Cavity Wall Insulation
Approximately a third of all the heat lost in an un-insulated home is lost through the walls. Cavity wall insulation insulates the space between your home’s inner and outer wall, and can save you up to £135 a year on your heating bills.
Do I have Cavity Walls?
Cavity wall insulation is intended for use with external walls with a gap, or cavity, between them. But how do you know if you have cavity walls?
- If your home was built in around 1932 onwards, it is highly likely that the external walls have cavities, although new homes (built in the last 10 years, from 1995) will already have the cavity insulated
- The pattern of the brick will give you a strong clue; if there is a cavity the bricks tend to be all laid lengthways, whereas solid walls have bricks alternately laid length ways then end-on (across the wall rather than along it so that one end is on the internal side of the wall and the other on the external side)
- Check an external doorway to see how thick the wall is – if it’s more than 30cm (11.5 inches) thick then you probably have a cavity wall.
- If you are in any doubt, your installer will be able to confirm exactly what type of wall you have and recommend the most suitable method of insulation.
If you don’t think you have cavity walls, remember that solid walls can be insulated too. Find out more details about Solid Wall Insulation here.
Do I already have cavity wall insulation?
You can check to see if your cavity wall has already been insulated by looking under your external window frames – if there are holes in the wall, you already have cavity wall insulation installed.
Will it work in my home?
Generally, the answer is yes, but check the following:
- Your external walls must have unfilled cavities (houses built in the last 10 years typically will have their cavities filled already)
- Timber framed walls with a studwork cavity, metal framed walls, concrete walls, and stone walls with uneven cavities are unsuitable for filling
- The house shouldn’t be more than 4 storeys tall
- The cavity should be at least 50 mm wide – your installer will be able to confirm this
- The brickwork or masonry should be in good condition
- If your house was built before 1940, it is likely that it doesn’t have a VDPC around the windows (Vertical Damp Proof Course), meaning that standard cavity insulation will cause condensation problems. If this is the case, you should install a VDPC or alternatively get solid wall insulation fitted.
- Dirt inside the wall will also cause condensation to occur, so you should check that the wall is clean before going ahead.
- If your wall in is a position where it is exposed to driving rain it might not be suitable as the rain may cause condensation inside.
If one or more of your walls has these issues, your house is not suitable for cavity wall insulation. Any gaps in cavity wall insulation lose heat more quickly than the same area of unfilled cavity wall, making the insulation a lot less effective. If your cavity wall is unsuitable for treatment, you can insulate it instead using solid wall insulation, which should be eligible for either partial or full funding under the ECO scheme, the grant scheme running alongside the Green Deal. Details of how to apply to this scheme have not yet been announced.
Installation is quick and simple for a professional installer and should not take more than a couple of hours, leaving no mess behind. Bigger homes might take a little longer.
As for choice of insulation material, mineral wool is the most common material used but is known to shift if not installed well, creating ‘cold spots’. Cellulose beads are the best material for staying put and reducing ‘cold spots’, with cheaper polystyrene beads and injected foam a close second.
If your cavity wall is a stone wall, you need a breathable (natural) insulation material such as sheep’s wool, hemp or paper (cellulose), which needs to be inserted slightly off from the wall (25mm) to prevent condensation issues.
Ensure that your installer is a member of a recognised professional body. We will only recommend certified installers. Installations by certified installers will be guaranteed for 25 years by the CIGA (Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency)
Costs and Maintenance
The Energy Saving Trust estimates that the cost of installation is around £100-350 for a 3 bed semi-detached house, though you may well be able to get your cavity wall insulation FREE through the HHCRO (Home Heating Cost Reduction Obligation) scheme, part of the ECO grant scheme. To find out if you qualify and sign up visit our HHCRO Free Insulation page.
There is no maintenance over and above what you would have to do to the exterior of your house anyway.
The annual saving for a 3 bed semi would be in the region of £110, and some estimates are more, which means that your costs will be paid back within 1-4 years, or immediately in the case of free insulation.
- My house is semi-detached/terraced and my neighbour(s) doesn't want cavity wall insulation. Can you still insulate my walls?
- Yes, your house can still be insulated. The installer will need to make a hole at the top and bottom of the wall to insert a spacer at the junction between the two houses. This prevents insulation being blown into the cavity of your neighbour's house.
- Are there grants available for cavity wall insulation and are there strict criteria as to who is eligible, like with loft insulation?
- There are grants available for cavity wall insulation available through the CERT (Carbon Emissions Reduction Target) scheme, which is available through the energy suppliers. You can apply to any of the larger suppliers regardless of whether you're a customer of theirs. The scheme is now only available through British Gas and Scottish Power, as most of the scheme shave run out - apply now if you could benefit. The ECO (Affordable Warmth) scheme is due to replace CERT, and is currently operating, but has stricter criteria on who's eligible, focusing on less well off customers.
- I want to use my loft for storage, how can I do that if it is insulated to the depth recommended?
- You or your installer can instead lay down innovative loft boards called Space Board. These are insulation boards made from Polyfoam extruded polystyrene designed to be placed on top of the ceiling joists instead of the 170mm mineral wool insulation. You should still aim to lay down 100mm of standard insulation between the joists.
- What is loft insulation made of?
- Typically, loft insulation is a mineral wool made out of glass or rock fibers. You can also get natural loft insulation made of sheep's wool, hemp or cellulose which will remove the need for protective equipment,
- Do I need to provide extra ventilation to my loft space if I insulate it?
- That depends on whether it is adequately ventilated at the moment. Increasing the amount of insulation in the loft can lead to condensation of water vapour on any timber there. If your loft is not properly ventilated your installer will advise you, and can install simple vents that will ensure an adequate air flow through the loft.
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