Insulation Types in UK Housing

Insulating your home can save money and help the environment. However, the many types of insulation available for different parts of your home can make it feel like an intimidating task to take on. We have compiled an easy to read guide that covers many different types of insulation, from loft to cavity wall. Read on to learn how to insulate your home, the benefits and the costs involved.

Loft Insulation

Loft Insulation

Loft insulation is very important because around a quarter of the heat in your home will be lost through the roof if it isn’t insulated or is inadequately insulated. Insulation usually comes in batts, rolls or loose in bags and some types are more difficult to fit than others. An insulated roof will lower your fuel bills as it will mean that your heating system is more efficient. You can insulate your loft with a variety of insulating materials. In a standard loft, the insulating materials are placed between and over the joists of the loft.

Roof Insulation

Roof insulation is usually carried out if you have converted your loft into a room. The roof can be insulated by using roof insulation materials such as rigid insulation boards which you put between the rafters, or foam, loose fill. Once they are in place you can then plasterboard over them and decorate to create the desired living space.

Wall Insulation

Wall insulation comes in various types, depending what kind of wall you want to insulate. There is:

Cavity Wall Insulation

A cavity wall is made up of two walls with a gap in the middle. Usually, one wall is made of brick and the other is made of concrete. The gap between the two walls means that air runs through it lowering the temperature in your home and making it more difficult to heat. Cavity wall insulation is applied by filling the gap in the wall cavity with a suitable insulating material. Most houses which were built after the 1920’s will more than likely have cavity walls.

Solid Wall Insulation

If your home was built before the 1920s then it is likely to have solid walls. Therefore, the walls do not have cavities. The walls will usually be made of brick or stone. The absence of cavities does not, however, mean they are an effective form of insulation as a solid wall can be just as ineffective as a cavity wall.

If you want to see if your home has a cavity or a solid wall you can usually tell if you look at the brickwork outside your home. If you can see full-length bricks with half-length bricks around the middle of the wall this is a good sign that you have a solid wall. Another way to find out is to measure your wall from a door or window. If it is thinner than 30cm it is probably a solid wall. It is possible to insulate a solid wall with internal or external insulation.

Internal Wall Insulation

Internal Wall Insulation can be done by applying boards or rolls of insulation to the walls. The installation will mean that your floor space is slightly reduced because of the extra thickness of the walls. The brickwork will also have to be prepared beforehand including re-plastering any existing damage to the walls before the insulation is fitted. If the walls are unsuitable for boarding for any reason, then a stud wall would have to be built. This would further decrease the size of the room.

Floor Insulation

Any gaps or spaces in your floor allow heat to escape. By insulating your floor you will help your heating system to become more energy efficient, thus saving you money on your heating bills.

Suspended Floor Insulation

You will need to take up your floorboards and then lay the insulation which can be loose-fit or in a roll, between the joists. If you have a basement underneath your floor rigid boards can be applied to the ceiling which will give added insulation to the room above.

Solid Floor Insulation

Solid floors can be insulated with rigid boards. Thereafter your desired or existing flooring can be installed on top of them. This, however, will raise your previous floor level and so it is necessary to take into account that doors, skirtings and electrical sockets may have to be adjusted.

Crawl Space Insulation

You can insulate your crawlspace with mineral roll or loose-fill insulation. Be careful with ventilation though. If you have existing ventilation you can use mineral wool as long as you cover it afterwards with a vapour barrier. If you don’t have ventilation just insulate the walls of the crawl space and not the floor above the space.

Ceiling Insulation

Most people add ceiling insulation if their house is newly built or being renovated. This is because to insulate you will need to remove the whole plasterboard ceiling. You won’t have to do this though if you want to insulate a room that is above a garage or a porch. Ceiling insulation can be done using fibreglass or rock wool batts or blankets, loose fill or panels.

Understanding Insulation Materials

Here is a rundown of the most commonly used materials for industry-standard insulation:

Blanket Insulation

Blanket insulation comes in a roll of foam-backed mineral fibre, felt, glass, rock or sheep’s wool. It is fairly simple to install, and it will fit easily into wall cavities. You might find though that small spaces are more difficult to insulate using this type of insulation.

Rock Mineral Wool Insulation

Rock Mineral Wool is made from rock and other raw materials which are melted down and then spun into fibres so that it looks like wool. It’s sold in batts, loose fill or rolls.

Rock Mineral Wool Insulation gives you better protection against fire because the fibres are non-combustible. It’s also a good way to insulate your home against background noise as it will absorb some of the sound.

Sheet Loft Insulation

Sheet loft insulation is the perfect roof insulation material. The sheets are rigid and can be treated so that they are fire or moisture resistant. Although sheet loft insulation is more expensive than standard mineral fibre rolls, it is a better performing product.

Loose-Fill Insulation

If you choose a loose-fill option for your insulation, it means that you are dealing with a lighter material. This is a good choice if you have awkward spaces to fill as it avoids time-consuming cutting of blanket rolls. You can buy it in bags and simply spread it around to fill in the gaps. You’ll need to make sure you have enough to cover your loft floor to a depth of 200mm for it to work effectively.

Glass Mineral Wool (Glass Wool)

Glass Wool Insulation is made from sand and recycled glass which eventually ends up looking like wool, but with plenty of air pockets which means it is a good thermal insulator. It is also good to help with soundproofing.

Sheep’s Wool Insulation

Sheep’s wool insulation is a popular environmentally friendly choice with many advantages. Firstly, it doesn’t burn so it is a safe option. Secondly, it’s easy to work with as it is unlikely to cause any skin irritation or breathing difficulties. It’s great for helping with soundproofing and it absorbs water so you won’t need to worry about any ventilation issues. Finally, it insulates really well.

Rigid Foam Insulation

Rigid foam boards are sold as sheets that can be purchased and then cut to size. There are three main types of Rigid Board Insulation and they are:

PIR/PUR Boards

They have an aluminium backing and are made from closed cells which minimise water absorption. PIR boards have a higher heat resistance so they are safer in the event of a fire.

Phenolic Boards

They are also made with closed cells to reduce water absorption. Although the boards are thin they have the advantage of a higher R-Value, but the disadvantage is that they can work out to be more expensive than other forms of insulation.

Expanded Polystyrene (EPS)

This is the cheapest of the three boards and it has an open cell structure which does mean that water vapour can get through. It is made from polystyrene balls which are moulded together to create a block. Prices vary depending which type of insulation you choose. Blanket and Loose-Fill insulation are amongst the cheapest options with Spray Foam and Boards being the most expensive.

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