Barndominiums have become a popular trend recently, offering a cheap alternative that gives you plenty of space and unlimited creative choices to make. Their structure is usually made of metal and wood, which makes them affordable and very resistant. However, like every other home, barndominiums need insulation.
To seal a barndominium, you first need to check the building code requirements to choose the insulation material, then check for pipes or gaps that need fixing. Afterward, select your tools, measure your walls and cut the batts according to the measurements. Finally, staple the batts to the wall.
Even though this is a fairly straightforward process, it still requires quite a few decisions along the way, so you might need some more guidance. In the rest of this article, I will give you additional advice on all the steps you need to take and provide other alternatives you may consider.
1. Check Local Building Codes
Before you start thinking about the logistics of your barndominium insulation, you should make sure that you adhere to the local building codes. Some areas have specific standards about the level of insulation that should be present in every home.
The standards regarding insulation usually require a certain level of R-value, which is a unit that measures how well a material can resist heat transfer. Different areas have different standards, so ensure you follow the appropriate standards accordingly.
2. Choose Between Fiberglass and Rock Wool
Batt insulation comes in rolls or bales of pliable sheets that are later installed on your walls. They can have different thicknesses and sizes. Insulation batts can be made of fiberglass or rock wool (also called mineral wool).
Fiberglass is a very light and pliable material, therefore easy to handle and install by just one person. You might recognize it by its characteristic light pink color.
Because of its pliability, fiberglass can fit into all shapes and curvatures; even if your barndominium has an irregular shape, it will still fit wherever you want it to. Additionally, fiberglass is pretty inexpensive compared to other types of materials.
Rock wool is considered a better insulator than fiberglass, with a higher R-value. It is also more resistant to fire than fiberglass since it melts at a much higher temperature.
However, rock wool is a bit heavier and less flexible than fiberglass, making it a little hard to install by yourself and unsuitable for attic insulation or even irregular or curved walls. Rock wool is also slightly more expensive than fiberglass.
You can choose one or the other for your barndominium, but you can also combine them in different areas. For instance, you can use Rockwool in your walls and fiberglass in the attic. The installation method is more or less the same, but fiberglass is easier to handle by yourself.
3. Check the Pipes
Plumbing pipes can be found in your barndominium walls or floor, just like any other typical home. If there are pipes inside a wall where you’re planning to install batt insulation, you need to ensure that the pipes won’t be in your way and will be protected from humidity.
You need to know where the pipes are located so that you know what to do with the insulation rolls. Generally, you can divide a bat into two parts to make room for a pipe with no problem. Additionally, you should take care to insulate plumbing pipes themselves to protect them from condensation.
4. Seal Any Gaps
It’s expected that there would be little gaps between studs or joints in the structure of your barndominium. These gaps can cause insulation issues, lowering the heat transfer resistance. Furthermore, they gather dust, dirt, or even bugs, so you should seal them before installing insulation on the walls. You can seal the gaps in a few simple steps:
- Identify gaps by watching if light or a draft is coming from some points between studs or fixtures.
- Vacuum and clean them thoroughly to get rid of what is already collected there.
- Seal them with insulating foam.
- Make sure they are entirely sealed by testing for light or draft coming out of the gaps once more.
Proper sealing can also increase your barndo’s energy efficiency and reduce your expenses. You can learn more about the cost of heating a barndo in my complete guide on the topic.
5. Gather Your Tools
Batt insulation is one of the easiest ways of sealing your barndominium. It can be done without a professional and doesn’t even need that many tools. Before installation, you need a measuring tape and a straightedge tool to measure and cut the batts.
To install the batting, you need one of these three tools:
- A Stapler gun is a typical stapler that is used in construction. It is quick and effective, but it can be tiring to use.
- A Hammer tacker is basically a stapler that you use as a hammer. It can be quick and less tiring than the staple gun.
- A pneumatic stapler uses compressed air to do the job, letting your hand rest. It is a bit more expensive than the other two, but it is very effective and much easier to use. However, it requires an air compressor to work.
Depending on the area you want to cover, you can choose one of these tools to hang the insulation batts. If you’re insulating the whole barndominium, I’d recommend a pneumatic stapler like the Arrow PT50 for a faster and less tiring job.
It’s important to remember that fiberglass can be toxic, so wear protective clothing, long sleeves, pants, and gloves to minimize fiberglass contact with your skin. Additionally, it would be ideal to have eye and respiratory protection to be completely safe.
6. Prepare the Rolls
Before you start installing the batts, you need to get them ready to use so that you don’t waste time later on. The first thing you can do is unpack the fiberglass rolls or bales carefully. Also, check to ensure they’re the right size and thickness before you start, so there are no surprises.
