Artificial or natural insulation: which one to choose

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What is insulation and how does it work? What kind of insulation is there for different types of work? What is the difference between homogeneous types of insulation? Is it possible to add insulation to structural elements? Is there an alternative to the usual insulation methods? You will find answers to these and other questions in this article..

Artificial or natural insulation: which one to choose

Heat loss was a stumbling block for builders in the old days. If they coped with the task of structural strength quickly (even in Ancient Egypt they used an analogue of today’s concrete), then with the retention of heat, it was not so simple.

Lacking our current technologies, they had to build walls of incredible thickness or intensively heat the premises from the inside. Approximately 150 years ago, a compromise was found – a solid structure of small thickness (100–300 mm) plus insulation. And if everything is more or less clear with the constructive – brick, wood, concrete, then there are a great many heaters today. They will be discussed.

How insulation works

The best and most affordable heat insulator is air. Strictly speaking, this is a rarefied gas, the molecules of which are relatively far from each other – many times farther than those of denser materials (stone, water, wood). Due to this, the ability to receive (heat capacity) and transfer (thermal conductivity) heat in air is very small.

Here an “elementary” solution suggests itself – to insulate the surface with a hermetic shell filled with atmospheric air. This method will not withstand even theoretical verification – the cold surface of a denser medium (shell) will create heat exchange between itself and the air in contact with it, air will begin to move in the shell, it will begin to mix and over time the temperature will equalize. Plus, condensation forms along the way. And the sealed capsule body will be an excellent cold bridge.

What you need to do to make the air work

The problem described above is solved by “immobilizing” the air. By dividing the volume of the chamber into individual cells, the researchers achieved ever better results. In the end, they concluded that the gas is best retained in loose media and fibers. The principle of keeping air stationary is absolutely natural. Nature uses it in the fur of animals, in the leaves of a tree dumped for warming the roots, in the “dome” of the paws of a spruce covered with snow.

Artificial or natural insulation: which one to choose

In order to visually classify modern heaters, we conditionally divide them into four groups: mineral wool (slabs and mats), polymer, backfill and an alternative group.

Mineral wool slabs and mats

The most common type of insulation today. Has excellent performance properties and manufacturability (ease of use).

How is mineral wool obtained

Experimentally, as a result of heating and blowing out the rock of the gabbro-basalt group and marls, mineral (stone) wool was obtained. When using raw materials with a high silicon content, the wool fibers partially glazed and the so-called glass wool was obtained – inconvenient in work and unhealthy. However, its thermal insulation properties were at the proper level. It was a transitional stage in the evolution of technology, which was subsequently improved. Until today, the principle of obtaining stone wool has not changed, but it has become safer and more convenient to work with (due to the combination of raw materials). All stone wool products are non-combustible and vary in density.

Interesting fact.Cotton candy is made in a similar way, only ordinary sugar is used instead of rock.

Mineral wool mats – fibers formed in the form of a mat 50 or 100 mm thick. They were originally stitched. Designed for laying on horizontal surfaces with a slope of no more than 45 degrees.

Artificial or natural insulation: which one to choose

Mineral wool slabs – fibers formed in the form of a slab with a thickness of 50 or 100 mm and dimensions of 500–600×1000–1200 mm. It differs from the mat by a higher density, due to which the slab is more rigid and not subject to vertical settlement and clumping.

Artificial or natural insulation: which one to choose

Scope: any kind of “dry” insulation of residential and industrial buildings. Floors, walls, ceilings, roofs. Ideal insulation for frame houses.

Interesting fact.Why are most mineral wool boards 600 mm wide? This type of insulation came to us along with the “Canadian technology” of construction of frame houses. It provides for the distance between the wall posts and floor joists of 600 mm – insulation is placed in this space without additional adjustment.


  1. Non-flammability. Cotton wool itself does not burn, but burns out, transferring heat. This requires a high temperature (from 600 ° С) and constant access of oxygen – conditions of a very strong fire in the wind.
  2. Soundproofing. It is a “bonus” to thermal insulation in all materials.
  3. Light weight. Due to the rarefaction of the fibers, as we have already found out, the main material in the cotton is air..
  4. Possibility of further finishing (for slabs). The material of the board is perfectly bonded with cement adhesives, which allows them to be putty.
  5. Self-supporting slabs. They can be fixed to the walls with dowels.
  6. Non-toxic. Anything that could evaporate was evaporated during production in a hot shop.
  7. Possibility of partial replacement of damaged areas.


  1. Afraid of moisture, requires steam and hydro barriers. Even a small amount of water can permanently spoil the insulation area and will have to be replaced.
  2. Draft, compressibility. Does not allow the use of mineral wool for insulating screeds (pouring with concrete or mortar).

