When people speak of fixing up kitchens, they usually mean doing work on the cabinetry, changing the wallpaper or wall paint, updating the counters, adding an island, and so forth. Few associate insulation with kitchens, which is ironic because insulating a kitchen can be highly beneficial for residents.
Why Kitchens Need Insulation
Let’s review the common areas in a house that needs insulation:
- Attic roof, walls, and floor
- Behind knee walls
- Ceilings with unheated spaces
- Floors with vented crawlspaces beneath
- Gaps between interior walls
These are the specific spots that make up a house’s thermal envelope which is essentially the shield that separates the indoor living spaces from the outdoors. For a house to stay cool in summer and warm in winter, the thermal envelope must be sealed completely without a hint of a draft.
Kitchens situated at the heart of a house technically don’t need insulation. Still, there could be exceptions, depending on the design of the rest of the house (i.e., the kitchen is right next to the sleeping quarters or above the basement). If the kitchen has one or more external walls, however, proper insulation is a must.
Apart from when it is part of a house’s thermal envelope, a kitchen needs insulation because it helps fortify this specific area of the house and addresses the following needs:
- Mold and bacteria prevention
- Pest prevention
- Thorough thermal sealing
- Structural support
At A+ Insulation, we recommend a specific type of insulating material for kitchens: closed-cell, polyurethane spray foam. This is the most commonly-used spray foam insulation in Kansas City and everywhere else. It has a high R-value, which is the metric for measuring heat flow resistance and insulation. When used on strategic areas of a house, closed-cell spray foam can raise the indoor comfort level, from temperature to acoustics, to greater heights.
We’re confident about this recommendation because, as an established insulation company in Kansas City, ; we’ve seen first-hand how well this insulation settles and cures inside walls, ceilings, and crawlspaces. The extra rigidity also helps reinforce the structural integrity of a closed-cell, foam-insulated house.
Closed-cell foam insulation also possesses other qualities that make it the perfect choice for insulating kitchens. Let’s take a closer look at how this type of polyurethane insulation addresses the needs listed above.
The kitchen is hardly the noisiest part of the house (that honor is usually awarded to the rooms where there are entertainment consoles), but once the pots and pans get busy, the racket could disturb the rest of the household. This is especially true when bedrooms are located inconveniently next to or near the kitchen.
Spray foam insulation will do an excellent job of soundproofing a kitchen. While open-cell spray foam is the one that’s more often used to soundproof theater rooms because it absorbs sound better, closed-cell spray foam can give a more or less similar soundproofing output. Closed-cell foam is more impermeable after curing, so it becomes a good sound isolator.
Why can’t you use open-cell spray foam, then, if it is the superior acoustic absorber? You actually can; however, there are other factors that we need to consider besides soundproofing. When those enter the picture, you’ll understand why closed-cell spray foam insulation is the better option for your kitchen. The next section is a perfect example of these factors that you may want to prioritize over acoustics.
Waterproofing with Mold and Bacterial Prevention
Next to the bathroom, the kitchen is the one room in the house constantly exposed to moisture in the air and on the floor. The steam that comes from all the daily cooking, plus the condensation that takes place when the weather turns cold, can seep through the wooden walls and keep them moist for long periods. The moisture retention can also get worse if the kitchen is poorly insulated, to begin with.
Spray foam insulation offers a layer of protection against moisture intrusion. It’s a helpful feature to maintain in rooms with high humidity, such as kitchens and bathrooms.
Where there’s perpetual moisture at home, mold and bacteria can thrive. This is the key concern (along with the premature onset of structural decay) that spray foam insulation addresses in kitchens. By putting a protective layer against moisture inside the wall cavities and stabilizing a room’s temperature, homeowners can prevent mold and bacteria from growing indoors and putting the residents’ health at risk.
As briefly mentioned above, closed-cell spray foam turns rigid when it cures. Assuming that it was installed superbly by an experienced company, the rigid, thermal envelope the insulation forms can help keep pests from getting inside and invading the house.
