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Mineral wool insulation in an attic Insulating Material Identification

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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.

Article Index to Types of Building Insulation

Demilec open celled 1/2 lb foam insulation (C) D Friedman

Asbestos Insulation Found in Buildings

Asbestos pipe insulation (C) Daniel Friedman

Above: a common form of asbestos insulation found in older buildings is an asbestos-based corrugated paper insulating wrap used on pipes.
See ASBESTOS INSULATION for a complete guide to all forms of asbesto insulation found in or on buildings.

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.

Brick Infill in Building Walls as "Insulation"

Brick infill or brick nogging insulation (C) Daniel Friedman

Brick wall "insulation" or brick nogging may be found in wood framed buildings built up to about 1900. Usually these homes have exterior clapboards and interior plaster walls.

See BRICK or BLOCK WALL CAVITY INSULATION

Cellulose building insulation photo

cellulose building insulation

Our photo above is of blown-in cellulose insulation.

See CELLULOSE LOOSE FILL INSULATION for details.

Ceramic Insulation

Perlite insulation

See CERAMIC INSULATION

Concrete Insulation, Lightweight

[Photos wanted, please use the page top or bottom CONTACT link]

See CONCRETE INSULATION, LIGHT WEIGHT

Cotton building insulation photo

mineral wool building insulation

Our photo above is of cotton batt building insulation.

See COTTON INSULATING BATTS for details.

Duct Insulation

Exposed fiberglass in ductwork (C) Daniel Friedman Round fiberglass air duct (C) Daniel Friedman Photo of

See

Photo of Photo of

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

Fire Block Foam Insulation

Touch n Foam firebreak flame resistant sealant foam insulation © Daniel Friedman

Fire-block foam is a fire-resistant foam spray used to seal building floor, wall, or ceiling penetrations, especially in new construction or a spray-foam insulation retrofit job.

See FIRE-BLOCK Fire Retardant Foam Spray Building Insulation

Foam Spray Insulation Types

Squash testing polyurethane foam insulation (C) D Friedman

Please see this separate article that sorts out all of the various types of foam insulation

FOAM SPRAY INSULATION TYPES including both modern sprayed in place foam insulating products (such as ICYNENE FOAM SPRAY INSULATION) and older sprayed UFFI.

Also see FORMALDEHYDE HAZARDS

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 and IAQ for details.

Mineral Wool Insulation Identification

Rock wool insulation © Daniel Friedman

Mineral wool is produced by melting rock and slag to produce a mineral fiber that may be aggregated and bound by a resin for use as building insulation. Mineral wool, also called "rock wool" or slag wool or stone wool may be found in buildings as chopped loose-fill insulation, as longer twisted ropy loose fill insulation, or as insulating batts such as the Gold Bond Rock Wool insulating batt shown in our photograph.

See MINERAL WOOL - ROCK WOOL INSULATION - home

Perlite Insulation

Perlite in planting soil mix © Daniel Friedman

See PERLITE INSULATION

Polyisocyanurate Foam Insulation Photo

Celotex foam board insulation interior view (C) InspecApedia JW

See POLYISOCYANURATE FOAM BOARD

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.

Starch Foam Insulation

Starch foam, originally produced for use in bio-degradable packaging and as an alternative to polystyrene foam insulating products, is described by Siverstein (2007):

Starch foam was made already in 1989 as biodegradable packaging, and is an alternative material to the traditional polystyrene foams. Starch is a polysaccharide made up of glucose units linked by glycoside linkages, and its length is generally between 500-2000 repeat units. Starch is made up of amylose and amylopectin Amylose is more linear and gives the foam flexibility and keeps the density low, while amylopectin is highly branced and makes the product more foamable. Starch can be extracted from for example corn or potatoes.  

Starch foams are produced by extrusion where the starch is melted and mixed with a blowing agent. The blowing agent for starch is often water or methanol, which is turned into steam when the system is heated and forms air bubbles within the starch matrix. The extrusion process is a continuous, low-cost method that is easy to use. It is still hard to make the foam smooth and have a high number of closed cells. The use of thermoplastic polymer additives can help even out the surfaces, but can also decrease the degradability of the foam by incorporating slowly degrading or non-degradable polymers. - Siversten, 2007 

Starch has been used as a binder in "super green" building products, including some insulation products or bio-fiber insulation products, possibly including cellulose or wood fibers, ("bico fibers") installed in North America beginning in about 1985, using starch extract from corn, beans or other sources. - Bomberg

Styrofoam board insulation photo

Polystyrene insulating foam board (C) Daniel Friedman

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.

