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Compare Basement Insulation Installation Costs and Values

This basement insulation guide discusses the reasons to insulate, how much insulation and what type you need to use within the area you live. We also cover a comprehensive breakdown of basement insulation costs and prices, including the cost of labor for installation per sq.ft. The average cost of basement insulation is between $1.45 and $2.25 per sq.ft. for rigid and spray foam, to $1.80 – $3.50 per sq.ft. for fiberglass insulation, these prices include installation, with r-values from R13 to R21.

Basement Insulation Costs
Basic Cost Average Cost High Cost
Expect to Pay $1.45 – $2.25 per sq.ft. $1.20 – $2.50 per sq.ft. $1.80 – $3.50 per sq.ft.
Insulation Type Rigid / Spray Foam Rigid / Spray Foam / Fiberglass Fiberglass
Value R-13 R-19 / R-21 R-21
Ease of Access Easy Medium Hard
DIY or Pro DIY Pro Pro
Note: Prices above include supply of insulation and labor / tools for installation.

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Reasons to Insulate the Basement

There are two main reasons to insulate your basement. First, the insulation you add will make your home as a whole more energy efficient. The insulation will reduce heat loss through the foundation walls.

The second reason, and the main reason homeowners insulate their basements, is to make the space more comfortable for use. Finished basements almost always have insulated walls to retain heat.

When insulated, basements feel less damp too, and this is due to the installation of a moisture barrier, one of the most important steps when finishing any space that is below grade.

The moisture barrier should be next to the concrete to prevent moisture vapor from passing through the foundation and into the basement. One of the biggest mistakes homeowners and some contractors make is using faced insulation with a vapor barrier between the insulation and the drywall. That barrier will trap moisture in the insulation and cause mold and the rotting of the framing timbers.

See the section below on the Types of Insulation Used in Basements for proper ways to incorporate a vapor barrier into basement insulation.

Recommended Insulation Levels for Basements

Always check the building code in your area for insulation requirements. Insulation contractors you get estimates from should have the information too. However, here are recommended insulation values for basements from a national building association.

Zone 1: Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands

  • Recommendation: Install R-10 to R-12 on the interior of a basement or crawl space; Install R-4 to R-6 if you choose to add insulation to the exterior.

Zones 2 & 3: Florida and the Gulf Coast States, Texas, Georgia, the Carolinas, Arkansas, Southern Arizona, Southern California

  • Recommendation: Install R-10 to R-12 on the interior of a basement or crawl space; Install R-4 to R-6 if you choose to add insulation to the exterior.

Zone 4: Mid-Atlantic States, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas, southern areas of Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nevada, coastal areas of northern California, Oregon and Washington

  • Recommendation: Install R-12 to R-14 on the interior of a basement or crawl space; Install R-4 to R-8 if you choose to add insulation to the exterior.

Zone 5 to 8: Everything north of Zone 4

Recommendation: Install R-12 to R-19 on the interior of a basement or crawl space; Install R-4 to R-10 if you choose to add insulation to the exterior.

Types of Insulation Used in Basements

There are three main types of insulation used in or on the exterior walls of basements. We’ll address them in the order of their popularity.

Before we do, however, it is essential to note that a vapor barrier must be installed against the concrete foundation. This can be done with the use of a spray-on rubberized barrier that does not provide insulation, rigid foam insulation or spray-on foam insulation. Using plastic sheeting as a vapor barrier is of limited value and is not recommended by basement and insulation contractors.

Without the vapor barrier, moisture will pass through the foundation wall. If you finish a basement with framed walls, that moisture will likely become trapped in the walls and cause mold and rot. One mistake to avoid is using faced insulation in framed basement walls. It will certainly trap moisture and cause problems with mold.

The best basement insulation material is rigid foam insulation, sometimes referred to as closed-cell foam board. It’s made by a range of manufacturers in several different widths. Rigid insulation can be adhered to either the exterior or interior wall, or both.

For the exterior, it is recommended that you use board at least one-half inch in depth. This will provide an R-value of about 3 (R-3.2). You’ll need 1.5 inches for roughly R-10.

Rigid foam board is the ideal basement insulation for the interior. It can be glued directly to the concrete to provide a vapor barrier and significant insulation value. Most contactors recommend using at least 1.5 inches in all climates. If it’s the only source of insulation, you may want to use more in colder climates. Basement insulation experts recommend caulking the seams with foam insulation in a can and then taping the seam to prevent the penetration of moist, cold air.

Spray foam insulation is slightly more expensive than rigid foam board, but works in the same way. It provides both insulation and a vapor barrier. The convenience of this type of insulation is that it does not have seems, so no extra caulking or taping is required.

