Beginning a journey to live more simply…

Using Natural Wool Insulation!

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Regarding our decision to use wool as opposed to the expanded foam board that was recommended by the Tumbleweed plans:

Gabby has been very comitted from the start to build this tiny home with the least amount of synthetic materials as possible. She is making impressive steps to remove as much plastic as she can from her personal life, and wanted to transfer her efforts to our tiny house build. She wasn’t too thrilled about the foam insulation, and felt there must be some kind of an alternative out there. Her research brought her to discover the use of sheep’s wool as an insulation material. She was intrigued right away. Of course, I was skeptical. We looked into it together and the more we learned, the more and more it just made sense.

Not only did it match our desire to utilize natural materials, but from a technical standpoint it really does seem like a comparable (if not superior!) alternative to standard insulation materials.

Things we like about using wool insulation:

-A natural, renewable resource.

-Provides comparable R-value ratings to standard insulation materials.

-Naturally fire-resistant (we’ve been learning about fire retardant chemicals commonly used in housholds, and are pretty wigged out to say the least!).

-Absorbs chemicals, such as formaldehyde, acting as a ‘filter’ of sorts that can actually prevent “sick building syndrome”.

-Is, by the nature of wool, effective at dealing with the condensation challenges fiberglass or pulp insulation would face from a tiny house.

-Expands over time instead of clumping and settling.

-You don’t need to wear a hazmat suit and respirator to install your insulation. It won’t hurt you. (The fact that other insulation requires safety equipment to install really says it all right there, right?).

-SMELLS LIKE SHEEP! (a light, yet pleasant smell if you put your face into it…)

Things we like about Oregon Shepherd:

-Bob Workman was available on his personal cell phone, after hours, from the beginning to answer all of our questions about their product.

-They use local (Western United States, anyway) wool instead of importing European wool.

-They DO NOT USE POLYESTER OR OTHER PETROLEUM PRODUCTS in their wool to bind the insulation as most wool insulation makers do (they use a protien they developed to bind borax to the fibers).

-Impeccable customer service. They litterally bent over backwards for us.

-They’re located in Oregon. Having had the extreme privilege of growing up on the Southern Oregon Coast, it is personally rewarding to have a little Oregon with us wherever this tiny house may take us.


Comments on: "Using Natural Wool Insulation!" (25)

  1. Lydia Bernard said:

    Hi Gabby and Evan,

    I’m so proud of you! The sheep’s wool is absolutely amazing and exactly how it should be in a tiny house…any house.
    I am dreaming of one day having a tiny house. Watching all the happenings as they come up, you are (with others in tiny houses) pioneers in environmental consciousness.

    My present home is great, a 30 ft. long RV/trailer that I bought last summer. A happy camper, I’m in paradise, a lush, quiet campground in Trinidad, CA. My view is mostly of tall pines in a dense forest, off a road that borders the Pacific ocean.

    If I were to have a tiny house it would need to be built with the help of a construction firm. I don’t have a clue how to build anything.

    In the RV I have about 250 sq ft. of space, with a central “living” space and a nice (tight on the sides) bedroom, and a full bath (1/2 size tub/shower).

    RV’s are not energy efficient at all; nor are they free of the toxic elements. As I am highly sensitive to the elements (odors, toxics) it’s surprising to me that I haven’t found this troublesome. Nevertheless, I always have a window cracked open, and open up everything on warmer days.

    The refrigerator is completely quiet. I like that. It isn’t deep, but has plenty of room. I’ve learned how to be in a small space (training for the tiny house movement).

    You’ve done it so well. The construction and end results are fabulous. Congratulations!

    At the end of March I’m going by (Jay’s) tiny house in Sebastopol, CA. to see for myself.

    Best of everything!
    Lydia Bernard

  2. Eleanor the Great said:

    Hi! What a great bit of advice, I’ve never even heard of wool as insulation! But of course it makes a lot of sense, now that it’s been put in front of me. 😉

    I’m curious, though, how do you keep it from becoming a pest issue? I suppose with a smaller house you are more likely to catch pest problems quickly, but I’m particularly concerned about moths…how did you deal with this? I saw that your supplier does do some treatment for this, but did you have to do anything else to seal it up or anything?

