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Types of Insulation: Cost Effective Options for Insulating a Shed or Home

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If you’re insulating your home or shed, you’re probably looking at what types of insulation are available. Here’s a guide.

As we are renovating our shed into my office space and sewing room, I’m looking at insulation. Insulation is a MUST for me. We live in Maryland where the winters fall below freezing and the summers get as hot as 100 degrees Fahrenheit. My sewing equipment can’t handle those types of temperatures- or the moisture from our humidity. I need insulation to protect everything from sewing machines to fabric.

I’m going to share with you my research on options for insulation. I wanted insulation that was affordable, easy to install, and ecofriendly. If I decide to DIY the insulation, I want to make sure I won’t have health issues… I have asthma so my lungs are already a bit touchy.

The other consideration is timing. I want my shed done as soon as possible so I can move in! I have a contractor I may hire to do insulation and drywall, but if the timing is months out, then we’ll probably opt to do the job ourselves.


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I’m going to talk about each option for insulating our 10×20 shed, and the estimated materials cost. Materials are particularly pricey right now so if you’re reading this in 2023, hopefully you’ll be pleasantly surprised that your project runs less.

While fiberglass/traditional insulation is probably the most affordable option, I was trying to avoid installing it. I have asthma and have the double issue where wearing a full set of protective gear and a mask is uncomfortable to breath in… but breathing in fiberglass has long term health risks (for me, but really for anyone).

I would like my walls to be around R-13. R values indicate how well the insulation works: a higher number makes for a better insulated home/shed. This is a pretty good guide on R values and there’s a graph for how much insulation you’ll need.

We are located in Maryland which is Zone 4. The recommended R value for 2×4 walls (ours is 2×5 which is odd) is R13-15. For 2×6 walls, I’d want R-19 to 21 according to the Home Depot chart. This is a shed though; it’s fairly affordable and small to heat and cool. I want to do as much as I can to reduce heating and cooling loss, but I also don’t need it to be perfect.

For an attic, I would want R38-60; heat rises so heat can be lost most easily out the top of a building. Obviously we don’t have a traditional attic and it’s a small space to heat/cool. The ductless mini split that I purchased should be able to heat and cool the space, even if the roof isn’t insulated to that degree. But I will endeavor to add a higher R value insulation to the roof.

Just to walk you through our process of calculating how much we need, our studs are 16″ on center so there’s approximately 14.5″ between the studs. There are a total of 41 sections that are 8′ tall, NOT including the ceiling. Like my drywall and drywall alternatives blog post, I’m not going to calculate for the ceiling as it complicates things; I am looking to just run the math to compare my options. I’m also calculating for an 8′ tall space between the studs… mine is actually 9′ so I’d need to order a bit extra. Again- just trying to compare.

Things to Know When Purchasing Insulation

Rolls vs. Batts vs. Blown In:

  • Rolls: Long continuous roll of insulation that needs to be cut to the correct length.
  • Batts: Precut
  • Blown in: Generally used for areas like attics. Special machines are used to blow the insulation in.

Faced vs. Unfaced:

  • Faced: Includes a vapor barrier
  • Unfaced: No vapor barrier. You’ll need to add one.

Size

Purchase a size that will fit between your studs. My studs are spaced 16″ on center so a 15″ batt makes sense.

Foam Board Insulation

I like the idea of foam board insulation. You can cut it with a utility knife then snap it. It seems like it would be easy to install.

Pro Select R-Matte Plus-3, 2 in. x 4 ft. x 8 ft. R-13.1 Foam Insulation Board is the highest R value insulation board that I see for sale and it runs $36.26/board. One board will give me three sections worth of insulation so I’d need 14 boards.

Total cost: $507.64

Buy R-13 Foam Board Insulation

Wool Insulation

This is pricey, but has a lot of benefits. It’s easy to install and isn’t itchy. If you plan to not add drywall right away, there’s no health risk to touching it or breathing it in (assuming you’re not allergic to wool).

I really wanted to go this route; it seems like an eco friendly option. Unfortunately the batts have a 8 week turnaround right now from Havelock Wool. The loose fill ships immediately. Havelock is the main supplier and the product isn’t available locally; R13 Batt Insulation at 16″ OC runs $135.00 for 90 sq ft coverage. I’d need 540 sq ft of these batts so 6 bags for the sides only. I did put some feelers out to see if there are any local suppliers- so we shall see!

Total cost for batts: $810

For loose fill at an R-15 and 3.5″, and 77 sq ft per bag the cost is $1.75/sq ft. So it would run $945, but my R value would be slightly higher (resulting in lower long term costs).

Total cost for loose fill: $945

Hemp Insulation

Hemp wool insulation is predominantly composed of hemp, a plant product, with a small amount of polyester. It runs about $1.10-2.50/sq ft and has an R-value of 3.7 per inch. It appears that it isn’t as itchy and problematic to touch like fiberglass insulation, although most people seem to wear masks for cutting and installation (to be expected as cutting anything like this will throw up a lot of fluff).

Total cost: $594-$1350

Denim Insulation

This is a new one for me. I was browsing on Home Depot for insulation and found this option; it’s sold out right now but the R19 pallets cost less than the R13 ones. A $749 pallet would work for our shed and insulate to R19. It’s ecofriendly and reportedly easy to handle. None of the itch of traditional insulation. It may also be good for the acoustics in a room.

I would definitely consider this if it was available right now. But maybe it will be by the time you see this post!

Buy Denim Insulation from Home Depot

Total cost for loose fill: $749

Blow In Insulation

Blown in insulation is blown in using special machines. You would typically use this in an attic, not in other spaces in your home. As we aren’t insulating an attic and I’ve heard it’s best to hire this out, I’m not going to cover the cost for this one.

Spray Foam Insulation

Spray foam is generally a job that you’d hire out, but it is expensive. There’s a lot of equipment involved and probably a wait time. There IS, however, a spray foam DIY kit that you can buy at Home Depot. If you were insulation a whole home, it wouldn’t make sense, but for a small shed, it could possibly be a good option.

The kits cover 200 sq ft. at 1 in. thick, giving an R-value is 6.2.. This means I could cover 200 sq ft with 2 kits at R-12.4 (I assume I can add the two values together for double the thickness). I’m struggling with the math here, but I’ll calculate for 600 sq. ft and guess I’d need at least 6 kits. At $339 per kit that would run $2034, not including the ceiling.

I anticipate that I would end up using more than calculated though, given the depth of our studs. I think it’d be difficult to gauge the thickness during install.

Total cost: $2034

Buy a Spray Foam Insulation Kit

Fiberglass Insulation

I can buy the fiberglass insulation in rolls or batts. So the pricing will be a bit different. I’m concerned about installing fiberglass insulation to be honest due to my asthma. You need a lot more protective gear to install this and I don’t really like working in long sleeves and heavy duty masks, at least not for the hours required to install insulation. Faced rolls and batts might reduce how much exposure I have to the materials, however, so I’m going to focus on those options.

These R13 rolls were $20.68 per roll and there’s a coverage of 32 sq ft. I would need about 17 rolls for my walls.

Total cost of rolls: $351.58
Buy Ecoroll Insulation

I found these R13 batts for $54.48 per package. Each package covers 116 sq ft so I’d need 5 packages. I anticipated batts would be more expensive than the rolls, but apparently not. Interesting.

Total cost of batts: $272.40
Buy R13 batts

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Insulation options for insulating your she shed: Types of insulation that you can use, pros and cons of each, and a comparison of the cost.

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