Category Archives: Construction

Order Of Operations

So, you want a tiny house, you’re ready to do the research and figure out how to do each step… but in what order do you do those steps!?  Here is a general guideline.  You can deviate from this as needed, for instance maybe it’s raining and doing the roof is a hazard, maybe that day you move inside to work on electrical instead!  Take this for what it’s worth and adjust things as needed.  The important part is to just do a little bit every day, sometimes that is only research, that you can always fit in around the work!

Chicken_Egg

  • Research, Research Research
    If you’re like me and much of this process is new to you then the actual construction is only a portion of the work, at least half of it takes place in the research phase, which goes alongside the construction.  It is not uncommon to have one work day spent online figuring out how you are going to do the physical work for the next day.  (and if you are blogging your build that is a whole other project that takes loads of time (worth it!)).  Even if you have done TONS of research up front in preparation you’ll most likely be doing more along each step.
  • Trailer Prep
    You build from the ground up, in this case the trailer frame up, making sure your trailer is ready for construction is likely your first step.  If you have purchased new trailer designed for tiny houses this will be pretty short.  If you are using a used trailer you may have some sand blasting and welding to do.  If you are using a new but not tiny house specific trailer you may be drilling holes for lag bolt connections, it’s best you do this before you start building on top.
  • Subfloor (may include plumbing)
    You have a couple choices when it comes to flooring, (#1) build on top of the trailer bed or (#2) built into the trailer frame.  Both options have pros and cons to them, either one is likely your first step after having a trailer that is ready to build! (as a part of this step you should weather-proof the undercarriage and insulate your floor as well)At this point it’s a good idea to think through your plumbing system too and decided if you will be running the supply and drainage lines inside the space, under a false floor (but indoors) or running it through your floor.  If it is the latter you will want to run those lines at this point too in order to save you some ‘deconstruction’ later.
  • Framing Walls
    Your foundation is set, you have a floor, next is the fun part, going vertical!  Framing your walls is one of the first ‘big moments’ and luckily one of the first parts in your build.

The next steps can vary depending on your needs.  Often times you can build indoors easily up to 12′ tall (if you have that space), it’s generally a little tougher to find a work space with a 14′ door.  If that is the case you can put the roof off a little longer in order to use the indoor space longer.  If that is the case just skip the roofing until after the windows and doors are in place.

  • Framing Roof
    Putting your rafters in place would be the next natural order after the walls.
  • Sheathing
    Once the skeleton of your house is in place (the framing) you can sheath the exterior (or interior if that is what the plans call for!).  This is going to make your whole house more stable and be yet another exciting part where you can start to get a real ‘feel’ for your home.  After sheathing you can take a saw and cut out the door and window openings as needed.
  • Building Wrap
    After the sheathing is on you will want to (without waiting too long) wrap your house with some sort of building wrap, this is your moisture protection layer and is key to protecting what you already have invested in your tiny house!
  • Roofing
    For the same reasons you will then want to roll right into the roofing and protecting your house from the top!  If you leave the structure unprotected it is likely to start to deteriorate from the weather and UV rays.  This can tend to happen a bit faster if you opt to use OSB sheathing instead of other systems, protecting it ASAP will mitigate a lot of damage.
  • Windows and Doors
    Once your frame is up, sheathed and protected you can fill in your holes with windows and doors.  This would be the third major milestone in my opinion and really makes your tiny house start to feel like home.  Relish in that feeling, what you are doing is amazing!  Make sure you flash and weatherproof each of the openings so that you won’t have water issues down the road!
  • Exterior Finish
    At this point you will probably be itching to get to work in the inside but try to finish out the exterior and put up your exterior finish.  This will insure you minimize all stresses on your structure and make sure you get a nicely ‘dried-in’ tiny house.

You’re now Dried In!!

Moving Inside… you can stagger this with some of the above work but I suggest trying to get to the dried in point ASAP because then you know your structure and it’s components are sound, safe and protected! 

