The Story of Insulation: A Tale to Warm More Than Your Heart

History of insulation picIt’s safe to say that, Grog & Og did not have insulation in their cave. They were too busy trying to survive by hunting and not getting eaten to worry about freezing to death. Fire simply had to do when it came to warmth.

As humankind progressed and eventually started building homes, when did we start thinking about keeping the heat inside the home? The team at A+ Insulation was wondering the same thing, so we did a little research and this is what we found out:

The BC Years – Before Comfort

Thousands of years ago, people had to use the materials that were available. Mud was one of the first insulation materials. Both the ancient Egyptians and the Vikings used mud to keep their homes a bit more comfortable. Egyptians built their homes out of mud bricks, while Vikings plastered mud and straw in between the logs that made up their homes to keep the air and extreme temperatures out.

Ancient Times – Not Just Another Hole in the Wall

Ancient Greeks and Romans used both cork and asbestos. The Romans insulated their water pipes with cork while the Greeks discovered and named asbestos. The name asbestos means “inextinguishable” because of its resistance to heat and fire. The ancient Greeks also used “cavity walls” to help insulate.

These ancient engineers basically built a double-wall system, creating a cavity between the inside and outside. That empty space served as a barrier to keep the temperature inside steady

The Middle Ages – Life Was Hard & Cold

Homes in the Middle Ages were made from stone and were completed with roofs of thatch. They were damp, drafty, and cold. The inhabitants often used animal hide and rugs to keep the floors warm and hung tapestries on walls to keep drafts and dampness at bay.

The Industrial Revolution – Manufacturing & Asbestos

During the Industrial Revolution, asbestos became very popular. Manufacturing was big business and companies used steam to power their technology. This steam was transported throughout the buildings by pipes, which got very hot. Asbestos was used to wrap the pipes and make them safer for workers to be around.

1930s – Flappers and Fiberglass

Fiberglass was invented quite by accident in the early 30s by researcher Dale Kleist when he attempted to create a vacuum seal between two glass blocks. The stream of high-pressured air turned some of the glass into thin glass fibers.

Over the next decade this material was made into blankets (called “batts”) which began to be used widely to help make buildings warmer and more efficient. Fiberglass quickly became the dominant form of insulation in America.

1950s – 1970s Elvis Was Hot…Cellulose Was Not

Cellulose, a type of insulation made of newspaper, cardboard, straw, sawdust, or cotton, became popular because insulation manufacturers discovered how to make it flame retardant. This type of insulation was one of the earliest, but couldn’t be widely used prior to this advancement, due to fire safety regulations.

However, once experts solved that problem, cellulose insulation became very popular. In the mid­-70s, the harmful effects of asbestos were finally brought to light, causing both cellulose insulation and fiberglass batting to be widely adopted in building and construction projects. Both are still used today.

Related Read: 90% of U.S. Homes are Under-Insulated – Is Yours?

1980s – Disco Dies…Spray Foam Is Born

With the end of disco, (a silent thank you here) came polyurethane spray foam insulation. This type of insulation was actually discovered by the military in the 40s, but didn’t become popular until four decades later. The greatest thing about polyurethane spray foam was that it expands when sprayed and could fill in nooks and crannies that batted fiberglass couldn’t, thus creating a better temperature barrier.

Modern Day – Warm & Wonderful

Most of the advances in insulation in the last few decades have come in the area of spray foam. Spray foam insulation comes in two primary types: low density (“open cell”) and medium density (“closed cell”). Both are sprayed on to the interior of the wall by professional installers and expand through a chemical reaction.

The main difference between the two is that open-cell foam is neither as water resistant nor as rigid as closed-cell foam. Closed-cell foam is generally impervious to water, so another water vapor barrier does not have to be installed as part of the wall design. Both types of spray foam must be installed by professionals with specialized equipment, and while they deliver the best insulation R-values, they are also more expensive to install.

Related Read: Adding Insulation – DIY or Go Pro

Insulation: the Hardest Working Product in the Construction Industry
Luckily, insulation has come a long way, and we live a lot more comfortably than our ancestors because of it. Insulation is the only construction material that works twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year from the date of installation to the last day of the building’s life, no matter if anyone is inhabiting the building or not.

If you’d like to add more insulation to your home, just give us a call at A+ Insulation and one of our skilled insulation installers will answer all of your questions. Call us at (913) 281-2250 or (816) 268-7511.

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