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By Ted Cullen, President
Quik-Therm Insulation Solutions Inc.

Insulating Basement Walls

Fiberglass batts, poly and wood studs is still the most common method of insulating basement walls in Canada – but it’s definitely not the most effective way to insulate the interior side of basement walls. Just like a blotter, fiberglass insulation absorbs and holds moisture – which in-turn provides the perfect environment for mold growth. Not only is fiberglass insulation a health hazard when installed in basements, it’s a lousy insulator when it absorbs moisture. The government of Canada claims it’s debatable whether fiberglass insulation has any insulating ability at all when it gets wet.

So what is the best way to insulate basement walls in Canada? In the last decade more and more Canadians have chosen foam insulation for their basements. The beauty of foam for basement walls is; – closed cell foam insulation does not absorb moisture and therefore will not contribute to mold growth. Secondly, when installed directly onto basement walls, foam provides a continuous layer of insulation without cracks and crevices. Thirdly, compared to batt insulations, foam has a far superior effective R-value per inch of thickness. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, at two inches or thicker, closed cell foam insulations qualify as vapour and air barriers. Therefore no poly, staples or awful black gunk is required.

Let’s look at the various ways and methods of utilizing foam insulation in basements. We’ll start with rigid foam sheets. Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) and Extruded Polystyrene (XPS) are the most commonly used rigid foam insulations. They are available in 2’ x 8’ and 4’ x 8’ sheets and come in a variety of thickness and densities and can be installed on either the inside or outside of basement foundation walls. Using rigid foam on the outside is more costly than insulating on the inside and protecting it from damage during installation and back filling can be a problem. Insulating on the outside saves energy dollars and acts as an exterior moisture barrier but the inside of concert walls are still cool to the touch. Consequently, when people insulate from the outside, they often end up doing some insulation on the inside as well – and that’s Ok. You can never have too much insulation in a basement, as long as it’s closed cell foam.

Insulating basement walls from the inside can be done utilizing several different types of foam products. Spray foam insulates well and has become very common. Spray foam is a high performance insulator. It’s also an air and vapour barrier, however spray foam must be installed properly under the right conditions or bad things can happen. Installed improperly spray foam can off gas powerful odors and toxins that can make you and/or your family very sick. Spray foam is a great insulator but there are risks. If you’re building new, ICF (Insulated Concrete Forms) are a popular choice. ICF’s have high effective R-values and are mold and mildew resistant but if you’re on tight budget the cost of ICF is about 20% to 40% more expensive than conventional methods of framing and insulating.

Rigid foam panels are also a good way to insulate on the inside of concrete basement walls. Depending on thickness and the type of foam you choose, super high effective R-values can be achieved. One disadvantage of rigid foam is – for it to be effective, it must be attached directly to the wall using adhesive or IDP foam insulation anchors. Here’s the problem. Basement walls are rarely plumb (perfectly vertical). This means, to plumb and level the drywall, alternate wood or steel framing must be installed in front of the foam insulation. This adds additional cost for labour; plus it reduces the useable floor square footage of your basement.

Recently, new innovative and high performance basement insulation systems have been introduced. For the most part these systems are all-in-one solutions. They include, framing, insulation and some even include drywall. Unfortunately most of these basement insulation systems are awkward, complex to install and expensive – except one. The Quik-Therm CIS (Basement Concrete Insulation System) is low cost, fast and easy to install and provides the highest effective R-value per inch of thickness. Its fast and easy to install, by just about anybody, and its reasonably priced. Any foam insulation works well in basements – but don’t do batt and studs!

Plain and simple, if you plan to use your basement for added living space and you want it to be comfortable, healthy and energy efficient, you definitely want to insulate the walls with foam. Warm basement walls and energy savings go hand in hand. You save money on your utility bills and keep comfortable and healthy at the same time. It’s a win – win! One last thing. If possible, the framing, like the insulation should be resistant to moisture, mildew and mold. Steel and/or plastic framing are a much better choice than wood studs.

Because of its lower cost and ease of installation and superior comfort the most common place to insulate basements walls will continue to be on the inside. Let’s take an objective look at the pros and cons of the various methods of insulating the inside of basement walls in Canada.

The following Table covers the most common methods of insulating the inside of basement walls in cold climates like Canada.

