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wood insulation batts

Wood Insulation Guide - Pros, Cons, and Cost

By Donna Pols Trump Rise Writer
Jan 29, 2021

"Batt," or "batting," is defined as "a narrow, fluffy blanket of insulation installed between studs, joists or rafters." It has been associated with fiberglass that "batt" has come to imply a piece of fiberglass used to insulate a building for so long. However, thanks to an active market for more healthy and planet-friendly insulating products, today's home builder/remodeler has several batt insulation choices, including mineral wool, natural sheep's woolhemp, and cotton (often from recycled denim).

A selection of wood-based insulation materials. Swedish Wood.
A selection of wood-based insulation materials. A. Grooved fibreboard for underfloor heating. B. Impact sound insulation. C. Wood-fibre insulation, loose fill. D–G. Wood-fibre insulation, semi-rigid sheet. H. Fibreboard (windstopper or supplementary insulation). I. Fibreboard, tongue and groove (supplementary insulation). Photo Credit: Swedish Wood.

The newest kid on the batting block is one of the most traditional building products: wood.

SONOSclimat ECO4 MSL Fibre
SONOSclimat ECO4. Photo Credit: MSL Fibre

What Companies Make Wood Insulation?

Several brands make insulation from wood fibers. These include GutexSONOclimat, and STEICO. These products' applications include above-grade walls, cathedral ceilings, open attic spaces, dry finished basements, and floors. All three of the above manufacturers also make other wood fiber insulating products, including loose fiber for blow-in applications, external thermal insulation composite systems, rigid wood fiberboards, grooved systems for in-floor heating, and tongue-and-groove roofing installations.

Photo Credit: Gutex

What Are The Pros of Wood Insulation?

Wood insulation has the same benefits that wood has always had: it is safe, natural, high performing, and renewable. Each of the above products is made from wood harvested from sustainable forests and is recyclable. STEICO reports that because their wood fiber products are manufactured without artificial additives. They "are easily recycled or may even be composted to provide a valuable soil conditioner." Moreover, wood is a natural carbon sink: i.e., forests store more carbon dioxide than they release into the atmosphere. STEICO calculated that the insulation used to insulate an average single-family home binds "as much CO2 as a small car emits over 50,000km."

Good Thermal Insulation

Wood batt insulation is also an excellent thermal insulator. It has a high capacity to absorb and release moisture, is easy to install, and may even have soundproofing benefits. Let's look at each of these in turn.

An excellent thermal insulator resists the conductive flow of heat, keeping interior spaces warm in winter and cool in summer. The R-value measures the resistance to heat flow through a given thickness of the material, with a higher R-value indicating greater thermal resistance and better insulating properties. The R-value per inch of Gutex Thermoflex is 4.0. By contrast, the R-value per inch of fiberglass batt insulation ranges from 2.9-3.8, and cotton batting is about 3.5.

Moisture Control

The topic of moisture control in insulation is a complicated one. It starts with an understanding of dewpoint, which refers to the conditions under which condensation (the change of water vapor to water) occurs. Practically speaking, water vapor is most likely to condense when the home's internal temperature and humidity are high, and the outside weather is freezing. If a home is not adequately insulated, this condensation can occur on any surface and make that surface wet. Specifically, when moist (indoor) air passes through an interior wall and then batt insulation, its temperature drops as it gets closer to the cold outside air. If dewpoint is reached, water vapor will condense to water in the wall itself, becoming an unseen breeding ground for mold.

When fiberglass batting gets wet, an additional negative is that the R-value falls. Sharing the "cotton is rotten" mantra of outdoor sports enthusiasts, reports are that cotton batt also has less than optimal moisture control. When wet, it gets heavy, packs down, and takes a long time to dry out.

By contrast, wood batt insulation has a natural "vapor-permeable" quality, which means that while water vapor can get in, it can just as easily get out. In a landmark paper, "Understanding Vapor Barriers," by the Building Science Corporation, author Joseph Stiburek tells us that the central principle of water vapor control is to keep it outside and let it exit if it gets in. GUTEX wood fiberboards can absorb up to fifteen percent of their weight in moisture without losing their insulation capacity. They say that later when the air is dry, the moisture diffuses out of the product. This ability for water to escape and pass through the assembly creates a safer, more resilient wall assembly that is much less susceptible to mold formation.

Easy and Safe Installation

Installing wood batt insulation is particularly easy due to its high density and friction. Wood batts don't need support and won't fall out or sag, and they can be cut to shape with a sharp blade without producing any irritating fibers.

In contrast, common hazards encountered when installing fiberglass insulation are skin, eye, and lung irritation; OSHA requires a cancer warning on all fiberglass products. Complaints about installing cotton batt insulation include ill-sizing of the pieces requiring compression into place, reducing R-value.


Finally, while not rated for soundproofing, SONOclimat Eco4 boasts that its product has "impressive sound attenuation properties."

SONOclimat ECO4 Endeavour Centre
SONOclimat ECO4 Photo Credit: The Endeavour Centre

What Are The Cons of Wood Insulation?


The biggest "con" might be that wood batt insulation is not widely available and is more expensive than other batt insulation materials. Wood fiber insulation is often sold by the pallet, so you have to buy a large quantity. In contrast, you'll pay between $0.80 to $1.00/square foot for fiberglass and between $1.20 and $1.40/square foot for cotton and can buy these materials from a wide variety of retailers.


Another negative for the purchase of wood batt insulation is that it simply does not seem readily available, perhaps because of its newness. STEICO Flex Wood Fibre Insulation Batts are currently available from Ecomerchant in the UK. Gutex Thermoflex is available to ship but with significant lead times. In other cases, you'll need to contact the manufacturer directly and get a quote.

STEICO flex Ecomerchant
STEICO flex. Photo Credit: Ecomerchant

Bottom Line

If batt insulation suits your home's insulation needs, you have many choices. The choices are almost endless - from fiberglass to mineral wool to sheep's wool, cotton, hemp, and wood. Compared to fiberglass and cotton, wood batt is more expensive. Still, some of this cost may be offset by its advantages, including its environmental sustainability, good performance under moisture conditions, and ease (and safety) of installation. Oh, and if you're adding a practice room for your drum-playing daughter or son? Wood batt insulation may make your house a little quieter, too.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-06-08T00:43:59+0000
Donna Pols Trump

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Donna Pols Trump

Donna Pols Trump’s work has been published in literary magazines and online. She has received several Pushcart Prize nominations. Donna’s education includes degrees in Biology and Physical Therapy and a host of writing classes taken and taught at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. Her short story “Portage” was selected by judge Anne Tyler for first prize in a 2018 contest sponsored by december magazine.