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A complete guide to staircase insulation: types, benefits, and innovations

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Insulating your home is critical to making it more energy-efficient because it minimizes heating and cooling loss. Homeowners often go to great lengths to insulate their attics, basements, and bedrooms but forget about other areas that require insulation. One of these areas is staircases. This article explains the importance of staircase insulation and explores some of the innovations in staircase insulation you can try. 

But first, let’s discuss the advantages of staircase insulation:

Benefits of staircase insulation

Prevents heating and cooling loss

Insulating your staircase can help make your HVAC system more efficient by preventing heating and cooling loss, especially if the area under your staircase is hollow and closed off. If you want your HVAC system to be more efficient, your goal is to concentrate all the heat or cold it generates on areas where family members spend most of their time, like the living room or bedrooms. 

Insulating your staircase can also save money by preventing your HVAC system from working overtime. Your HVAC system works hard to maintain a uniform temperature throughout your home. It will have to work harder when it detects areas that need more heating or cooling, even if this area doesn’t need optimum temperature. Staircase insulation can help close off an area that doesn’t require heating or cooling so your HVAC system won’t have to work harder, consume more power, and inflate your utility bill. 

Dampens sound

Wooden staircases emit more sound than concrete ones, and staircase insulation can make using your staircase quieter. This is especially helpful if you have small children who love running up and down the stairs. A quiet staircase can also help improve your family’s quality of life because it can reduce the ruckus that might be disruptive if you work at home or if your children are tackling their homework. 

Dampening the noise that your stairs produce is also an excellent idea if you live in a duplex or townhouse with the stairs directly connected to a common wall. Vibrations from the adjoining townhouse can resonate with your staircase and result in an irritating sound, especially if someone is walking up or down your neighbour’s stairs. Aside from staircase insulation, you can take this home renovation project up a notch by installing sound dampeners on the common wall to reduce the sound coming from your neighbour’s unit. 

Increases the value of your home

Insulating your staircase can help increase the value of your home. If you decide to sell your house in the future, you can market it as an energy-efficient home. The sound-dampening feature will also make a house more relaxing, a place where you can relax and rejuvenate after a long day at work. 

Can make the area under the staircase more functional

Utilizing every square inch of your house is an excellent idea, especially if you have limited space in your house. The space under your staircase is one area that homeowners often forget about. 

After insulating your staircase, you can close it off and install a door to create extra storage space. Insulating your staircase can also help you seal off small holes or cracks that might let in small insects. You can use the area as a pantry, storage space for toiletries or a small hidden library. Sealing off the area with insulation can help protect your toiletries or books from getting damaged by small insects like moths or silverfish. 

If the space under your staircase is large enough, you can convert it into a small reading nook or study area. Thanks to the sound-dampening insulation properties, you can enjoy your favourite novel in peace, even if you have other family members walking up and down the staircase. 

Types of insulation

Glasswool

Glasswool is one of the most common insulation materials worldwide and is used in residential and commercial buildings. Manufacturers melt recycled glass in a furnace and send the melted glass to a spinner to create glass wool fibres. Glasswool fibre has millions of tiny air pockets that trap air. Because of the air pockets, glass wool is a poor conductor of heat but an excellent insulator. 

Polyester

Polyester insulation is an excellent option for those looking for premium noise-cancelling properties. The main component of polyester insulation is Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET). PET fibres are commonly used in making clothing and bedding. Polyester insulation is a green option because it uses recycled plastic materials like plastic bags, packaging, and plastic bottles. 

Rockwool

Rockwool insulation is sometimes called stone wool insulation. Rock wool uses melted minerals that solidify into fine threads, unlike other glass insulating materials. 

Reflective foil

Reflective foil insulation is an insulating material with a thin layer of reflective foil on one or both sides. It is mostly used in insulating roofs and walls because it can reflect heat radiation.  