Artificial or natural insulation: which one to choose

The range of prices for stone (basalt, mineral) wool insulation, depending on the brand and manufacturer:

Brand, manufacturer, volume, square, number of plates in a package Density, kg / m3 Sheet size, mm Price 1 m2, rub. Price 1 m3, rub. Unit price, rub.
Hitrock P-75 LITE, 0.24 m3 / 4.8 m2 / 8 pcs. Smolensk, Russia 32-35 1000x600x50 66.6 1330 320
TechnoNICOL ROCKLIGHT 0.432 m3 / 8.64 m2 / 10 pcs., Russia 30-37 1000x600x50 69.5 1390 600
IZOBEL PL-75 0.24 m3 / 4.8 m2 / 8 pcs. Belgorod, Russia 35-37 1000x600x50 73.0 1460 350
ROCKWOOL LIGHT BATTS 0.3 m3 / 3m2 / 5 pieces. Denmark (factories in Russia) 35-37 1000x600x100 173 1730 520
ISOROC ISOLIGHT-L, 0.24 m3/ 4.8 m2 / 8pcs. TZMM Tambov, Russia 35-37 1000x600x50 87.5 1750 420
TechnoNICOL 40 0.48 m3 / 4.8 (9.6) m2 / roll, Russia 11-13 4000x1200x50 (100) 60 (118) 1190 570
Isover Classic-Twin-50 0.37 m3 / 7.4 m2 / roll France (factories in Russia) 11-13 6150x1200x50 60.8 1220 450
Ursa GeoM-11 F (foil) 1.08 m3 / 10.8 m2 / roll, Spain 11-13 9000/1200/100 266 2660 2880
TechnoNicol Rocklight 0.432 m3 / 8.64 (4.32) m2 / 10 (5) pcs., Russia 30-37 1200x600x50 (100) 80 (160) 1600 690
IZOLIGHT-L-150 0.27 m3 / 1.8 m2 / 3 pcs., Russia 40-42 1000x600x150 245 1630 440
IZOVOL CT-50 0.3 m3 / 6 m2 / 5 pcs., Russia 50-52 1000x600x50 95 1900 570
ROCKWOOL ACOUSTIC BATTS 0.3 m3 / 6 m2 / 10 pcs., Denmark (factories in Russia) 45-47 1000x600x50 105 2100 630
URSA P-20- U 24 0.9 m3 / 18 m2/ 10 pcs., Spain 40-42 1250x600x50 110 2220 2000
Hitrock P-75 0.27 m3 / 5.4 (2.7) m2 / 10 (5) slabs, Smolensk, Russia 62-66 1000x600x50 (100) 120.3 (240.7) 2400 650

Polymer insulation

The two most popular types of polymer insulation are polystyrene or expanded polystyrene (PP) and its derivative – extruded polystyrene foam (EPPR). They are obtained by extrusion (extrusion of raw materials through a hole of a given shape).

Polyfoam (expanded polystyrene) – expanded polyethylene in the form of a sheet with a thickness of 15-200 mm and dimensions of 1000-1200×500-1200 mm. Varies in density.

Artificial or natural insulation: which one to choose

Advantages (compared to EPPR): low price

Disadvantages: looseness, even dense PP is not used to insulate screeds.

Dependence of the price of foam on the brand and purpose using the example of products from Knauf, Germany:

Name Brand Sheet size, mm Package volume, m3 Unit price, rub. Price 1 m3, rub.
Knauf Therm Compack 15 1000x600x50 0.3 660 2200
Knauf Therm 15-T (for unloaded structures) 15 1000х1200х50 1,2 1700 1400
Knauf Therm 25 (for general construction insulation) 25 1000х1200х50 1,2 2800 2330
Knauf Therm Facade 25 (for plaster facades) 25 1000х1200х50 1,2 3280 2730
Knauf Therm 35 for general building insulation 35 1000х1200х50 1,2 4200 3500
Knauf Therm Floor for floors and foundations 35 1000х1200х50 1,2 4500 3750
Knauf Therm F (5 in 1) for foundations, plinths, blind areas, roof rafters 35 1000x600x50 1,2 5200 4330

Extruded polystyrene foam is a gas-saturated polyethylene melt. It has the form of a sheet with a thickness of 30–70 mm and dimensions of 500–600×800–1400 mm. Varies in density and color.

Artificial or natural insulation: which one to choose

Advantages (compared to PP):

  1. Significantly stronger than PP. Suitable for pouring with concrete.
  2. Has an adapted tongue-and-groove system at the edges, which creates an overlapping connection – does not require filling the joints.
  3. Less thermal conductivity.
  4. Combined purpose – can serve as an element of waterproofing.

Disadvantages: Higher price.

