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07 Sep 2020 < Back

Save Energy but not by Papering Over the Cracks

When cracks appear in buildings, we should take notice. Small cracks are often ignored, but little cracks can turn into big cracks and ‘heaven help’ anyone who simply tries to cover over or ignores any significant structural defects within their property. As we get closer to the launch of the Governments ‘Green Homes Voucher Scheme’ we highlight the need to investigate any structural movement before we cover the walls with insulation.

Structural movement & cracks can be common

Minor structural defects are very common in residential buildings. Structural cracks can be associated with minor ground movement potentially caused by trees and shrinkage during dry conditions or alterations to the building such as extensions and the renewal of windows and doors.

Most of time, minor cracks do not require significant repair but can be monitored for a while to check that the building is stable before being made good and watertight. However, sometimes cracks in the building can provide the first tell-tale signs of things that will need a little more than some filler, a bit of mortar or a splash of paint.

Don’t cause yourself future structural & wall issues

In any event, our advice to homeowners is not to ‘paper over the cracks’ without a full understanding of why the cracks are there and if the problem has stopped growing.
Decaying structural timbers, subsidence, wall tie failure and other building defects can be very significant, and in some very rare circumstances, life threatening. They must never be ignored! This message is never been more important as many people begin to think about taking full advantage of the Government’s ‘Green Homes Grant’.

Before installing wall insulation – consider this!

Before installing cavity wall insulation, the metal ties that bind the inner and outer leaves of masonry should always be checked. If they are defective, replace them before the walls are insulated. If you don’t, the cost of replacement wall ties will increase and the new insulation may be compromised.

Where solid walls are going to be insulated with solid materials applied internally or externally, the causes of cracks must be fully investigated, and where necessary, repaired. A defective lintel above a door is relatively easy to repair if the walls are exposed but the same fix will be a great deal more costly and disruptive after the insulation is installed.

Don’t shut down the structural early warning indicators

If we see cracks as an early indicator of a potential problem, we have to acknowledge that this early warning system is eliminated if/when the walls are covered in a thick layer of insulation and a high performance weatherproof coating. The result – the ability to monitor and gauge the progress of a fault is diminished.

It follows then, that many minor problems that could have been rectified early on, will after the insulation is applied, be discovered far later potentially leading to a greater risk from far more serious structural defects.

It’s not just me saying it – check the British standards

The standards used to guide the delivery of retrofit energy saving measures clearly advise that the building fabric must be in good condition before any insulation measures are undertaken. This is essential and totally supported by the PCA.

Basically, what we are trying to emphasise is, before filling cavities get your wall ties checked for corrosion, and if necessary, get any repairs done before the walls are insulated and don’t under any circumstances cover over cracks in the walls with insulation unless they have been checked out first.

Let’s ensure the addition of retrofit insulation and the adoption of energy saving measures improves and enhances our homes and buildings. For everyones sake, let’s safeguard our homes for the future…not compromise them. Before applying insulation, get any cracks and ties checked first.

Unsure if you have a potential structural issue?

If you are unsure if you have a potential issue and you do want to get it checked out prior to any installation of wall insulation, then contact a local PCA member for assistance. It doesn’t even necessarily need to cost you anything.  It can be claimed under your Green Homes Grant voucher as part of ‘essential structural repairs’. To find a PCA specialist local to you, simply run a search using the functionality here

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