Busting the Myths of Home Insulation


Winter is here, and the cold will take a toll on Canadians both physically and financially. Most myths surrounding home insulation could not only literally leave you in the cold in the middle of winter, but also leave you thousands of dollars more destitute. It’s time to debunk the four most commonly believed myths surrounding home insulation … all of which are not only damaging to your warmth but to your wallet as well.

As with most investments you makeinto your home, you need to treat insulation seriously. Different types of homes have different needs for insulation, and investing in the wrong one could leave you with a cold house and a lighter wallet.

Myth 1: R-Values are an accurate calculation of real-life performance

R-values can often be seen on the packaging of insulation products. In Canada, R-values are the widely accepted measurement of insulation efficacy. However, while R-values are undoubtedly helpful, they’re not entirely accurate.

R-values are tested in a lab without taking into account the effects of air movement. It is incredibly important to take air movement into consideration, especially when dealing with fluffy insulation.

Fluffy insulation is similar to house insulation, in the sense that air movement is likely to pass through the material. Air movement is something you need to account for when installing any type of installation in your home.

Since air movement is not considered in R-value lab tests, it’s unethical to base the performance of an insulation product that allows for air movement solely on its R-values.

Some types of insulation products like spray foam or rigid foams portray a more accurate R-value due to the fact that these products do not allow air to pass through the material.

Myth 2: Vapour barriers are ineffective and can trap moisture

Vapour barriers are often used alongside insulation products that allow for air to move through the material. They prevent moisture from within the house from condensing in fibre-based insulation products.

Often, people tend to consider vapour barriers ineffective when the fact is theirs is simply broken or leaking. The important thing to remember is that if you see moisture or frost on the inside of your vapour barrier, your vapour barrier is probably leaking.

In some cases, moisture migrates into the wall cavity from outside. To prevent this, it is crucial to invest in a vapour barrier that allows trapped moisture to escape while doing its primary job: stopping moisture from seeping into the wall cavities.

Myth 3: Stay away from spray foam

Despite the negative history of spray foam in the 1970s, the spray foam produced today is considered safer. In the 1970s, urea-formaldehyde was used as spray foam for home insulation. The problem with the product was the lack of scientific research behind it. Urea-formaldehyde released dangerous gasses that homeowners and authorities were not aware of at the time.

If you were living in the 1970s and using urea-formaldehyde to insulate your home, then this myth is absolutely true. However, due to the advancement of scientific studies, most spray foam insulation products are now safe to use, with years of scientific research to back them.

Despite what some sensationalist media outlets will tell you, spray foam insulation is incredibly safe as long as you apply it correctly. If you’re unsure how to do it properly, it’s best to contact a professional to come in and do the work for you.

The truth is, spray foam insulation products are very effective and deliver exceptional results when done correctly.

Myth 4: Cathedral ceilings call for batt insulation

The myth that states you should stuff your cathedral ceilings with batt insulation between the rafters is perhaps the most damaging myth you’ll come across. Some homeowners stuff batts in between the beams and cover the insulation with vapour barriers. While this might work slightly better when you do it on walls, roofs have little to no protection against air leaks that cause condensation, which frost over during the winter season.

It might sound harmless. However, this often means that your roof will leak once spring rolls in. Spring brings about the heat that winter has taken away, and that means the frosted condensation within your roof’s batt insulation will start to melt.

So unless you want to have a leaky ceiling in the middle of spring, invest in spray foam insulation for cathedral ceilings instead.

Hopefully you’ve learned a thing or two about making smarter choices for your home’s insulation. If you’ve already made the mistake of following one of these myths, it might be impossible to remedy it in the middle of winter.  However, you can still prepare yourself for next year’s bitter chill.