Cavity Wall Insulation – Solution or scandal?

Since the early Victorian era, architects have toyed with the idea of having two separate outer walls on your property; the inner and outer wall. Resulting in greater protection from the elements and greater ventilation, the genius lies in an air stream passing through the gap between the walls and sucking moisture out of the outer brick. The moisture that comes out of the brick runs down and out of the outer wall via ‘weep holes’ installed at the bottom of the outer wall, the inner wall coming into no contact with the moisture, reducing the effects of damp on your home… Clever.

The energy crisis of the 70’s saw the vast promotion of insulating your home, a craze which soon set its eyes on this genius hollow between your walls. By 1990, the widespread introduction of insulating the cavity to reduce energy loss had resulted in CWI [Cavity Wall Insulation] being compulsory in building regulations across Europe. This regulation was effective in structures built to house such insulation, the problem came with retro-fit CWI. Homes are estimated to account for one-third of all the energy used in the UK and this is largely on heating. Its therefore unsurprising that sights are set on improving insulation standards, with CWI seen as a cheap and easy option. In order to meet its greenhouse-gas emissions targets under the Kyoto Protocol, the energy supply companies, under governmental instruction, began insulating as many homes as they could… Not so clever.

Retrofit CWI involves drilling numerous holes in the outer wall of your property and pumping millions of polystyrene balls or other materials into the gap between your walls. The aim of such being to reduce heat loss, ultimately lowering your heating bill and the effect we are having on our planet. Until recently, it has been impossible to see just how effective or ineffective this method of insulation is. However, the introduction of thermal imaging has shed the light on what was thought to be an advance towards a warmer future. A survey by IRT Surveys Ltd, a thermal imaging company, revealed that of 250,000 homes studied, around half of the homes that had CWI were suffering from damp, mould, slumped insulation and missing insulation. These issues result in the moisture, which accesses the cavity when the CWI has failed, being withheld in the small pockets amongst the varying materials which have been pumped into the wall, most commonly the small polystyrene balls you have probably been shown. These balls then act as a bridge, which allows the moisture to penetrate the inner wall, resulting in defects in your home, such as damp, mould and even making your home colder.

It is therefore no surprise that the workings of the CWI industry were due to be reviewed in 2015 by the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate change, which unfortunately was never to materialise due to the dissolution of parliament later that year. CIGA, the Cavity Installation Guarantee Agency, have handed out almost six million guarantees to UK households, so from the findings of IRT Surveys Ltd, this could mean that there are some three million homes suffering from failed CWI across the UK. The situation is that bad that the CWI campaign is considered by some to be a strong rival of the PPI scandal.

If you are a social housing tenant, have had Cavity Wall Insulation installed in your property and are suffering from damp, mould or lowered temperatures in your home, this could be a sign that your CWI has failed. If so, contact CEL Solicitors on 0151 909 8212 and we can help you asses your prospects of a claim for compensation.