Insulate a floor over unconditioned space with conditioned space above (such as a cantilevered floor, the second floor overhang of a garrison colonial house, the underside of a projecting bay, the ceiling of an inset porch, or the ceiling of a vented crawlspace) by adding insulation and air sealing as follows:
- Inspect the overhanging floor framing to verify existing conditions and develop specific detailing for insulating the overhanging area.
- Provide four control layers that are continuous between the overhanging floor and wall assemblies: water, air, vapor, and thermal.
- Install insulation to levels that meet or exceed the thermal requirements of the current adopted building and energy codes.
See the Compliance Tab for related codes and standards requirements, and criteria to meet national programs such as DOE’s Zero Energy Ready Home program, ENERGY STAR Certified Homes, and Indoor airPLUS.
Cantilevered floors and floors over unconditioned space in existing homes are frequently found to be uninsulated and not air sealed, causing cold (or hot) areas in the rooms above these floors. Configurations where these overhangs occur include the second-floor overhang of a garrison colonial style house, the underside of a projecting bay, the ceiling of an inset porch, or the ceiling of a vented crawlspace with conditioned space above. There are several methods for air sealing and insulating these types of building configurations. Regardless of which method is used, any seams in the “ceiling” of the cantilever framing cavities should be air sealed before the cavities are insulated and any open floor joist bays that extend from the cantilever into the home must be blocked with some solid blocking material such as rigid foam or plywood and air sealed at the edges. For more information about air sealing cantilevered floors see the guide Cantilevered Floor.
Rigid Insulation below Framing and Cavity Insulation, Finish Material to Underside of Overhang
Figure 1 shows an assembly that is typical for a porch ceiling under a second-story room or the overhang of the second floor of a garrison colonial style home. Any existing finishing material such as plywood is removed from the underside of the overhang framing to minimize the change in elevation of the overhang. The framing cavities are then filled with batt or blown fibrous insulation and rigid foam is attached to the bottoms of the framing joists. Seams in the rigid foam are sealed with tape and a new finish material is installed to cover the rigid foam. This finish material might be fiber cement or engineered wood siding or painted plywood or OSB.
Closed-Cell Spray Foam Insulation in Cavities and Encapsulating Framing
The approach shown in Figure 2 is typical under a first-floor bay or for a vented crawlspace with conditioned space above. The framing is encapsulated with spray foam to decouple the framing from the ground or crawlspace thermal and moisture conditions. The standoffs may be replaced with 2x2 furring if needed for attaching the protection layer (e.g., cement board).
How to Insulate an Overhanging Floor Above Unconditioned Space
- Inspect the structural integrity of the overhanging floor. Check the framing for any deficiencies, rot, insect damage, etc. Proceed only after needed repairs are performed. Based on the findings, revise the floor assembly and review specific detailing as needed. Follow the minimum requirements of the current adopted building and energy codes.
- Air seal the joist cavities of the overhanging floor. Block any open bay that extend into the home’s conditioned space, for example that connect to the space between the first and second floors. Use a solid blocking material to block the bays and air seal around edges as described in the guide Cantilevered Floor.
- Install either loose-fill, batt, or spray foam insulation in the ceiling cavities, then install polyisocyanurate or XPS insulating sheathing to the underside of the framing. Tape the seams of the insulating sheathing to create a robust air control layer, as shown in Figure 1 and Figure 3. ALTERNATELY, install closed-cell spray foam insulation in the cavities and encapsulate the framing, as shown in Figure 2 and Figure 4.
- Install a protective layer of cement board or plywood over the insulating sheathing. ALTERNATELY, apply intumescent coating or other thermal ignition barrier over spray foam if required by code. To protect the spray foam from rodents and/or birds, attach blocking to the existing framing and attach a protective layer of cement board or plywood as shown in Figure 5.
No information at this time.
The floor assembly should be designed for a specific hygrothermal region, rain exposure zone, and interior climate.
The map in Figure 1 shows the climate zones for states that have adopted energy codes equivalent to the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) 2009, 12, 15, and 18. The map in Figure 2 shows the climate zones for states that have adopted energy codes equivalent to the IECC 2021. Climate zone-specific requirements specified in the IECC are shown in the Compliance Tab of this guide.
