Insulating walls

A large proportion of traditionally constructed buildings were built with solid masonry walls either brick or stone or sometimes a combination of the two.

Photograph illustrating the English Heritage web page on Saving Energy / Insulating Walls

Though these materials look very different their thermal properties are quite similar. Masonry walls are not good insulators and they often feel cold to the touch as they are conductors of heat. For this reason they are often considered suitable for insulating.

Solid Walls

Wall insulation will alter the performance of the solid wall and can in some cases either exacerbate existing moisture-related problems or create new ones. Particular caution needs to be taken with adding insulation to walls with a high moisture content.

Adding vapour barriers and materials that are highly resistant to the passage of water vapour are not normally appropriate for older buildings as they will tend to trap moisture and can increase the risk of decay to the fabric.

Read more about insulating solid walls:

  • Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings: Insulating solid walls
    Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings: Insulating solid walls
    Publication Date: 30 Mar 2012
    This guidance note provides advice on the principles, risks, materials and methods for insulating solid masonry walls.
    More info

Timber framed buildings

For timber framed buildings the introduction of insulation demands great care being taken in the design and installation to ensure thermal bridges are not created and problems of damp and associated timber decay are not triggered in particular to the structural timber frame.

However, the nature of timber framed construction provides more opportunities for the provision of insulation to the walls without the introduction of as many technical risks as there are with solid walls.

Read more about insulating timber framed buildings:

  • Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings: Insulating timber framed walls
    Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings: Insulating timber framed walls
    Publication Date: 30 Mar 2012
    This guidance note provides advice on the methods, materials and risks involved with insulating the walls of timber framed buildings.
    More info

Hollow Walls

At the start of the 19th century ' hollow walls' with two separate leaves of masonry were developed to provide as much protection as possible from the elements, especially driving rain in exposed locations. After the First World War this type of wall became much more common and the 'cavity wall' is now the standard form of new wall construction for most domestic buildings.

Although cavity wall insulation can be cheap and quick to install early cavity walls can be present more difficulties than later forms of construction.

Read more about installing insulation in early cavity walls:

  • Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings: Early cavity walls
    Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings: Early cavity walls
    Publication Date: 30 Mar 2012
    This guidance note provides advice on the principles, risks, materials and methods for improving the thermal performance of buildings built with early forms of masonry cavity walls dating from before the Second World War.
    More info