  • Electrical/Plumbing
    You can work on these two together or separately (either can be first, I think electrical goes first often because it can help speed up the process by offering light and longer work days!) they are a great next step if you (like most but not all tiny housers) are putting these systems inside of the walls (some, like those building with SIPs, opt to run these systems in the interior of the space to have access or for ease of construction, if you are one of those do this after the wall finish and before the millwork).   They likely both go in prior to insulation because it is harder to drill the holes and run wires if insulation is in the way, particularly foam/spray in insulation.
  • Insulation
    After your systems are all run you can fit your insulation around them, you usually want to be sure to insulate the outside or the plumbing when it runs in the wall so there is less chance for freezing.  The insulation is usually in the floor as part of the floor construction, at this step you can finish the insulation in the walls and the roof.  Generally you want as much insulation as possible in both hot and cold climates (it’s not just protection against cool!).  Typically you want greater amounts of insulation in your floor and in your ceiling in a tiny house, the reason being that heat rises, a good portion of energy escapes out the roof so you can be more efficient if you contain that.  Secondly, people tend to be most comfortable when their extremities are comfortable, since the floor is the only surface that your extremities are in contact with you will notice much faster if it is chilly to the touch, having more insulation in your floor will give you the perception of a warmer space.
  • Interior Wall Finish
    After you are insulated you can finish out your walls.  This is yet another step that FEELS great along the tiny house journey, this is where your space starts to take on it’s personality!  There are a lot of options for interior finishes, get creative, this is one area that you can use to save some on your budget!
  • Paint
    If you have surfaces to paint this is often a good time, you can get real messy without taping a ton of stuff and worrying about messing up the floor etc.
  • Millwork
    You should now have a pretty ‘vanilla’ space that is starting to show your personality.  Adding the millwork (counters/cabinets/built-ins) will bring it all together.  You may or may not have a door or window large enough to move all of the pieces through.  If you don’t make sure you build that piece inside so you don’t have a hiccup to troubleshoot down the line!
  • Flooring
    The flooring brings it all together, it is really hard not to want to jump straight to the flooring, it really finishes off the space but try to push this one out as far as possible because you are likely to damage the flooring if you put it in to soon, even if it is taped off.
  • Doors, Trim, Fixtures
    The work seems to go so much faster at this point, all the finishing touches like window trims, floor trims, installing light fixtures etc polish the space.  You can paint what needs painted outside of the space, install it and then just touch it up after install, this can save a lot of taping and mess!
  • Touch-Ups
    Take a day and just admire your work, then take a roll of tape and look it over with a sharp eye, mark each flaw with a piece of tape so you know there is something to touch up there then take a day to do that touch up work, this is WAY easier if you do it before the house is filled with possessions!
  • Furniture
    Move in!!! Enjoy! 😉

For more tiny house logistics check out the PlanningTiny eCourses

Click HERE to browse other tiny house topics!

Advanced Framing Techniques

What is it:

Advanced Framing is a method of framing that minimizes weight and materials needed by putting lumber together in very specific ways to make it structurally sound in efficient ways.  Advanced Framing is gaining in popularity but is still a less commonly used method of house framing.  Generally advanced framing uses 2×6 lumber (generally Douglas Fir, exception to 2×6 below) placed 24″ on center so that sheet goods like plywood sheathing, OSB sheathing and drywall (which come in 4’x8′-12′ sheets standard) can be fastened to the structure on the perimeter, these are the walls ‘base studs’.  If the spacing was any less or any more than 24″ on center the studs wouldn’t line up on the edges of your sheet goods and could lead to more cuts and compromising the integrity of the material (sheathing is structural and offers less structurally in smaller pieces).  These studs are spaced on top of a ‘bottom plate’ which is how the wall is fastened at the bottom to the trailer.  A main difference, aside from stud spacing, between standard framing and advanced framing is that there is generally a single top plate at the top of the wall instead of the double top plate you see in standard framing.  Advanced framing is able to happen with a single top plate because it requires more planning and requires that roof joists be distributed in line with wall studs so that roof loads are carried directly down wall studs instead of potentially bearing at a mid point on the top plate between wall studs of standard framing.  Generally advanced framing is fastened with 16 penny (aka 16-d) framing nails which are 3.5″ long.

The exception to the 2×6 stud requirement is if you are building one story and only supporting the roof load, in that case 2×4 lumber is acceptable.

It has most commonly been recommended to use sheathing (either OSB or Plywood) that is at least 7/16″ thick in order to offer your structure enough shear strength.  There are alternatives to this such as additional strapping and T-111 siding which may be able to save you some weight while not compromising structural integrity.

Roof ‘rafters’ are generally 2×4 -2×8 lumber (Douglas Fir) placed 24″ o.c. depending on dead and live loads to accommodate and length of span required as well as amount of insulation desired.  Various roof styles require different size rafters.  It is important in advanced framing that your roof rafters line up directly over your wall studs for continuity.  It is fairly common for people to take certain aspects of advanced framing and not others.  If your rafters do not line up with your walls it is okay to do a double top plate as in Standard Framing so that it is able to carry the roof load over to the nearest wall studs without failing.  In addition to less lumber you are encouraged to use much more strapping and clips to reinforce your build with advanced framing.

After you have all of your studs spaced out at the appropriate distances you can start to add your door and opening (window) locations.   In the diagram below standard framing is on top while advanced framing is below, you can see the difference in amount of lumber used for the same wall:

framing

Standard framing on top, advanced framing on bottom

You notice there is a lot less lumber in advanced framing.  One other thing to note in advanced framing is how you connect interior walls to exterior walls, in standard framing you would tie them in with an extra stud so that you get a sturdy connection, with advanced framing you can use ‘ladder framing’ where you can brace with just a few pieces of blocking to attach to, this helps limit thermal bridging.