Additionally, building codes state that foam insulation in residential and commercial structures must be supplemented with an ignition barrier. Like most organic house construction materials, spray foam is combustible when exposed directly to flames. To reduce fire hazards in a foam-insulated home, Energy Vanguard recommends that builders must insert ignition barriers like:
- Mineral fiber insulation
These barriers add layers of protection against burrowing pests like rodents and beetles. Of course, wood and insulation are not entirely impenetrable. If given a point of entry, termites, carpenter ants, even squirrels can chew through spray foam insulation and nest within the walls. It’s, therefore, crucial to have a seamless installation that seals off the entire thermal envelope.
Thorough Thermal Sealing
Now that we’re on the subject of thermal envelopes, let’s discuss the insulation quality of closed-cell spray foam insulation. It is denser than open-cell foam, which means it takes skills and experience to ensure that it gets into every nook and cranny of the thermal envelope. This is a concern for your insulation contractor, though. If you hire a competent team like A+ Insulation, proper installation of closed-cell spray foam won’t ever become an issue.
It’s crucial to air-seal the building envelope because you want to keep warm air locked in during winter and kept out during summer. Air leaks through the envelope make your heater or air conditioning work extra hard and consume more electricity, thereby wasting energy and increasing your utility costs. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), effective air sealing and insulation can save a household up to 15% on cooling and heating costs (with an average of 11% total cost savings for energy expenses).
A well-sealed and insulated building envelope also regulates the indoor temperature of a home, improves humidity control, reduces noise pollution and air pollution, prevents insect and pest infiltration — all of which contribute to making a home more comfortable and safe to live in.
Closed-cell spray foam insulation has a very high density compared to open-cell foam. It has something to do with the structure that forms after it cures: open-cell foam is like a sponge, while closed-cell foam is like Styrofoam. The usual narrative is that closed-cell foam adds to a house’s structural integrity because of its rigidity. While this may certainly be a factor that benefits a building, spray foam shouldn’t be used as a remedy for a weak structure. Nor should it be an alternative for proper wall and roofing reinforcements like masonry, wall anchors, and steel bar reinforcements.
When the polyurethane cures, the closed-cell foam insulation becomes a rigid, foam plastic that is highly adhesive. It bonds tightly to the adjacent substrates and holds them together (e.g., drywall). It is so adhesive that it can keep roofs intact and attached to a house despite high winds threatening to rip them off. In a Factory Mutual wind uplift pull test cited by America’s Plastic Makers, roofing insulated with spray foam resisted up to 990 psf (47.4 kPa) of wind pressure with a tensile strength of 25 psi (172.4 kPa).
Essentially, the spray foam held the structure together. This is likely the more accurate depiction of how closed-cell foam insulation contributes to a house’s structural integrity.
Other Locations in the Kitchen to Focus When Insulating
To fully enjoy the benefits of spray foam insulation, the thermal envelope has to be filled, and air-sealing must be guaranteed. Unfortunately, even open-cell spray foam, which is known for its expanding quality, can’t always get into the tiniest of spaces. Besides, other areas need insulation, too, in addition to the walls and ceilings.
Below are the other spots in a kitchen that may need follow-up insulation and air-sealing:
- Crevices behind the window and door trims
- Floor areas with a crawlspace or basement below
- Wiring holes on external walls
- Basement rim joists
- Open soffits that are adjacent to the kitchen
- Plumbing and HVAC vents
Choose the Company that Installs Top-Notch Spray Foam Insulation in Kansas City
The kitchen is arguably the most dynamic room in your house. Everyone will no doubt enjoy any improvement in this room. You can start by insulating your kitchen properly and thoroughly.
You can trust A+ Insulation for this job. We’ve been in business since 2004, offering the best experience possible to our customers in Kansas and Missouri.
We offer a FREE, no-obligation inspection and estimate. Contact us to learn more about our spray foam insulation products and services.