Insulation Method

Quik-Therm CIS

Spray Foam & Studs

Rigid Foam & Studs

Batt & Studs

DIY – Fast & Easy to Install


Contractor Only



Dry, Warm and Comfortable





Healthy & Mold Resistant / Non Toxic





Energy Efficient / High Effective R-Value



Depends on Thickness


Cold Climate Tested by Certified Laboratories





Framing Included / Plumbs Walls





Delivered to Your Door






Low to Reasonable


Reasonable to Expensive



In conclusion, it’s important to look at all levels of a home when trying to maximize its energy efficiency. The days of cold, dark, and damp basements are in the past. Today’s homes utilize every square inch of space, including the basement. Protect your investment and your family by choosing the best method of insulation that is long-lasting, safe, easy to install and environmentally responsible. Learn more about the best and most cost effective system for insulating basement walls.

By Ted Cullen, President
Quik-Therm Insulation Solutions Inc.

​In laymen’s terms, R-value is the measurement of how well a product insulates.  To explain why traditional fiberglass insulation doesn’t perform well in basement wall assemblies we need to understand the difference between “Nominal” R-values and “Effective” R-values.

To help explain the difference between Nominal and Effective R-values we will look at a sandwich as an analogy.  In this analogy lets imagine we are judging something on how well it tastes.  There are many types and qualities of bread, and some may taste better than others.   However, if you were to make a sandwich with very tasty bread, and nothing else, would that really be a tasty sandwich?  No, it would be bland and terrible.  However, when you add other products into the sandwich (meat, mayo, lettuce, cheese) well, then that sandwich is going to be delicious.  Therefore, we must measure how delicious a sandwich is based on the entire sandwich, not just on the bread alone.  That is the difference between Nominal R-value, and Effective R-value.  Nominal R-value (the bread in our analogy) is based on how well a specific material insulates with no other products taken into consideration.  Effective R-value (the sandwich in our analogy) is based on how well a building assembly performs in its entirety.  Effective R-value is a true R-value.  The R-value for fiberglass is based on its Labelled or Nominal R-value.

Image 2Now lets take a look at what happens to Nominal R-20 fiberglass installed in a wood frame assembly. Remember, R-20 fiberglass is its rated R-value by itself, it does not consider wood framing, or concrete, or real world applications.  Once R-20 fiberglass is installed in a 16 O.C. wood stud wall the R-value drops to somewhere between R-15.8 and R-13.4.  This R-value is considered Effective R-value because it takes into account the wood studs.  The reason why the R-value drops when the insulation is added into a wood frame assembly is due to thermal bridging.  A study done on thermal bridging states that “[t]hermal bridges provide a path of lesser resistance through the insulation, allowing more heat to bypass the thermal barrier and raise or lower interior temperatures”.  Basically, energy travels through the wood studs easier than the insulation. That wasted energy could have been used to heat your basement.

Metal studs are even more conductive than wood.  R-20 fiberglass falls dramatically down to an Effective R-value between 5.2 and 7.1 when we insert a more conductive product like steel studs.  That is almost a 75% loss in R-value. The more conductive a material is the more potential for energy loss, which is why we don’t insulate our homes with pots and pans, or cook our eggs on insulation.  Thermal bridging also causes problems with condensation on interior side of concrete walls.  This is due to heat travelling through the framing member and meeting the cold concrete wall.  Now we have condensation, and potential for moisture.  How do we solve this thermal bridging problem?  To avoid thermal bridging it is necessary to have a continuous thermal barrier.  Basically, you need something that insulates between the framing members and the concrete wall.  By installing foam insulations like EPS between the framing members and the concrete wall we can nullify the problem of thermal bridging.  Yet, thermal bridging is not the only thing that can drastically reduce the Effective R-value.

Image 3We discussed earlier the high potential for moisture in basements, and the health hazards that coincide with moisture problems.  Well, moisture doesn’t just help mould grow, moisture also destroys Effective R-values.  The IRC have conducted studies showing that when moisture is found in insulation there is “a reduction [in R-value] of 60 to 70%” and that “reduction is so drastic that it is debatable whether the material can be considered thermal insulation”.  Therefore, moisture is detrimental to the effectiveness of insulation.  Oh, air infiltration reduces the Effective R-value more than the majority of the problems we just discussed.  That poly vapour barrier better be sealed perfectly.  Learn more about R-value at

By Ted Cullen, President
Quik-Therm Insulation Solutions Inc.

BasementLet’s face it, insulating on top of existing concrete floors is an after thought. If we knew then, what we know now, we would have installed insulation under the concrete before it was poured. So the question is; after the fact what is the best way to insulate the top side of existing concrete and basement floors? The answer is; it depends on the condition of the floor. Is the floor dry, that’s a good thing. Is it damp, or worse yet, is it wet? Is the floor level or uneven? Whats the ceiling height and what is the basement to be used for; added living space or storage? If the concrete floor is dry and reasonably level, insulate directly on top with a rigid foam insulation that is impervious to moisture, air leakage and radon gas.

