Cotton Insulation? What's That?

When it comes to insulation, fiberglass has long been the most popular choice -- and most people have heard of modern spray foam. But there's another type of insulation that seems to be increasing in popularity: cotton insulation. If you're insulating a new home or considering updating your current insulation, it pays to know the basics about cotton.

What is cotton insulation made from?

The words "cotton insulation" may conjure up mental images of fluffy cotton balls, but in fact, cotton insulation looks ore like crumpled up pieces of blue jeans. That's because it's actually made from recycled and scrap denim. The denim has a greater insulating ability than the fluffy, white form of cotton used to make cotton balls. Plus, in re-using an item that would otherwise end up in a landfill, manufacturers are reducing waste and doing the environment a favor. If you value eco-friendly, waste-free living, cotton insulation is a product that's in line with your values.

What forms does cotton insulation come in?

You can find cotton insulation batts, which are ideal for insulating attic floors and placing between wall studs. Blown-in, loose cotton insulation is also available. This is an ideal choice if you have existing walls you'd like to insulate, since it can be blown in through a small hole. (You don't have to demolish the wall.)

What other advantages does cotton insulation offer?

One big benefit of cotton is its safety. With fiberglass, you have to worry about the fibers. They can irritate your skin, eyes and respiratory tract, and it's certainly not safe to leave fiberglass insulation exposed around kids and pets. But cotton is as safe as your blue jeans. You can rub your face in it, let your kids touch it, and install it without any sort of gloves or protection. It does not need time to cure like spray foam, either, so there's no need to vacate your home while it's being insulated.

Are there downfalls to cotton insulation?

The primary downfall is the higher cost of cotton insulation. Expect to pay $1.27 to $1.40 per square foot for cotton insulation (including installation). Fiberglass averages between $0.49 and $1.00 per square foot (also including installation). If you're on a tight budget, cotton insulation may not be the smartest choice. However, if you have a little extra cash to spare, it truly is a safe and eco-friendly alternative to fiberglass. Ask an insulation services professional for more help.