Cavity wall insulation problems tent to be a fairly hot topic on the forums and one that gets people extremely vocal. So I thought I’d try to shed a little light on the topic.
So what are the most common problems that may or may not happen following retrofitted cavity wall insulation?
Lots of people say not to retrofit cavity wall insulation as it causes cavity wall insulation problems such as allowing damp to cross the cavity and damage your home.
So are they right?
Yes and no, they’re right when they say filling a cavity provides a bridge for moisture to get across from the outside of the wall to the inside.
People tend to just condemn all cavity wall insulation materials when it’s not that straight forward.
The two most common types of insulation used when retrofitting cavities are blown in mineral fibre and glued EPS (expanded polystyrene) beads.
In both scenarios there is a risk of moisture penetration and other cavity wall insulation problems, but in scenario 2 you have a much better chance of the wall drying out before it causes any serious damage.
Whereas in option 1 once it’s wet you have very little chance of drying it out and the best solution is to have the insulation removed and either leave it empty or possibly replace with EPS beads.
Probably the biggest cavity wall insulation problem is driving rain, if you live in a an area which is exposed to driving winds then you are at a higher risk of moisture penetration. If you live in zone 1 or 2 on the map below then you are at less risk.
The BRE (Building Research Establishment) suggest that the maximum exposure recommended for installing retrofit cavity wall insulation is in zones 1 and 2. This is because the exposure to wind driven rain in zones 3 and 4 runs too big a risk of driving rain making its way into the cavity where it can cause problems.
You could also suffer from moisture penetration from building defects such as cracks in the outer leaf of the wall structure, poor pointing or leaks from faulty gutters and downspouts etc.
Basically there are risks when you retrofit cavity wall insulation. So I'm not going to tell you to do it or not. But if you do, by reading this and part 2 you should be able to minimise the risk of experiencing problems.
I did have the cavities in my last house filled with Graphite EPS beads and was very happy with the results. It was in zone 2 and was well rendered with no cracks.
I did have one issue, where a damp patch appeared on the wall of my downstairs WC above the window head. I checked the outside of the wall and there were no cracks or leaking downspouts etc.
There was some decorative stone cladding adjacent to the affected area and the conclusion I came to was that the strong winds and rain the day before had likely allowed moisture to penetrate somewhere around the cladding.
I decided to leave it as there were no obvious defects and within a week it had dried out (thankfully without staining) and it never appeared again.
Click here to read part 2 of this article …