The insulation levels should be based on the minimum requirements for vapor control in the current adopted building code and the minimum requirements for thermal control in the current energy code. (See Table R601.3.1 Class III Vapor Retarders of the 2009 IRC (ICC 2009a) and Table R702.7.1 Class III Vapor Retarders of the 2012 IRC (ICC 2009b). Additional insulation can be added above these minimums to create high R-Value floor assemblies. The table below provides the minimum thermal resistance (R-value) requirements for framed floors specified in the 2009 IECC (ICC 2009b) and the 2012 IECC (ICC 2012b), based on climate zone.
The Compliance tab contains both program and code information. Code language is excerpted and summarized below. For exact code language, refer to the applicable code, which may require purchase from the publisher. While we continually update our database, links may have changed since posting. Please contact our webmaster if you find broken links.
ENERGY STAR Certified Homes requires that ceiling, wall, floor, and slab insulation levels meet or exceed those specified in the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) with some alternatives and exceptions, and achieve Grade 1 installation per RESNET Standards (see 2009 and 2012 IECC Code Level Insulation – ENERGY STAR Requirements, Insulation Installation (RESNET Grade 1 and Insulation Installation (RESNET Grade 1) - Part 2). If the state or local residential building energy code requires higher insulation levels than those specified in the 2009 IECC, you must meet or exceed the locally mandated requirements.
Rater Design Review Checklist
3. High-Performance Insulation.
3.1 Specified ceiling, wall, floor, and slab insulation levels comply with one of the following options:
3.1.1 Meets or exceeds 2009 IECC levels4, 5, 6 OR;
3.1.2 Achieves ≤ 133% of the total UA resulting from the U-factors in 2009 IECC Table 402.1.3, per guidance in Footnote 4d, AND specified home infiltration does not exceed the following:5, 6
- 3 ACH50 in CZs 1, 2
- 2.5 ACH50 in CZs 3, 4
- 2 ACH50 in CZs 5, 6, 7
- 1.5 ACH50 in CZ 8
Footnote 4) Specified levels shall meet or exceed the component insulation levels in 2009 IECC Table 402.1.1. The following exceptions apply:
a. Steel-frame ceilings, walls, and floors shall meet the insulation levels of 2009 IECC Table 402.2.5. In CZ 1 and 2, the continuous insulation requirements in this table shall be permitted to be reduced to R-3 for steel-frame wall assemblies with studs spaced at 24 in. on center. This exception shall not apply if the alternative calculations in d) are used;
b. For ceilings with attic spaces, R-30 shall satisfy the requirement for R-38 and R-38 shall satisfy the requirement for R-49 wherever the full height of uncompressed insulation at the lower R-value extends over the wall top plate at the eaves. This exemption shall not apply if the alternative calculations in d) are used;
c. For ceilings without attic spaces, R-30 shall satisfy the requirement for any required value above R-30 if the design of the roof / ceiling assembly does not provide sufficient space for the required insulation value. This exemption shall be limited to 500 sq. ft. or 20% of the total insulated ceiling area, whichever is less. This exemption shall not apply if the alternative calculations in d) are used;
d. An alternative equivalent U-factor or total UA calculation may also be used to demonstrate compliance, as follows: An assembly with a U-factor equal or less than specified in 2009 IECC Table 402.1.3 complies. A total building thermal envelope UA that is less than or equal to the total UA resulting from the U-factors in Table 402.1.3 also complies. The performance of all components (i.e., ceilings, walls, floors, slabs, and fenestration) can be traded off using the UA approach. Note that Items 3.1 through 3.3 of the National Rater Field Checklist shall be met regardless of the UA tradeoffs calculated. The UA calculation shall be done using a method consistent with the ASHRAE Handbook of Fundamentals and shall include the thermal bridging effects of framing materials. The calculation for a steel-frame envelope assembly shall use the ASHRAE zone method or a method providing equivalent results, and not a series-parallel path calculation method.
