You should only insulate a room if it contributes to the comfort of the inhabitants or the protection of objects, systems or installations housed there.
If you are only using your garage to store a vehicle, it is not necessary to insulate the space. Vehicles are designed to survive out in the elements and are therefore protected in a non-insulated garage.
However, the need for insulation changes if your heating system is located in the garage, space has been reserved there for washing, or you use the garage for activities where a certain degree of comfort is required.
In such cases, it is appropriate to insulate your garage, which would thereby incorporate it into the protected volume (i.e. all heated rooms in the housing unit).
Your garage is a form of shelter during harsh weather. However, the temperature tends to change based on the weather conditions outside. Two reasons why you may be considering insulating your garage is the very fact that you are hoping to save money on your energy bill, or maybe you would like to make that space warmer or cooler during certain times of the year.
Properly insulating your home can seriously decrease your energy bill and make your space much more comfortable. During the winter and summertime, either the furnace or air conditioning is constantly running, which can easily cost hundreds of dollars. However, the temperature in your garage does not affect your home’s cooling and heating system.
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Are the money and time worth it? We review it below so you can make an informed decision.
Are you wondering whether you need to insulate and heat your garage? Do building standards mean you have to? Not really… You will hear some government organizations saying that shared walls with attached garages must have a certain R-value, and the garage ceiling must also have a certain R‑value if there’s a room above it. But what about the other walls? Well, you don’t need anything! And there are no current insulation and heating regulations for detached garages.
So, if you don’t need to insulate and heat your garage, why bother? People like to throw around the word “comfort”. After all, you are probably going to enjoy your DIY projects more if you’re not shivering. But there’s no point in using a space heater if your garage isn’t insulated, all that nice warm air will just seep out of the walls.
We’ve compiled this list of six reasons why we think you should insulate and possibly heat your garage. See what you think…
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Your garage is an integral part of your home
Long gone are the days when garages where just places to park your car and store your junk. They’re now considered extensions of your home and are used as workshops, gyms, children’s play areas and much, much more.
If you choose to insulate and heat your garage, you’ll be able to use it all year long.
Uninsulated, attached garages seep cold into your home
Although the shared wall between your garage and home is usually insulated, as is the access door, this only keeps out the cold when the door is closed. Every time you open the door, cold air from the uninsulated garage seeps into your home, and warm air you pay for seeps into the cold garage, wasting your money.
You might not have a choice
You might not mind a cold, humid garage, but you might not have a choice. If plumbing runs through your garage, for example, if your washer and dryer are installed in the garage, you must insulate it. Without insulation, you face frozen pipes during the winter.
As we’re already mentioned, you should insulate the garage ceiling if there is a room over the garage. If you don’t, you’ll find it very hard to keep that room warm, which can be very uncomfortable, especially if it’s a bedroom.
Protect your treasured property
Why spend money on recreational equipment, such as skis, bikes, kayaks, etc., if you cannot store it without worrying about how it’s going to be affected by the elements? Humidity, which is very common in uninsulated garages, breeds rust and mould. With a well-insulated garage, you don’t need to worry.
Carbon monoxide protection
Nearly everyone uses a remote starter for their car in the winter, but what if you accidentally push on the button while your car is shut away in your garage? Well‑insulated garage walls and quality weatherstripping on doors act like a barrier stopping the carbon monoxide fumes from seeping into your home.
If you have an attached garage, it’s a good idea to install a carbon monoxide detector close to your garage access door.
Insulation acts as a sound barrier
Insulating your garage provides a sound barrier, both stopping sound from entering and exiting your home. Just think, you can leave your teenagers to bang around on their drums without having to fish out your earplugs, and your neighbours won’t be able to hear you when you get your early start on a Sunday morning with the power drill!
Don’t leave out your garage door!
Garage doors are big and act as a fourth wall, insulating your garage walls and ceiling to energy conservation agency‑recommended standards won’t make a difference unless you also have an insulated garage door.
Types of Insulation for Your Garage
Insulating a garage makes sense if you’re planning to heat the space. When it comes to choosing materials, you can use the same types of insulation used on the rest of the house, but some are better than others, depending on whether the garage is finished or not. You also want to look at insulating the garage door, which has different installation requirements than walls or ceilings.
