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Léa Noémie Plourde-Archer
Léa Noémie
Plourde-Archer

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Natural Insulation Materials: What You Need to Know

Last modified: 2017/09/11 | 3 mins

Most thermal insulation products are synthetic. However, there are many natural alternatives that are as efficient, in addition to being both more environmentally friendly and more health-conscious. The following overview will help you understand what these alternatives are.

Here are 4 natural insulation materials

Cellulose

Cellulose is made using undistributed recycled newspapers. There are three main forms of cellulose: blown-in, sprayed and panel shaped. This product is most often used in walls, floors, roofs or ceilings. It is easily available throughout Canada.

Cellulose is affordable but it can be quite difficult to install. Moreover, since this material is sensitive to humidity, you will have to install a vapour barrier and an air-barrier.

This material has an R value (which determines its insulation performance level) of 3.6 per inch, which means that it is a good thermal insulation product. Once it has been treated, it is resistant to flames, mold and corrosion. It also has good soundproofing properties.

This natural insulation material is environmentally friendly due to the fact that it is biodegradable, abundant, recycled and recyclable. There are no known health risks associated to cellulose, except during the installation process.

Hemp

Hemp is sold as an insulation material in the form of panels, mattresses, or in loose form. It is also used to make hemp concrete or hemp mortar. This material is used to insulate exterior walls, roofs, floors and partitions. Available across Canada, it is fairly affordable.

Hemp products are very efficient (on average, they have an R value of 3.7 per inch). They are naturally resistant to bacteria, insects and fungus. They can be treated to be fireproof and they also have good soundproofing properties. This plant does not require fertilizer or pesticides and its transformation process consumes very little energy.

Therefore, it is very environmentally friendly. Moreover, there are no health risks associated to hemp insulation products.

Straw

Straw is known to have several insulation properties. It is available in the form of bales or straw walls and is mostly used for exterior walls. This material is available throughout Canada and is fairly affordable. On average, it has an insulation value of R 2 per inch, if the thickness of the product that has been installed is adequate.

Moreover, it is quite fire-resistant. The clay that is used for manufacturing straw-based insulation products makes it less sensitive to humidity. However, your house will have to be adapted for straw insulation and the installation process is complicated. This natural insulation product is environmentally-friendly and is completely safe for the health of the house’s occupants.   

Cotton

Cotton-based natural insulation products are made with recycled fabric and polyester fiber. They are available in the form of braids or panels and are used to insulate walls. These products are affordable, easy to install and they are available throughout Canada. Cotton-based products have a good R Value (on average 3.8 per inch). They are fire-resistant (when treated) and they have good soundproofing properties.

However, they are sensitive to humidity, which means that you will have to install an air-barrier and a vapour-barrier. It should also be known that some products that are used to treat cotton-based insulation products can be toxic. This natural insulation product is derived from recycling products, therefore, it is very environmentally-friendly, although its transportation requires energy.

Cork

Cork is made from the bark of the cork oat tree. There are three main forms of cork insulation products: cork plate, granulated cork or loose cork. This material is used to insulate walls, partitions and floors. It is quite easy to install and is available throughout Canada at reasonable prices. The R value of cork is 3.7 (on average), which means that it is a good insulation material with a long lifespan. It is resistant to water, fire, insects and rodents. It also works well for soundproofing.

This natural insulation product is renewable and recyclable, which makes it an environmentally-friendly option, although its transportation requires quite a bit of energy. There are no known health risks related to cork. 

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