Faced vs. Unfaced Insulation: Which Will Lower Your Bills?
Wish you could save money on your monthly energy bills, which only ever seem to be going up, up, up?
There’s always potential to pocket away some extra savings each month by adapting new habits and making a conscious effort to preserve more energy.
But let’s face it: Making a dent in your monthly energy bills requires a bit of hard work and DIY home improving… But like anything that requires us to roll up our sleeves, the effort can yield real, long-term results that will agree with our wallets and peace of mind.
Insulating is a go-to project for homeowners looking to save on their monthly energy bills. It may seem like a pricy and arduous home improvement project, but it does make for a worthwhile experience that can lower your energy bills, better maintain your comfort year-round, and potentially improve the value of your property.
When choosing the right type of insulation, you may wonder:
If I’m opting for traditional fiberglass insulation, what’s the difference between faced vs. unfaced insulation? Which kind is right for my home?
Unfaced and faced insulation serve different purposes and yield various benefits. Understanding which kind is right for your home can prevent costly problems and save you future headaches down the line.
To help you decide, we’re going to uncover the ins and outs of faced and unfaced fiberglass insulation for attics, basements, garages, and the rest of your home!
Understanding Fiberglass Insulation: The Basics
Before diving into the difference between faced and unfaced insulation, let’s cover some basics.
Fiberglass insulation is among the most effective, inexpensive, and widely-used DIY insulation materials. Traditionally stored as rolls, batts, or blankets, fiberglass insulation is easy to cut, shape, and fit between joists, wall studs, and beams. Fiberglass insulation comes in various widths, lengths, and thermal resistance values (R-value).
The R-value of insulation is a measure of its thermal or heat flow resistance. A higher R-value means the insulation is more resistant to heat flow and has better insulating power. With reduced heat flow, homes maintain cooler temperatures in the summer and warmer temperatures in the winter, using up less energy in the process.
All fiberglass insulation manufacturers grade their products on their R-performance value and performance. The figure is typically printed in big and bold lettering right on the outside of the package. How do you decipher between all these different R-values?
How Important Is the R-Value?
Your location can determine the appropriate fiberglass insulation R-value for your home. Areas that experience harsher winters call for higher R-value. Here is a breakdown:
The R-value itself is a good place to start, but it may not be the sole deciding factor when choosing the right kind of fiberglass insulation. That’s where understanding the benefits and differences between faced and unfaced insulation comes in.
Faced vs Unfaced Insulation: What’s the Difference?
Due to evaporation, air always carries some degree of moisture with it. When moisture becomes trapped in insulation, mold and mildew can fester and grow. If moisture travels through insulation, it can damage the wooden frame and overall structure of a home.
Faced insulation contains a thin layer of paper or plastic (vapor barrier) that attaches to one side of a roll of insulation. It acts as a moisture barrier that protects the home’s surface. Faced insulation can also fasten to building components better, so if you’re adding insulation in newly built attics or walls, this type of insulation is best. Most exterior walls, ceilings, floors, and crawl spaces require faced insulation.
How do you install faced fiberglass insulation? Which way should the vapor barrier face?
Proper installation is key. If installed improperly, you can find yourself having to prematurely remove and replace moldy or damaged insulation.
General rule of thumb: The paper or plastic layer should always face the space that’s warmer in the winter. In the attic, that is usually downward. In a crawlspace, that is typically upward.
So, what about insulation that doesn’t contain this protective vapor barrier?
If you want to add to existing insulation in your home, unfaced insulation may be the best and more affordable option. Unfaced insulation does not contain the thin protective layer of paper or plastic (making it a slightly cheaper alternative.) It is most commonly used in new construction and remodeling projects. It’s also used in walls, floors, ceilings, attics, and basements, wherever existing insulation may be.
When adding new, unfaced insulation to an existing layer, make sure the new layers are perpendicular. So, if the old insulation lies or stands vertically, layer on the new insulation horizontally. Doing so will help seal and cover any gaps between adjacent layers.
Faced vs. Unfaced Insulation: Moisture & Sound Control
Can unfaced insulation contain and protect against moisture, or do you need the vapor barrier?