    I’m very new to learning about building materials and such. I love your site, though! I’d love to build one of these. 🙂

    • I’m also quite curious about this. I’m looking into using this same company for my insulation but want to make sure they don’t treat the wool with anything. Did you find out anything about this question about the moths/pests?

      • Hi Sarah,

        Oregon Shepherd does treat their wool, but they were the only company that we could find after loads of research that didn’t use nasty chemicals in their treatment. They use a proprietary blend of borax and a natural protein solution. Wool naturally repels most pests, and we have not had any problems with moths to date.

        Thanks for stopping by,
        Evan & Gabby

  3. David Hughes said:

    I have been following ‘The Tiny House’ saga. I have enjoyed Gabby and Evan’s trek through the art of constructing a Tiny Home. They seem to be on the right track when it comes to making the home a ‘natural home’. Using Sheep’s wool is an excellent form of insulation it can also be combined with shredded newspaper (black newsprint – *antiseptic qualities*) for increased R-Value.

    The spatial challenges in constructing these types of home are unique unto themselves. ‘Less can become More’, when used in an efficient/thoughtful way. I enjoyed the reference to Sebastopol, CA. Another area which should be visited is Occidental and Loganitias, CA.

    In regards to the ‘Loft Area’ there is a way to increase the sense of additional open space. If the floor was to be made of two equal parts, with hinges on the exterior wall side, along with a mechanism which would raise the bed (attached to its own wood foundation -to be draw to the apex of the ceiling crown – supported by the remaining portion of the split floor foundation) -would give the optical visual ion of more open space; when the loft was not in use. Take it from someone who lived 8 months, in a ‘Nylon Condominium – California euphemism for – Arkansas ‘Tent’.

    • Hi David,

      Great suggestions! We needed to go with straight wool and avoid some of the other natural insulation options such as recycled news print and shredded denim due to the moisture considerations that arise from living in such a small space. Our research suggested that these materials do not fare near as well as wool in moist conditions. As we opted out of the plastic sheeting of a vapor barrier, we’ll be on the front lines of the vapor/moisture battle!

      I found myself getting a twinkle in my eye as I was reading your suggestions for the loft area, envisioning such a cool effect…

      Thanks for your kind words and feedback,
      Evan & Gabby

  4. Hi Gabby and Evan
    Congratulations on your home.
    I am presently gathering materials to build my own wee house on wheels and want to have natural insulation.
    As I ask questions regarding wool I am told I still need a vapour barrier. What was the reason that you did not use one?
    I love the loose fibers of wool and wonder what made you choose this over wool batts or blow-in ?
    Thanks for your help.
    All the best.

    • Hi Kate,

      Thanks! You bring up some good questions regarding the natural wool insulation.

      Vapor barrier: We thought a lot about this, and to be very honest- we decided to take a risk based on some of the positive natural properties inherent in wool. Gabby is very keen on keeping as much plastic out of our tiny house as possible. We’ve taken great, thoughtful care to do so, often at a very increased cost to the project’s bottom line. To then hang sheets of plastic behind every wall seemed to completely contradict this effort. SO- we opted to forgo a formal vapor barrier and will be strictly relying on the wool’s vapor-absorbing qualities, and will pay very particular attention to the venting of the tiny house (especially when cooking, bathing, and doing laundry)…

      We went with the blow-in over the batting only because that was the only product option that Oregon Shepherd was offering at the time we needed to purchase. This decision was not to make a statement about blow-in versus batting, but entirely at statement of determination to go with Oregon Shepherd. They were hands-down the best company that we found during our research. They are the only ones we could find that did not use any petrochemicals in the bonding of the wool fibers. As well, they use a completely natural fire-retardant process. Two things that allowed them to EASILY stand out above the other competition. To top it off, they turned out to be extraordinary folks with impeccable customer service. We cannot recommend them highly enough!

      • Hi, I saw that you were saying you guys didn’t use vapour barrier on the insulation, as you were opting out of plastic in as many ways as you could. However, I noticed in the pictures when you guys are building the house, there’s wrap that’s under the outer boards that says “Green Guard Wrap”. What is that wrap? Isn’t that plastic? What is it for, and if it’s plastic, why did you use it. If it isn’t plastic….again, why did you use it?