Each opening has a ‘header’ which collects the weight that would otherwise be carried by the wall studs and distributes it downward around the window or door desired.  With advanced framing you don’t have king studs and trimmer studs like in standard framing, you are able to use less lumber by incorporating the use of metal clips (generally by Simpson) to attach to a base stud.  You can add an interim stud to carry the load down if the window/opening is not on a 24″ module.  To create your rough openings for your doors and windows you generally take the size of your door/window and add 2″ to the width and height, this allows you room to level and square up your window/door as needed.   For windows you have an additional ‘sill’ which defines the bottom of the rough opening for the window.  The rough opening is generally about 2″ bigger than the actual window being placed, dependent on the size of the window flanges on the window (you need enough room to level and plumb you window in case the opening is slightly out of square but not too much that you cannot fasten the window flanges on the entire perimeter).  The sill is supported by cripples which are aligned with the base studs that are placed 24″ o.c. for your sheet goods.

Generally a corner condition where two walls come together in an advanced framed home looks like this:

ar135317388224064

You can minimize the extra stud usually present by adding some clips to catch the drywall or whatever interior finish surface you are planning on having.  The 24″ dimension would start from the outside corner of  the structure to assure that you have a nailing surface every 4′ along the outside perimeter of the structure for your sheathing (which is structural).

Pros:

There is less lumber used than in that of standard framing techniques which leads to less thermal bridging and a more efficient building structurally and energy-wise.  While you may think it would be less expensive than standard framing because of the lack of lumber it is pretty much a wash because of the extra metal clips and strapping suggested.  Advanced framed buildings are slightly lighter weight than standard framing and so may be desired for tiny homes on wheels.

Cons:

This is less commonly known and understood than standard framing and has some critics that go along with that because it is less widely understood.  There is a significant amount of planning that has to go into the design of your structure to insure that all of the members are attached and located appropriately, there is less room for error in construction.

Tiny House Specific and Regional Considerations:

Advanced framing by nature incorporates a lot of the additional structural measures you would want to take when building a house on wheels with any kind of framing (strapping, hurricane ties, etc.).  In most cases it is most desired to use 2×4 lumber rather than 2×6 lumber to maximize your interior space in a tiny house, the requirement of one story can cause issues if you intend to have a loft space (since that is now supporting more than just a roof).  You can add extra structural measures, such as using rigid or spray-in insulation which actually adds structural value to your walls (making them up to 150% the strength of just a stud wall) to help accommodate a loft while still using 2×4 advanced framing techniques.   Additionally you will need to secure your walls solidly to your foundation using a minimum of 3/8″ lag bolts (recommended at 24″ o.c.).  It is also recommended to add Simpson Hold-downs at the front corners (minimum).

Wall, roof and floor thicknesses may vary based on the amount and type of insulation desired.  Typically they are 2×4 construction but in some cases more depth may be desired for a greater R-Value.

This is a collaborative site, if you have something to add/correct leave a comment!  If you have some words of wisdom on any of the methods mentioned feel free to share in the comments!

For a list of definitions please visit the definitions page

Thea’s Side-By-Side Insulation Comparison

What is insulation:

Insulation is a material intended to reduce heat gain or loss by providing a barrier between areas that are significantly different in temperature.  Insulative performance is measured by R value, a measure of resistance to heat flow by thermal conduction.  It ranges from less than R1 to R60, the more a material restricts the flow of heat, the higher its R rating.  You can find what is recommended in your area here:    https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=home_sealing.hm_improvement_insulation_table

 

fiberglass-batt-insulation

Type of Insulation: Fiberglass

What it is: Mostly comes in batt form, it is tiny fibers of silica that trap hot air.

How to install: easy to install DIY, requires gloves, cut to fit, do not compress.  May need professional installer for loose blown fibers.

Pros: easy DIY especially with paper or foil faced versions, inexpensive, widely available, standard widths and thicknesses. Up to 60% recycled content. lightweight, especially loose blown fibers.

Cons: Very itchy, releases eye, throat and skin irritations during installation, compresses easily lowering R value, not easy to cut.  Must wear gloves and eye protection. Loose applications can lose 50% effectiveness in cold temperatures, and can shift causing bare spots, settling is common, recommended only for attic spaces.
Weight: 0.04 pounds per square foot

Cost:  0.30 per square foot

R Value: 3.0-4.0 per inch (2.2-2.7 per inch for loose blown)

Green/Health Factor: may contain phenol formaldehyde, linked to cancer but is being phased out.  Up to 60% recycled content.  Breathing in small fibers can be throat and lung irritant, potent skin and eye irritant.

