Understanding the different types of insulation and how they work can help you choose better to protect your home from weather elements and manage your energy consumption.
Ideally, you want to know when and where to install faced and unfaced insulation within the home to make the most of each. However, like many homeowners, you may need help understanding the concepts of faced vs. unfaced insulation.
So, how do these two materials compare? When should you use each, and where is the best place for it?
Read along to learn the difference between these two popular insulation types to help determine the best choice for your needs.
What is faced insulation?
This is insulation with a paper vapor retarder or barrier attached to one side. This barrier helps with damp proofing or resisting the diffusion of moisture seeping or water through the ceiling, wall, roof assemblies, or floor of the garage or building.
Insulation with a vapor barrier is typically installed on the exterior of the building to block moisture from permeating the ceilings and walls of the structure. This material is beneficial in locations with high humidity, such as coastal cities.
Faced insulation can also use light aluminum foil or vinyl instead of paper as a vapor retarder. The barrier material used can influence the characteristics of the insulation. For instance, aluminum foil is unlikely to catch a flame, reducing the fire risk, unlike paper, which is a fire hazard.
However, some building codes may not approve of using such alternate vapor barrier materials in some areas. So ensure you check local building codes and regulations before choosing one.
Common uses of faced insulation
- Ceiling—the ceiling is exposed to external condensation, which requires faced insulation to prevent the vapor from permeating the material.
- Attic—an attic requires protection from the cold and hot air that is likely to enter your home. For the roof, ensure the faced side of the insulation points down.
- Exterior walls—you need a vapor barrier all over the external wall to protect against the elements, including rainwater and condensation.
- Crawl Space—the crawl space requires a moisture barrier since it attracts a lot of moisture that can cause molds and wood rot.
- Basement walls—these are typically connected to the exterior of your home, hence requiring water protection. Additionally, basements are generally prone to the accumulation of moisture, which you must keep from getting into your main living spaces.
Faced insulation pros and cons
- This insulation type offers protection against water damage
- Faced insulation is easier to install since the vapor barrier holds the insulation together, so you can roll, move, and staple it without disintegrating.
- It prevents mold and mildew from developing.
- Some facing materials, such as aluminum foil, serve multiple valuable purposes.
- The paper is combustible, which can pose a fire hazard
- Faced insulation is slightly more expensive than unfaced insulation.
What is unfaced insulation?
This is insulation without vapor retarder as or facing found in faced insulation. As such, this type of insulation typically costs less than faced insulation but is more challenging to install because the material can fall apart as you install it.
On the upside, you can stack up the material and install multiple layers to increase the R-value of the insulated area.
This quality also makes unfaced insulation the ideal type for soundproofing. For this reason, unfaced insulation is preferred for noise-reduction applications. It can also save high amounts of energy due to its incredible effectiveness at retaining cold and hot air.
Unfaced insulation is appropriate for interior walls or locations that do not experience humidity problems. It is also the correct option for use with existing insulation since no barrier will inhibit the stacking of insulation.
Unfaced insulation common uses
- Insulating interior walls, which experience little to no moisture permeation
- Between floors that are not within an exterior wall
- Under floors
- In attic floors
Unfaced insulation pros and cons
- Unfaced insulation is fireproof, so it helps reduce the risk of fire by providing a fireproof barrier between the inside and outside environment.
- It is cost-friendly; less expensive than faced insulation.
- You can layer unfaced insulation to create a thicker, denser layer ideal for soundproofing.
- It is available in a wide range of materials.
- It offers little protection against moisture damage
- It is more challenging to install since it can easily disintegrate or get torn during installation. Staples also don’t work well with unfaced insulation.
Faced Vs. Unfaced Insulation side by side
The primary difference between faced and unfaced insulation is the vapor retarder found in faced insulation, which is lacking in unfaced insulation.
However, this is just one of the differences between the two products. A more comprehensive understanding of the differences between faced and unfaced insulation is necessary to help you determine the best choice for your needs.
Faced vs. unfaced insulation: materials
Fiberglass is the most common material for both faced and unfaced insulation. However, the insulation material can also be rock wool or various other materials for both faced and unfaced options.
Unfaced insulation can sometimes come with a vapor retarder or moisture barrier. This material can be Kraft paper, vinyl, gypsum board, or aluminum foil.
Foil-facing excels at preventing moisture infiltration as paper does. Additionally, it prevents the movement of radiated heat, which can minimize the heat from the sun entering your home.
Vinyl insulation is generally heavy and durable, so it is typically more expensive than other vapor barrier types. This material is commonly used in ceilings and walls of governmental and industrial buildings.
Gypsum board is most often applied in industrial and commercial buildings for the same purpose as the other moisture barrier types.
Verdict: it is a tie.
Soundproofing and noise reduction
While both faced and unfaced insulation have noise reduction qualities, unfaced insulation is the best choice for adding soundproofing to the interior walls of your garage or home. It allows for multi-layering, creating a thicker, denser soundproofing layer around the wall.
In contrast, the facing material on faced insulation types can bounce the sound or even amplify it in certain situations. Since soundproofing is about absorbing and dampening sound waves, faced insulation is unideal for noise reduction applications.
