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Packing peanuts are not for insulation

Q: Can I use plastic shipping peanuts for insulation in the walls of my 1879 balloon-framed house?

Roger S. Apted, Milton, WI

A: Roe A. Osborn, a former associate editor, replies: The very reason why plastic peanuts work well as packing makes them a bad choice for wall insulation. Plastic peanuts hold air that helps cushion whatever is being shipped. In a wall cavity, they would offer little resistance to air movement, so they would be of limited R-value.

Another problem is that newer, environmentally friendly cornstarch peanuts dissolve when wet. Moisture passing through the walls could make your insulation dissolve over time. In addition, a supplier told me that most plastic peanuts are not fire-resistant. My advice is to take your peanuts to a recycler and to insulate your walls with something more substantial.

From Fine Homebuilding 102, pp. 20 May 1, 1996