Special Notes: Can also be blown in wet form professionally.

 

rockwool-blanket
Type of Insulation: Rockwool

What it is: recycled slag and mined basalt rock in blanket form

How to install: easy to install DIY, cut to fit

Pros: easy DIY, no itch, holds shape well, staple free, more fire resistant than fiberglass. 70-90% recycled content.

Cons: not widely available, retains moisture, mold grows in moist fibers, releases eye, throat and skin irritations during installation.
Weight: 2.5-6.2 pounds per square foot

Cost: 0.60 per square foot

R Value: 4.0-5.0 per inch

Green/Health Factor: releases eye, throat and skin irritations during installation.

 

cotton-insulation-board-aluminosilicate-customizable-insulation-materials-bubble-insulation-building-materials_1915157

Type of Insulation: Cotton

What it is: fibers of recycled cotton remnants from textile industry. Can be in blanket or loose form.

How to install: easy to install DIY, cut to fit, or place loose fibers in wall cavity

Pros: easy DIY, no itch, recyclable, compostable, uses 85% recycled fiber, and 15% borate based flame retardant. Boron in flame retardant acts as pest and mildew prohibitor. 16” width of batt is ideal for metal framing for friction fit.

Cons: not widely available, can wet out, loose fill can settle, boron can leach out if wetted reducing the flame retardant. Loft rebound on batts may be poor when shipped in compressed form. Batts are sold in 16” widths which can create compression in wood framing during installation. (manufacturer shows 17” on center construction in demonstrating product)

Weight:  0.65 pounds per square foot

Cost: 0.90 per square foot

R Value: 3.5-4.0 per inch

Green/Health Factor: No offgassing.  Borate is a safe flame retardant, and deters some insect pests. Plant based material, but cotton is a very pesticide and water intensive crop. 85% recycled fiber from a renewable source, needs little energy to manufacture.

 

Black_Mountain_Natural_Wool_Insulation

Type of Insulation: Wool

What it is: Sheeps wool remnants from textile industry, can be loose or in blanket form

How to install: easy to install DIY,cut to fit or fluff up loose fiber and place in wall cavity.

Pros: easy DIY, both hydrophilic and hydrophobic so is water resistant at the same time it can absorb ⅓ its weight in water without feeling damp or losing effectiveness, in fact when wet, it generates heat which in turn prevents condensation. More fire resistant than other forms of insulation, treated with boron to prevent pests.

Cons: not widely available, expensive

Weight: 0.63 pounds per square foot

Cost: 1.85 per square inch

R Value: 3.0-4.0 per inch

Green/Health Factor: Not vegan friendly, no VOCs, fire resistant, treated with safe boron for pest resistance. May absorb airborne toxins.

 

blown

Type of Insulation: Cellulose

What it is: Mostly recycled shredded fluffed up newsprint, some cardboard

How to install: loose fill into wall cavities, can be professionally installed with a blower

Pros: Does not lose effectiveness at cold temperatures, can actually gain R value at lower temps.  Soundproofing capabilities. 85% recycled material and 15% borate based fire retardant

Cons: Too heavy for ceiling installation, can settle as much as 20% over time.  Moisture can be an issue significantly reducing insulation value.  Susceptible to mold.  Borate can leach out if it gets wet reducing fire retardant capabilities.

Weight: 0.14 per cubic foot

Cost: 0.31 per cubic foot

R Value: 3.2-3.8 per inch

Green/Health Factor: Can be dusty, fibers post no health risk to lungs. Uses 85% post consumer recycled paper and added 15% borate for fire retardant which can also deter pests. Some chemically sensitive people are bothered from offgassing from newsprint inks.  Requires up to 30% less energy to produce than fiberglass.

 

GS0113_PRO05

Type of Insulation: Cork

What it is: Rigid insulating boards made with cork

How to install: Installed under siding on outside of home

Pros: Sustainable product that supports forest stewardship, and endangered species that live in them. No added ingredients, only ingredient is cork. Good soundproofing. No VOCs, naturally flame resistant.

Cons: Heavy. Not widely available.  Requires importing

Weight: 7.0-7.5 pounds per cubic foot

Cost: 1.05 per board foot

R Value: 3.6 per inch.

Green/Health Factor: No health concerns. Supports sustainable forest stewardship in environmentally sensitive areas with endangered species within. Shipping and importing is an issue as not available locally.

 

aerogel

Type of Insulation: Aerogel

What it is: silica that has had the liquid removed under high pressure and high temperature and replaced with air.

How to install: Very easy DIY, peel and stick, or tack to studs.  Best to use on studs to prevent thermal bridging, can be installed on inside or outside of studs.