Unfaced insulation should be your best bet when purchasing insulation, primarily for noise reduction. The material will more likely absorb substantial amounts of sound waves, dampening it.
Verdict: Unfaced insulation is the best type for soundproofing.
Faced insulation generally costs more than unfaced insulation, even though factors like the R-value, material, and thickness of the material will influence the price.
Even in cases where both types of insulation are made of the same material, the faced option will cost slightly higher due to the inclusion of a moisture barrier or vapor retardant.
The fact that unfaced insulation consists of fewer materials make it relatively less costly, with prices ranging from 50 cents to $1.75 for every square foot.
On the other hand, faced insulation typically costs anywhere from 60 cents to $2.25 per square foot, depending on the insulation and facing material used.
Verdict: Unfaced insulation is generally more affordable.
Moisture and mold resistance
Facing helps prevent moisture permeation that could lead to mold and mildew problems. This means that faced insulation will resist humidity and molds better than unfaced insulation.
This quality explains why unfaced insulation is not recommended for use in humid locations. High humidity usually forms condensation that can lead to mold and mildew growth. Such areas need insulation with a vapor retarder to protect against moisture.
The barrier in faced insulation does an excellent job of blocking moisture from entering your insulation and home.
Verdict: Faced insulation wins the round.
The two insulation types have various R-values determined by the insulation materials used. As such, they can both provide good insulation regardless of whether they are faced or unfaced.
Both faced, and unfaced insulation can have R-values ranging from 3.1 to 3.4 per inch. However, insulation can quickly become inefficient if moisture infiltrates it.
Since a vapor retarder can prevent moisture disturbance, faced insulation will likely have a more consistent R-value in humid environments.
Otherwise, both types of insulation will likely have similar R-values as long as they are used in the right places.
Verdict: it is a tie
The thickness of the insulation
Faced and unfaced insulation types are available in various thicknesses. You can get the piece in any thickness between 3.5 and 12 inches, directly influencing its heat retention efficiency.
However, unfaced insulation allows you to stack multiple insulation batts, creating a thicker layer that is unattainable with faced insulation.
The moisture barrier in faced insulation means you cannot stack the insulation to create something thicker. This way, unfaced insulation can allow you to potentially increase the R-value by doubling or stacking the material to create a thicker layer.
Verdict: Unfaced insulation allows for custom thickness options.
Flammability and safety
Fiberglass, the primary insulation material in both faced and unfaced insulation, is noncombustible.
This means both insulation options should be safe and present no fire risk. However, faced insulation features Kraft paper which is combustible.
So, while unfaced insulation can act as a viable fire block in garages with a wood frame, faced insulation may not serve the same purpose due to the paper. With a flammable facing material in faced insulation, unfaced insulation may be a safer option.
This explains why many building codes stipulate that faced insulation be covered with at least a half-inch of wallboard to reduce the likelihood of ignition.
Verdict: Unfaced insulation is noncombustible and safer.
Unfaced vs. faced insulation: Installation
Faced insulation is DIY-friendly, making it ideal for those who prefer to complete the project on their own. The vapor barrier holds together the insulation material, making it easier to lay out, stable, and install.
This means you can finish the work sooner and with less hassle when working with faced insulation.
You can also roll and move the insulation around with incredible ease, thanks to the vapor retarder holding it together.
In contrast, unfaced insulation has no vapor barrier. So it can easily disintegrate and fall apart, making the installation a frustrating process.
Stapling the material or correctly laying it is also usually challenging. Unfaced insulation will likely get torn during installation, further creating more challenges.
Verdict: Faced insulation is easier to install.
The below video provides a guidance when to use faced vs. unfaced insulation.
Faced Vs. Unfaced Insulation- Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. When should I use unfaced insulation?
The best time to use unfaced insulation is when insulating a new construction. This insulation type is ideal for remodels, interior walls, ceilings, attics, and crawlspaces. Ensure you use unfaced insulation only for interior applications where moisture control is not required.
Q2. What are the main advantages of faced insulation?
The main advantage of faced insulation is its vapor retarder, termed the facing. This waterproof sheet is attached to the insulation material to prevent moisture from permeating the insulation and moving from one space, often the exterior space, to another.
Q3. Is faced insulation cheaper than Unfaced?
No, unfaced insulation is generally cheaper than faced insulation. While the two options typically consist of similar insulation materials, unfaced insulation is made of fewer materials, which contributes to lower prices than its faced cousin.
While faced insulation costs about 60 cents to $2.25 per square foot, unfaced insulation prices range from 50 cents to $1.75 per square foot. These price ranges are dependent on the insulation and facing material used.
Faced vs. unfaced insulation: which should you choose?
As you may see, faced and unfaced insulation are both suitable options for home insulation. However, you must use each type in the right place to make the most out of it. Understanding their differences should help you determine the correct place to install each insulation type.
When insulating your garage, always choose faced insulation for exterior walls, the attic, and the ceiling that are in direct contact with the harsh outdoor weather elements. In other words, use faced insulation wherever moisture control is required.
On the other hand, use unfaced insulation wherever moisture control is not required, such as the interior walls and the garage ceiling where the attic floor above has faced insulation. Additionally, use unfaced insulation where soundproofing is the objective.
We hope this guide helps you out.