Insulation boards

This type of insulation material is popular among DIYers because they are easy to use. There are several types of insulation boards depending on the material they use, including

  • Expanded Polystyrene (EPS), which is the same material used in disposable coffee cups and packing materials for electronic products. 
  • Extruded Polystyrene, which is denser that EPS and is commonly used for foundation insulation panels.
  • Polyiso (Polyisocyanurate) is the densest and most expensive type of foam board insulation. It comes in several thicknesses and is popular in insulating attics. 

Spray foam

Spray foam is a spray-applied plastic that expands upon application. Aside from insulation, spray foam is also excellent when sealing cracks and gaps on walls. 

Innovations in staircase insulation

Tronsole

Tronsole is an innovation that sound proofs your staircase by reducing impact. When you walk or step on your stairs, the impact of your weight results in vibrations that create sound. Tronsole works on both straight and spiral stairs. 

Earthwool

Earthwool is a type of glass wool but is unique because only one company produces it. Like glass wool, earthwool has millions of tiny glass fibres. A resin binding agent binds these glass fibres and turns them into a glass blanket. What sets earthwool apart from glass wool is that it only uses recycled glass bottles during production. Unlike glass wool insulation, earthwool is naturally brown, odourless, and softer. 

Aerogel

Aerogel is flexible insulation you can use to reduce heat loss. It comes in blanket, granules, and panel forms. Aerogel is said to be the lightest and densest solid material. Although Aerogel was discovered in the 1930s, it is only recently that Aerogel has been used in insulating houses.

FAQs

Which staircase material is better for insulation?

Stairs emit sounds from footfalls because they are often made from hard and dense materials like concrete, metal, or wood. Hard materials emit impact sounds, resulting in noise whenever someone walks on them, especially if someone is wearing hard-soled footwear. Concrete is a better material because wood is less dense and produces louder sounds.  

Can my walls help insulate my staircase?

Adding mass to the walls of your staircase is another simple means of insulating your staircase. Dense materials make it harder for sound waves and vibrations to pass through, which results in a quieter staircase. This can be helpful if you live in a townhouse that shares a common wall with a neighbour. You need to work with an expert draftsman and building contractor because you need to open your walls to add insulation. 

Is there a way to insulate the walls of my staircase by myself?

Yes, you can insulate your walls without opening them by adding an external layer of sound-dampening material, like drywall. This is an excellent DIY home renovation project because it is easy to install, and there is no need to tear down the existing wall. 

What else can I do to insulate my staircase?

Covering your stairs with soft and impact-absorbing materials like carpet is one of the easiest ways to insulate your staircase. Carpets can also help prevent heat loss by covering gaps leading to the underside of your staircase. In addition, carpets can enhance the aesthetics of your staircase by adding colour and character to it.  

How much will it cost to insulate my staircase?

The cost of insulating a staircase depends on several factors but expect to pay around $1,000 to $2,000 depending on how large your staircase is.

Disclaimer: This figure is merely an estimate and does not include labour costs. 

The actual cost of insulating your staircase will depend on the type of insulation you will use. As for the labour costs, it will depend on your location because labour costs are higher in urban or metropolitan areas compared to rural areas or the suburbs. 

Can I use any insulation material I want?

Australia has strict standards regarding the quality of insulating materials for homes and commercial buildings, and you need to make sure that the materials you will use meet the said standards. You can refer to the provisions and guidelines devised by Standards Australia

Conclusion

Insulating your staircase is equally important as insulating other areas of your home because an uninsulated staircase can result in irritating and disruptive noises. Without insulation, a staircase can also result in heat loss, forcing your HVAC system to work harder, and you’ll end up with higher utility bills. 

If you plan to insulate your staircase but are unsure where to start, allow Superdraft to help you. We can connect you with an expert draftsman or building designer who can give you valuable advice on how to properly insulate your staircase. Sign up to Superdraft and get a free design quote to get your home improvement project started.  

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