The market of thermal insulation materials is huge and represented by hundreds of manufacturers, and the volume of consumption in 2013 was about 53.5 million cubic meters. What is particularly pleasant in today’s economic situation is that the bulk of thermal insulation is made in (the share of imports for the past year was no more than 5%), and this gives hope that the price increase for them will be insignificant.
Despite the large selection of brands, brands and manufacturers, the assortment can be called diverse: mineral wool, expanded polystyrene (regular and extruded), foam insulation, liquid insulation and some types of building materials, as a rule, do not require additional insulation and therefore have a high cost (for example, porous brick).
And yet the main competition is between polystyrene foam and mineral wool, and the latter wins – it accounts for about 70% of thermal insulation sales on the market. There are many reasons for that. At a comparable cost of basalt wool and extruded polystyrene foam, the wool is vapor-permeable, does not require glue or foam during installation, is more environmentally friendly, and according to indicators such as flammability and attractiveness to rodents, foam plastics also seriously lose to it.
There are two types of mineral wool: glass wool and stone (basalt) wool. Fiberglass looks worse than stone in many characteristics: it shrinks more over time, has a lower density and, accordingly, heat and noise insulation, during its installation it is necessary to use respirators and special protective equipment due to glass dust. But with all this, glass wool has a couple of advantages: low price and light weight, which also allows you to save on logistics.
Rock (mineral) wool is made from molten rock, usually of the basalt group. It is ecological (the presence of phenol-formaldehyde is on average 3.3% and it is in a solid state), does not require special protection during installation, is fire-resistant and does not shrink. Some manufacturers guarantee its service life up to 50 years. The disadvantages of stone wool include relatively high cost and heavy weight.
However, the choice between glass wool and stone wool also depends on the area of application, which is directly related to the structures of these materials. Fibers of glass wool are arranged, as a rule, in parallel and by themselves longer than fibers of stone wool, which have a chaotic structure. For this reason, thermal insulation made of stone wool is stronger when compressed, but more fragile when bent, and made of glass wool is more plastic and elastic. Due to these features, glass wool is preferred to be used as a lightweight, non-load-bearing insulation, and basalt wool is used in hinged and plaster facades or flat roofs.
Different types of foams are often used for thermal insulation of houses and cottages. One of the best materials in this area is extruded polystyrene foam. At a high cost compared to ordinary foam, it has better thermal conductivity characteristics, is convenient for cutting and grinding (despite the fact that it squeaks disgustingly). Unlike outdated foam, it does not emit harmful gases, although manufacturers still do not recommend using it as an internal insulation. One of the main disadvantages of expanded polystyrene is their flammability and, in general, instability to high temperatures and exposure to UV rays.
Another interesting material based on foam plastic is penoizol. It is mounted as a mounting foam (in liquid form, under pressure), it is applied in a plane that should be insulated, and there it polymerizes. The advantages of this process are obvious: the thermally insulated spaces are filled completely, leaving no bridges of cold, and in the hardened form, penoizol has almost identical characteristics to polystyrene foam, inferior only in mechanical strength.
However, penoizol has several serious drawbacks, the most important of which is environmental friendliness: during the polymerization period, penoizol emits a small amount of extremely harmful formaldehyde. Another unpleasant feature of foam insulation is a rather strong shrinkage, compared to mineral wool or foam.
Polyurethane foam is a promising innovative insulation. Also acting on the principle of mounting foam, it foams at the moment of application due to the reaction between its components and oxygen. Applied with a fairly thin layer, it increases in volume almost a hundred times, which allows you to thermally insulate all hard-to-reach spaces. Thanks to the spraying method, this type of thermal insulation is seamless, which is its absolute advantage. In addition, polyurethane foam is environmentally friendly and non-flammable, and its service life exceeds 50 years. Among the disadvantages, one can only note the relatively high cost and difficulty of installation by one’s own efforts.
Not so long ago, a radically new type of insulation appeared on the market – liquid (or ceramic) thermal insulation. This lightweight polymer composition with microscopic silicate or ceramic balls is applied as paint to a surface that needs insulation. According to the manufacturers of this product, a layer of 1-2 mm replaces 50 mm of mineral wool or polystyrene and can last for 10-15 years. Like any revolutionary novelty, it has to pass the test of time and practice in order to occupy its niche in the family of heat-insulating materials.
Each siding contractor has his own opinion about the best way to insulate a house. And in general, it can be argued that the choice of thermal insulation is not always justified only by the traditional ratio of price and quality. This is also the need to take into account the structural features of the object being built, as well as the degree of trust and habit of one or another material and even readiness for experiments. The only thing that most experts agree on unconditionally: the house should be insulated from the outside, not from the inside. As, in fact, a fur coat in winter will warm more reliably than liquid 40-degree insulation.