Design & Inspiration

The Great Insulation Debate

Jay and I had a big ongoing debate about what kind of insulation we should use in our tiny house.

You might be wondering why this topic is of great debate. There is a plethora of insulation options out there. First, it was important for us to settle on an insulation option that was a safe for us. The VOCs emitted from traditional insulation is alarming. We didn’t want to go that route for obvious reasons. The indoor air pollution from certain types of insulation can be detrimental to human health over time and is the cause of things like sick building syndrome.

Another considerations included cost, effectiveness (r-value) and environmental friendliness.

We debated between recycled denim cotton insulation, eco friendly sand/wool insulation and sheep’s wool insulation. We researched Ultratouch Denim Insulation, EcoBatt Insulation, Oregon Shepherd Wool Insulation and Good Shepherd Wool Insulation.

Initially, I was drawn to sheep’s wool insulation. We had concerns with pricing especially if we wanted to get wool batts from Good Shepherd compared to the loose wool insulation from Oregon Shepherd. The price for batts would be out of our budget significantly. We were unsure about the time and effort it would take to blow in the loose wool verses stapling the batts in.

wool insulation

Loose Sheep’s Wool Insulation

The recycled denim/cotton insulation was a good choice pricewise. We can get more than enough from Home Depot for under $700 which is great. It also comes in convenient batts with perforations for ease of installation. We also loved that it was recycled materials and was considered a environmentally friendly insulation option.

denim insulation

Ultratouch Denim Insulation

The sand/wool insulation was another choice we came across. It is touted as a great environmentally friendly insulation option. It is made from recycled glass (sand, basically) and wool. We had concerns about price with this insulation option as well. In addition, we were uneasy about this option because it is still essentially fiberglass insulation. We nixed fiberglass early on in our debate because the idea of breathing in little particles of glass was not an option for us. In general, we felt that any insulation that required the installer to have crazy amounts of protection seemed odd because we will be living in close quarters with this insulation for years and years down the road.

ecobatt

Ecobatt Insulation

We are happy to announce we finally settled on an insulation for our house.

As we learned more about the sheep’s wool insulation, we realized that it was the best option for us. All the benefits of sheep’s wool insulation really convinced us that it was the right choice. Unlike other insulation that need to be topped off every couple years because of settling, sheep’s wool expands over time giving us better insulation value. We also learned that the initial misgivings about using a loose fill insulation being more time consuming to install was inaccurate. If we rent a blow in insulation machine from Home Depot, the job is relatively quick and easy even with the netting we would need to install beforehand. Additionally, this insulation also fit our criteria of being able to be handled safely without any protective gear.

Below are some other reasons why we decided on sheep’s wool insulation:

  • Fire Retardant
  • Absorbs Toxins
  • Environmentally Friendly
  • Recyclable
  • Non-Carcinogenic
  • Energy Efficient
  • Insect/Vermin Resistant
  • Cost Effective

We were definitely sold on the sheep’s wool after we received a free sample of the product from Oregon Shepherd. This stuff is so soft, fluffy and even smells pleasant! I know that this finally convinced Jay that sheep’s wool was the best choice for us.

Oregon Shepherd Wool

Oregon Shepherd Sheep’s Wool Insulation Sample

We are looking forward to installing this insulation and having ourselves a sheepy home!

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22 thoughts on “The Great Insulation Debate

  1. Hey there. Thought i would chime in that another great thing about the wool is that even if it gets wet it still retains and even increases in R-value. I went with the jean batt before i found out about Oregon shepherd for my house. The jean batt is great and was fairly easy to install in my tiny house. I’m sure its probably less expensive too. But the wool seems totally worth it. Good luck with the rest of your build. All the effort is well worth it in the end.

    -jenn

    • Thanks for the great insight about wool insulation, Jenn! We are very excited to be utilizing wool for our tiny house. Recycled denim insulation was our second choice. It was a close decision for us. Thank you for the luck! We appreciate it very much.