Pros: Very easy to install, superior R value, extremely lightweight

Cons: Not readily available, very expensive

Weight: 0.0 pounds per square foot (3 times heavier than air)

Cost: 2.00 per board foot

R Value: 10.3 per inch

Green/Health Factor: R value is superior to other products. No offgassing, product is mostly air.

 

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Type of Insulation: Mushroom Insulation

What it is: Mycellium, the white vegetative strands of fungus, that are grown in place.

How to install: grown in place either in sips, or blown in professionally

Pros: Very low energy cost to produce, using sustainable materials with no toxic byproducts.

Cons: Not yet commercially available, will not be widely available immediately when commercially released.

Weight: unknown

Cost: 0.66 per board foot.

R Value: 3.0 per inch

Green/Health Factor: Uses natural materials, does not produce greenhouse gasses, low embodied energy in creation.  No VOCs

 

download (1)

Type of Insulation:  Open Cell Polyurethane

What it is: A two-component mixture composed of isocyanate and polyol resin that forms an expanding foam

How to install: Installed in thin layers that react upon application to expand into a hard foam. Must be done under ventilation with personal protective gear on including ventilation mask, gloves and protective clothing.  Best installed when temperatures are between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Consider professional installation. Curing takes 72 hours.

Pros: Provides excellent air barrier, so can eliminate other weatherizing tasks such as caulking. Won’t sag or settle, high R value. No offgassing after curing if properly applied. Can use plant based polyol resin to account for up to 10% Reduces need for venting roof. Blocks conductive and convective heat transfer.

Cons: Allows water vapour to penetrate, still need moisture barrier, emits dangerous VOCs during installation until cured, must wear personal protective gear including ventilation mask, gloves and protective clothing.  Must have adequate ventilation during application and while curing. If not properly mixed, may not react fully and can remain toxic after curing creating VOCs.  Should not use with asphalt roofing as it allows high heat buildup, which is the primary cause of disintegration in asphalt installations.

Weight:

Cost: 1.00-1.20 per square foot

R Value: 3.5-3.6 per inch

Green/Health Factor: Contains modest amount of petroleum or plant based plastic. Chemicals and VOCs produced during installation and while curing can cause asthma and other serious health effects.  Wear personal protective gear including ventilation mask, gloves and protective clothing during installation and while curing, as well as provide adequate ventilation.  Chemically sensitive individuals may still have effects after curing, especially if the product was not mixed or applied properly. Not sustainable, Soy based polyol resins are highly pesticide and water intensive in manufacture, and still make up only 10% of the product.  Improper installation has been shown to generate excessive heat causing fire.  Releases highly toxic compounds including isocyanides, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrogen cyanides among others during burning.  Not recyclable.

 

CCvsOC
Type of Insulation: Closed Cell Polyurethane

What it is: A two-component mixture composed of isocyanate and polyol resin that forms an expanding foam

How to install: Installed in thin layers with a blower that react upon application to expand into a hard foam.  Must be done under ventilation with personal protective gear on including ventilation mask, gloves and protective clothing.  Best installed when temperatures are between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Consider professional installation.

Pros: Provides excellent air barrier, so can eliminate other weatherizing tasks such as caulking. Provides moisture barrier so can eliminate need for vapour barrier. Won’t sag or settle, high R value. No offgassing after curing if properly applied. Can use plant based polyol resin to account for up to 10% Reduces need for venting roof. Blocks conductive and convective heat transfer.

Cons: Expensive. Not recyclable. Emits dangerous VOCs during installation until cured, must wear personal protective gear including ventilation mask, gloves and protective clothing.  Must have adequate ventilation during application and while curing. If not properly mixed, may not react fully and can remain toxic after curing creating VOCs.  Should not use with asphalt roofing as it allows high heat buildup, which is the primary cause of disintegration in asphalt installations.

Weight:

Cost: 1.75-3.00$ per square foot

R Value: 6.0-6.5 per inch

Green/Health Factor: Contains modest amount of petroleum plastic. Uses blowing agents that have a high global warming potential. Chemicals and VOCs produced during installation and while curing can cause asthma and other serious health effects.  Wear personal protective gear including ventilation mask, gloves and protective clothing during installation and while curing, as well as provide adequate ventilation.  Chemically sensitive individuals may still have effects after curing, especially if the product was not mixed or applied properly. Not sustainable.  Improper installation has been shown to generate excessive heat causing fire.  Releases highly toxic compounds including isocyanides, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrogen cyanides among others during burning.  Not recyclable.

 

download (2)
Type of Insulation: Icynene

What it is: A two-component mixture composed of isocyanate and proprietary resin that forms an expanding foam

How to install: Installed in thin layers with a blower that react upon application to expand into a hard foam.  Must be done under ventilation with personal protective gear on including ventilation mask, gloves and protective clothing.  Best installed when temperatures are between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Only available by professional installation.

