As we move into autumn and ultimately to winter, temperatures are already beginning to shift from sweltering summer heat to more moderate fall levels. With that change comes the wardrobe to match: It's almost time to break out the sweaters, boots, wool socks, jackets and waterproof shells. But as you prepare to keep your body protected from cold weather, consider how that process can influence how you protect your home. After all, your home is almost like an extension of your body – if you can't protect it from the elements, you'll feel the consequences.
The layered approach
Any person who's accustomed to dressing for cold weather will tell you, it's all about layers. Don't try to get one single garment to eliminate all possibility of cold air or moisture – take a more balanced approach. Ultimately, a single jacket – no matter how thick and long – can't protect your hands, feet or face. Similarly, the best insulation utilizes a system of layers so that each performs a specific task. Altogether, these materials form a strong, continuous insulation that protects the entire home.
Air and moisture protection
The thickest wool sweater won't be of much help against sleet, snow and wind. That's because the moisture will soak the material through and the wind will easily pass through the woven threads. The sweater makes for a great layer, but if you're facing a wintry mix, it's best to top it off with at least a rain jacket. In the home, internal wall insulation – whether that's fiberglass, spray foam or rigid foam board – won't do the job against wind-driven rain or snow. That requires an outer protective air and moisture barrier to provide the necessary first line of defense.
If you manage to layer up with the thickest materials possible that are also capable of keeping out moisture, you'll stay warm. But you might not be comfortable – your body will produce heat that can make you sweat and feel stuffy under all those layers. If your skin can't breathe, you'll defeat the purpose of fighting the cold air. That's why it's important to use ventilation where possible or moisture-wicking base layers to keep you dry and comfortable. In the home, the same holds true: You don't want air to become stale and dank. The best insulation systems include semi-permeable barriers that restrict air movement enough to keep out poor conditions but still allow the house to breathe.
Protection at the seams
The most vulnerable parts of your body are where the sleeves meet the gloves, where the pants meet the socks, and where your hat meets the collar of the jacket. You have to take care to protect these oft-exposed areas or else they'll bear the brunt of wind and cold. In the building, the same holds true: Any joist, corner or wall seam is an at-risk area for air and moisture infiltration. But companies like Sto Corp offer products specially-designed to protect those areas, along with continuous insulation to cover up the entire building.
As winter approaches, remember to dress yourself appropriately – but make sure that the same thinking applies to your home, too.