It’s worth noting that all areas of a home are prone to moisture. Rooms that are poorly ventilated or use appliances are especially susceptible to wet walls, condensation, and mold growth. If an area of your home experiences moisture and moisture-related problems, it is best to install new faced insulation with the vapor barrier.
If moisture isn’t an issue, you may have concerns with your home’s soundproofing system. Do the floors in your creak and make loud noises every time someone walks from one room to the next? Unfaced insulation (the kind without the vapor barrier) can better serve as a soundproofing barrier when added between a ceiling and floor.
Faced & Unfaced Insulation: Which Is Better Overall?
The difference between faced vs. unfaced insulation is not a matter of which is better than the other. Both have the potential to lower your energy bills, but how do you choose the right kind to get the best bang for your buck? It all boils down to your unique home and its energy efficiency needs.
Choosing the Right Insulation: Size, Amount, & Cost
Where you live, the size of your home, and whether it already has adequate insulation are all deciding factors. Install faced insulation if your attic, crawl spaces, walls, floors, and ceilings if not’s already there. If you live in an area with extremely hot summers and cold winters, opt for insulation with a greater R-value.
Adding new layers where you already have insulation is a viable place to start, and this is a common option for most homeowners (since the majority of homes are already pre-insulated.)
Adding insulation is also cheaper than installing new insulation. But for some homeowners, replacing the insulation altogether may be more worthwhile in the long run. Here are some signs that it’s time to replace your home’s insulation once and for all:
- The insulation is old & has lost its fluffy appearance.
- The attic or crawl spaces have excess moisture.
- Your home has multiple drafts.
- Bug & pest infestations are becoming more common.
- Your energy bills continue to increase despite other efforts.
The average cost of fiberglass batt insulation varies between $.64 and $1.19 per square foot. You can save more money by installing the insulation yourself, but for the cost of a couple of days’ work (depending on how major the insulation project is), it may be worthwhile to have a professional do the job right.
Insulate the Most Important Areas of Your Home
According to the US Department of Energy, an energy-efficient home has insulation from the roof down to the foundation, and there’s no shortage of areas in between that can always benefit from proper insulation.
Next, we’ll explore different parts of the home to insulate and whether or not you should use faced or unfaced insulation on your next project.
Faced vs. Unfaced Insulation for a Garage
Do you spend a lot of time working and tinkering around in your garage? Does your garage attach to the rest of your home and cause a chilly draft through the shared walls?
Due to its large door and the typical cracks, holes, and gaps you’ll find in its structure, the average garage experiences temperature fluctuations more than any other area of the home. So, insulating a garage, especially an attached one, is a wise choice if temperature and energy control are your main concerns. But you may have other reasons to insulate your garage.
The Benefits of Insulating a Garage
Insulating your garage may be beneficial if you spend a lot of time or store valuable items in your garage. Insulation can also heat and soundproof a garage while providing thermal cushioning to the rest of your home.
However, an insulated garage is unlikely to make a significant difference to your comfort and energy bills if the rest of your home is not properly insulated. If you need insulation to cover expansive square footage, beyond the garage, consider insulating the attic and other parts of your home before the garage.
There are different types of insulation that are better suited for specific areas of the garage. For example, fiberglass insulation may be a viable option for insulating your garage ceiling; however, if the garage roof requires extensive air sealing, you may want to opt for seal foam insulation.
How Do You Insulate a Garage?
If you’re not sure where to begin, start with the garage door! The garage door is the biggest culprit of cold air seeping through the interior walls of your home. Insulating the garage door can control extreme temperature changes in the summer and winter and also soundproof the door when opening and closing.
Vinyl-faced insulation works best on metal and steel garage doors. Viny protects metal and steel from moisture and humidity more than any other insulation material.
But what about the garage walls and ceiling? Should you use faced or unfaced insulation?
Fiberglass insulation can suffice for garage walls and ceilings, but choosing the appropriate R-value insulation is essential here.
Heat loss is a non-issue when it comes to detached and non-heated garages. For these types of garages, you can get away with installing insulation with a lower R-value. If your garage walls and ceiling aren’t already insulated, make sure to install faced insulation.
