Fiberglass Insulation

New Friends And A New Roomate (Post #2)

Getting to the bottom of things.

Sam Breen – Saturday, October 2, 2010

Twenty five hours of work and the ceiling/walls have been cleared of leftover fiberglass insulation. The job was pretty mindless but I don’t mind that kind of work, especially after a long day of class. The only trouble was protecting myself from the fiberglass: coveralls, respirator, goggles, gloves etc. It’s not too pleasant when it’s hot outside, so I ended up doing a lot of work at night.

Once I removed all the insulation, I used a shop vac to clean out the inside.  Finally got rid of a lot of the rat droppings, dust etc. (It smells a lot better in there all of a sudden!)


After some trial and error with different portable saws, I found that the circular saw worked best to cut out the plywood while avoiding the steel frame beneath it. I cut small pieces at a time and popped them out with two crowbars.

In the process, I found a Ninja Turtles pencil case…

and some old newspaper clippings stuck to the linoleum.
1985 newspaper clipping from Redding, CA.

The clippings were from Redding, in Northern California.  Such an odd coincidence.  I recently bought a second vintage trailer, a tiny 1960 Corsa camper trailer, now parked next to the Spartan, which I use as my hang out.

1960 Corsa: My home away from home away from home...

It came from a town near Redding: Big Bend, CA, located near Mt. Shasta.The previous owners were a couple I now consider to be my friends – Bern Haggard and Eviane Cotton.

Homesteaders Bern and Eviane

In addition to their responsibilities on their 80-acre homestead, they are restoring the town’s old campground complete with old hot springs!

The campground at Big Bend (not yet open) will feature soaking pools built into a cliff that overlooks the Pit River.

The Pit River as seen from the soaking pool.

Eventually, Bern and Eviane also with others, also hope to transform the town’s trailer park into an eco village (current residents will stay if they wish)

Back to my own trailer project…

The shower/bathroom unit needs to come out. It’s unsalvageable, unfortunately. We debated whether to clean it up and re-use but the thing is gross and falling apart.

Yes, we actually considered trying to save the metal bathroom unit.

The bathroom unit is all one piece. It will not fit out through the doorway so it will have to be sawed out.. a job for later.  I did manage to rip out the linoleum flooring inside the bathroom, just to see what was underneath. Bad news is the aluminum floor under the linoleum is in bad shape. It’s going to have to go, too.

One of the previous owners caped off the shower head and installed new flooring.  (It seems they only used the toilet and sink.)

As I rip away the flooring throughout the trailer I’ve found more nasty insulation, rat droppings and all sorts of presents left behind by pack rats.

Speaking of which, I have a new roommate in the trailer. When I lifted up a piece of floorboard, a little mouse scurried away. I don’t mind the company.

Oh, and today, we had our first rain! No apparent leaks, except of course from the missing windows and skylight, but I didn’t look too closely. I’m not ready to deal with that yet. Small steps.

I want to get the old floor out as soon as possible. I can’t wait to get rid of all the insulation. I won’t feel it’s a clean slate until that happens…

This post is part of a series documenting Sam Breen’a Spartan Restoration Project. Please see his first post here and check out the archive here. The CSPA is helping Sam by serving in an advisory role, offering modest support and featuring Sam’s Progress by syndicating his feed from as part of our CSPA Supports Program.

Insulation: Part 1 – Green or Greenwashed?

PIC foam with aluminum facing Credit:

The good, the bad and the truly ugly truthiness of insulation.

Glass Fiber Insulation

Fiberglass insulation

Glass fiber insulation is made or glass, new or recycled, and held together with binders.  It is cheap and non-combustable.  But it’s far from perfect. It has a relatively low R-factor and there are considerable concerns about the product’s impact on our health and the environment.   There’s a yuk factor.  Ask anyone who has gotten into the guts of an old trailer and they’ll gross you out with tales of what they uncovered in the insulation: rat’s nets, bug bodies, etc. Got leaks?  When rain and snow seeps into fiberglass, insulation turns into a soggy, moldy mess.  There are the considerable health concerns:

If you have ever worked with it you know how it makes your skin itch; imagine it in your lungs. Some have claimed that it is the next asbestos and is cancer-causing; one website calls it “The Asbestos of the 21st Century. Packages of insulation carry cancer warning labels, based on a 1998 study. However the American Lung Association lists the studies and the most recent ones conclude that “It is currently considered not classifiable as a human carcinogen. Studies done in the past 15 years since the previous report was released, do not provide enough evidence to link this material to any cancer risk.”  – Planet Green

What are the alternatives?  Here are some types of insulation that are more or less “friendly” to the environment.



