Mobile home insulation is one of the home improvement areas that is the most oversimplified. When someone brings up insulation, most people only think of fiberglass rolls or insulating foams in large quantities, covering an entire area. However, insulation is a broad solution with many niches.
Proper insulation is even more important in mobile homes because manufacturers make them with very poor (if any) insulation. The materials used for mobile homes are thin and don’t offer too much thermal protection. Lastly, mobile homes tend to “settle” in place and move with high winds and temperature swings which put a strain on the home and drastically reduce any chance of air-tightness.
In this article, we want to give you some tips to clarify the world of mobile home insulation for you. We’ll take a look at all the areas in your mobile home that can be insulated, common insulation problems, and the materials that are available for mobile home insulation.
What materials can you use for mobile home insulation?
Before we get to the home itself and the problems that generally arise concerning insulation, we want to give you a rundown on what materials are available. The most important factor when choosing an insulation material is its R-value so let’s start with that.
When you start to look for insulating material to install in your home, you will see this value pop up a lot in product descriptions. The R-value is a measurement of an insulating material’s thermal resistance. In short, the higher R-value the insulation has, the warmer it will keep you. The R-value is affected by three pretty straightforward factors:
- The type of insulation
- It’s density
- It’s thickness
Contrary to popular belief, if you compress insulation to make it thinner, you will lose its full R-value. However, adding two layers of insulation will automatically double the R-value. You must also keep in mind that after installation, the rest of the area (roof, underbelly, wall, etc.) have to be taken into account too. For example, your roof insulation might have an R-value of 20 but combined with the batts and other materials, your roof’s R-value might only be 15 or 10.
Your choice in R-value depends on your type of roof, floor, and location, but you should aim for at least R30-50 in your roof and R15-30 in the floor. The link above has a complete table detailing how to calculate your R-values.
Different kinds of insulation materials
There is a broad range of insulation material available, too much for just this article, so we will focus on those most applicable to a mobile home owner. Refer to the link above where there is a table detailing every form of insulation, the materials used to make it, where it’s applicable, and its advantages.
Blankets or rolls
This is a mainstay for any casual home improvement DIY-er. Blankets and rolls have the advantage of being the easiest to install, and this gives it a wide range of applications. You simply need to buy the right amount, lay it down or wrap it around and fasten it somehow.
- Mineral wool
- Plastic fibres
- Natural fibres
- Roofs or attics with little obstruction from batts or beams.
- Around water heaters.
- In the walls.
- Fastened to the underbelly.
- Easy to install.
- Not many except that you need to be able to access the areas you want to insulate.
Rigid foam boards
Rigid foam boards are pretty straightforward. They are like hard mats used to patch up specific leaks, but can also be used to insulate an entire area or space. It’s another type of insulation that’s relatively easy to install by yourself. They aren’t recommended for ceilings as the intense heat can cause them to move and loosen up. Rigid foam boards might also be a fire hazard so are usually covered in gypsum.
- Patching up leaks.
- Temporary stand-ins for unfinished areas.
- Outside of walls.
- Floors and ceiling (not recommended).
- Easy to install.
- Can be a fire hazard.
This type of insulation is usually done by a professional contractor and requires equipment and some knowledge of tricks of the trade to do a proper job. Basically, the contractor will create a hole in the wall, attic, underbelly, or any other cavity and blow in the insulation material using a compressor type machine.
As you can expect, this is handy for oddly-shaped and inaccessible areas, but you’re also working blind. Someone that doesn’t know what they are doing can leave areas unfilled or overfill and cause strain on the home.
- Cellulose (can cause damage to metal siding and roofing but is fire retardant).
- Mineral wool.
- Attics, roof cavities.
- Any inaccessible places.
- Can cover any area.
- Need a reliable contractor.
- Need to patch up after.
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This might just be the easiest type of insulation you can install by yourself. All you need is an opening to the area you want to insulate, and it’s as easy as filling it up with as many polystyrene beads as is necessary. These beads are immune to water damage.
- Fiberglass (can put extra strain on floor and ceiling)
- Floors and ceilings.
- Any inaccessible places.
- Can cover any area.
- Very easy to install
- Much lower R-value than other types of insulation.
Other handy mobile home insulation materials
These might not fall under the specific “insulation material” category but are still a crucial part of any home insulation mission. Not all insulating materials are appropriate for every area, especially those exposed to the outside or where someone can see it.
This type is beneficial when you want to insulate your door and window frames and cut off that last bit of air exchange with the outside. Some products are specially made to seal the gaps around doors, such as this Kerf Door Seal.
Good old caulk is a must-have for any serious mobile home owner. It’s handy to use in almost any DIY project you can think of. It’s also perfect for sealing the small cracks and holes that tend to develop in mobile homes over time.
Another handy DIY must-have. Spray foam can be used to insulate small and apparent space almost anywhere in the home. Just be careful not to use too much as this can damage your home!
Which parts of your home can (or should) you insulate?
The roof is the most important part of the home when it comes to insulation. Not only is it a large area affected by the outside temperature, but as hot air rises, a roof that is not well insulated will simply let it escape into the atmosphere.
The roof is also a big area that can have a lot of things going on inside. Batt’s, truss’, ceiling joists, and places with different heights are just some of the obstacles to overcome. It’s also a small space to work in which means it might be difficult to cover the whole area in mats or boards.
The most common type of roof insulation is blown-in insulation. With this technique, insulating material is blown into the attic through holes made in the ceiling, gaps made by lifting the roof from outside, or holes in the roof itself.