Pros: VOCs dissipate faster than with polyurethane. Very good soundproofing. Provides excellent air barrier, so can eliminate other weatherizing tasks such as caulking. Provides moisture barrier so can eliminate need for vapour barrier. Won’t sag or settle, high R value. No offgassing after curing if properly applied. Can use plant based polyol resin to account for up to 10% Reduces need for venting roof. Blocks conductive and convective heat transfer.

Cons: Seals so tight need to install ventilator and air exchanger in home.  Will soak up water unlike polyurethane. Expensive. Not recyclable. Emits dangerous VOCs during installation until cured, must wear personal protective gear including ventilation mask, gloves and protective clothing.  Must have adequate ventilation during application and while curing. If not properly mixed, may not react fully and can remain toxic after curing creating VOCs.  Should not use with asphalt roofing as it allows high heat buildup, which is the primary cause of disintegration in asphalt installations.

Weight:

Cost: company does not give answer likely similar to closed cell

R Value: 3.6 per inch

Green/Health Factor: Contains modest amount of petroleum plastic. Uses blowing agents that have a high global warming potential. Chemicals and VOCs produced during installation and while curing can cause asthma and other serious health effects.  Wear personal protective gear including ventilation mask, gloves and protective clothing during installation and while curing, as well as provide adequate ventilation.  Chemically sensitive individuals may still have effects after curing, especially if the product was not mixed or applied properly. Not sustainable.  Improper installation has been shown to generate excessive heat causing fire.  Releases highly toxic compounds including isocyanides, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrogen cyanides among others during burning.  Not recyclable.

 

images

Type of Insulation: Cementitious

What it is: Magnesium oxide cement mixed with air, derived from seawater

How to install: Blown into walls and cavities, professional install

Pros: Naturally 100% fireproof, 100% mold proof, and fully bug and rodent proof. 100% Non-Toxic, Free of CFC’s & Formaldehyde, no offgassing. No loss of R-value over time. It offers excellent soundproofing qualities. Once in place it is non-shrinking and non-settling  Can be recycled or composted. Does not expand or heat up. Good air barrier.

Cons: crumbles easily so dust can be an issue. Long cure time, that may require dehumidifying during process.  Likely heavy

Weight: unknown but concrete, so likely heavy.

Cost: unknown

R Value: 3.9 per inch

Green/Health Factor: made only of air, water and magnesium oxide, no toxic products. No offgassing.  Pest, rodent and fire proof.

 

rigid-insulation-board

Type of Insulation: EPS rigid foam

What it is: Polystyrene Expanded Foam, basically, styrofoam sheets.

How to install: DIY best installed under siding on exterior.  Cut to fit. Seams must be taped

Pros:  Easy DIY Recyclable, no offgassing, no HCFCs, air barrier

Cons: made from petrochemicals. contains highly toxic HBCD brominated flame retardant and other toxins.  Produces highly toxic fumes when burning. Highly flammable

Weight:

Cost:  0.19 per square foot

R Value: 4.6 per inch

Green/Health Factor:  No offgassing. Made from petrochemicals, contains highly toxic HBCD brominated flame retardant and other toxins.  Produces highly toxic fumes when burning.

 

rigid-insulation-board

Type of Insulation: XPS Rigid Foam

What it is: Extruded Polystrene Boards

How to install: DIY best installed under siding on exterior.  Cut to fit. Seams must be taped

Pros: Easy DIY. no offgassing, more moisture resistant than EPS

Cons: Not recyclable, made from petrochemicals, manufactured with HCFCs, contains highly toxic HBCD brominated flame retardant and other toxins.  Produces highly toxic fumes when burning. Highly flammable.

Weight:

Cost: 0.42 per square foot

R Value: R5 per inch

Green/Health Factor: No offgassing. Not recyclable, made from petrochemicals, manufactured with HCFCs, contains highly toxic HBCD brominated flame retardant and other toxins.  Produces highly toxic fumes when burning.

 

rigid-insulation-board

Type of Insulation: ISO Rigid Foam

What it is: Polyisocyanurate foam sheets

How to install: DIY best installed under siding on exterior.  Cut to fit Seams must be taped

Pros:  Easy DIY, no offgassing, manufactured with various facings to improve R value and provide radiant barrier. No HCFCs

Cons: Not recyclable, made from petrochemicals, loses R value over time so stated R value is corrected value. Flammable.

