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Insulating Walls in Historic Buildings

This page provides advice on improving the thermal performance of walls by adding insulation. The majority of older buildings have either solid masonry walls or timber framed walls or sometimes a combination of the two. Some masonry walls were built as cavity walls before this became a widespread form of construction after the First World War.

Solid walls

Methods and materials will vary according to the type of wall and whether it is being insulated externally or internally.

Insulating walls will alter the performance of the masonry. If the wall has not been well maintained and has damp-related problems then particular caution needs to be taken.

Adding wall insulation requires careful design, correct choice of materials, good detailing and high standards of workmanship if problems are to be avoided.

Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings: Insulating solid walls

Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings: Insulating solid walls

Published 30 March 2012

This guidance note provides advice on the principles, risks, materials and methods for insulating solid masonry walls.

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Early cavity 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 from driving rain in exposed locations. As these early forms of cavity wall tended to have very narrow cavities and bridging elements they are generally unsuitable for cavity fill insulation.

Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings: Early cavity walls

Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings: Early cavity walls

Published 30 March 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.

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Timber-framed walls

When insulating timber–framed buildings take great care with the design and installation of insulation to ensure thermal bridges are not created as well as problems of damp and associated timber decay.

Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings: Insulating timber framed walls

Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings: Insulating timber framed walls

Published 30 March 2012

This guidance note provides advice on the methods, materials and risks involved with insulating the walls of timber framed buildings.

Learn more