3 Things to Consider When Choosing Between Faced and Unfaced Insulation Batts

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Faced and Unfaced Insulation Batts

Good, quality insulation is one of the best investments you can make for your home. In choosing the kind of insulation to use, one of the most important things to consider is the climate in your location. Homes require different levels of insulation, depending on the climatic conditions and how cool or warm the location is.

For example, R13 insulation products are mainly used in the floors of homes located in climatic Zone 1 (warmer climates), as recommended by the US Department of Energy. But it is a different story if you live in zones with cooler climates like Zones 2 to 8, as you might need to beef up your floor insulation with products that have R-values of between R19 and R30.

If you are using batt or roll insulation, in particular, another thing that you would need to consider is whether to use the faced or unfaced variant because these are used differently.

These two types of insulation are both made of the same materials like fiberglass and mineral wool, and their form factor is also exactly the same. Faced and unfaced batt insulation come in manageable pre-cut rectangular pieces, while faced and unfaced roll insulation are manufactured as longer pieces of blanket insulation.

The main difference between faced and unfaced batt insulation, however, is that faced batt insulation has a “facing,” as the name implies. This facing is a layer of material added to one side of the batt in order to improve its moisture-control properties. The most commonly used facing materials are Kraft paper, foil, and vinyl This facing helps prevent the entry of moisture into your living spaces, essentially acting as a moisture barrier.

Unfaced batt insulation, on the other hand, lacks this moisture barrier, but it is also because of this very feature that unfaced insulation is non-combustible and is safer for use in areas with fire hazards.

Keep reading to know more about how faced and unfaced insulation compare with one another.

Installation

Generally, faced insulation is easier to install than its unfaced counterpart because the materials are easier to handle and attach. Kraft-faced batt insulation, in particular, can be easily cut with a sharp utility knife and stapled into studs and joists.

When installing insulation, it’s also important to remember that the application of multiple layers of faced insulation can potentially trap moisture between them, which over time, can cause damage to your property. Thus, it is highly recommended to install only one layer of faced insulation.. If multiple layers of insulation are required, it is advisable to place the faced insulation batt as the last layer on top of the unfaced batts.

The layer of insulation closest to the interior of the home should be the one with the moisture barrier, and it should be installed with the moisture barrier facing the home’s living space. For example, if you’re installing the insulation on the floor, then the facing must face upward. If you’re using it in your attic, the facing must face downward and so on.

Insulation batts which use Kraft paper, foil or plastic for facing come in various sizes, widths, and thickness. Most faced insulations are installed by face stapling, where the facing flanges are stapled into the framing edges. Some insulation batts which do not require stapling are attached by pressure fit. These products are usually of higher density, which helps hold them in place without the need for staples. However, they provide equal protection from thermal loss and moisture. Faced insulation batts that use Kraft paper should be kept unexposed as they are inflammable.

In contrast, unfaced insulation batts are usually installed by friction fitting. This means that the insulation is kept in place into the cavity space between framing edges by way of pressure or friction. Unfaced insulation is commonly used over existing insulation and they are installed perpendicularly to it to improve its R-value or thermal resistance.

Cost

Generally, faced insulation is slightly more expensive than unfaced insulation because of the extra materials used that make it a moisture barrier. The upside of paying more for faced insulation is that you don’t have to spend more money to add a vapor barrier to your insulation. The cost, however, still mostly depends on the R-rating of your insulation system.

Purpose

Faced insulation batts are the kind of insulation you would want to use if you’re looking to add insulation into a space for the first time. This type of insulation is best for walls, ceilings, floors, and attics and primarily serves to keep your drywalls, flooring, and ceilings dry. The Kraft paper, foil or plastic adhered to the insulation acts as a vapor or moisture barrier which protects your living spaces from excess moisture and humidity that can cause damage to your property over time.

One important thing to remember about faced insulation is that it can be combustible, even if the moisture barrier is typically treated with fire-retardant treatments. It is not recommended for use in areas where fire is a perennial hazard, including in chimneys, furnaces, and around light fixtures.

Unlike faced insulation, unfaced insulation does not have a vapor barrier. It is typically used when you want to add new insulation over an existing faced insulation, since you don’t want moisture to be trapped in between. Unfaced insulation is most recommended to be installed in attic floors or in between floors where both the top and bottom floors are living spaces. As mentioned, unfaced insulation is non-combustible and safer for use in areas close to fire or heat sources.

Conclusion

Faced and unfaced insulation batts are two of the most commonly used types of insulation for residential spaces. The difference lies in their ability to inhibit the movement of moisture along spaces, as faced insulation can act as a moisture barrier. Unfaced insulation, in contrast, is better preferred when adding insulation to an already existing insulation to improve a living space’s R-rating.