Approximate prices for extruded polystyrene foam using the example of PENOPLEX products:

Name Sheet size, mm Packing qty m3 / m 2 / PCS. Unit price, rub. Price 1 m3, rub.
“PENOPLEX COMFORT” 1200x600x20 0.252 / 13/18 1230 4880
“PENOPLEX COMFORT” 1200x600x30 0.252 / 8.64 / 12 1230 4880
“PENOPLEX COMFORT” 1200x600x40 0.252 / 6.48 / 9 1250 4960
“PENOPLEX COMFORT” 1200x600x50 0.252 / 5.04 / 7 1150 4560
“PENOPLEX COMFORT” 1200x600x100 0.288 / 2.88 / 4 1390 4820

General characteristics for PP and EPPR


  1. Non-flammability. The material is foamed and saturated with carbon dioxide
  2. Light weight (10-15 kg / m3)
  3. Widespread prevalence. Simplified technology allows even handicraft to obtain material of acceptable quality.
  4. Not afraid of moisture


  1. Fusibility. The material is afraid of high temperatures (from 80 ° C)
  2. Melting toxic

Scope: Styrofoam and expanded polystyrene – an excellent insulation for frame houses, brick and concrete buildings, foundations. Serves as a waterproofing element.

Artificial or natural insulation: which one to choose

Interesting fact.Polyfoam and extruded polystyrene foam with a thickness of 50 mm and more have a stable temperature of +5 ° С. That is, in any frost, the temperature inside the sheet will be positive.

Backfill insulation

The most striking example of the history of the use of this type of thermal insulation is filled wooden panels for the construction of prefabricated low-rise buildings in the USSR. They were covered with sawdust, which at that time was an absolutely justified decision: literally all household items – from knife handles to window frames – were made of wood. A huge amount of waste was disposed of profitably. Other waste (shingles, slabs, trimmings) were also allowed on these shields, many of these houses are still inhabited..

Today, backfill insulation loses a lot in ease of use to slabs of cotton wool and polyethylene. However, it has one insurmountable advantage – it can be mixed with the material of the walls and floors, thus introducing insulation into the structure. The most popular types are expanded clay, vermiculite and a foam ball.

Expanded clay

Artificial stone obtained by firing clay.

Properties: granules 5–30 mm. Density 350-600 kg / m3. Not afraid of moisture, organics. Has a low bearing capacity. Does not require vapor barriers. Non-flammable, does not sink in water.

Application: dry method – filling sinuses, logs of wooden floors and ceilings. Wet method – mixing with mortar, concrete (insulation screeds).

Artificial or natural insulation: which one to choose

Issue price – expanded clay in M-450 bags, fraction 10-20 (packing by 0.043 m3 in a bag) costs about 150-180 rubles per bag. 1 m3 about 25 bags and the price is 3750-4500 rubles, respectively.


Natural stone (mineral), mined in quarries.

Properties: granules 1–5 mm. Density 350-750 kg / m3. Properties are the same as expanded clay. Is an adsorbent (absorbs odors).

Artificial or natural insulation: which one to choose

Application: the same as expanded clay. When insulating walls and ceilings, it is first placed in a geotextile bag, the bags are stacked in place.

Issue price – 1 m3 vermiculite costs about 5,000 rubles.

Foam ball

Separately cured polystyrene pores. They are usually mixed with mortars and concrete when installing starting and bearing screeds. They are also added to the raw materials for the production of small-piece concrete blocks for construction. Improves thermal insulation while reducing bearing capacity.

Artificial or natural insulation: which one to choose

Issue price – cost of 1 m3 the ball ranges from 1300-1600 rubles.

Alternative group (old)

In this group we will include all other materials that can be used as insulation, and we will simply list them. These are mainly natural raw materials. It should be noted that all these materials are absolutely environmentally friendly and harmless to humans..

Sawdust and straw: keep air from movement and heat exchange. Can be backfilled or laid between floor or slab joists. Mixed with dry clay, they perform an additional vapor barrier function. To make building blocks, they are mixed with raw clay and shaped. A solution of clay with sawdust is used for plastering (coating) walls.

Reed: dry reed cobs are stacked like mats.

Moss: it is used for local insulation – stuffing of sinuses and cracks, caulking of log cabins. Absolutely not subject to decay, but wears out. Extremely flammable.

Turf: fits directly onto the roof. Requires waterproofing (usually clay).

Artificial or natural insulation: which one to choose

Ash slag or “buzzer”: roasting by-product (waste from fuel combustion). It has characteristics similar to expanded clay, but of much worse quality. It is filled up dry and mixed with clay and cement mortars.

Issue price – free.

Alternative group (modern)

Here we will give one, but an advanced method of insulation – spraying polyurethane foam. The essence of the method boils down to the fact that the insulation is “made” on site, immediately before being applied to the surface. Using a special machine, the raw material (polymer) is dissolved and mixed with air – liquid polyurethane is obtained. This method is actively gaining market positions as a convenient and high-quality insulation for frame houses and cottages, walls and roofs of any design. The process is completely identical with the application of polyurethane foam with a gun.

Artificial or natural insulation: which one to choose

Issue price – cost of 1 m2 (up to 100 m2) spraying rigid polyurethane foam with a layer thickness of 50 mm – 650 rubles and below, depending on the volume. The same price will cost the application of lightweight polyurethane foam 100 mm thick.

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