Rater Field Checklist
1. High-Performance Fenestration & Insulation
1.3 All insulation achieves Grade I install. per ANSI / RESNET / ICC Std. 301. Alternatives in Footnote 4.4, 5
2. Fully-Aligned Air Barriers 6 At each insulated location below, a complete air barrier is provided that is fully aligned as follows:
Ceilings: At interior or exterior horizontal surface of ceiling insulation in Climate Zones 1-3; at interior horizontal surface of ceiling insulation in Climate Zones 4-8. Also, at exterior vertical surface of ceiling insulation in all climate zones (e.g., using a wind baffle that extends to the full height of the insulation in every bay or a tabbed baffle in each bay with a soffit vent that prevents wind washing in adjacent bays).7
Walls: At exterior vertical surface of wall insulation in all climate zones; also at interior vertical surface of wall insulation in Climate Zones 4-8.8
Floors: At exterior vertical surface of floor insulation in all climate zones and, if over unconditioned space, also at interior horizontal surface including supports to ensure alignment. Alternatives in Footnotes 11 & 12.10, 11, 12
2.6 Floors above garages, floors above unconditioned basements or crawlspaces, and cantilevered floors.
Please see the ENERGY STAR Certified Homes Implementation Timeline for the program version and revision currently applicable in in your state.
The DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Program is a voluntary high-performance home labeling program for new homes operated by the U.S. Department of Energy. Builders and remodelers who are performing retrofits on existing homes are welcome to seek certification for those homes through this voluntary program.
Exhibit 1 Mandatory Requirements.
Exhibit 1, Item 1) Certified under the ENERGY STAR Qualified Homes Program or the ENERGY STAR Multifamily New Construction Program.
Exhibit 2, Item 2) Ceiling, wall, floor, and slab insulation shall meet or exceed 2015 IECC levels and achieve Grade 1 installation, per RESNET standards. See the guide 2015 IECC Code Level Insulation – DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Requirements for more details.
2009 - 2021 IECC and IRC Minimum Insulation Requirements: The minimum insulation requirements for ceilings, walls, floors, and foundations in new homes, as listed in the 2009, 2012, 2015, 2018, and 2021 IECC and IRC, can be found in this table.
Section R402 Building Thermal Envelope.
Table R402.1.1 Insulation and Fenestration Requirements by Component.
Section R402.2.6 Floors.
Section R402.4 Air leakage (Mandatory).
Section R402.4.1 Building thermal envelope.
Section 402 Building Thermal Envelope.
Table R402.1.1 (R402.1.2 in 2015 and 2018 IECC) Insulation and Fenestration Requirements by Component.
Section R402.2.7 (R402.2.8 in 2015 and 2018 IECC) Floors.
Section R402.4 Air leakage (Mandatory).
Section R402.4.1 Building thermal envelope.
Section R101.4.3 (Section R501.1.1 in 2015, 2018, and 2021 IECC). Additions, alterations, renovations, or repairs shall conform to the provisions of this code, without requiring the unaltered portions of the existing building to comply with this code. (See code for additional requirements and exceptions.)
Section R317 Protection of Wood and Wood Based Products Against Decay.
Section R317.1. Location Required.
Section N1101.3 (Section N1107.1.1 in 2015 and 2018, N1109.1 in 2021 IRC). Additions, alterations, renovations, or repairs shall conform to the provisions of this code, without requiring the unaltered portions of the existing building to comply with this code. (See code for additional requirements and exceptions.)
Appendix J regulates the repair, renovation, alteration, and reconstruction of existing buildings and is intended to encourage their continued safe use.
Access to some references may require purchase from the publisher. While we continually update our database, links may have changed since posting. Please contact our webmaster if you find broken links.
There are two levels of floor insulation: high-efficiency insulation, which meets the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code, and ultra-efficient insulation, which is 25% more efficient than this national code. Using high-efficiency and ultra-efficient insulation along with professional installation (e.g., no gaps, voids, compression, or misalignment with air barriers; complete air barriers; and minimal thermal bridging) creates conditioned spaces that require very little heating and cooling, along with even comfort and quiet throughout the house.