt insulation. Often times, a combination of the two is ideal. When laying insulation in an attic, batt insulation can work great for the more open areas. Using blow in insulation in the corners does a better job of ensuring all areas are filled and insulated properly in tight and hard-to-reach corners and other tight spaces. Ultimately, the decision to use batt insulation vs. blow in insulation rests on your budget, the task at hand, your total time allotment, and the desired results.

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