If the basement floor is wet, hire a professional, find the source of the problem and fix it before doing anything. If you can’t afford to fix the problem or don’t want to invest the money do not insulate the floor! For that matter, don’t do anything. Nothing good will come from insulating on top of a wet basement floor. If the floor is damp but not wet, find out what’s causing the dampness. It may be, and generally is, a humidity issue. It’s probably as simple as warm moist air coming in contact with the colder concrete floor. If this is the cause, condensation/dampness will be apparent but not problematic.

QT Warm Floor - Fast & Easy to InstallHere’s the best part; insulating the top side of concrete floors with an impervious high density rigid foam insulation like Quik-Therm Warm Floor will resolve most condensation problems. Why; because with Quik-Therm Warm Floor the top of Warm Floor is warm. Regardless of the humidity level (within reason) warm moist air and warm surfaces are not conducive to condensation. Here’s a simple comparison. Blowing on a cold window in the winter produces condensation, frost or ice on the glass. Blowing on the same window in the summertime produces little or no condensation.

If the basement floor is uneven, one of the simplest ways to level it, is sand. Yes, that’s right, sand! Sand is a great leveler. Another way of leveling concrete floors is using a slurry type of concrete mix. There are many types of slurry concrete products available. Once the floor is leveled, Warm Floor can be installed directly on top of the floor. On top of Warm Floor install a rigid finished flooring, such as engineered flooring or laminate. For basements, only floor materials that are moisture resistant should be installed. Because they are adversely affected by moisture, carpet and natural wood flooring, sub floors that contain wood should be avoided in basements. However, if you insist on having these types of flooring, install a rigid plywood subfloor on top of Quik-Therm Warm Floor.


QT Warm Floor - Designed for Engineered Floor SystemsQuik-Therm Warm Floor Features and Highlights

  • Increases the comfort of concrete floors by up to 7 degrees
  • Less than 1/2″ thick / minimal loss of head room
  • 4′ x4′ panels / fast and easy to install
  • Handles heavy loads – up to 4,000 lbs.
  • Vapour and air barrier
  • Code compliant radon barrier when the joints are taped and edges are sealed to concrete walls
  • Flexible and durable

Learn more about Quik-Therm Warm Floor

While the International Conference on Climate Change is presently taking place in Paris (the Climate Summit, November 30 to December 11, 2015), we at Quik-Therm wanted to bring to the attention of our readers a highlight from a recent CBC news report (

EmissionsIn 2009, Canada committed to having greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2020 that are 17% below 2005 emissions. According to Environment Canada, Canada emitted 736 megatonnes of GHGs in 2005. To meet our 2009 commitment, Canada needs to lower its emissions to 611 megatonnes in 2020 or by 125 megatonnes from 2005 levels. As an aside, in May 2015, Canada said it would further reduce its GHG emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. Whether a new commitment will be made following the Paris Climate Summit is unknown. Either present target puts Canada well behind those proposed by most other industrialized economies.

In its report, the CBC cites a federal Department of Finance memo that discusses the effectiveness of a number of federal programs directed at reducing Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. The second most effective program in terms of the reduction of GHG emissions is the ecoENERGY Efficiency Initiative started in 2011. This program is aimed at improving the energy efficiency of homes and other buildings in Canada through the use of improved standards and building techniques and materials. It is expected to reduce Canada’s GHG emissions 6.5 megatonnes/year by 2020.

In comparison, the most effective federal program is the one designed to improve the fuel economy of motor vehicles (16 megatonnes reduction per year by 2020).

The present ecoENERGY Efficiency Initiative should not be confused with the earlier popular ecoENERGY Retrofit program which ran from 2006 to 2011. The Retrofit program gave grants to homeowners to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. Approximately 640,000 homeowners took advantage of the Retrofit program, reducing their home energy usage on average by about 23% and Canada’s GHG emissions by approximately 2 megatonnes/year. A new retrofit grant program can only help improve these numbers.

The Department of Finance memo estimates that overall by 2020, the present federal programs will reduce Canada’s GHG emissions by about 40 megatonnes from 2005 levels. The remaining 85 megatonnes reduction from 2005 levels will have to come from provincial and municipal efforts.

The continued improvement in the energy efficiency of our homes and other buildings, including through the use of better insulation products, is a vital and effective piece of Canadians’ efforts to meet our GHG emission targets. Quik-Therm is proud of the role our line of quality insulation products is playing to help improve the energy efficiency and comfort of Canadian homes and businesses.

