What is thermal bridging?
If you are interested in making your property more energy efficient, you might have heard of the term 'thermal bridging'. But what does it mean and how can you work towards addressing the issues around it?
Firstly, thermal bridging is generally a bad thing, which occurs when there is a gap between the structural surface of a building and materials. As a result, it is much worse at keeping in heat than areas that are properly insulated and this can mean the energy efficiency of a property directly suffers.
There are two types of thermal bridges. The first are found where facings and floors, facings and roofs, facings and low floors, or facings and cross walls meet. However, thermal bridges also occur when there is a hole - for example a door or window - and these are known as structural thermal bridges.
While reduced energy efficiency is one of the knock-on effects of this characteristic, the main issue to be concerned with is that these gaps can create a point for condensation to build up, possibly leading to surface water and the accumulation of mould. This can ultimately affect the structure of a property, so action to address thermal bridges needs to be promptly taken once problem areas have been identified.
Although it might not make much sense when you first read it, this problem is actually more of a concern for structures that are well insulated, as the difference between cold and warmth is more defined and can attract a more pronounced level of condensation because of this.
What can we do about thermal bridges?
The answer to this question depends on the stage your property is at.
If the building has not yet been constructed and is still in the design stage, then architects need to pay consideration to processes and materials that minimise surface losses as much as they can.
Similarly, choosing the right insulation at this level can make a significant difference, so make sure what you are using possesses the necessary specifications to protect against the problem. Close attention should be paid to floor insulation in particular.
However, if the property has already been built, you may need to tackle the problem retrospectively.
How you do this can depend on the design of the building, and certain types of insulation or structural features may affect how difficult the thermal bridging is to address.
Ideally, you should use the same insulation that has already been applied elsewhere within the property, so all surfaces have the same level of cold resistance. Alternatively, you can look to reduce moisture vapour in individual areas of the property by installing technology like low-flow showerheads in the bathroom, for example.
In a similar fashion, humidity-controlled ventilation can also have a positive impact.
If you are planning refurbishment work, you may need to think about how this will alter your building's thermal bridging. We can help to advise you on such matters, so feel free to get in touch if you are unsure what you need to do.