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Garage Insulation Basics
It pays to insulate your garage if you’re adding heat, whether on a permanent or as-needed basis. If you’re not adding heat, there’s little point in insulating. It’s a popular misconception that insulation adds warmth. In reality, insulation merely slows the transfer of heat through the insulated barrier (wall, ceiling, floor, etc.).
There is a school of that maintains that an unheated garage that is attached to the house may get some benefit from insulating the walls and ceilings of the garage since it theoretically offers an additional thermal buffer between the exterior of the home and the outdoors. But no state requires this as part of energy-efficiency mandates, and it is unlikely that this minimum improvement in energy transfer will offset the costs of extensive insulation. The walls that are shared with the house, however, should be insulated to their maximum value.
It’s also important to realize the value of air-sealing in conjunction with insulation. Garages typically aren’t built to be airtight and have lots of air gaps to the outdoors. You can insulate the walls, ceiling, and door of the garage to the highest R-value possible, but if you fail to fill those air gaps, you’ll still be wasting a lot of heat. So before insulating, go around the garage with a can of low-expanding spray foam and seal all gaps and cracks that let in the daylight. (Of course, your garage door is essentially a gigantic air gap when it’s open, but that’s another matter.) Also, make sure weatherstripping along the bottom of the garage door and window, and door frames are intact to seal against drafts.
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Fibreglass is the most commonly used type of insulation in garages (just as it’s the most popular type in homes). It’s sold in precut batts and long blankets that fit between wall studs and ceiling joists. You can also get loose-fill fibreglass, which is suitable for blowing into a garage attic space above a finished ceiling.
If the walls and ceiling will remain open (not covered with drywall or plywood), it’s a good idea to use paper-faced or encapsulated fibreglass bats that are wrapped in a plastic film. These will give the walls a slightly more finished look, and you won’t have the itchy fibres of the insulation exposed and ready to catch dust at all times.
Cellulose is loose-fill insulation that is growing in popularity. Made primarily from recycled newspapers and treated with a fire retardant, cellulose is usually blown into wall and ceiling cavities with a special blowing machine that also aerates the cellulose and fluffs it up. Blowers can be rented at many tool rental stores, and home centres will sometimes loan you a free one if you buy your cellulose from them.
Because it’s loose-fill, cellulose is suitable only for finished garage walls and ceilings. If the garage is already finished (but uninsulated), you can install cellulose by cutting strategic holes in the wall material, spraying the insulating into the cavities between framing members, then patching the holes.
Rigid Foam Insulation
Rigid foam comes in 4 x 8-foot sheets and thicknesses of 1/2 inch to 4 inches. The most common materials include expanded polystyrene (similar to Styrofoam), extruded polystyrene, and polyisocyanurate. Rigid foam offers a high R-value per inch of thickness and can be cut to fit almost any space. It’s a good choice for thin walls and insulating garage doors. If you’re turning the garage into living space or a full-time workspace and want to insulate the floor, one option is to use rigid foam covered in plywood or other subfloor material.
Note: Check the fire rating on rigid foam; some types are not fire-resistant and are not suitable for exposed applications.&
Spray Foam Insulation
Spray foam is excellent for both R-value and air-sealing. As a high-end material typically used for energy-efficient construction, spray foam is overkill for most garage projects. But it might make sense if you’re converting the garage to living space.
Garage Door Insulation
Don’t insulate your garage walls and ceiling without insulating the big garage door, too. You can buy insulation kits for standard metal garage doors, or you can cut pieces of rigid foam insulation to fit each door panel/section. Keep in mind that the structural metal ribbing of garage doors is an excellent conductor of heat, and this typically doesn’t get insulated. As a result, the overall thermal performance of the door will be well below the rated performance of the insulation itself.
Air-sealing is particularly important with garage doors. Create a seal along sides and top of the door with special garage door trim with an integrated weather seal strip. Seal along the bottom of the door with a new rubber gasket, or “bottom seal.” It’s available in different sizes to cover small or large gaps between the door and the garage floor.
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Methods for Insulating Garage Doors
Among the solutions, some homeowners try is to apply standard batt insulation to the inside face of the door. Another method is to spray foam insulation on the inside surface—the same kind of insulation sometimes sprayed against roof sheathing from the inside to improve the R-value in an attic.
