Mineral wool insulation in an attic Insulating Material Identification Guide
How to Identify All Types of Building Insulation Products
     


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How to identify types of insulation used in buildings & their mechanical systems: this series of articles provides details about all types of building insulation, identifying each type of insulation. We illustrate and include photographs of insulation materials that would not be expected to contain asbestos as well as asbestos-containing materials.

This document assists building buyers, owners or inspectors who need to identify building insulation & those who need to recognize asbestos-containing materials (or probable-asbestos) in buildings by simple visual inspection.

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A Guide to Identifying Various Types of Insulation Materials Used in Buildings

solid foam insulating  boardIn the links at page left as well as at More Reading at the end of this article we provide a comprehensive list of building insulating materials.

Each of those links provides an individual article with photographs, uses, & properties of that insulating materials.

[Click to enlarge any image]

Which building insulation materials do or do not contain asbestos?

While an expert lab test using polarized light microscopy may be needed to identify the specific type of asbestos fiber, or to identify the presence of asbestos in air or dust samples, many asbestos-containing building products not only are obvious and easy to recognize.

But since there were not other look-alike products that were not asbestos, a visual identification of this material can be virtually a certainty in many cases.

 ASBESTOS-FREE INSULATION MATERIALS contains our complete list. These non-asbestos insulations include cellulosic insulations such as loose-fill cellulose and balsam wool batts, cotton insulation, fiberglass insulation, mineral wool insulation, slag wool insulation, and rock wool insulation.

Balsam Wool Insulation photo

photo of balsam wool building insulation

"Balsam Wool" is a wood fiber product or "cellulose" insulation that was widely used in homes and in a variety of other applications in the U.S. from at least the 1930's.

See BALSAM WOOL BATT INSULATION for details.

Cellulose building insulation photo

cellulose building insulation

Our photo above is of blown-in cellulose insulation.

See CELLULOSE LOOSE FILL INSULATION for details.

Cotton building insulation photo

mineral wool building insulation

Our photo above is of cotton batt building insulation. See COTTON INSULATING BATTS for details.


Fiberboard building insulation photo

Celotex insulating lumber ad Fiberboard sheathing (C) Daniel Friedman

Fiberboard insulating sheathing board was used and continues in use as a structural wall sheathing board 15/32-inches thick (one board was 1/2") and with R-value of about 1.5.

Fiberboard insulating sheathing was and continues to be made of plant cellulose such as wood fibers, combined with a binder, a water-resistive coating or component (such as paraffin and/or asphalt), and other treatments.

Our photo is of a fiberboard building sheathing / insulating board product. See Sheathing Celotex Homasote & Other brownboards discussed
at  SHEATHING, FIBERBOARD for details about insulating sheathing used on both the exterior (under siding) and interior of buildings. .

Fiberglass Insulation Product Photo

photo of yellow fiberglass building insulation

See FIBERGLASS INSULATION - properties

Foam Insulation Products: foam board & foam spray insulation

Polystyrene insulating foam board (C) Daniel Friedman

Styrofoam board insulation photo

Our photograph shows indoor use of pink styrofoam insulating board on a basement ceiling. As with the next example just below, this installation violates fire safety & fire codes - in an occupied or occupy-able space it should be covered with a fire-resistant drywall or other acceptable barrier.

Polystyrene foam board insulation photo

Mineral wool insulation in an attic

Our photograph shows indoor use of polystyrene foam insulating board on the inside of a basement foundation wall - notice the absence of a suitable fire-resistant covering?

This installation probably violates local building codes. Foam insulating boards do not contain asbestos but can present a fire hazard because they give off dense smoke and possibly toxic fumes in a fire.

Other older building insulation materials such as corn cobs, newspaper, bricks, and simple reflective barriers using aluminum foil also would not be expected to contain asbestos.

Perlite insulation photo

Perlite in planting soil mix (C) Daniel Friedman

Our photograph shows perlite insulation.

See PERLITE INSULATION for details.

Icynene Foam Insulation photo

Foam insulation sprayed in a crawl space - this is not mold - Daniel Friedman 04-11-01

Our photograph shows icynene spray foam building insulation.

See ICYNENE FOAM SPRAY INSULATION

and also PHENOLIC FOAM INSULATION

and POLYISOCYANURATE FOAM INSULATION for details.

UFFI Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation photo

UFFI foam insulation retrofit (C) D Friedman

Our photograph above shows UFFI building insulation.

See UREA FORMALDEHYDE FOAM INSULATION, UFFI

Vermiculite insulation photo

Vermiculite insulation photograph for identification (C) Daniel Friedman

Our photograph shows Vermiculite building insulation.

See VERMICULITE INSULATION for details.

 

 

Continue reading at FOAM INSULATION IDENTIFICATION or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.

Or see INSULATION INSPECTION & IMPROVEMENT for details about inspecting and improving the level and effectiveness of insulation in buildings, as well as advice on troubleshooting insulation system defects & problems.

Suggested citation for this web page

INSULATION IDENTIFICATION GUIDE at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

More Reading

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