What is rock wool? It was first discovered as a byproduct of volcanic activity, where lava came into contact with air and cooled into fibers. Modern manufacturing processes spin molten rock into thin fibers. The process is said to look like cotton candy production.
After adding a binder to the fibers and letting it cure, the batts get cut into the required dimensions and are ready for packaging.
The rock wool option subtly slipped into the picture for a number of reasons:
- It has the thermal resistance we are looking for.
- Unlike spray polyurethane foam (SPF), rock wool is not a petroleum based product.
- It has a high recycled content.
- Because rock wool is made out of stone and slag, it won’t burn.
- It is a very economic insulation material (typically around $0.16 per board foot), more economic than SPF or recycled cotton batts.
- Rock wool is very easy to handle and install.
I found two rock wool manufacturers (Roxul and Thermafiber) that distribute their products in Chicago. The Roxul Comfort Batt was sold for a price that fit our budget at the Chicago Green Depot, where I placed my order and picked up the material.
The batts are very light and dimensioned to fit between 16 inches on center wall framing or floor joists. Due to their somewhat soft nature, we could squeeze the batt, slide it between the framing and let go. Right away it expands back to its original size and firmly sits between the studs or floor joists.
We appreciated the ease with which rock wool can be cut. A long, serrated bread knife was the perfect tool to trim the batts to the required length or fit them around outlets and light switches.