Brick or block masonry wall insulation retrofit:
This article describes procedures and materials for the insulation retrofit for a brick or block masonry wall cavity.
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The accompanying text is reprinted/adapted/excerpted with permission from Solar Age Magazine - editor Steven Bliss. Our page top photo shows the Sheffield Stable in Saugerties, NY when we inspected it in 2005. This structural brick building was uninsulated and under consideration for restoration.
What Foam Insulation is Best for Retrofitting the Cavity in a Brick-and-Block Wall?
What foam insulation would be appropriate for retrofitting the cavity in a brick and block masonry wall?
How about a 1980's product called Dacotherm, which I heard about a couple of years ago?
- Blair Pollock, Integrated Energy Systems, Chapel Hill NC
According to Jerry Carrier, an engineer at the Brick Institute of America in McLean VA, the 1-inch cavity between the brick and the blocks should not be filled with any type of insulation. That space is there to let any moisture that gets into the wall drain out.
If you fill the air space between brick wythes or between a brick veneer and a structural block wall, moisture may be trapped within the wall.
In a freezing climate moisture trapped in a masonry wall can lead to serious structural damage from frost.
Mike Ondra, a designer with the Shelter Design Group, Stoney Run PA, said that although he had heard of some retrofits where the 1-inch cavity in the masonry wall was foamed full of urethane insulation (in the 1970's or 1980's), he had never tried it himself.
Ondra preferred (in a 1985 interview) to stud up an interior 2x3 wall and fill that cavity with foam insulation. The stud wall is build one-inch out from the masonry wall to ensure that the foam forms an uninterrupted thermal break with the outdoor-exposed masonry wall.
Another option is to nail the ties directly to the studs between each 24-inch course of rigid insulation board glued to the interior surface of the masonry wall [discussed at BRICK VENEER WALL AIR LEAKS].
Keep in mind however that insulating inside of a masonry building loses the potentially beneficial effect (in some climates) of the thermal mass of the building.
See THERMAL MASS in BUILDINGS and
see THERMAL MASS WALL DESIGN as
well as THERMAL MASS in HOMES - STUDY.
Solar Age also contacted Diamond Shamrock (Irving TX), the manufacturers of Dacotherm, a loose-fill inert silicate material. They do not recommend the use of Dacotherm in block walls. Dacotherm is biodegradable. If it gets wet it breaks down. It is suitable for dry locations.
Our foam insulation photograph (above) shows testing for air leaks at voids in a spray-applied icynene foam insulation retrofit project.
Here we include solar energy, solar heating, solar hot water, and related building energy efficiency improvement articles reprinted/adapted/excerpted with permission from Solar Age Magazine - editor Steven Bliss.
The link to the original Q&A article in PDF form immediately below is preceded by an expanded/updated online version of this article.
Q & A: How to add Insulation in a Brick or Block Wall: Insulating a Brick Cavity - PDF version, use your browser's back button to return to this page
Continue reading at BRICK VENEER WALL AIR LEAKS or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.
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