Attic Insulation vs Wall Insulation: What’s the Difference?
When most people make a plan to insulate their homes, the attic is the first place they think to install that fluffy pink material.
But did you know that improperly insulated walls can also cost you time, energy, and money in the long run? That’s because walls, like attics, are major components in regulating heat flow in your home.
For the most cost-efficient, comfortable living environment, it’s best to insulate both your attic and your walls. That said, there are important differences between attic insulation and wall insulation that you should know about.
In this short guide, we’ll cover the important differences are location, type, and R-value requirements.
Location, Location, Location
It may seem obvious that attic insulation is installed in the attic, while wall insulation is installed in the walls. However, given the unique features of both spaces, it’s worth going over their layouts in more detail before you start replacing your existing insulation.
In many modern homes, the attic is the large rectangular or square space beneath the roof and above the main living space. The following are the main components of the typical attic:1
- Perpendicular joints
- Sheathing made of plywood
To properly insulate your attic, install new insulation between the attic’s perpendicular joists. You may also want to do an attic insulation installation between wall joists and around windows.
Although there are several types of walls, wooden walls are the most common in the modern home. A wooden wall’s layout dictates where insulation should go.
Most wooden walls contain the following:2
- Top and bottom plates
- Studs (wall, cripple, and trimmer)
- Fire blocks
To properly insulate your walls, install home insulation in the spaces between wall studs. You may also need to hand-cut smaller pieces of insulation so that you can insulate small cavities around windows and doors.
Given the distinct layouts of attics and walls, you’ll likely need different types of insulation to properly insulate these two spaces. This is because walls are largely uniform in terms of the spacing between studs while attics may feature irregular spacing or obstacles between joists.
Below, we’ve broken down the most common home insulation types for attics and walls.
As stated above, an attic space is often irregularly spaced. Due to this layout, the following insulation types are most commonly used in attics:
- Loose-fill – Perfect for small spaces and irregular cavities, loose-fill insulation is constructed from various recycled materials, including fiberglass and plastic. The most common way to install loose-fill insulation is with a hose and blower. The loose-fill installation is simply blown into spaces in need of adequate insulation. However, if you’d like to save money, you can install loose-fill insulation by hand instead of hiring a professional for blown installation.
- Blanket – When most people think of easily installable insulation for an attic space, they picture blanket insulation. This type of insulation comes in two forms: batts and rolls. Batt insulation is insulation cut into panels, while roll insulation comes in pre-cut rolls. If the space between joists is relatively uniform, blanket insulation can be ideal. However, if the space is irregular or filled with obstacles, blanket insulation may not cover every square inch.
While blanket and loose-fill insulation can be good for walls, the best insulation for walls is foam board or rigid foam insulation.3
This is because foam board insulation is moisture resistant, making it perfect for basement walls and/or walls exposed to the elements.
Foam board insulation has the following properties:
- Constructed from various synthetic resins, such as polystyrene
- Easy to apply with a special adhesive made specifically for foam boards
- High R-values compared to the material’s thickness
An insulation material’s R-value is a measurement of its ability to regulate heat flow. The higher its R-value, the more efficient the insulation material is at reducing heat flow.
Due to their different properties, attics and walls have different R-value requirements. These requirements largely stem from the home’s location, but, in general, wall R-value ranges are lower than attic R-values.
Let’s take a look at a few R-value ranges for attics based on location:4
- Zone 3 – Comprising most of the South, Zone 3 homes have attic R-values between R30-R60.
- Zone 5 – Homes in Zone 5 are largely located in the West and Mid-Atlantic. They require attic R-values ranging between R38-R60.
- Zone 7 – Constituting the northernmost parts of the contiguous U.S., homes in Zone 7 have attic R-values between R49-R60.
While these three zones have three different sets of insulation R-value requirements for attic spaces, homes in any geographic area can benefit from wall insulation with R-values between R13-R15 for 2X4 walls and R19-21 for 2X6 walls.
Attic Construction: For All Your Insulation Needs
So, which kind of new insulation will make the biggest difference in your air quality and energy bills? Properly insulating your walls and your attic with appropriate material can make all the difference in your comfort and your energy expenditure.
Instead of stressing over the differences between attic insulation vs wall insulation, let Attic Construction help.
In addition to providing high-quality services ranging from crawl space cleaning to insulation removal, Attic Construction gives you the knowledge to make the best decisions for your family, home, and wallet. We are also available in different locations, so if you are searching for attic insulation removal in San Diego, perhaps Phoenix insulation installation, we’re here to get the job done.
Attic Construction is a well-established company offering a wide range of attic services from insulation removal, installation and decontamination. We are available in different locations from San Diego, Phoenix and Orange County, so if you have been searching for an expert for insulation in San Diego or have been searching for attic decontamination in Orange County, we got you covered.
Get in touch with us today to see how we can insulate your attic and walls the right way.
- Fine Homebuilding. Open attic storage. https://www.finehomebuilding.com/2001/07/01/open-attic-storage
- HomeTips. How Walls Are Built. https://www.hometips.com/how-it-works/interior-wood-wall-paneling.html
- Bob Vila. All You Need to Know About Types of Insulation. https://www.bobvila.com/articles/types-of-insulation/
- John Manville. What R-value Do I Need? https://www.jm.com/en/homeowner-insulation/homeowner-faq/what-r-value-do-i-need-/
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Written By Joseph Sheiner
Joseph Sheiner is a construction industry professional with over 15 years of experience. He began his career in the insulation industry in 2012, and co-founded Attic Construction Inc in 2013. As CEO of the company, Joe oversees all operations and is in charge of training and product knowledge.
Under Joe’s leadership, Attic Construction has become the largest leading Attic Restoration Company in San Diego, Orange County and Phoenix. He has personally performed and supervised insulation work in over 7000 homes. He is certified by Owens Corning as a CEE (Certified Energy Expert) and is a licensed contractor by the CSLB.
Most recently, Joe has helped expand Attic Construction to two additional locations – Orange County and Phoenix. He is currently working on expanding to additional locations in the near future.
Great work! Our attic went from totally disgusting to pristine. They are courteous and professional and clean up after themselves.
-Karen L. Santee, CA
Andrew was very informative and helpful during the whole process. Excellent communication and his team did a great job. He came on Sunday and the work was done and completed by Tuesday. Highly recommend to anyone who is looking for a fair prices and great service.
– Joey E. San Diego, CA