This area should have an R-value of at least R30 but can go up to R70 depending on your climate. Consequently, we don’t recommend polystyrene beads.
Underbelly and crawlspace
The underbelly is another crucial area to insulate for more than just the obvious reason of it being an exposed area of your home. This is also where you’ll find most of your plumbing. During winter, uninsulated pipes may freeze over with water and wreak havoc on your plumbing.
If you want a DIY approach, it’s easy enough to use insulation mats or boards and fasten them to the bottom of your home. You can also use wool and keep it in place with mesh wiring and staples.
We include skirting as a subcategory of the underbelly because the insulation and air-tightness of the skirting have a significant impact on the overall performance of your underbelly’s insulation.
Skirting is prone to damage, so the first step is to find and repair any cracks or holes. Next, it’s easy enough to insulate the inside of the skirting using foam boards, insulating mats or even weather stripping.
The walls form the biggest area where the elements affect your home. This naturally makes it another one of the most important areas to insulate. Mobile homes usually come with some form of insulation, but it is often thin and not very effective.
Walls are hard to insulate because it’s not easy to get access without affecting the integrity of your home or taking on a big project. However, blow-in insulation, polystyrene beads, or patching up with foam boards are popular choices.
Doors and windows
Although no actual insulation material is needed to insulate doors and windows, you should look for products that provide some kind of insulation in themselves. Examples would include storm windows and doors or double-glazed windows and doors.
Weather stripping and caulk should also be kept handy for whenever cracks form in these vulnerable areas.
Water heater, ducts, and plumbing
All these items are easy enough to insulate. An insulation mat wrapped around your water heater should do the trick. Ducts can be sealed with tape or weather stripping and covered in mats or boards. You can find insulating sleeves that simply wrap around plumbing and can be tied down with duct tape or cable ties.
Try and locate all these elements throughout your home and come up with a list to make sure that you don’t miss any!
Common mobile home insulation mistakes, issues, and problems
Missing insulation in the attic
This problem can have a multitude of causes. The important thing is that even a little bit of missing insulation can have a huge effect on its overall effectiveness. It’s speculated that if only 5% of insulation is missing the R-value drops by up to 54%. There are no “middle-roads.” Any insulation job should be done properly.
Common causes of issues:
- Not enough insulation blown in – This is especially plausible in homes built between the 80’s to early 2000’s before stricter construction litigation practices.
- Missed rooms – Sometimes lazy contractors skip entire rooms.
- Knee walls and soffits – Places where the roof is raised, or varying between different heights, are hard to insulate correctly.
- Chases running down the walls – These fixtures are common at chimneys and so on but pose a significant conundrum when it comes to insulation.
- Misaligned batts – Sometimes batts aren’t properly installed which means even proper insulation can’t do its job.
- Attic platforms or walkways – These are usually to provide easy access to aircon or heating and can cause extra complications.
- Maintenance work – Finally someone else than the insulating contractor to blame! Whenever performing maintenance on ceiling appliances someone might be tempted to move batts or insulation out of the way and not put it back in place.
- Attic access – Often, the attic access is left uninsulated to keep insulation from falling into the home.
- Blown away – Any amount of wind entering the attic through vents or gaps can blow the very light insulation away.
Damaged insulation in the underbelly
A lot goes down at your homes underbelly. It’s the closest point to the ground. Additionally, there’s a lot of plumbing coming in and out of the home; it’s where critters tend to visit; and where you’ll locate the furnace and other appliances. All these factors increase the risk of insulation becoming damaged. Although it comes only second to the attic, it’s still an essential part of any properly insulated mobile home.
Common causes of issues:
- Holes in the belly – Mostly due to plumbing, drains, or vents that aren’t properly insulated or sealed back up after use.
- Wiring – Appliances such as the furnace and water heaters may be located underground, and the holes through which wiring come are sometimes improperly insulated.
- Water leaks – These can come from many different sources, especially under the bathroom or water heater.
- Animals – If critters can find their way into your crawlspace, they would just love the free and warm material on offer.
- The elements – If your skirting is not properly sealed off wind and water from the outside can get in and damage your insulation.
Windows or doors
You might think this goes without saying, after all, the very purpose of these parts of the home is to provide a way to go in and out of the home. A significant amount of heat gets lost through these areas.
Common causes of issues:
- Movement of the home – A mobile home naturally moves from thermal changes, settling in place, or forces exerted on it like the wind. This cause window and door frames that are usually rigid to move, crack and lose their seals with the home.
- Shrinkage – Wooden frames can shrink naturally with time causing these leaks.
- Wear and tear – Weatherstripping and caulking can wear away with time causing tiny cracks.
- Glass – Plain glass windows just don’t cut it during those cold winter months. Look for double-glazed windows or storm windows that provide much better insulation.
If you have never thought about your outlets when trying to solve insulation problems in your home, don’t worry, few people do. However, as we have mentioned, seemingly small flaws can have a big impact.
The only cause of this kind of heat leak is that contractors rarely install outlets with insulation in mind.
Everything you needed to know about mobile home insulation
So, there you have it. We hope this collection of tips and information ensures that your next mobile home insulation makes your space 100% weathertight. As a massive bonus, you will make significant steps towards becoming more energy efficient, saving money and doing mother nature a big favor. In the long run, insulating your floor and your home properly is a win-win for everyone. If you’re looking to winterize your home, read this article for tips for every budget.