The history of insulation is a long and fascinating one, resplendent in facts you could easily imagine being imparted in documentaries by historians like Lucy Worsley and Bettany Hughes.
Learning about how buildings were insulated decades or centuries ago could imbue you with renewed appreciation for the various reliable forms of insulation available today. Here is an overview of this history and how humanity has benefitted from generations of insulating expertise.
How did ancient civilisations insulate their buildings?
One answer to that is in an SFGATE article, which reveals that “ancient Egyptians used thick mud to insulate the pyramids, and ancient Greeks were known to use asbestos in their buildings.”
Other civilisations from around the same time used cork and large tapestries for insulation purposes – and sometimes even opted for steam pipes insulated with asbestos.
Let’s fast-forward to the 1950s…
By the mid-1950s, as the Cold War took hold and young people were listening to Elvis Presley, it wasn’t just rock n’ roll, but also – ahem – rock wool that was on people’s minds. This material was used for insulation during the period and can still be found in older properties today.
Rock wool and slag wool are the two main types of mineral wool, which is manufactured from waste originating in molten rock. While mineral wool insulation has been provided as boards, blankets and loose fill, the wool itself and its dust can cause itching as well as irritate the throat.
Another material commonly used for insulation in the ‘50s was vermiculite, a naturally occurring material that has traditionally been poured between ceiling joists. However, vermiculite has ceased to be used in new construction – and much of this material sold in the 20th century came from a Montana mine where asbestos was also present.
Hence, though asbestos tends not to be harmful unless disturbed, it would probably be wise for you to remove vermiculate insulation if your home still has it.
Fortunately, you wouldn’t necessarily have to do likewise with fibreglass insulation, which was also installed on many occasions during the ‘50s – and today remains among the most common types of home insulation.
Spray foam insulation: a “modern” form of insulation?
Now, let’s turn the clock a little further forward to the 1980s. At that time, you were probably listening to Spandau Ballet music in a home where spray foam insulation had been fitted.
However, though spray foam insulation as it is often known today did first go on sale in the ‘80s, the origins of this particular type of insulation can be traced as far back as the 1940s, when polyurethane foam was introduced, as a Medium article explains.
Today, spray foam technology remains useful for effectively insulating homes. If you run a company that installs insulation but many of your target customers struggle to afford it, you could help them to discern whether they are eligible for ECO grants, which can be spent on various insulation products – including loft insulation, cavity wall insulation and solid wall insulation, as consumer watchdog organisation Which? notes.