Do you dread going down to the basement? Cold, clammy, and damp–those are words that come to mind. But you can change all that if you insulate your basement.
If you live in an area with temperature extremes and your basement has no insulation, it could be a great investment to insulate the basement. This also depends on your budget, how comfortable you want the basement to be, how much time you’ll be down there, and more.
Keep reading to learn which area will save you the most money. (I’ll give you a hint–it’s not insulating your ceiling).
Insulation will help you regulate the temperature in your basement, so it’s not so chilly. But insulation does more than that. It can help cut down on moisture problems as well. Less moisture means less risk of mold problems and the associated health risks.
I mean, think about it. Your basement is probably the coldest room in your home. However, with proper insulation, you can transform a cold, damp basement into added living space for your family. Not only that, adding insulation to your basement can help your lower your energy costs and save you money.
So now that you know why you should insulate your basement, let’s talk about what your insulation options are.
A number of factors affect which type of insulation will be best for your basement. Obviously, budget is going to be a factor. Insulation varies in price, so how much you are willing to invest is certainly going to affect your final choice.
Another factor you need to take into account will be the R-value of the insulation. Where you live will determine what R-value you need. Don’t forget to take into account the R-value of any insulation you may already have. You also want to consider if your basement will be finished or unfinished.
Another important consideration is moisture levels. As we all know, basements are notoriously damp places. Some basements are even prone to flooding. And some insulation, like cellulose, performs poorly in damp conditions. So make sure you take humidity into account before you insulate your basement.
Let’s examine the common insulation types for basements.
Fiberglass is the most common insulation on the market. This fluffy pink product is usually what comes to mind first when you think about insulation. The low price and easy installation of fiberglass contribute to its popularity. Available in batts, fiberglass insulation is installed by rolling it out between the studs and attaching it to the walls. (You should wear protective gear to protect you from irritating fibers.)
But while you can install fiberglass in basements, it’s not the ideal choice in damp environments. Now, the insulation itself is resistant to moisture. The problem is that it can be susceptible to mold growth. If your basement is particularly damp and you are concerned about mold, you might want to try a different product, like spray foam.
Where to Buy Fiberglass Insulation?
*This section contains some affiliate links so that if you are planning to buy some fiberglass insulation, we’ll earn a small commission, which helps keep the blog going.
The easiest and most readily available place to buy fiberglass insulation is a store like Home Depot.
As of this writing, they have two main options, both of which are good depending on what R value you’ll need and how much space you have to fill in.
The first is a Kraft (paper) faced R-13 fiberglass roll that comes in different sizes. You can see those here.
The second is a Kraft (paper) faced R-30 roll that is more expensive, but you get the much higher R-value. You can see those here.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, spray foam is the best choice to insulate your basement, particularly finished basements. You will find spray foam is a more expensive option than going with fiberglass batts. However, it may be worth the cost.
For one thing, spray foam has a superior R-value, so that you will need less material. This means you will lose less living space to your wall insulation. But beyond that, spray foam performs well in damp environments. So you don’t have to worry about mold issues and decreased performance from moisture.
Another advantage of spray foam is that it seals as well as insulates. So if you have an older, drafty foundation, the foam will seal up leaks and make your home more airtight. That will help prevent moisture as well as regulating the temperature. (It also helps keep insects out!) Here are some more pros and cons of spray foam insulation.
Where Do You Buy Spray Foam?
For the DIYer’s, there are a few good options for you, depending on the size of your project. For small areas, going with a regular affordable spray can might do the trick.
The cheapest way to go will be to pick them up locally at Home Depot. It’s called Gaps and Cracks and comes in a 16oz can. It’s definitely for smaller areas and projects, but it’ll be the most affordable way to go vs. shipping it.
You can ship it from Home Depot, but Amazon has similar cans for a bit more cost:
For slightly larger projects, this is a good kit for a bundle package. It’s the Great Stuff Pro Gaps and Cracks kit, which includes qty 12 cans that are 24oz, (not the smaller 16oz), and includes the applicator gun as well. You can check that out here:
Where Do You Find Spray Foam Insulation Contractors?
You should be able to search for spray foam insulation companies online on Google and Google Maps like we all do for most things.
Another option (and my personal first go-to) is Thumbtack (this is an affiliate link and helps support more blog content). You can search specifically for insulation installation, and I usually have a number of companies that will respond with quotes and guidance.
Foam Board in Your Basement
Rigid foam board is another popular choice for basement insulation. These boards are available in a variety of sizes and R-values depending on your needs. And another advantage is that the rigid foam performs well in moist conditions.
The downside to foam boards is the cost. These boards can be pricey, and if your basement is large, they can add up rather quickly.
Like fiberglass, foam boards are fairly easy to install, so you can save money on installation costs by DIY-ing it. You don’t need any fancy tools to do the work. You can get by with a box cutter and a caulking gun. All you do is use adhesive to stick the foam boards directly to your walls. Then seal up the seams. That’s it. And unlike fiberglass, there are no irritating fibers to worry about.
Where Do You Buy Foam Board Insulation?
While foam board insulation is pretty light in weight, it doesn’t make a ton of sense to have it shipped to you due to its bulkiness. This would really skyrocket any shipping costs.
Luckily, your local Home Depot usually carries this in stock, so you can pick up whatever you need. What’s nice also is that they have different thicknesses of board, depending on what kind of R-value or material you want.
The sheets are usually in 4x8ft cutouts rectangle sizes (pretty big) – but bring or buy a basic utility knife with you to cut it up in the store if you need to fit small pieces in your car.
