In the last few years, building codes across Canada have been evolving to address the growing government and public interest in sustainability and energy efficiency. These changes are driving builders to rethink long-established practices and pushing insulation manufacturers to develop better products.

This means there is no better time than today for contractors and installers to familiarize themselves with some of the latest insulation materials expected to hit the shelves in 2017 and beyond.

Building Code in Effect
“Building codes in various Canadian provinces are changing to reflect an emphasis on energy efficiency,” according to Tom Lee, the National Sales Manager for Canadian residential products at insulation company Roxul Inc. In terms of insulation, he says, this means shifting the focus from nominal R-values to effective R-values.

Until recently, insulation products were tested at temperatures that produced their best R-value performance. Some experts have likened this to testing the fuel economy of a car that is being driven downhill – you will get better mileage numbers because the engine is exerting less effort.

Testing the effective R-value of an insulation product means testing it in real-world, cold winter conditions, so you can really find how well the product can keep a home warm.

“A 6” fiberglass insulation batt that has a nominal R-value of 20 will likely perform effectively at a lower lever” says Lee. More builders are also now insulating both interior and exterior walls, he adds.

Contractors need to stay on top of updates to the building codes in their respective markets.

For example, effective January 1st next year, changes to the Ontario Building Code are raising the energy efficiency requirements for new homes in the province. The latest amendments, which take effect after December 31st, 2016, focus on improving the building envelope.

Photo courtesy of Knauf

Homes built to current standards lose about 30 per cent of their heat through leakage and ventilation. Higher standards for heat recovery ventilators and other code updates will reduce that to about 20 per cent.

Industry insiders estimate that the revisions will push new homes in the province from an EnerGuide rating of 80 to 83. EnerGuide is the official mark of the Government of Canada for its energy performance rating and labeling program for key consumer items such as houses, light-duty vehicles, and certain energy-using products.

Proposed changes to the National Energy Code for Buildings (NECB) calls for the improved performance of roofs, windows and doors, and reduced allowances for skylights. The proposal also seeks a new criterion for calculating thermal bridges and making the installation of heat recovery systems a requirement for new buildings including condominiums.

There is an advantage to this. Now, builders and homeowners are more inclined to view insulation “holistically” and consider the proper insulation of other parts of the home such as ensuring that windows and other potential air transfer points are properly sealed, according to Gino Allegro, Canadian Sales Manager for the Canadian-made insulation manufacturer, Johns Manville.

For instance, some of the changes will also include improved windows and more efficient furnaces. Expect to see other systems such as drain water heat recovery systems to recapture heat from outgoing hot water so that it could be used to warm incoming cold water.

“Cutting heat loss will reduce homeowner cost, make homes more comfortable and reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses,” says Allegro. “The objective is to move closer towards net zero carbon status for new homes.”

According to Natural Resources Canada, the residential sector accounts for nine per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions in the country.

Insulation Staples
There is no one product that will answer all the insulation needs of a homeowner, according to Shawn Dunahue, Marketing Director – residential, for Knauf Insulation North America.

“There is a broad range of insulation products in the market today,” he says. “The type used for a building depends on the area being insulated and what R-value is required for that area.”

Typically, builders will use several types of insulation material for a project, according to Dunahue.

Here’s a brief rundown of the most common insulation used for today’s homes:


This is the most common insulation material for modern homes. It typically made by weaving fine strands of silicon glass into batts that offer an R-value from R8 to R50. Fiberglass is very effective in minimizing heat transfer and is manufactured to the highest of standards.

Mineral Wool
This term is used for several different types of insulation: rock wool made basalt or hardened lava flow; and slag waste produce from waste matter from steel mills. Mineral wool is not combustible. It has an R-value ranging from 4.2 to 32.0.

Photo courtesy of Johns Manville

This product is made from recycled cardboard, paper, similar materials that come in loose form. It is considered to be eco-friendly. It is blown-into attics and wall cavities as a fill-in material. Cellulose insulation generally has an R-value of between R-3.1 to R-3.7. Some studies have shown them to be excellent for minimizing fire damage because it contains almost no oxygen. This also makes it very compact.

Rigid Foam
This product comes in either expanded polystyrene (EPS) or extruded polystyrene (XPS). Rigid foam installed under exterior wall sidings and used to line exterior basement walls. The more costly XEPS has an R-value of R-4.5 to R-5.5 while EPS is R-4. Proper installation involves securing the sheets to the surface and sealing all joints with tuck tape.

Spray Foam
Modern spray foam insulation use non-chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gas as a blowing agent which reduces damage to the ozone layer. It is fire resistant. There are two types of spray foams: the popular high-density closed-cell foam which is stronger, mold resistant, and better for sealing attics and exterior walls (with approximate R-6.3 rating); and the low density, open cell foam with approximate R-3.6 rating.

New Insulation Options
There are a number of insulation products to look out for in the New Year. One of the latest products from Johns Manville is the Spider Plus blown-in insulation. The company’s interlocking fiber technology allows fibers to lock into cavities to fill gaps and voids without the use of adhesives or netting.

Spider Plus achieves R-values of between R-15 and R-23, according to Johns Manville. It is formaldehyde-free and naturally resistant to molds.
Installation is faster than other spray systems, according to Allegro, and the product is fast drying.

“This means installers can save a lot of time and money on each project,” he adds.

As the insulation industry continues to evolve, Allegro reminds installers and contractors to keep in mind that it is no longer just about R-values.

Knauf Insulation is poised to release in Canada its JetSpray thermal insulation product in 2017. It is ideal for residential, manufactured and light commercial buildings.

The spray-on insulation is designed to fill-in common obstacles such as plumbing and electrician runs and terminations in wall cavities. The product does not support microbial growth, is formaldehyde free and non-corrosive. It also has acoustic insulation properties.

Photo courtesy of Roxul

Knauf Insulation will also launch its EcoSeal Plus water-based elastomeric sealant. This fast drying spray penetrates into joints and gaps in the building envelope to provide a gasket-like seal between studs and drywall. It assists in reducing hourly air exchanges and reduces stress to HVAC systems.

The product dries to a flexible but tough film that won’t get damaged during drywall installation. The water-based solution is applied using a standard airless sprayer under high pressure. It meets or exceeds most volatile organic compound (VOC) emission standards, and it can help in earning Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, according to Dunahue.

Milton, Ont.-based Roxul, which specializes in stone wool insulation, recently introduced Roxul Safe, a new line of board insulation products engineered as a fire-stopping material for residential, commercial and industrial buildings. The products fire resistant up to 1,177˚C and do not produce toxic gasses.

The lightweight and semi-rigid insulation come in four iterations:

Roxul Safe
Ideal for filling perimeter gaps between concrete floor slabs and exterior wall systems; around conduit pipe and duct openings through walls and floor slabs; and between firewalls and ceiling slabs.

Roxul Safe 65
Holds a fire resistance rating of one hour, from the interior side, as specified in ULC Design No. W605 and UL Design No. U654. In addition, it holds a fire resistance rating of one hour from both sides, as specified in ULC Design No. W610 and UL Design No. U658.

Roxul Safe 55
Holds a fire resistance rating of two hours, from the interior side, as specified in ULC Design No. W605 and UL Design No. U654. In addition, it holds a fire resistance rating of one hour from both sides, as specified in ULC Design No. W610 and UL Design No. U658.

Roxul Safe 45
A semi-rigid, mineral wool insulation board designed for fire stopping in concealed spaces of residential units. It complies with the 2010 National Building Code

“There are many other factors than can contribute to a building’s performance,” says Allegro. “Heat, air, and moisture are all part of the