  2. Will you be installing an internal vapor barrier? Why or why not? Did anyone else install one or not?
    I’m looking at sheeps wool as well and am getting conflicting installation advice on the internal vapor barrier…the one between the inner wall and the wool.

  3. As a museum professional, I have great misgivings over sheep’s wool insulation. Apart from making a potentially cozy home for rodents, there are the issues regarding it being an ideal food-source for dermestid beetles: think carpet beetle, hide beetle (eg attagenus and anthrenus species). Treatments are often water soluble, so leach out after a period of time. Personally, I’ll be looking into the cotton-based insulation as the environmentally friendly alternative to fibreglass or expanded polystyrene sheets

    • I have to question the environmental benefit of having to raise who knows how many sheep so we can use their wool. If the small house trend becomes big, we need insulation material which does not require the exploitation of animals.

      • Hi Robin. Thanks for your comment. Sheep do require being shaved for their health and comfort. A responsible caretaker would make sure to shave their sheep when necessary and is not an exploitative process. Of course, we do utilize this wool for our own needs (which I suppose some may say is exploitative) but the alternative would be to throw it out. The company we are getting our insulation from pride themselves in taking very good care of their sheep. It is not a factory farm situation like it would be in the cases of raising animals for slaughter. There are tons of other options for insulation but every type of insulation has its pros and cons.

  4. I’m using the loose wool from Oregon Shepherd in my TH, Olivers Nest. Like a few other home builders, I’m putting it in by hand,which isn’t too bad….although renting a blower if you have the funds would be easier!

    Other than some dust and wool-itchies, it’s no biggie to handle, and I’ve found simple gloves and a paper mask is all that’s necessary for my comfort. There is a mild sheep odor that I don’t mind (I actually like it as it such a natural and even comforting scent). Once sheathed over the scent is completely gone.

    So far I have the floor done, and it”s amazing how well just doing that kept the otherwise tarped-only space warm over a cold winter! I think you’ll love it. 🙂

    Parker

  5. After reading the comment about critters nesting in and eating the wool, if you do some research it becomes apparent that the inherently inedible nature of wool combined with the fire-retardant added makes it HIGHLY unlikely that infestation will occur.

    Parker

  6. First, I love your blog and tiny home! It’s really inspiring me as I develop plans for a tiny house of my own! I’m working on a budget and I’m just curious what the final costs were for the wool & rental of the insulation blowing machine? Thanks for the inspiration and great advice!

    • Thanks so much! For 7 boxes of wool plus shipping it was just over $1,000. We over estimated how much we would need so we ended up with an extra box. I believe the blower was free to rent from Lowes but we had to buy a certain amount of insulation to use it. We returned the insulation afterwards. They would not let us rent the blower without buying the insulation so that’s what we had to do. Good luck with planning. (:

    • hmmm im not sure about sound insulation because the house is so small you can hear most everything from anywhere in the house. we also looked at blue jean insulation which is also a natural alternative that is eco-friendly that seemed like a good alternative. it is worth looking at as well.

  7. Great blog, I am currently in the research phase of our Tiny Build and have messaged Oregon Shepard. I have considered using wool only for the floors and then alternatives for walls, due to the potential for ‘settling’, but hearing about the expansion might help me with the idea of using it in walls too.

    Thanks.

    • We love our wool. If you are looking for something to improve the rigidity of the walls of your tiny house, we heard that hard styrofoam is a good alternative. Not as fluffy and natural as wool but seems like a good alternative.

      • Even without any other support (yet) for the wool in the walls than the netting, no settling has occurred. My truck is not an easy rider, either, so it’s a good test!

  8. Hi I just took a class in passive house design. The principles demand a tight, thoroughly insulated building. I needed to shake off the image of the guy in the haz-mat suit spraying foam insulation into attic rafters. Please keep us posted on how the wool worked out!

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