The Ins and Outs of Continuous Insulation

Whether it’s building code compliant or not, continuous insulation is far less understood than it should be – even among insulation professionals, building contractors, and home renovators. The fact is, thermal bridging reduces insulation performance significantly – up to 20% in wood frame structures and up to 60% in metal frame structures.  It means that the advertised R-Values often fall far short of actual performance levels, regardless of the insulation product that is installed.

Professionals define continuous insulation as uninterrupted insulation, without thermal bridges. And while there are some fine points to the definition, even some of the basics still elude many. The idea, of course, is to minimize or eliminate the negative effects of thermal bridging.  Not that this is an easy task – every building is constructed differently, with different materials, and with a range of weaknesses. In short, there is no prescribed solution that will effectively address it all.

In a building structure with steel framing, the framing behaves like a thermal conductor – in other words a classic thermal bridge that allows indoor heat to escape in the winter and vice versa in the summer. The thermal bridging effect would seriously compromise R-Value, oftentimes by up to 50%. In response, builders began to install insulation materials on the outer side of the building envelope – something that has recently migrated into the residential insulation market.

Different from steel framing, wood framing suffers from similar weaknesses. With wood framing, up to 25% of the actual wall assembly comprises wood – and not insulation. The wood behaves as a conductor and therefore reduces R-Value by up to 20%. Here again, the objective would be to lessen the downsides of thermal bridging, using suitable construction techniques, as well as high performance insulation. The bottom line:  continuous insulation will always perform better.

Continuous insulation as an exterior application (regardless of the product being used) offers a number of project benefits. Heat loss is dramatically reduced. R-Values are measurably increased.  Moisture intrusion (and condensation) is inhibited. And air infiltration is practically eliminated. Overall, it means that HVAC equipment works more efficiently and energy consumption is visibly lessened throughout the year. An exterior insulation application also provides soundproofing.

High-rise or residential home, continuous insulation is becoming the standard, helping to reduce energy usage while providing indoor comfort. As such new generation products and installations are leading the way, and with great results. Spray Foam Insulation, for instance, is most effective in eliminating the negative consequences of thermal bridging. It’s an application that has proven effectual for both interior and exterior insulation. And it brings better results than most others.

Beyond resolving the various issues associated with thermal bridging, Spray Foam Insulation is the ultimate sealer. Professionally installed, it creates a totally airtight environment that prevents undesirable air movement and moisture accumulation. It also installs thermal insulation with R-Values that are higher than anything comparable. As a continuous insulation application, SFI meets and exceeds building code requirements for both commercial and residential buildings.