Basements have issues! They get wet in a variety of ways; flooding, plumbing leaks and cracks in concrete and poor drainage are just some of the causes for wet basements. Once they get wet, the after effects generally linger on forever.

FG in BAsement WallBecause basements are constructed in a hole in the ground. They are inherently damp and cold and the law of thermodynamics ensures it will always be this way. The facts are; damp air is heavier than dry air and cool air is heavier than warm air. The bottom line – a basement is a damp, cold cellar and unless it is insulated the right way using the right type of insulation it will be damp, cold and unhealthy….forever.

Traditionally, most below grade interior walls have been insulated with batt insulation between wood-framing and a polyethylene sheet used to control air and vapour movement. This is not only the wrong method of insulating and sealing basements, it increases the potential for condensation, mildew, mold and unnecessary health risks.

CIS in BasementBasements should be insulated with products that will not absorb moisture or off gas chemicals. Of all foam insulations, rigid Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) insulation is the safest, healthiest and arguably the most energy efficient way to insulate interior basement walls. EPS is moisture and mold resistant and environmentally responsible. Some EPS insulation products like the Quik-Therm Interior Basement and Concrete Insulation System (CIS) are laminated with thin layers of reflective polymers/plastic. These engineered coverings act as code compliant air, vapour, radon and radiant barriers. To learn more about the best way to insulate your basement ….. Click Here

Basement ImageThere are many ways to insulate your basement.  However, for the last thirty years or so, batt insulation has been the common choice. Unfortunately, it is the worst way to insulate basements.  Why? Because it absorbs moisture and moisture promotes mold. Did you know wet insulation is a lousy insulator?  Of course you did, so why do Home Builders continue to use fiberglass batt in basements? Because it’s cheap, readily available and it’s the way it’s always been done and Builders don’t like change.

So what insulation performs best in basements? Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam insulation with reflective vapour and air barrier films.  Why? Because closed cell EPS foam insulation doesn’t absorb water; which means it won’t promote mold and will maintain its long term R-value performance.  Plus, the reflective films stop moisture migration and air leakage and radiate heat energy back to where it came from i.e.: the inside of your basement.  And unlike other foam insulation products, EPS doesn’t emit harmful ozone depleting gasses.

So what else do I need to know about insulating my basement? Avoid wood framing.  Why? Because wood can absorb moisture and promote mold. There are far more environmental ways to do framing; like recycled steel?  Reagrding wood framing, there are other issues to consider; like nail popping, twisting, warping and shrinkage.

CIS Corner ShotOk; it appears rigid foam and steel framing perform best in basements.  What else do I need to know?  Speed, ease of installation and high effective R-value. So where do I find a combination of products that can do all that?  Actually, it’s not a bunch of individual products combined together; it’s an all in one basement insulation system.  It’s called the Quik-Therm Basement Insulation System (CIS). Quik-Therm is economical, high performance, environmentally responsible and fast and easy to install.  Per inch of thickness, no basement insulation method has a better effective R-value rating and nothing installs faster or easier.  Anybody can install Quik-Therm CIS.  To learn more, please click the link to

EPS vs XPS 1Below grade, EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) and XPS (Extruded Polystyrene) absorb moisture. It’s been proven by in-situ testing and actual field samples; on numerous occasions. EPS absorbs water faster than XPS but it also gives it up faster. In other words, it dries out, which is a good thing. Dry insulation performs better (has a higher effective R-value) than wet insulation.

Compared to EPS, it takes longer for XPS to absorb moisture, however it holds moisture for a much longer period of time, lowering its effective R-value – significantly. Field samples show XPS holds moisture indefinitely, consequently its R-value is reduced by almost half. That’s not a good thing! See the photo – read the report.

Quik-Therm SGI


Here’s the point, for below grade applications, why install insulation that is guaranteed to absorb moisture and hang on to it. It doesn’t make sense!

There’s a better solution, it’s Quik-Therm Sub-Grade Insulation (SGI). Foam insulation with impermeable (vapour barrier tested) polymer facers. Learn more.

By Ted Cullen, President
Quik-Therm Insulation Solutions Inc.

Moisture management is the single most important factor in the design and construction of sustainable buildings and mold control. The majority of all building construction problems are related to water. The structural integrity of the wall is at stake, as is the health of the occupants. Over half of homes and buildings suffer from mold problems. and billions of dollars are spent annually on litigation involving mold and rot because of entrapped moisture.