Hemp insulation is made from hemp fibre with polyester added for strength.  Soda is added as a fire retardant.  Hemp is naturally resistant to moths and beetles. Hempflax (it comes in bats) is manufactured by a Dutch company that claims their product is low in dust which helps contribute to cleaner indoor air.  They say their product can be recycled after use.  The hemp comes from Germany and the Netherlands.  Imported.  See the company web site for a PDF brochure – and a mind-expanding history of industrial hemp (what is it about the Dutch and weeds?)



Denim insulation is mostly made of the leftover bits from blue jeans and treated with a “natural” fire retardant.  Bonded Logic is the company that makes UltraTouch Natural Fiber Insulation from 85% post-industrial cotton fiber. It is 100% recyclable, VOC- and formaldehyde-free. And it won’t itch like fiberglass insulation.  (Seems like there’s a lot of dust that comes out when you shake it. )

Recycled Newspaper

Recycled Newspaper

Excel Building Solution’s Warmcel  made from 100% waste recycled newsprint. Thermal conductivity of  0.036 W/mK. Said to be an alternative to blown fiberglass or bat insulation. layered into walls being built, or blown into atticspaces and already sheetrocked. Warmcel insulation by Excel



Water-blown policynene that creates an foam blanket of millions of tiny air bubbles. It does not shrink and adheres to the surrounding structure, so there is no settling and no air gaps. It has no VOC’s no formaldehyde, Recognized for LEED credits and is becoming very popular as a clean, green, long lasting insulation. When holding a piece, it seems the most benign and friendly insulation ever, it is like filling your walls with sponge cake. ::Icynene




Procell is a mix of 100% recycled newspapers, adhesives and fire retardants that fills voids and dries quickly, and appears similar to Dom’s Warmcell from the UK.  Pro-Cell is “specially treated to repel vermin and insects, and to prevent the growth of harmful mould, mildew and wood-rotting fungi” “::Thermocell



This is a polyurethane foam system made out of recycled plastic (a barrel of Heatlok-soya contains 1000 plastic bottles) and soya oil.  zeroozone depletion and is even coloured green. The manufacturer, Demilec, “is the first Canadian manufacturer of Spray Polyurethane Foamto meet the requirements of the Montreal Protocol. DEMILEC uses recycled plastics, renewable natural oils, and water, all while maintaining the high quality and performance of its foam systems. ::Heatlok Soya


Aspen Aerogels has started selling aerogel blankets for use as insulation in buildings.

“Aspen Aeorgels says that its Spaceloft blankets have two to four times the insulating value per inch compared to fiberglass or foam. It’s also relatively easy to work with, allows water vapor to pass through, and is fire resistant–a common demonstration of aerogels is to have a person fire a Bunsen burner below the aerogel while putting a hand on the top side.” (source)

The fact that it’s just 2 to 4 times better than fiberglass or foam makes me think that they paid a pretty big performance price to bring costs down, since pure aerogel would provider higher thermal insulation, but it’s still a pretty big step in the right direction. We’re not talking about a few percent improvement. Over time, in a big building, this could represent a lot of heat that would otherwise leak out (or heat that would leak in when the air conditioning is on).

Other companies that are coming out with more affordable aerogel derivatives to be used as building insulation are Cabot and Thermablok.

I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few years (or decades at most) very high-quality aerogel was used almost everywhere for insulation. Unless we make something even better, that is.

Other types of insulation such as straw bale aren’t appropriate for trailers.

Some Links:

“Green Insulation: More Choices”

“Why the choice of insulation matters”

” Space age insulation: it’s already here”

This post is part of a series documenting Sam Breen’a Spartan Restoration Project. Please see his first post here and check out the archive here. The CSPA is helping Sam by serving in an advisory role, offering modest support and featuring Sam’s Progress by syndicating his feed from as part of our CSPA Supports Program.