Weight:

Cost: 0.70 per square foot

R Value: Corrected R value ~6.5 per inch.  An R9 sheet will lose R2 in 2 years.  Applied coatings can increase R value

Green/Health Factor: No offgassing. Not recyclable, made from petrochemicals, contains highly toxic HBCD brominated flame retardant and other toxins.  Produces highly toxic fumes when burning

 

DCAO0007

Type of Insulation: Insulating paint

What it is: A paint with added “microspheres” or “ceramic beads” said to provide a thermal insulative property.

How to install: paint the wall cavity

Pros: none

Cons: provides no R value.  limited radiant barrier.  Has the same insulating properties as ordinary paint, and studies suggest even less radiant barrier properties than ordinary paint, and much less than low-e paint

Weight: negligible

Cost: 0.10 per square foot

R Value: application increases thermal conductivity of material it is applied to, in effect, lowering the R value.  Consider it a negative R value.

Green/Health Factor: same as paint

Special Notes: Not insulation, not even a radiant barrier

 

DoublBublFoilFoil

Type of Insulation: Double Bubble Foil Wrap

What it is: bubble wrap embedded in thin foil film in sheet form.

How to install: use as radiant barrier. Install on warm side with an air gap

Pros: reduces heat transfer by radiation. If installed with air gap in attic installation can decrease radiation of heat into interior.

Cons: expensive compared to regular radiant barrier which provides the same benefit. R values often include the air gap in order to quote higher value, which is misleading. Cannot be used with spray foam, gives no value if installed incorrectly. Adds bubble layer that adds no efficiency to the product, uses extra resources to create.

Weight:

Cost: 0.47 per square foot

R Value: R value of material is 1.1, “assembly R value” can be up to R3 if properly installed.

Green/Health Factor: Uses excess material to add plastic bubble wrap to radiant barrier without increasing efficiency.  Not recyclable. Not sustainable.

Special Notes: not an insulation. Useful only in hot climates. According to federal law, R value means the insulating factor of the material itself. Manufacturers of foil radiant barriers will use an “assembly R value” in which they are including the material, and the wall assembly’s own R value together.  Any insulation if listed in this way will have a much higher than legally stated R value.

 

radiant-barrier-installation

Type of Insulation: Radiant Barrier

What it is: A thin foil film in sheet form

How to install: Use as a radiant barrier.  Install on warm side with an air gap.

Pros: Reduces heat transfer by radiation. If installed with air gap in attic installation, can decrease radiation of heat into interior. Can be installed as a thin e coating between panes of glass to reduce radiation of heat into interior.

Cons: Cannot be used with spray foam. Gives no R value if installed incorrectly.

Weight:

Cost: 0.13 per square foot

R Value: 1.0 R value of material is 1.0, “assembly R value” can be up to R3 if properly installed

Green/Health Factor: Uses much less material than double bubble foil wrap to provide the same benefits.  Not recyclable. Not sustainable.

Special Notes: Not an insulation.  Useful only in hot climates. According to federal law, R value means the insulating factor of the material itself. Manufacturers of foil radiant barriers will use an “assembly R value” in which they are including the material, and the wall assembly’s own R value together.  Any insulation if listed in this way will have a much higher than legally stated R value.

 

 

 

 

 

Wool/Levi Insulation

Black_Mountain_Natural_Wool_Insulation

What it is:

I’ve sort of grouped a couple forms together because they are similar in nature and effectiveness.  Insulation made of sheep’s wool and recycled levies and textile fibers.  Both of these are most commonly found in strips of  comes in strips of different widths to fit between Advanced Framing, Standard Framing, or Metal Framing though they can also be found in loose form as well.  They can fit between 2×4 or 2×6 framing, obviously having a higher R-value if thicker.  The purpose of insulation is to keep hot and cool areas separate.  It is equally important in hot climates as it is in cold climates.  It is also a sound barrier keeping your home quiet and private.  Most insulation types do this by trapping air, these types of insulation are no exception, the fiberous material leaves plenty of air gaps which makes for an effective insulation. Like other types of insulation it does not work as well when compressed.

Sheep’s wool insulation is exactly what it sounds like, the wool from sheep formed together and treated with boron for protection from pests.  Recycled levi insulation is made up of thick fibers of material leftover from the textile industry, often including levi jeans giving it it’s usual blue color.  Levi insulation is most often treated with boron for pest protection and a saline solution for fire protection.

Jeans

Both of these are typically installed between studs, usually after sheathing is up they generally do not have any backing to tack them in place as they are pretty hearty and will hold themselves in place well if applied snuggly.   These are each much less irritating to your skin and lungs while being installed so while the use of gloves and safety glasses are a good idea in most cases it’s not necessarily required for safe handling.

