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Remodeling Your Historic Home? What Are Your Best Insulation Options?

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Whether you've recently purchased a historic home with the intent of immediately embarking on a "to the studs" renovation or have been slowly making improvements to your older home over time, you may be wondering what to do when it comes to insulation. Although most historic homes will require updates to windows, doors, and other points of heat loss to improve efficiency and reduce heating and cooling costs, installing new windows and energy-efficient doors won't do much to help if the walls and ceilings surrounding these upgrades are poorly insulated. Read on to learn more about the most efficient insulation options available to you, as well as some special considerations you may need to take into account when installing insulation in a historic home.

What factors will you need to consider when selecting an insulation material for your historic home?

Historic homes are known for their charm and character -- which can often include small rooms with thin walls, exposed interior brick, hidden cubbies, and other structural features that make selecting insulation tricky. Installing fiberglass insulation by the sheet may be no problem in a modern home with square rooms and plenty of space between the interior drywall and the outside wall, but it can be all but impossible in an older home without gutting the inside of each room and re-installing drywall.

As a result, you'll want to ask a few questions and consider a few factors before going on an insulation purchase run.

How much of your home needs to be insulated?

If only a few rooms of your home require insulation, or if you're only planning to insulate an attic or basement rather than your entire house, your options may be different than if you're facing a larger-scale installation. For those who are looking to save money, choosing a blanket or poured-in insulation can be a good DIY project, while those seeking spray foam insulation or other methods may need to enlist professional assistance.

How much space do you have to install insulation?

If your home has enough interior space for you to feel comfortable slightly altering the floor plan to provide a larger gap between your interior drywall and the outside studs, you should have a wider range of insulation options than those who are unable to part with any square footage. In the latter situation, you may need to investigate spray foam insulation or another type of insulation that can easily expand to fill a small or narrow space.

Has your home's wiring already been updated?

Certain types of insulation can be more flammable than others, and installing options like recycled cotton batting, cellulose fill, or other combustible materials could raise the fire risk in a home with outdated wiring. If you have knob-and-tube wiring and no plans to replace it in the near future, you'll want to go with a flame-retardant insulation like fiberglass; on the other hand, if you've been planning to upgrade to modern wiring, you may want to schedule this project to take place before installing insulation.

Which insulation choices are ideal for historic homes? 

Although the best insulation choice can vary depending on local climate, the layout of the home, and even the homeowner's budget, there are a few choices that should provide insulating success for the historic homeowner. 

For homes with walls wide enough to accommodate blanket insulation, the old standby -- fiberglass -- can be a great choice. This insulation helps prevent heat from being transferred from inside to outside (or outside to inside) without raising fire risk or requiring you to tear out (much) drywall.

For thin walls or tight areas, an expandable drying option like spray foam insulation may be a good choice. The nozzle of the insulation hose should be able to fit into even the tiniest crevice, ensuring your walls and ceilings will be solidly insulated without forcing you to change your floor plans or move interior walls.

For more information and options, talk with a professional insulation and fiberglass manufacturing company.