Tripolymer Foam Insulation Properties

Tripolymer foam building insulation may be used as building insulation as an alternative to more-widely-used icynene foam. Tripolymer foam, unlike icynene insulation, is a water-soluble foam insulation.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy,

Tripolymer foam—a water-soluble foam—is injected into wall cavities. It has excellent resistance to fire and air intrusion. - U.S. DOE, ret. 2017

Tripolymer foam, because it is water-based during application, has the following properties:

Tyrpolymer foam, a product that was manufactured by C.P. Chemical Company, a New York Corporation, and marketed under the name Tripolymer4 105, was installed by injection into the building wall or (enclosed) ceiling cavities. In1986 C.P. Chemical was involved in litigation against the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) concerning this insulating material. C.P. Chemical's complaint against the CPSC was dismissed by the court.

Excerpts from the court decision cited below:

The suit arose from the Commission's ban on the use of formaldehyde-emitting foam insulation, 47 Fed.Reg. 57,488 (1982). The Fifth Circuit ruled, in Gulf South Insulation v. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 701 F.2d 1137, 1148-50 (5th Cir. 1983), that the ban was improper because it was promulgated under the procedures of the CPSA, 15 U.S.C. §§ 2057, 2058, 2079(d), rather than under the appropriate procedures of the Federal Hazardous Substances Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1261-1276. C.P. Chemical alleged that the Commission erroneously included within the ban its insulation product, Tripolymer 105, which emits no formaldehyde gas. The district court held that the FTCA waiver of sovereign immunity does not extend to the agency conduct forming the basis for this tort action against the United States and the Commission. The court also held that the CPSA provides no predicate for this action. For the reasons stated below, we affirm.

C.P. Chemical Company is a family-owned New York corporation that manufactured "Tripolymer 105," a foam insulation product that was mixed on the job site and pumped between a structure's walls. Tripolymer 105, a phenal-urea based product, competed with a similar product--urea-formaldehyde foam insulation ("UFFI"). However, unlike Tripolymer 105, UFFI was found to emit detectable levels of formaldehyde gas.
...

C.P. Chemical Company, along with other foam insulation manufacturers, sought judicial review of the UFFI ban pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 2060. On April 7, 1983, the Fifth Circuit held that the Commission's rule was not supported by substantial evidence and therefore vacated the ban. Gulf South Insulation v. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 701 F.2d 1137 (5th Cir. 1983). While expressly declining to address C.P. Chemical's claim that it should have been exempted from the ban because its product was safer than UFFI, 701 F.2d at 1140, the court also held that the Commission had followed the wrong rulemaking procedures when it promulgated the rule under the informal procedures of the Consumer Product Safety Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 2058, 2079(d). The agency should have proceeded under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1261-1276, which requires a formal hearing wherein rules of evidence are applied and the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses is recognized, 701 F.2d at 1149-50, see 15 U.S.C. § 1262(a) (2).

C.P. Chemical Company, along with other foam insulation manufacturers, sought judicial review of the UFFI ban pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 2060. On April 7, 1983, the Fifth Circuit held that the Commission's rule was not supported by substantial evidence and therefore vacated the ban. Gulf South Insulation v. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 701 F.2d 1137 (5th Cir. 1983). While expressly declining to address C.P. Chemical's claim that it should have been exempted from the ban because its product was safer than UFFI, 701 F.2d at 1140, the court also held that the Commission had followed the wrong rulemaking procedures when it promulgated the rule under the informal procedures of the Consumer Product Safety Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 2058, 2079(d). The agency should have proceeded under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1261-1276, which requires a formal hearing wherein rules of evidence are applied and the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses is recognized, 701 F.2d at 1149-50, see 15 U.S.C. § 1262(a) (2).
...

CONCLUSION
For the reasons stated above, we hold that the district court correctly dismissed the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim. The judgment of the district court is affirmed.

References for Tripolymer foam insulation properties

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

Also see URETHANE FOAM INSULATION

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 SPRAY INSULATION TYPES or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

Or see CARBON NANOTUBE MATERIALS

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.

INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES: ARTICLE INDEX to BUILDING INSULATION

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