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Metal Stud Insulation Guide: Everything You Need To Know

Framing with metal studs is becoming more popular as the price of lumber continues to rise and more contractors are becoming acquainted with the techniques involved in the process. Though many of the steps required to build a home with metal framing are the same as with wood, there are some minor distinctions that you need to be aware of. For instance, insulating a metal stud building is unique when compared to wood. This article will discuss the differences and recommend the best procedures to follow for professional results.

Source: dassmetal.com

What is Metal Stud Framing?

Cold-formed steel framing is sheet metal that has been shaped into forms and sizes comparable to those seen in dimensional lumber. Steel frame components are created by a process called roll forming. This involves passing sheet steel through a series of rollers to form the bends that make up the metal stud. The web, flanges, and lips of a metal stud are formed in this way. Since the process is done without heat (also known as “cold forming”), the studs and joists are more powerful than sheet steel counterparts.

The Purpose of Insulation in a Building

Insulation in a building resists heat flow and lowers your heating and cooling expenses. Insulating the homes you construct correctly not only reduces heating and cooling expenditures for your customers, but it also improves comfort.

Heat flow is a topic that requires some knowledge of physics to comprehend. There are three basic ways that heat moves: conduction, convection, and radiation. When a spoon is placed in a hot cup of coffee, heat travels through the handle to your hand via conduction.

Heat circulation occurs through convection which occurs when lighter, warmer air rises while colder, denser air sinks in your house. Radiant heat travels in a straight line and heats anything solid along its path that absorbs its energy. The ability of your insulation to resist the flow of heat is measured in R-value.

Standard Wall Insulation Materials and Options

Different materials provide higher or lower R-values depending on the thickness used. Fiberglass batts for typical 2×4 walls are now available in low, medium, and high-density versions with R-11 to R-15 values. Depending on the product utilized, sprayed foam insulation in the same wall cavity can range from an R-14 to an R-28.

Fiberglass Batts are the Most Popular Insulating Material

There are three primary types of insulation that can be used with metal studs: fiberglass batts, foam board, and spray foam. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, but fiberglass has been the industry standard.

Fiberglass Batts

Fiberglass batts are the most common type of insulation used in metal stud framing. They’re easy to install and relatively inexpensive. Fiberglass batts come in a variety of widths to fit between metal studs, and can be cut to length with a utility knife. These batts are sold as both faced and unfaced products. Faced insulation has either a paper face or foil face attached to the batt which serves as a moisture barrier. It is the most common type used in residential construction.

Foam Board and Spray Foam are Excellent Options

Foam Board

Foam board insulation is rigid panels of insulation that come in thicknesses from 1/4″ to 2.5″, and their R-value ranges from R-4 to R-8 per inch of thickness. Foam board is normally used in a basement application though it can be used with steel studs. When used with steel studs, it is often used on the outside of the studs instead of in-between.

Spray Foam

Spray foam insulation is one of the most effective types of insulation, but it’s also the most expensive. Spray foam is applied wet. and expands as it dries to fill any spaces between the metal studs to create an airtight seal. Spray foam has an R-value of R-6 to R-9 per inch of thickness.

How to Install Insulation in Metal Stud Walls

Since fiberglass batts are used most often, this article will address that method of installation.

  1. Look for insulation that’s designed for commercial structures, which will be 16 inches wide rather than the narrower 15-inch stuff used in residential wooden stud cavities. This insulation is more durable and sturdy than standard wood-stud batts. 
  2. Simply cut the top to fit your wall’s height with a utility knife and push in place between the studs. 
  3. The batts are not “attached” with staples as you would with wood studs, but are kept in place by pressure.
  4. Make sure that the insulation is pulled to the front of the stud so there is no space left between the insulation and stud flange.
  5. If you have to cut a piece to fit inside a section that has the face of the web showing on one side, the cut side of the insulation goes into stud with the flange exposed. 

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