If your garage is attached and heated, insulation with a vapor barrier and higher R-value will better protect against heat loss. Insulate the walls in an attached garage so you can retain more heat in the adjacent interior rooms. You will subsequently lower your energy bills.
Faced vs. Unfaced Insulation for an Attic
Does your attic leak or form ice dams? Does your home experience cold drafts, moisture, mold growth, or pest infestation?
If so, it may be an opportune time to inspect the insulation in your attic before the subzero temperatures roll around.
Install faced insulation if your attic doesn’t already have adequate insulation. This will better protect your home against moisture and mold growth, in addition to preventing drafts, infestations, and water damage.
What’s the best way to go about installing insulation in an attic? How should you get started?
Start with the Floors
Having adequate insulation in your attic floors is essential. Attics require a layer of protection to prevent hot and cold from leaking inside your house.
When installing attic insulation, make sure the paper layer is facing downward on top of the ceiling drywall. The facing will act as both a moisture and soundproofing barrier between the attic and space below.
Install faced insulation between the floor joists. Each layer should cover the space between each floor joist.
Insulate the Roof Rafters
What if you’re installing insulation up on the roof rafters? Homeowners can go either way here. When using faced insulation, make sure the moisture barrier faces outward and into the attic space. If you’re using unfaced insulation between the roof rafters, cover the insulation with sheets of plastic to prevent moisture from moving and leaking inside the attic.
Take the time to seal any holes or gaps in the roof. Ensure that the roof baffles, sheathing, and ventilation system are all in top working condition.
Faced vs. Unfaced Insulation for a Basement
It makes sense to insulate attics, garages, and areas on the first and second stories of a home where airflow is higher. But did you know insulating your basement can also help lower your energy bills and reduce drafts in the rest of your house?
If you’re interested in going the extra mile to make your home more energy-efficient, here’s everything you need to know about faced vs. unfaced insulation for basements.
Prioritize Moisture Control
Moisture is the foremost concern when insulating a basement. Unless you recently renovated your basement, you may not know whether the interior walls and ceilings have proper insulation.
Perform a simple moisture test by taping plastic sheeting to one of your basement walls. After two days, check the sheeting for condensation. Is there slight condensation or excess moisture between the wall and sheeting? Before ripping out the wall and checking the old insulation, this test will give you a strong indication as to whether or not you need new insulation.
Does your smell musty? A musty odor can indicate a need for moisture control in your basement walls and ceilings.
In addition to adding adequate insulation, consider installing a blower fan in the basement to better protect it from moisture growth.
Should You Use Unfaced or Faced Insulation for Your Basement?
It’s generally not recommended to use fiberglass insulation in moisture-prone basements. Spray foam insulation may be the better option for moisture-prone or cement-walled basements. Some homeowners can also opt to cover the first concrete layer with spray foam and then finish it off with unfaced insulation.
Is moisture a non-issue in your basement? Does your basement have a wood foundation with joists and beams? Faced insulation should provide adequate thermal cushioning and a moisture barrier.
When Should You Insulate a Crawlspace?
Moisture can easily accumulate in the hollow, unoccupied space underneath your floors or between the ground and the first floor of your home. Uncontrolled moisture in these areas can cause serious mold growth, pest infestations, and temperature problems that result in higher energy bills.
If your crawl space isn’t properly ventilated, installing fiberglass insulation is a solution. Be sure to use faced fiberglass insulation and have the vapor barrier facing upward towards the warmer part of your home.
When it comes to weighing the pros and cons of faced vs. unfaced insulation, the better and more cost-effective option greatly depends on your unique home and situation.
If your home is in need of new insulation and moisture control, make sure you’re installing insulation with a vapor barrier in the appropriate places. Faced insulation is crucial in attics, exterior walls, ceilings, and crawl spaces. If you’re simply adding a fresh layer of insulation to lower your energy bills, unfaced insulation should suffice.
Want to discover more ways to make your home more energy-efficient? Stay tuned to our blog for all the latest DIY home improvement tips, energy efficiency hints, and tons more!