Is Wood a Good Insulator?

Wood has many uses. It is a popular material to make homes and furniture. It can be used to make wooden items at homes. Wood can be manufactured and made into wood pulp to make paper, cardboard and other products. And possibly one of the most overlooked uses of wood is insulation. There are still more homes made of wood at this day and age and owners of these homes agree that wood is a good insulator.

Why is wood a good insulator?

Wood is a natural insulator because of the presence of air pockets within its cellular structure. It is known to be 15 times better than masonry, 400 times far better than steel and a whopping 1770 times better than aluminum in insulating a home. Aside from these, you can use lightweight wood to build frames so that fiber and foam insulation may be installed in a home or structure.

And because of this improved performance in insulating structures, homes and buildings constructed out of engineered timber like Cross Laminated Timber (CLT), Glulam and Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) need less energy to heat a home or cool it. This means more savings because of reduced energy bills.

Aside from these amazing properties, wood is also hygroscopic and has the natural ability to exchange moisture with the surrounding air. This creates a buffer in cases of short-term changes in humidity as well as temperature.

Wood as a good insulator as proven by log homes

Possibly one of the best ways to prove that wood is a good insulator is a log house. A log home is built entirely of wood with almost no changes made on the wood when it is used in construction. While there are some luxury log homes designed by renowned architects and put up by famous contractors, there are also quaint log homes simply hand-built by the homeowners themselves. These buildings have no other means of insulation, only the logs themselves.

A log has heat storage capabilities. Logs have a large mass which is responsible for better overall energy efficiency in some climates than in others. Logs can store heat during the day and gradually release it at night as well.

However, compared to traditional homes, log homes are susceptible to developing air leaks. Air-dried logs still contain about 15%–20% water when the log home was constructed. But as the logs dry over the next years these shrink creating gaps between the logs. These gaps create air leaks, which cause drafts and may ultimately increase heating and cooling bills.

To reduce air leakage, logs must be seasoned for at least six months before construction begins. The best kinds of wood should also be chosen and these are cedar, spruce, pine, fir, and larch.

Most log home builders understand this natural process especially in green wood and this is why they use only kiln dried logs. Contractors may also dry their own logs before finish shaping and construction. As you can see, when wood is dried, it begins to lose its ability to insulate a home causing leakages. Using plastic gaskets and caulking compounds are also used by most contractors to prevent leakages.

Controlling moisture

Trees naturally absorb large amounts of water as they grow which is why a log home is very hygroscopic. Although this is a natural thing, it can be bad for homeowners because absorbing water quickly can promote wood rot and insect infestation. And what’s worse is that it is very hard to figure out if this is happening. Rot and pests are silent killers. These can devour a log or wooden home in just one season.

It is strongly advised that you protect your log home from contact with any water or moisture. Using waterproofed and insecticide-treated logs is a good measure. Treatment should also be reapplied periodically or every few years for the life of the log home. You must also think about a log home design that prevents water damage such as large roof overhangs, largely sized gutters, and downspouts, and drainage plains surrounding the house are good ideas.

Conclusion

Wood is a good insulator. It can preserve heat and warmth and can keep cold from moving out of a structure as well. A perfect example of how good wood as an insulator is a well-designed log home that uses well-seasoned logs for construction.

  • December 29, 2018
  • DIY