Fiberglass insulation can also be used in framed basement walls, but it should never be the only source of insulation. If it is used by itself, it will trap moisture which will lead to mold and rot.

Instead, non-faced fiberglass insulation batts may be used in framed walls where at least 1 to 1.5 inches of rigid or spray foam insulation has been installed against the basement foundation walls. For example, some contractors will install the rigid board or spray foam against the foundation wall and then frame the finished wall on top of the foam insulation. In this scenario, filling the wall cavity with fiberglass insulation is a very effective option. It insulates well and is more cost-effective than foam board or spray insulation.

Basement Insulation Costs and Comparisons

Let’s compare the costs for rigid foam, spray foam and fiberglass while keeping in mind that fiberglass insulation, even unfaced fiberglass, should never be installed against concrete. The costs are given per square foot of material.

Rigid Foam Insulation

Table 1: Prices shown for Rigid Foam Insulation, divided down into Material per Sq. Foot and Labor per Sq. Foot:

Insulation Rating Material per Sq. Foot Labor per Sq. Foot
R-13   $0.90 to $1.60  $0.55 to $0.65
R-19   $1.10 to $1.30  $0.90 to $1.30
R-21 $1.20 to $1.45 $0.95 to $1.30

Spray Foam Insulation

Table 2: Prices shown for Spray Foam Insulation, divided down into Material per Sq. Foot and Labor per Sq. Foot:

Insulation Rating Material per Sq. Foot Labor per Sq. Foot
R-13   $0.75 to $0.90   $0.80 to $0.95
R-19  $1.30 to $2.50  $0.75 to $1.00
R-21 $1.40 to $2.70  $0.75 to $1.10

Fiberglass Batt

Table 3: Prices shown for Fiberglass Insulation, divided down into Material per Sq. Foot and Labor per Sq. Foot:

Insulation Rating Material per Sq. Foot Labor per Sq. Foot
R-13  $0.30 to $0.40  $0.30 to $0.40
R-19  $0.50 to $0.75  $0.60 to $0.95
R-21  $0.55 to $0.85  $0.65 to $0.95

All these types of insulation have extra costs for materials and supplies. Expect to pay an additional $25 to $65 per 1,000 square feet of insulated surface.

In addition, it always makes sense to get at least three free estimates from local contractors to find the lowest basement insulation costs where you live.

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Basement Insulation Cost Comparison from the Web

To save you time we have compiled a price comparison for the cost of basement insulation from popular websites. Cost factors which may affect the cost of the project quote you receive are discussed further down the page.

Basement Insulation Price Comparison
Website / Source Cost Range
Insulation Guides $1,440 – $3,000
HomeAdvisor $1,200 – $1,600
ImproveNet $1,300 – $1,400
HomeWyse $1,300 – $2,050
Average Cost from Web Comparison $1,300 – $2,000
 Note: The above prices are quoted on an average sq. ft. of 1,200 sq. ft.
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Factors Affecting Basement Insulation Installation Costs

Like any insulation job there are a few factors likely to affect the cost of basement insulation, these additional cost factors include:

  • Size of the Basement – Rigid, spray-foam and fiberglass insulation are all calculated per sq.ft., therefore the larger your basement, the more the insulation is going to cost you.
  • Preparation – This includes the removal of any old or previously installed insulation, clearance of junk from the basement or any major preparation work including cost of basement waterproofing. Waterproofing your basement, if it isn’t done already, can add between $3.50 and $6.50 per sq.ft. and is not always that easy as a DIY project. However, clearing the basement yourself, including removal of old existing insulation can save a significant amount of time, therefore saving labor and subsequently saving on cost.
  • Type of Insulation – The type of insulation includes fiberglass, rigid and spray foam, the cost of these will vary depending on the r-value provided by the insulation. Insulation, of any of the 3 kinds, with r-values of R-13 are the cheapest, with R-21 being the most costly with prices up to $2.70 per sq.ft for material and $1.30 per sq.ft. for labor.
  • Re-Finishing or Replacement of Drywall – The installation cost of drywall will average between $1.30 and $2.00 per sq. ft, including labor.
  • DIY or Pro – DIY is obviously cheaper but not always easy if you’ve never fitted basement insulation before, however there are certain aspects of the job which can be DIY, including preparation of the basement as discussed above. However, if you choose to truly DIY, then you can save yourself $0.55 sq.ft. to $1.30 sq.ft. on labor, which on a 500 sq.ft. job can save you between $250 and $600 on average.

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