Concrete is a Good Insulator for Your Home

January 24, 2022

There are plenty of materials out there that can provide a good layer of insulation for a home. Concrete may not be the first option you have in mind but there is some merit to using it in the building process for insulation. There are also ways to incorporate other materials into the mix to enhance those qualities even further. Let’s explore how concrete can be a good insulator for your home. 

What is Concrete?

Concrete is a mixture of lime, clay, and sand enhanced with elastic polymers and epoxies. It finds its roots in traditional building methods. Lime, clay, and sand are longstanding ingredients used to construct bricks and structures. The modern addition of elastic polymers and epoxies helps to provide strength, flexibility, and insulating properties. 

How Can It Be Used for Insulation?

In order to measure the insulation capabilities of a material, it must be assigned a number called an R-value. This can also be referred to as its thermal resistance. The higher that number is, the more resistant it is to transferring heat from one side of the material to the next. 

The R-value of concrete will vary based on the density of the mixture. Generally, low-density concrete tends to have a higher R-value than high-density concrete. As a basic rule of thumb, you can assume every inch of thickness equates to an R-value of about 0.1 to 0.2. So with this in mind, you can deduce that a 6-inch-slab of concrete has an R-value between 0.6 to 1.2.  

Concrete typically has a low R-value. But this material does have a high heat capacity which means it can store a lot of heat. Whether from radiant heating or passive solar heating, concrete will absorb all that heat and will radiate it into the living space of a home. 

The best way to take advantage of the insulation value of concrete is to use it in thick slabs. But you can also add more insulation to concrete walls in the basement and elsewhere to further advance its capabilities. This will help to increase energy saving. 

How to Increase the Insulation Potential of Concrete 

The first step in increasing concrete’s insulation potential is to assure it is properly installed and sealed. If this step is neglected, excess moisture will collect behind the insulation medium. This could lead to health hazards such as mold and mildew. 

Add Traditional Insulation 

Once you know your concrete is properly installed, you can consider adding layers of closed-cell foam, polyurethane sheeting, or reflective barriers to the wall to bolster the insulation value of concrete. 

Try Foam Concrete 

Foam concrete is an alternative to traditional concrete. It’s comprised of water, cement, and foam. It has few chemicals and it is more environmentally friendly than poured concrete. With its high air content and fire-resistant properties, it is considered a better insulation option than concrete alone.

It’s used for soundproofing and filling in awkward gaps between bricks and unused pipes. You will also find it being used as insulation in roofs, walls, and floors in residential and commercial buildings

Using foam concrete can reduce building and labor costs. It’s easier to transport, it has self-leveling abilities, and it's more pliable than standard concrete. It also features a high strength-to-weight ratio and resistance to shrinkage. Unfortunately, it’s not as strong as poured concrete. 

Concrete foam is more resistant to temperature changes than concrete but it’s not as strong so be sure to keep that in mind when choosing a building material. 

Using Concrete for Flooring  

When it comes to concrete flooring, it’s important to insulate so that the concrete doesn’t make contact with the outside elements. Before the slab is poured, it’s a good idea to lay down a vapor barrier and fill in the edges with foam insulation. 

Once the concrete floor is complete, the next best course of action is to cover it with different flooring material. Hardwood flooring has an R-value of about 0.7 while carpet on top of a pad will have an R-value of about 2. Both options will significantly increase the insulation potential of concrete alone. 

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