Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Working with Denim Insulation

Insulation isn't sexy -- CFLs, solar panels, green roofs, those get all the green love. But there are some interesting green insulation options, like soy-based spray foam, and denim batts. Better insulation and sealing of houses is the 'low-hanging fruit' of energy-efficient homes. We need more efficient and affordable solar and other technological innovations, but the most cost-effective place to start is sealing the building envelope. That's been an ongoing project here, since even before the addition. When I moved into the house, there was almost no insulation.

I hadn't worked with denim insulation before, but I'm always interested in greener options. After using up the rest of the traditional R-19 roll I had, I got some UltraTouch. It's made from recycled denim (post-industrial waste) and so has a lovely blue color.

The first thing I discovered is its hecka dusty. Most batt insulation gives off some dust (plus it's all very good at absorbing dust wherever it is.) Usually it's not-good-for-you fiberglass fibers it's giving off. But when I was stuffing the denim batts between the floor joists, I observed a veritable storm of dust coming down. After putting up a couple of batts, there was a visible blue layer on top of the washing machine.

The second thing I discovered is that its hard to cut the usual way (i.e., with a utility knife or a pair of scissors). The UltraTouch website suggests a $30 Cepco insulation knife, a Bosch Foam Rubber Cutter, a hand held grinding tool, or a table saw. Huh? OK, they all make some sense, but I'm too cheap too frugal not ready to buy a special tool just to work with insulation batts. And my table saw blade doesn't come out nearly far enough to cut a batt of R-19. So I read a little closer, and noticed it also mentions using a circular saw with the blade reversed. At least with the circular saw you can easily compress the insulation as you cut it. I put my cement and Hardiboard blade on instead of reversing my regular blade, and it works quite nicely. I also found a little handsaw works pretty well for making those little partial cuts you need for getting insulation around a pipe or wire.

Despite the dust and the increased difficulty cutting it, my vote so far is a big thumbs up. The blue dust is much preferable to fiberglass fibers, and the cost was comparable to traditional batts.

Have any of you worked with denim insulation? What's your experience been?

7 comments:

Corey said...

I'll have to look into this. My attic currently has no insulation.

Jenny Kerr said...

We actually looked at this product on line before we even closed on the house. We are desperately needing attic insulationw hen we start using the second floor and this LOOKED to be a good product from what we saw. The only problem is that the nearest seller to us would be Chicago. That's about a 4-5 hour drive one way. It's not impossible, it would just have to be a planned trip to get that, hit the Ikea and raid the salvage stores. LOL.

Gene said...

4-5 hours is a bit of a haul for insulation, but if you can link other stuff into the trip it might be worth it.

Fratzels said...

I've only read about this product online. Do you have any photos of the installation? Would you buy it again? I'm a big fan of spray-in-place cellulose.

Gene said...

I'd buy it again. I'd go with a spray foam (cellulose or soy-based) if it were an option for do-it-yourself on a smaller scale. Back when I looked into it, they wouldn't bid on the addition because it was too small of a job. What I'm doing now (adding insulation under the house where there was none) is an even smaller job.

Judy said...

Jenny, where was the outfit that sold it in Chicago. We haven't found any distributer closer than Arizona to us, in Detroit.

Carl Stearns said...

You might take a look at this tool to cut just about any type of insulation. I think denim was it's inspiration though. American made product called Shut-N-Cut. It compresses the foam insulation first and then you use a knife along its guide to cut it. Pretty easy. Not sure if you allow links, but here is one. http://www.InsulationCuttingTool.com