There are three main types of conventional loose-fill insulation used in the walls and ceiling of residential and commercial buildings: fiberglass, cellulose and mineral wool. Each has certain advantages and disadvantages. This article looks at the third of the three – mineral wool insulation.
What is it?
Mineral wool is a fiber insulation like fiberglass, but it is made of natural materials instead of glass. There are two types of mineral wool: rock wool consists of fibers of natural stone (basalt or diabase, for example); slag wool consists of fibers made from iron-ore waste. It is sold in batts and as loose-fill, just like fiberglass. Mineral wool was, for many years, the most widely used type of insulation in North America and Europe.
- Mineral wool is naturally moisture-resistant. It retains its insulating qualities even when wet.
- Sound is blocked much more by mineral wool, so the interior of a building suffers less acoustic invasion .
- Mineral wool will not burn until temperatures reach beyond 1,800°F (1,000°C). The insulation actually performs as a fire barrier, slowing down house fires and giving the fire services more time to get things under control.
- Protective gear must be worn when installing mineral wool insulation: the tiny slivers will lodge in skin and are small enough to be inhaled.
- Inhaled slivers of mineral wool irritate the alveoli and can cause lung disease.
- There is some data which suggests mineral wool slivers in the lungs may cause cancer, by slicing DNA and causing cell mutation, in the same way as fiberglass.