Pros:

Wool and levi insulation have comparable, if not slightly better, R-values than standard fiberglass batt insulation and are very easy to DIY in batt form.  They are much healthier to handle and don’t typically have any ‘harsh’ chemicals added that could effect your indoor air quality later.  Both are very ‘substantial feeling’ when compressed and much more durable over time than standard fiberglass batt or blow-in insulation, holding their form better and staying in place.   Wool insulation has great water resistant qualities naturally and can get moist without affecting the effectiveness of the insulation.  Levi insulation is treated to be water resistant and can dry out if ventilated, returning to its original effectiveness.  Both types are fire resistant, Factoid – both types have been known to be used in correction facilities as sleeping pads because of their durability, lack of health risks, and ability to hold form while remaining ‘fairly indestructible’.

Cons:

While slightly better than standard fiberglass batt insulation there is still a fairly limited R-Value for thickness (space required) compared to other insulation types.  You can get about an R-3 to an R-4 per inch of wool or levi insulation.  These insulations typically cost a bit more than fiberglass, often 3-4 times the cost.  They are friendly on the environment, wool is a renewable resource and reclaiming scrap textiles diverts it from the waste stream.  Both are not heavily processed and therefore much more sustainably manufactured than alternative types of insulation.

Tiny House Specific and Regional Considerations:

Often times when dealing with tiny houses space is a premium and most want more interior space, in order to get energy codes suggested R-Value with either levi or wool insulation alone you would need to increase your walls to 2×6 construction.  You are of course not required to follow energy codes for tiny homes but ‘code’ is typically the minimum level suggested for energy savings and comfort.  This all varies quite a bit by location but if you experience either high temperatures or very low temperatures you will notice a big impact from quality insulation and R-values.

For information on other types of insulation please click here.

This is a collaborative site, if you have something to add/correct leave a comment!  If you have some words of wisdom on any of the methods mentioned feel free to share in the comments!

For a list of definitions please visit the definitions page

Blow-In Insulation

Cellulose-insulation

What it is:

Blow-In Insulation, also referred to as cellulose insulation is a soft fiber material, often made of recycled paper products that is blown into a space, often with the use of equipment (can easily be rented).  It is most often used in flat spaces like an attic rather than walls because of settling issues but it can be blown into vertical spaces as well.  The purpose of insulation is to keep hot and cool areas separate.  It is equally important in hot climates as it is in cold climates.  It is also a sound barrier keeping your home quiet and private.  Most insulation types do this by trapping air, blow-in insulation accomplishes this by having a thin fiber like materials create air gaps. Like other types of insulation it does not work as well when compressed.

blown

Blow-in insulation can be used between studs, in roof spaces and in floor boards.  For walls it is easiest for the DIYer to blow in the insulation after the sheathign and interior wall finish is up.  Generally a small hole is cut in the interior side of each stud bay, insulation is blown in and then the material is patched.  This can be labor intensive but is a great way to insulate existing structures which may not be insulated already.   There are other options best left to professionals that use blow in with binding materials to allow the insulation to stick vertically not requiring the interior finish to already be installed.  When installing blow-in insulation you should wear gloves, safety glasses and a breathing mask so that fibrous pieces are not ingested or irritating to your skin.

Pros:

Blow-in insulation is affordable compared to other insulation types.  It is light weight generally 75%+ recycled materials and widely available at home improvement stores.  There is very little toxic/harmful materials resulting in less off-gassing and a cleaner home air environment.  The fibers are generally treated with a borate based or saline solution to reduce fire hazards, mold and pests.  There is less embodied energy used to produce blow-in insulation than nearly any other type.

Cons:

You can get a fairly limited R-Value for thickness (space required) compared to other insulation types, a 3.5″ wall (standard 2×4) will get about an R-13.   Blow in insulation settles over time often leaving air gaps that are insulated at the top of a wall as well as compressing the insulation at the bottom, diminishing effectiveness of the insulation.  Water damage will completely undermine any insulation value of most blow in insulation.  Even though it is great for fitting into tight spaces, say around plumbing pipes, it is not suggested to use blow-in insulation in floor systems and plumbing walls for this reason, if there were to be a flood/leak you would need to redo the entire floor insulation.

Tiny House Specific and Regional Considerations:

Often times when dealing with tiny houses space is a premium and most want more interior space, in order to get energy codes suggested R-Value with blow-in insulation alone you would need to increase your walls to 2×6 construction.  You are of course not required to follow energy codes for tiny homes but ‘code’ is typically the minimum level suggested for energy savings and comfort.  This all varies quite a bit by location but if you experience either high temperatures or very low temperatures you will notice a big impact from quality insulation and R-values. Tiny houses are exposed to more vibration than a standard house, this will cause settling to occur much faster than in a standard house.

For information on other types of insulation please click here.

This is a collaborative site, if you have something to add/correct leave a comment!  If you have some words of wisdom on any of the methods mentioned feel free to share in the comments!

For a list of definitions please visit the definitions page