BRE shines a light on cavity wall insulation risks

The argument against poorly installed cavity wall insulation installations have been happening for years but a new report shines a light on how damaging the unintended consequences of the measure can be. A report looking at the impact cavity wall insulation has had on homes in Wales was conducted by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) and highlights some of the risks.

Focussing on homes across Wales that have been retrofitted with cavity wall or external wall insulation, the report indicates that thousands of homes could be negatively affected by the practice, including experiencing damp and cracked walls. The findings were enough for BRE to recommend that further surveys were undertaken to fully assess the scale of the problem and that steps are now taken to improve performance, promote best practice and share lessons learnt around on-going refurbishment work.

It was found that many installations have been installed in unsuitable properties or without due regard for best practices in order to ensure that the insulation would provide the benefits to the dwellings it should. With over 900,000 homes in Wales having cavity walls and around half of these being insulated in 2008 it’s thought that the associated risks of cavity wall insulation can be affecting thousands of homes in the country.

BRE noted, “There is growing evidence which demonstrates that the industry has much work to do to improve the quality of site surveys and on-site workmanship. Furthermore, the industry needs to work with residents to educate and advise to support behaviour that avoids any unintended consequences of refurbishment, for example, poor ventilation leading to condensation, damp and mould.”

The report builds on concerns raised by others and the growing number of homes that are choosing to have their insulation removed after experiencing problems. The number of homes affected could be much higher than estimates suggest, as many homeowners don’t realise what the root cause of their problem is, meaning they often mask the issue but don’t fully address it. For example, homeowners experiencing damp may purchase a dehumidifier to remove mould while not realising that it is their cavity wall insulation that is causing the problem.

The BRE findings highlight how important it is for homeowners to fully understand what cavity wall insulation involves and how to find an installer they can rely on to provide the correct recommendations and workmanship.

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