At this point, an extra step would be to shake the fiberglass batts, just enough to “fluff” them. This is a trick that expert insulators use to trap more air into the batts, given that it helps increase their insulating quality.
7. Make Measurements
As mentioned above, batts are sold in rolls (or bales in the case of fiberglass) and can have different sizes. Depending on where you shop, you might even find insulation batts with the standard wall heights to save you time.
Naturally, you don’t want to waste any insulation material, so you need to measure your walls to make sure every part of the roll is used. Take your time to measure the height of your walls to cut the rolls to fit exactly right.
If your barndominium has irregular walls or crevices that can’t be covered with a typical batt, make sure to take all the necessary measurements to fit the batt into place.
8. Cut the Insulation Rolls According to the Measurements
As you measure, make sure to cut the rolls simultaneously in order to save time. This way, you only measure once and get the batts ready for installation in no time. Here’s how you can proceed:
- Measure every part, top to bottom, with a measuring tape.
- Transfer your measurement to the floor by drawing a line with some chalk.
- Unroll the insulation batt alongside the line.
- Cut the roll with a straight edge according to the height you measured.
- Lay the cut batts on the floor, ready to be installed.
At the end of this process, you should have insulation batts that match the size of your wall cavities and are ready to install.
9. Install the Batts
Once you get your tools and the batting ready, you can start hanging the batts. If your barndominium has an attic, it’s advisable to start there. The attic can be harder to seal than the rest of your house, and it’s also where you’re more likely to find pipes and wiring that need extra insulation. If you get the hard part out of the way, the rest will be much smoother sailing.
If your barndominium has an open ceiling (no attic), you can start with the walls. Most fiberglass rolls have a paper side and a fiberglass side. The batts should be laid along the wall, with the paper facing the side of the area that will experience the most heat. For most barndominiums, this means that the paper should face you, and the fiberglass should face the wall.
Make sure the batts fit by using the flaps at the edges to staple them to the sides. All that’s left at this point is to secure the batts using one of the tools I mentioned above. Staple the batts every few inches along the entire height to ensure they won’t move.
Additional Tips for Properly Sealing Your Barndominium
- Use thicker insulation batts or panels for the attic. Most of the heat transfer of the house happens through the attic, so you need to make sure you limit that transfer as much as possible.
- Make sure the entry points are also sealed. If your house is properly insulated and you’re still feeling a lot of heat transfer, your doors or windows may have cracks or gaps. Make sure to seal them as well.
- Consider insulating the interior walls as well. You might believe that interior walls don’t need much insulation, and you’d be right, more or less. However, extra insulation is not only better for heat transfer resistance but also for acoustic insulation, which can be extra helpful in an open ceiling metal building such as a barndominium.
- If you have the chance to hire a professional, do it. Even if you’re installing batting insulation–which, as I covered, is pretty easy to do by yourself–the mind of a professional always helps.
Other Types of Insulation
Batt insulation is inexpensive and relatively easy to do by yourself, but it’s not the only option for sealing your barndominium. Depending on how much time and money you want to spend, what you want to insulate, and if you want to involve professionals, you have several options:
Spray foam is made of polyurethane that can be applied to walls and cavities of your barndominium. The foam is sprayed into the wall and then expands as it dries, providing excellent insulation.
Spray foam can be open cell, which is softer and more flexible, or closed cell, which is more compact. Closed cell spray foam is recommended for barndominiums. In most cases, spray foam insulation requires a professional to install it properly, making it more costly than most other types.
This type of insulation is made of foam and is installed in hard panels. It’s similar to batt insulation because it’s divided into panels that should be measured to fit the walls. Board insulation can be applied in virtually every part of the barndominium and can be pretty costly.
The insulation panels can be made of polyurethane or fiberglass. You might need to install an added layer of fire-resistant insulation on the panels to be safe. Board insulation is very effective but also quite expensive.
Loose-fill or blown-in insulation uses loose particles of cellulose or fiberglass to fill gaps and cavities. The installation part can be messy and require some particular tools, which is why most people opt to hire a professional. This type of insulation is particularly suitable if you’ve already built your barndominium but don’t have any insulation.
You may spend more money for loose-fill insulation, not only because you’ll likely have to hire a professional but also because you might have to install an additional vapor barrier or radiant barrier to cool your home during hot days. On the other hand, this type of insulation can cover and fill every little gap and, simultaneously, is more environmentally friendly than the other types.
There are plenty of methods of sealing your barndominium, but batt insulation is a favorite, considering it is the easiest to do by yourself and is relatively inexpensive. Before using batt insulation, you need to check that everything is alright with the local codes and any gaps or pipes in your walls that might make insulation difficult.
To start sealing, gather your tools, make measurements, and cut the insulating material to fit your walls. All that’s left to do afterward is staple the batts carefully into the walls, ensuring they fit perfectly.