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Cellulose is one of the three most popular insulation materials used in the ceiling and walls of modern homes, in addition to fiberglass and mineral wool. Therefore, if you’re planning to insulate a new home or upgrade the insulation of your old home, cellulose insulation is definitely one of the options to consider. However, before you decide, you should learn a bit about the pros and cons of cellulose insulation.

Made primarily from recycled newsprint and denim, cellulose is eco-friendly and biodegradable. It is also fire-resistant, mold-resistant, inexpensive, and has a high R value.

The pros and cons of cellulose insulation are closely tied to the material itself and how it is manufactured and installed. Plus, more than one type of cellulose insulation is available on the market. As a result, the pros and cons will depend on which type of cellulose you have chosen and how (and where) it has been applied. In other words, you cannot fully understand this topic without knowing a bit about what cellulose is, where it comes from, and how it works as an insulation material.

Pros and Cons of Cellulose Insulation

Pros of Cellulose Insulation

1.It is eco-friendly and sustainable.
2.It is heat-resistant and has a high R-value.
3.It is heavily treated with fire-retardant chemicals.
4.It is resistant to pests, mold, and mildew.
5.It is very affordable.

Cons of Cellulose Insulation

1.It generates a lot of dust during installation.
2.Cellulose insulation is prone to sagging and settling.
3.Boron, a chemical needed for treating cellulose insulation, is currently in short supply.
4.This material absorbs moisture easily.
5.All types of cellulose insulation require a vapor barrier.

What is Cellulose Insulation?

Cellulose is one of the oldest insulation materials still used to this day. While it has been around for over a century, cellulose insulation only became popular in the 1950s, when fire-retardant chemicals like ammonium sulfate and boric acid were added to the material.
Typically, cellulose is used to insulate unfinished attic floors and existing enclosed walls. Cellulose is a popular insulation material for existing buildings because you do not need to remove an existing wall to install it.
The loose-fill version of cellulose can be blown into wall or attic cavities with the help of special blowing machines. The tiny particles of plant fiber form an effective insulating material, which conforms to most structures and spaces without disturbing or dislocating the finish. A type of plant fiber, cellulose insulation can make your home more soundproof and draftproof than before. It has a high R-value, which essentially means that it can effectively resist heat flow to keep your home warm during winters and cool during the summer.
The high R-value is because cellulose is mainly made from recycled paper, which comes from wood fiber. The cellular structure of wood is, by nature, quite resistant to the conductive flow of heat.
More than 70 percent of modern cellulose insulation is made from recycled newsprint, cardboard, and other paper types. To be precise, it is made from hammer-milling old and discarded newspapers.
This process uses little hammers to repeatedly beat the paper or cardboard until it is crushed and shredded into smaller pieces.
The Cellulose Insulation Manufacturers Association posits that installing cellulose insulation in a 1,500 square-foot house will help recycle as much newspaper as a single person can consume in over 40 years.
More than three million tons of discarded newsprint would be removed from the country’s waste stream every year through recycling if all new homes were to be insulated with cellulose.
Cellulose insulation is heavily treated with non-toxic chemicals, including borax, ammonium sulfate, and boric acid, which constitute over 15 percent of the finished product by volume. They help protect cellulose insulation from insects, mold, and fire.

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Advantages of Cellulose Insulation

It’s Eco-Friendly

More than 70 percent of cellulose insulation is recycled paper. Hence, vast amounts of discarded newspaper and cardboard are put to good use when cellulose insulation is manufactured. Moreover, recycling paper usually involves a bleaching process through which the ink is removed. However, no bleaching is involved in recycling paper into cellulose since it will be shredded and pulverized during the manufacturing process. Hence, few chemicals (and very little energy) are needed to turn waste paper into cellulose. No greenhouse gases are used as propellants during the manufacturing process of cellulose insulation. Additionally, it contains more recycled material than any other type of insulation currently available.



Cellulose has an R-value of 3.2 to 3.5 per inch of thickness, which is higher than fiberglass and some other common insulating materials. The high rating is because it is made from paper, which contains wood fiber. Wood has a cellular structure that helps prevent air leakage and is naturally resistant to heat flow, making cellulose one of the most heat-resistant insulating materials available. This resistance to the conductive flow of heat will help keep your cellulose-insulated home warm during winter and cool during the summer, thus minimizing your energy bills throughout the year.

Fire Retardant

Cellulose insulation is treated with various non-toxic borate compounds like boric acid and borax. These chemicals constitute over 20 percent of the insulating material by volume. Known to be effective flame retardants, these chemicals were added to cellulose insulation in the 1950s to minimize the fire hazard in residential spaces. As cellulose is made from recycled paper, it can be quite flammable without this chemical treatment. However, the addition of boric acid and borax has made cellulose insulation incredibly fire-resistant. In wet cellulose, the presence of water makes the material doubly resistant to fire.


Mold & Mildew

Chemicals like ammonium sulfate and boric acid have made cellulose insulation unpalatable for pests and inhospitable to the growth of mold, mildew, etc. This resistance to mold ensures that cellulose is healthy and hypoallergenic and makes it the perfect insulation material for those allergic to mold spores. Even for those who aren’t allergic to mold or mildew, excessive exposure can also cause skin irritation and respiratory issues of various types. If appropriately installed, cellulose will enhance your comfort, improve your indoor air quality, and keep your home safe from fire hazards.


Cellulose is made from relatively cheap materials, such as discarded newsprint, cardboard, etc. The manufacturing process of cellulose, known as hammer-milling, is also quite basic and affordable and makes it one of the cheapest insulation options on the market. It usually costs between $0.8 and $1.20 per square foot of insulation. Cellulose insulation is also relatively easy to install. For instance, loose-fill cellulose can be blown into the attic (or a wall cavity) with the help of a rented blower machine. This easy installation further reduces costs, as it can be installed over a DIY weekend with nothing more expensive than a dust mask and some rented equipment.

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Drawbacks of Cellulose Insulation


Dust Generation

The process of installing cellulose insulation can involve quite a bit of dust, debris, and general mess. Especially loose-fill cellulose, which, as the name suggests, consists primarily of loose pieces of fiber. The installer must wear a certified breathing mask to be safe from all that dust, and a lengthy cleanup process is required after the installation is over. If you have a furnace duct system at home, you can expect some of that cellulose dust to be recirculated throughout your living space.

Sagging and Settling

Cellulose insulation is prone to sagging and settling—a problem further exacerbated by the fact that it is several times heavier than comparable insulating materials, like fiberglass. The greater weight of cellulose naturally means that it is affected by gravity more than other materials, reducing the R-value of the insulation as the material sags and settles over the years. Sagging can leave wide gaps in the wall cavities and minimize the insulating capability of cellulose. Modern cellulose is known to settle by as much as 20 percent, leading to uncomfortable living conditions and increased energy bills. However, wet-spray cellulose is typically more resistant to settling than the dry-blown variety.


Moisture Issues

Cellulose insulation is known to absorb moisture easily, which can be a severe problem if you have a burst pipe or a bad leak in the plumbing. While other forms of insulation hold the excess moisture on the surface, cellulose absorbs it entirely. In fact, cellulose can absorb as much as 130 percent moisture by weight. Furthermore, the material dries very slowly once the water is absorbed, leading to settling, deterioration, and mold growth. Too much water absorption can even destroy the chemical fire treatment for which cellulose is so well known.


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