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Seal Up That Garage Nice and Tight With These Insulation Tips

In hot and dry West Texas, it's not just your house that can overheat if not thoroughly weatherized. Your garage, too, can become excessively hot. Those high temperatures can damage the items you have in storage, especially if you're storing items in your garage attic.

Heat buildup in your attached garage also makes it harder to keep your house cool. If your garage is air conditioned, proper insulation is essential for keeping your cooling bills in check.

Insulation matters in winter, too. Just like hot weather, cold weather can also damage your stored belongings and a cold garage can sap warmth from your home. Following a few basic garage insulation tips will help you choose the right kind of insulation and install it correctly so your garage stays comfortable year round.

R-Value and Insulation Efficiency

Before you start putting these garage insulation tips to use, it helps to get clear on exactly what insulation does and how it varies in effectiveness. R-value is one of the most important terms to know.

Insulation's job is to slow down the flow of heat. It works like a Thermos, keeping cool things cool and warm things warm. That means keeping heat out of your home in summer and inside your home in winter.

An insulation material's R-value indicates its thermal resistance, meaning how effectively it slows heat flow. The higher the R-value, the more efficient the insulation. Under real-world conditions, R-value changes depending on the temperature, humidity, and air currents, but you'll find insulation is labeled with only one R-value. This value is given per inch of thickness.

Different types of insulation slow heat transfer at different rates. R-values for some of the most common types are:

  • Standard fiberglass batts - R-2.9 to R-3.8
  • High-performance fiberglass batts - R-3.7 to R-4.3
  • Loose-fill fiberglass - R-2.2 to R-2.7
  • Loose-fill cellulose - R-3.2 to R-3.8
  • Loose-fill rockwool - R-2.7 to R-3.3
  • Rigid foam boards - R-4

Needless to say, a single inch of insulation won't do your garage much good. That's why batt insulation is typically manufactured in thicknesses of between 3 1/2 to 12 inches. How much insulation you'll need depends on your climate and which part of the building you're insulating.

For example, in West Texas, if your garage attic already has 3 or 4 inches of insulation, you'll benefit from adding another R-25 and R-38 layer. That's between 8 1/2 to 12 inches of fiberglass batts. If you're adding insulation to an uninsulated garage attic, aim for a R-30 to R-60 layer, which requires between 10 to 24 inches of fiberglass batts.

That means if you're planning to insulate an uninsulated garage attic to the highest recommended level, you'll need two layers of insulation. With loose-fill insulation, which is sold as small chunks of fiber, consider the volume of insulation you'll need in order to reach your desired R-level across the entire attic or wall.

Choosing Your Insulation Type

Different types of insulation are suited to different parts of your garage and the garage insulation tips you'll find useful also depend on the type of insulation you use. Once you know how insulation efficiency is measured, you can move on to choosing the types you want.
Batt insulation, also called blanket or roll insulation, is the most commonly available insulation type. It's manufactured in long sheets cut in widths designed to fit between walls studs, and floor and ceiling joists. These batts can be found in a number of different materials, including fiberglass and cellulose as well as eco-friendly materials such as cotton and sheep's wool. Batt insulation can be laid into place without special equipment, so it's easy to install by yourself.

Loose-fill, also called blown-in, insulation consists of small pieces of fiber, typically fiberglass or cellulose. This insulation must be blown into place using a special machine. If you decide to install this type, you'll need to either rent a blower machine or hire a professional who has one.

Despite the more complicated installation, loose-fill insulation has several advantages. It fills in small crevices better than batts do, increasing its overall efficiency. It's also ideal for adding insulation to the walls of a finished garage. The insulation can be blown into the wall through a relatively small hole, which minimizes construction work.

Rigid foam board insulation is available in panels of hardened polystyrene, polyurethane or another type of foam. This insulation is best used for insulating walls before construction is complete and for adding insulation to the floor when you plan to turn the garage into a finished living space.

Spray foam, which comes in cans, is designed to be sprayed onto an irregularly shaped area that may be difficult to insulate otherwise. It's useful for sealing small holes and gaps.

Insulating Your Garage Walls

Garage wall insulation not only helps with temperature control, but also protects your indoor air quality by minimizing the risk of fumes from your car and stored chemicals from seeping into your home.

The garage insulation tips most relevant to your needs depend on whether you're still building the garage or you're insulating a finished structure. If you're in the process of building a new garage, you have a number of insulation options, but installing batt insulation is typically the easiest way to go. In our climate, you'll want to insulate your garage walls to a minimum of R-5 and preferably R-18. That means 3 1/2-inch thick batts are sufficient.

Your garage's exact insulation requirements depend on the building's construction and your local climate, so consider consulting with a heating and cooling professional before you decide on exactly how much to add. A local professional can also pass along garage insulation tips for the part of West Texas where you live.

One of the most important garage insulation tips you can follow for weatherizing walls is to air seal before you lay the insulation. Inspect your walls for gaps or holes and seal any you find with silicone caulk. Larger gaps can be sealed with spray foam insulation.

Once you've decided on your preferred level of batt insulation, you can begin installation. Simply lay the batts between the wall studs. For walls of an attached garage that have a living space on the other side, the paper facing material should face inward away from you. For other walls, the paper should face outward toward you.

Next, find the paper flaps on the edges of the batts and use a staple gun to attach these flaps to the wall studs. To hold in the insulation, nail evenly spaced 2x4s to the wall studs across the top off the insulation.

Finally, cover the insulation with plywood or drywall. For the greatest durability, choose plywood. Lay the plywood with the A-grade (best quality) side outward. Secure the plywood to the wall studs with screws placed every 12 inches.

Insulating Your Garage Attic

While following garage insulation tips for wall insulation is important, correctly insulating the garage attic is in some ways even more important. In summer, the sun's rays hitting the roof can heat an attic to temperatures of more than 140 degrees. Good ventilation does a lot to lower the temperature, but even so, insulation is a must for keeping the heat out of the main part of your garage.

If your attic is heated in winter, attic insulation will benefit you in cold weather, too. Warm air naturally rises and without insulation to slow it down, warmth from your garage heating system will rapidly escape through the attic and roof.

As with the walls, air sealing should be your first step. Because the attic is easily accessible, installing insulation here is relatively simple. In most garages, the best options are either fiberglass or cellulose, whether in batt or blown-in form.

Insulating and Weatherstripping Your Garage Door

Among the best garage insulation tips you'll come across is the advice to use a garage door insulation kit. These kits come with enough rigid foam panels to insulate a standard-sized garage door and include instructions to make the job easy.

Once you've insulated the door, add weatherstripping to reduce energy-wasting air leaks. For the top and sides of the door, choose vinyl V-strip weatherstripping designed to be nailed into place.

While most garage doors come with weatherstripping on the bottom, this wears out and should be replaced when it becomes degraded. For this part of your garage door, you'll need a T-bulb rubber gasket seal, which is meant to be slid into place. Before you buy, check the number and size of the weatherstripping channels on the bottom of your door.

For more pro garage insulation tips and help installing your insulation and weatherstripping for maximum efficiency, contact Texas Air Comfortto find a West Texas contractor near you.

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