But garage doors are meant to function. They need to open and close regularly, often hinging or folding at several different points. So neither bat insulation nor spray foam insulation is going to work well on the garage door. Even if you find products designed for application against a garage door, the constant movement of the garage door will eventually cause them to flake, pull apart, and fail—which means that you’re looking at insulating your door again and again. This is hardly cost-effective over the long haul.
If you are intent on an energy-efficient garage door, a better alternative is to purchase a garage door that is already insulated. Rather than a metal door, which conducts heat and cold easily, choose a fibreglass door with a foam core, which will help stop some of the energy loss from the garage. If you’re planning on replacing your garage door, looking into an insulated model is probably a good idea. But it probably does not make financial sense to replace an otherwise good garage door with an insulated model just for the energy savings potential.
Insulate the Rest of the Garage Instead
Garage door insulation is of limited value anyway, given the other areas of the garage that are equally problematic in terms of heat loss. The floor of your garage is probably built on a slab, which means that it isn’t insulated and is an ongoing source of energy transference. If your garage has concrete walls, these, too, are constant sources of heat transference. If you take the time and spend the money to insulate the entire garage, you may well be disappointed by seeing a very minimal improvement on your energy bills.
Rather than attempting to insulate the garage door and other components of the garage itself, a much more effective solution is to focus your attention on the boundary walls between the main house and the attached garage. Put insulation into the ceiling of the garage so it helps stop the loss of energy to space above, where it may connect to the house attic. Make sure there is plenty of insulation on the interior wall of the garage—the wall shared with the house itself. By doing so, even if the temperature fluctuates inside the garage, it won’t significantly affect the temperature inside your home or raise your energy bills.
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While most contractors will tell you to insulate the transfer points from the garage to the house itself, there are still times when you may want to insulate further the garage door, as well as the walls and floor of the garage. If you use your garage as a living space, rather than as a storage area for cars and other items, then you may be heating or cooling the area anyway, and the garage door may not operate much. In this instance, it does make sense to maximize the R-value of the walls, floors, ceiling, as well as the garage door.
This can be true of both attached garages and those that are detached and separate from the house. If you are supplying supplemental heat or air conditioning to a detached garage, you’ll want to make every aspect of the garage as energy-efficient as possible. It has been shown that an energy-efficient R-18 garage door can keep the garage space about 12 degrees warmer in winter months and about 25 degrees cooler in summer. But remember that an energy-efficient double garage door costs somewhere between $1500 and $2000, so it will take considerable time to pay back the cost of the door in terms of energy savings. And it only makes sense for spaces where the garage door won’t be opened routinely to break the energy envelope.
Another option where the garage will be used for living space is to insulate the door with a garage door insulation kit, available at home centres. There are two types of kits usually available. A vinyl-faced fibreglass batting kit provides a decent R-8 insulating value for the door; two kits will cover a standard 16-foot wide garage door. This type of soft insulation is taped to the inside surface of the door. Another option is to by precut expanded polystyrene (EPS) rigid foam panels and apply them to the door. The panels are cut to length and snapped into the space between the horizontal rails on the door panels. This type of kit provides an insulating value of roughly R-4.
Most people think of improving energy efficiency in terms of adding insulation. Still, the reality is that a significant degree of heat loss occurs because of air gaps where drafts occur. Insulating a garage will be of limited value if door gaskets, window weatherstripping, and other air gaps are still providing places for air to flow. Always seal these areas when you are addressing the energy efficiency of a garage.
So, is it worth it?
Is insulating a garage worth the investment? It isn’t the best bet for reducing the cost of your energy bill, but we don’t suggest throwing the idea completely out the window. You can make other changes to your garage that will be quite helpful, such as putting up a storm door on the garage door that goes into the house. You can also block or weatherstrip the garage doors and windows. Don’t close off your garage so much that exhaust fumes can’t escape, however.
If you use your garage as storage for your cars and other items, you’re probably better off leaving the door alone and insulating the ceiling of your garage and the walls that are shared with the home instead. If you use your garage as a living space, however, it’s probably worth your while to insulate the door as well as other elements of the garage. Make your decision based on your lifestyle and needs.