Pros & Cons of Wood Fibre Insulation

wood fibre insulation

In today’s society, everyone is concerned with sustainability, lowering their carbon impact, and living comfortably in a well-insulated home.

When it comes to home insulation, there are several options to consider, and one of the most common is wood fibre insulation, which is considered a good alternative to rigid foam insulation.

Wood fibre insulation is an excellent choice for home insulation and the environment. Here’s everything you need to know about the pros & cons of wood fibre insulation.

Why Should You Use Wood Fibre Insulation Boards?

Choosing wood fibre insulation for your new home or renovation has numerous benefits. In a world full of man-made insulation, wood fibre boards are a more practical option for individuals who are concerned about the materials they use in their homes.

Wood fibre insulation comes in various forms, is remarkably adaptable, and can be used across your home, from internal wall insulation and external wall insulation to roofing and beyond.

What is Wood Fibre Insulation?

Recycled coniferous wood is used to make wood fibre insulation. Wood fibres are created by pressing waste wood from places like woodworking shops and sawmills under great heat. This natural insulation performs admirably against acoustic and thermal bridging. This is due to the wood’s porous nature and large bulk. This means your home will be calmer and more comfortable, with lower energy expenditure!

In the event of a fire, wood fibre insulation is also safe. The outer top layer of wood fibre boards carbonises, stopping the penetration of oxygen, thus reducing the impact of any blaze. It’s also very breathable, controlling moisture levels in the air to keep humidity and condensation at bay. Because it is created from discarded wood fibres, this insulation is highly sustainable and may even be recycled at the end of its life!

How is Wood Fibre Insulation Manufactured?

There are two kinds of wood fibre insulation, differentiated by how they are made: wet process and dry process wood fibre insulation. Both varieties are typically made from untreated softwood scrap from European sawmills.

Wet Process is made in a process involving the breaking down the basic wood chips into a pulp to which water is added. This is then heated to allow the naturally occurring glues within the wood fibres to be released.

The water is drained from the pulp and it dries into a thin sheet of wood fibre. If the wood fibre insulation board is to be used externally, a solution of paraffin wax is added to the water suspension process, giving the boards water-resistant properties.

Dry Process is a procedure where dry wood pulp is glued together using synthetic PMDI adhesive before being steam cured. The insulation sheet is then dried after which it can be cut to size.

What Are The Pros & Cons of Wood Fibre Insulation?

Wood fibre insulation is sustainable, and the trees that make it absorb carbon dioxide as they grow.

While they do not include nearly as many petrochemicals as artificial insulations, they do often contain some chemical products in their manufacturing, such as paraffin wax, polyamide, and ammonium phosphate.

Pros of wood fibre insulation products:

  • Makes extensive use of industrial waste.
  • Made from a renewable resource.
  • Can be recycled.
  • Because it is permeable, it will suit established, solid-walled structures.
  • Can increase the thermal mass of roofs, allowing better temperature regulation in summer.
  • Fire resistant (Class E combustible material). It chars instead of catching fire, slowing the spread of any fire.
  • Is biodegradable.
  • Is good for acoustic insulation.
  • Easy to install, often with a tongue and groove profile
  • Working with it does not necessitate the use of any protective equipment.
  • A vapour barrier or vapour control layer is not usually required on the inside of the insulation layer, but an air tightness layer is required on the outside of the insulation.
  • Carbon dioxide was absorbed by the original trees that have been used in the production process.
  • Is hygroscopic, which means it can absorb and expel water vapour.
  • Wood fibre insulation panels retain their shape well.

Cons of wood fibre insulating materials:

  • Petrochemicals are utilised to create weatherproof paraffin wax.
  • The industrial process used to manufacture the original waste product that is used in the manufacture of the wood fibre will have required a large amount of energy and likely was not environmentally friendly.
  • If the wood fibre insulation was manufactured outside of Europe, then lots of energy and carbon emissions will be required to get the product to your door – obviously lacking from an energy efficiency perspective and not as eco-friendly as you might like!
  • Wood fibre insulation is unlikely to be useful when a thin layer of insulation is required because it must normally be relatively thick to attain acceptable thermal efficiency.

Wood Fibre Insulation Boards
Image: Wood Fibre Insulation Boards

Wood Fibre Insulation Summary

When deciding which insulation product to use, you’ll usually have to decide whether you’re willing to install a petrochemical based insulation product, that may be cheaper, but will emit gas for years to come. Or do you prefer a more eco friendly option? Some man-made insulations may be more effective and also less expensive.

However, the differences aren’t as significant as you may imagine. So you’ll have to choose a decision that works for you, your family, and your budget. Wood fibre insulation is not the only option, and there are other natural insulation options such as jute and sheep’s wool insulation.

Natural insulating materials have a substantially lower carbon impact compared to standard synthetic solutions such as glass mineral wool or PIR insulation. This is true both during manufacture and throughout their lifetime.

If you’re concerned about your home’s environmental impact, you should also consider what happens at the conclusion of the building materials’ lifecycle. Natural insulation materials, thankfully, are 100% recyclable and non-hazardous to the environment, necessitating no specialised waste streams.

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