        I don’t know much about the nitty-gritty of constructing houses, and am very interested in building my own little house

      • Hy Lynx,

        Great question. We did make a very intentional effort to minimize plastics in our tiny home. Being as it was outside of the living space, we did budge on putting up a layer of standard house wrap to protect the plywood sheeting under the cedar siding.

        Really experimenting with how to build a structure that can last a bit balanced with our desire to steer clear of plastics as best we could.

        Thanks for stopping by,
        Evan & Gabby

  5. […] earth friendly products in your build. Evan & Gabby used natural wool in their Tumbleweed build. Jay likes to use beeswax to polish up his floors and walls vs. more […]

  6. […] Insulation. Oregon Shepherd, a company located about 40 miles Northwest of Portland, makes wool insulation and we’re thinking of going with this company. Wool insulation is awesome because it’s local, non-toxic, and a wonderful alternative to plastic/fiberglass. For more information read: Using Natural Wool Insulation. […]

  7. […] to stick to natural materials like wood and metal and avoid plastics when possible. They even used sheep’s wool insulation. Have you used these materials? Any reviews? Sheep wool […]

  8. Great post! I’m getting ready to build a Tumbleweed Fencl of my own and I’m really into the idea of using a natural insulation. One question: How does wool compare in price to what Tumbleweed recommends?

    • Great question Ethan,

      Tumbleweed suggested the foam board insulation. That was an option that never really interested us, so we did not look into it. We really have no idea of the costs associated with it. However, when researching wool as a natural alternative to traditional fiberglass insulation, we found wool to be comparable in price, if not just a tad more expensive. Certainly close enough for us to feel confident in moving forward with it as a realistic option. We’re quite pleased with the choice so far!

      Thanks for stopping by,
      Evan & Gabby

  9. I love the sheeps wool insulation! It’s naturally anti-microbial and smells/feels awesome. You definitely wouldn’t want to cuddle up with fiberglass the way you’d want to cuddle up with the wool insulation. I’ve seen it come in 16″ and 24″ batts, too, for another kind of installation. I wonder if the loose insulation settles over time? I’m trying to figure out whether I want the UltraTouch denim insulation (also super soft, awesome, and safe and non-toxic) or the Sheeps wool…I might end up using a little bit of both since the tiny house I’m building is going to double as a classroom/sustainable education and building showcase!
    Great post, love the kitty in the insulation, so cute!

  10. Thought provoking as you would expect.

  11. Hi I was hoping you could personally email me in regards to how your home is doing now months later. My husband and I live in Maine. The home we have now is off grid all solar and propan appliances, we purchased 10 additional acres in our backyard are in the process of building a home from the beams and lumber my husband personally cut off the land. We will be using wool as well, but are also leaning towards doing it ourselves and purchasing washed clean wool then soaking it in borax water solution to hopefully keep pests out. I’d like to know how moisture control is going for you. We live in a damp high humidity area and near the ocean, summers are very humid and spring and fall rainy and damp. We would like to not use a plastic moisture barrier as we would like to keep out anything not natural. How is it going for you with not having a barrier? Our home will have 2 lofts on each side of the house, south facing for passive solar heat along with a pioneer princess wood cookstove. How’s the moisture level in your home? Thanks so much!

  12. Sara Giron said:

    What are the benefits of wool vs. straw in a tiny home? Did you consider using straw?

  13. […] earth friendly products in your build. Evan & Gabby used natural wool in their Tumbleweed build. Others likes to use beeswax to polish up his floors and walls vs. more […]

  14. Hi Evan and Gabby! We are building a tiny house, and care-taking on a sheep farm, so definitely want to use wool insulation. We’re wondering how many pounds did you end up using? We have hundreds of pounds of wool that’s been offered to us, and want to get it cleaned etc. Thanks for all of your inspiring articles and pictures!

    Sar + Jos.

    • Hi Sar and Jos,

      Congrats on making the decision to pursue your project! It has absolutely changed our lives for the better.

      Living on a sheep farm sounds a bit like heaven… I’ll have to dig back through our posts and paperwork to find out the exact amount of wool we ended up needing. Don’t recall off the top of the head. It is buried in the blog somewhere.

      In the mean time, good luck with your build! Enjoy every second of the experience…

      Evan & Gabby

  15. After having lived in your tiny home for a while, how do you feel now about not having a vapor barrier? Has there been any negative effect from that decision, at all?

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