The Bonus Room Builder Dilemma

The #1 Strategy for Helping You Build the Perfect Bonus Room

Chances are that you love your bonus room or are planning to love your new bonus room. You have probably made all types of plans and created storage space, added beautiful windows, maybe you even put in a skylight or wood floors. 

So why is the floor (and the entire room) so dang cold in the winter and hot in the summer? 

If you’ve got a bonus room in the attic or over the garage, you are probably nodding your head in agreement. 

Let’s face it, Chicago winters are tough, and no one wants to spend the winter holidays shivering inside their own home. 

I’m going to explain why this happens, what the common ways are around this issue why these solutions fail, and how you can easily solve this problem with proper planning and SPRAY FOAM INSULATION. 

Why Floors Are Cold 

While building codes may indicate that floors need to be insulated to an R-30 value, it is not at all uncommon to find floors that are at or below freezing when it is at or below zero outside. 

If you’ve ever sat in a bonus room and felt freezing cold air on your feet but the room itself is comfortable, then you know what I’m trying to describe. 

How does this happen?

When it comes to a bonus room, which is typically in the space over the garage, it is nearly impossible to install fiberglass batt insulation that will stay in constant contact with the floor above, to cut correctly to conform with the joist space and that all penetrations are properly caulked/ foamed to stop air leakage.

A few weeks after inspection, it is common that contact to the subfloor of your bonus room is not maintained, it allows spaces to air to circulate below your subfloor which will eventually start the process of condensation and further compression of that fiberglass batt to the ceiling of your garage proving that it is totally useless. Gravity works…. If the batts are not secure they will find their way to the bottom of the cavity within a year or two.

Using spray foam insulation during estimating, planning and construction is not typically an expense that most residential contractors are going to include but I can tell you after 15 years of selling foam, you will not be happy if you don’t!

Rooms Other Than Just Bonus Rooms Are Also Affected 

Most newer homes today are designed to have a unique or open feeling to them. This means that cold floors that are over unconditioned spaces such as porches, crawl spaces, or floors that extend beyond the exterior wall of the building can make for very cold floors.

Many new homes now come with wood floors, which only exacerbate the problem. Floors were certainly as cold as you are experiencing now, in the home you had twenty years ago but the wall to wall carpet upstairs, with a pad below it provided protection for your bare foot on the coldest nights, from feeling the cold.

This is why most builders face a complicated balancing act. They need to keep the cost of the home or bonus room affordable, and so they do a minimum amount of insulation, rarely consulting with a person like me before construction begins. 

Heated Plenums

One compromise is a soffit installed in the garage and insulated with a fiberglass batt material. This allows heated house air to be ducted into the space created under the floor without taking square feet of floor space away from the project. 

While this may help provide heat to the project, it doesn’t really address the long-term solution of comfort. 

Water pipes that are run within the plenum commonly freeze since there is no requirement for the proper insulation of the heated plenum.  Cold like February of 2021 will certainly expose these failures and cost you thousands of dollars in damage because you hired the wrong contractor and trusted them to insulate/ design properly.

When the plenum/ ceiling of your garage is not properly air-sealed, it can allow heated humid air to move through the insulation and create condensation, which can lead to mold and other structural problems. 

While there are workarounds, the cost is usually so high that most builders simply hope for the best. 

This inferior design will end up costing the building owner higher energy bills for as long as the building is standing. 

All of this is really unnecessary when there is a single, easy answer to these problems. 

Most builders face a complicated balancing act. They need to keep the cost of the home or bonus room affordable, and so they do a minimum amount of insulation

Spray Foam to the Rescue! 

The perfect way to supply comfortable temperatures to a bonus room is to install spray foam insulation which will serve as an air barrier material that has direct contact with the underside of the floor. 

Spray Foam Insulation will prevent heat loss from the room above and unlike a heated plenum, there is a reduction in the heat required for the coldest days. This will also reduce the risk of reduced air quality and/or condensation damage and mold. 

Spray foam insulation is the ideal solution for floors that are exposed to cold air and those bonus rooms that are so notorious for being too hot or too cold. 

At Chicago Green, we use spray foam products for combined insulation and an air barrier. Spray foam creates a reliable bond with the floor that won’t shrink, settle, sag, or lose its bond with the floor. 

Our installation will eliminate the frustration many experience with poorly insulated bonus rooms! 

Chicago Green Spray Foam insulation has had success when it comes to insulating floors over garages, crawl spaces, porches, and other spaces. 

Though this article is about cold floors, the same logic applies to the walls and roof of any bonus room project!  You need proper insulation on all sides of the room to be comfortable in the winter and summer!

Got Questions?

If you have questions about the insulation in your home, whether it’s a bonus room that won’t stay warm or other areas of the house that no one wants to use in the winter months, why not give us a call today? 

As I always say, Comfort is ONLY A FOAM CALL AWAY! 

Why not call right now while you are thinking of it? 

Don’t spend another freezing Chicago winter dressed like an Eskimo inside your home! Call Chicago Green today! 

About the Author, Tom Decker

With ten years of experience selling spray foam insulation in Chicago, Tom Decker is THE person to call and the Chicago Green Insulation is the organization to hire when you are looking for top notch quality and performance as well as someone who can deal with the needs of code officials, home owners and general contractors. Call the others in Chicago, if you are interested in the cheapest price, call Chicago Green Insulation if you are interested in using your dollars to make Chicago a better city for all of us!

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