The Difference Between Cellulose and Vermiculite Insulation Explained

When it comes to the insulation inside your house, there are several potential options. Among the two leading possibilities for what you will find are Vermiculite insulation and Cellulose insulation. Within Vermiculite there was the possibility of it containing asbestos.  As you have probably heard, asbestos is a dangerous substance that should not be released near humans or pets, and cellulose has been widely used as the replacement everywhere asbestos is replaced or would have been used in the past.

But what is the real difference, and how can you tell the difference between cellulose and vermiculite insulation? Is it safe to breathe what’s behind your walls? This article will answer all your questions about the crucial differences between cellulose and vermiculite insulation when you see it in the walls of your home.

The Differences Between Cellulose and Vermiculite Insulation

What is Vermiculite Insulation?

Vermiculite insulation was a popular form of insulation for homes built between the 1940s and the 1970s. This includes millions of homes constructed or renovated during this time. Asbestos is actually a type of mineral called a fibrous silicate. It is made of tiny sharp particles of silicate, like sand but smaller and more cancerous. 

What Vermiculite Insulation Looks Like

Asbestos can be mixed into many types of older insulation, so it can be tough to spot. However, compared to cellulose insulation, it tends to be lumpier – it degrades into pebble shapes – and more metallic-looking.

What is Cellulose Insulation?

Cellulose is plant fiber. It can be made of shredded paper, cardboard, newspaper, hemp, straw, and other forms of plant fiber. It is often recycled and is highly recyclable.

What Cellulose Insulation Looks Like

Cellulose insulation looks like lumpy shredded paper, grayish to yellowish, and similar to the pulp used to press your own paper if you’ve done this craft. Of course, with so many sources, it varies in appearance. It can also be installed in pressed panels, dry blow-in fluff, or wet spray-in pulp.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Cellulose Insulation?



  • Eco-friendly: Cellulose is highly renewable, as it can be made of plant material, is often recycled material, and is later recyclable.
  • Non-Toxic: Cellulose insulation has little to no VOCs and is typically safe to touch if you open the wall.
  • Energy-efficient: A good insulator that keeps out the weather. It does especially well when wet-sprayed in and sealed to wall materials.
  • Sound-proofing: Good for making rooms sound-resistant from outside sounds and sounds between rooms
  • Affordable: Cellulose is not a pricey material.


  • Water-soluble: Cellulose can be water resistant, but it can become soggy or grow mold if soaked in a leak.
  • Flammable: Cellulose can be treated as fire-resistant but is as flammable as dry paper and plants often are.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Vermiculite Insulation?

Why Asbestos Used to be Popular

  • Fireproofing: Asbestos was initially favored because of its heat and fire-resistant properties.
  • Energy-efficient: Asbestos provides good thermal insulation and makes a home heat and energy efficient.
  • Easy to clean: Asbestos is a silicate fiber, so mold-resistant and easy to clean.
  • Durable: Asbestos is still in many homes because it degrades very slowly.

Disadvantages of Asbestos

  • Highly Toxic: Asbestos has been identified as both cancer-causing (carcinogen) and the cause of extreme eye and respiratory irritation.
  • Eco-unfriendly: Asbestos contaminates air, water, and soil and is toxic to most organic life, including humans, animals, and plants.
  • Air release: Asbestos releases into the air once you open a wall containing asbestos insulation.

Contact Energy Stars Heating & Cooling Co. to ensure your home is in the proper condition, or get expert help to perform future alterations when opening the walls. Contact us for an insulation consultation today.

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