Walls that disperse moisture to the outside offer practical alternatives to conventional building practices that keep buildings airtight.  Todays walls cannot handle the intrusion of moisture. Moisture always moves from high pressure to low pressure; warm to cold and from more moisture to less moisture; consequently, in the winter interior moisture laden air wants to get outdoors.

A drainage plane is highly recommended in walls with rigid foam insulation, between the wall substrate (OSB / Plywood / Exterior Drywall) and rigid insulation. Without a drainage plane (air cavity) a double vapour barrier will occur; which means, moisture will be trapped between the substrate and rigid foam insulation.

All exterior walls are covered with cladding materials that repel moisture. Most moisture drains down the exterior surface, although a small amount always gets behind the cladding, between the siding and trim and/or between the trim and windows. In order for walls to dry and drain, the cladding system must incorporate a minimum 3/8-inch airspace between rigid insulation and the cladding. This is referred to as a rain screen.

Double Vapour Barrier



Double Vapour Barrier Traps Moisture in Walls

Moisture management is the single most important factor in the design and construction of sustainable buildings and mold control.  Approximately 90% of all building construction problems are related to water.





Gap Close Up PP


Quik-Therm Solar Dry Insulation (SDI) is a patent pending high performance tongue and groove continuous rigid insulation system. SDI is manufactured from Type 2, closed-cell, lightweight and resilient expanded polystyrene (EPS) covered with advanced metallic polymer facers. Solar Dry is effectively impervious, however it is neither an air nor vapour barrier.


Solar Dry - Commercial ApplicationSolar Dry - Wood Construction On the inboard side of SDI are drainage cavities that occupy 75% of the surface. These cavities allow walls to drain, dry and disperse moisture. On the outboard side, furring materials such as wood or steel are mechanically fastened through SDI panels directly to framing members.  The location for furring is identified by shallow depressions.

SDI - House Cut Away

As per of the code / Minimum Protection from Precipitation Ingress, a code compliant rain screen is achieved provided the furring creates a minimum 3/8” (10 mm) void between SDI and the chosen cladding material.

In conclusion, a wall system, its drainage plane, flashing and exterior cladding, must be designed to drain, dry and disperse water/moisture that gets behind cladding materials and between rigid insulation and wall substrate materials.

Click Here To Learn More


Think of it like this! You buy a new vehicle and its estimated fuel economy is 10 liters per 100 kilometers. After six months of driving it actually consumes 15 liters per 100. Analogy: The Labelled R-value of insulation is its estimated fuel economy, effective R-value is its actual performance in real world wall assemblies, tested in winter like conditions.

6″ fiberglass insulation has a labelled R-value of 20. However, in wood frame wall assemblies, under cold climate conditions, it performs effectively at R-15. In steel frame assemblies it performs at only R-7, or 63% less than its labelled R-value. Using the vehicle analogy, it’s like consuming 23 liters per hundred as opposed to 10 liters per 100 that you expected.

Car ImageUntil recently, insulation products have been tested on their own, at temperatures that produce their best R-value performance. More or less, it’s similar to testing the fuel economy of a vehicle going downhill. On the other hand, testing insulation to its effective R-value in actual wall assemblies, in cold “real world” environments, is like testing the fuel economy of a vehicle going uphill. For cold Canadian winters, insulation needs to be tested going uphill. Next time you purchase insulation, ask for its effective R-value rating tested in Canadian winter like conditions.


To learn more about cold climate effective R-value testing, go to


Image 1A 2014 study commissioned by Natural Resources Canada showed that government funding of energy efficiency programs can pay huge dividends for Canada’s economy. In its report Energy Efficiency: Engine of Economic Growth in Canada, the Acadia Center states that spending $28.6 billion dollars over 15 years (2012 to 2026, an average of $1.9 billion per year) on programs that improve the energy efficiency of our homes and businesses would result in:

  •  A net increase in Canada’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $230 billion from 2012 to 2040, or an annual average increase of $8.2 billion. This is approximately a return of $8 of GDP growth for every $1 spent on these energy efficiency programs.
  • A maximum net increase in employment of 121,000 jobs per year from 2012 to 2040.

The report notes these economic benefits are the result of two things. One is the direct spending on improving energy efficiency, such as buying insulation products and hiring contractors to do home renovation work. Much more important to the Canadian economy than this direct spending however are the savings that result from having more energy efficient homes and businesses. The study predicts families and businesses will spend these savings on other items such as eating out more and buying new equipment, further fueling the economy.

Check out energy efficient insulation technologies at