Here are some common in-stock (usually) foam boards that you can pick up for yourself. You can pick the thickness based on your specific application and where it’s being installed, and the R-value will differ slightly also –
*While we’re not tied to one brand or another, this section does contain some affiliate links to help support the blog. The links are pointing to what we feel is the easiest way to purchase the foam boards.
|RMAXPro Select R-Matte Plus-3, 3/4 in. x 4 ft. x 8 ft. R-5.0 Foam Insulation Board||3/4 inch thick R-5||$17|
|FOAMULAR 150 1 in. x 4 ft. x 8 ft. R-5 Scored Square Edge Rigid Foam Board Insulation Sheathing||1 inch thick R-5||$25|
|R-Tech 2 in. x 4 ft. x 8 ft. R-7.7 Rigid Foam Insulation||2 inch thick R-7.7||$24|
|FOAMULAR 1/2 in. x 4 ft. x 8 ft. R-3 Square Edge Rigid Foam Board Insulation Sheathing||1/2 inch thick R-3||$19|
|R-Tech 1 in. x 4 ft. x 8 ft. R-3.85 Insulating Sheathing||1 inch thick R-3.85||$14|
Where To Put Your Insulation
In addition to deciding what type of insulation you are going to install, you need to decide where in your basement you plan on putting your insulation. We’ll examine the benefits of insulating your basement walls, ceiling, and floor so you can decide where to invest your money for the best return.
When it comes to adding insulation to your basement, the walls are where it’s at. By adding insulation to your walls, you will get the greatest reduction in energy use and the most savings. Why is that, you ask? Good question. Let’s explain.
Your basement walls have the most contact with the outside and the foundation. They are susceptible to moisture and drafts. By insulating the walls, you can help keep the cold outside instead of penetrating your house. This will help stabilize your home’s temperature.
You can easily add any of the above-mentioned insulation types to basement walls. If you have to choose just one place in your basement to insulate, then the walls are the best choice.
If your floors are always cold, you may want to think about insulating your basement ceiling. While insulating the walls will help improve your home’s overall temperature, there are also benefits to insulating your ceiling.
By adding insulation to your ceiling, you help prevent heat from the upper part of the home from escaping down into the colder lower areas. This is especially effective in “unconditioned basements.” An unconditioned basement does not have any heat sources at all–intentional or unintentional, like water heaters.
Unconditioned basements are significantly colder than the rest of the house. So they can steal that precious heat away from you. By adding insulation to the ceiling, you keep all that heat upstairs, where you want it.
Insulating ceilings can be complicated. That’s because often, there are wires, tubes, and ductwork in the ceiling. You may need to hire a professional if you want to insulate your basement ceiling.
Basement floors are cold. If you are tired of freezing your toes off every time you go downstairs, you may want to consider insulating your basement floor. This is especially beneficial if you are planning a finished basement.
However, insulating your basement floor isn’t as easy as insulating the walls. First, it is super important that you make sure your floor isn’t prone to moisture related problems or flooding. Moisture plus insulation here would be a recipe to create mold.
Once you have determined that your floor is moisture free, you then need to build a sub-floor. This sub-floor will create a space to put the insulation. Once you have your sub-floor, you are ready to install the insulation. Rigid foam boards work really well here.
You may want to consider a radiant floor heating system while you’re at it. Since heat rises, this will help efficiently heat the space and can actually save on your energy bills. Before you know it, your basement will be your favorite room in the house.
DIY Or Professional Installation?
Having decided where in your basement you are going to insulate and what insulation type you plan to use, the next step is to decide how you will have it installed. Just like insulation itself, there is a wide range of costs associated with installation.
When deciding whether to DIY the job or hire a professional, one of the first things you should consider is the job’s complexity. Some parts of your basement are simply easier to insulate than others.
Here’s an example:
You have concrete block walls, and you want to add rigid foam board insulation. This scenario is fairly easy for even a novice DIYer. It doesn’t require any specialized equipment or skill. Heck, you don’t even need any protective gear. In this scenario, it may be worth sacrificing a weekend (or two) sticking foam boards to the wall to save some money.
But what if you are thinking about adding spray foam to your walls or your ceiling? Spray foam is more difficult to apply properly if you aren’t skilled. Ceilings can contain pipes and ductwork, making the installation process more complicated, not to mention the safety gear and equipment required. Here, you may decide it’s worth the extra cost to hire a professional.
You should certainly consult with a professional if your basement suffers from any kind of moisture problems. Incorrectly installed insulation can lead to mold growth that can cause serious health problems.
And always remember to adequately assess your own skills before tackling any DIY project. Poorly installed insulation can cause costly problems down the line. Plus, there is the added stress of feeling overwhelmed by a project you aren’t skilled enough to complete. If you aren’t a DIY master, it can be worth it in the long run to pay a professional.
If you are on the fence about installing insulation in your basement, take the plunge. You will save energy and money, and be more comfortable. Take the time to properly evaluate the conditions in your basement to make an informed decision on how to invest your money best.
If you can only choose one place to insulate, insulate your basement walls. This will get you the best return on your investment. Insulating your walls protects the vulnerable part of your house from the outside temperature, helping stabilize the temperature in your whole home.
Once you know where you plan to insulate, decide which type of insulation is best. Where you live and your basement’s moisture content will both impact which choice is best for you. Remember, poorly installed insulation can wind up being more costly in the long run.
But don’t worry! While the process can seem overwhelming, once your basement is nice and toasty warm, you’ll wonder what took you so long.