Retrofitting solid floor insulation – vacuum insulation panels
If you live in the UK, there’s a good chance your floor isn’t insulated. Around three quarters of British homes were constructed before the first thermal performance requirements for floors were introduced in the 1976 Building Regulations. This means your floor could, quite literally, be draining the heat out of your home.
To help tackle this, the Building Regulations and Standards now ask that insulation is retrofitted on ground floors affected by refurbishment*, extension or change of use. This can present a challenge, particularly on solid floors where available construction space is highly limited. However, optimum thermal performance vacuum insulation panels (VIPs) such as Kingspan OPTIM-R can provide an ultra-slim solution.
What are the requirements of the Building Regulations and Standards?
Where technically and functionally feasible, ground floors should be upgraded to the minimum standards within the following documents:
- Approved Document L1B 2013 (England)
- Approved Document L1B 2014 (Wales)
- Section 6 (Energy) – Domestic (Scotland)
Above and beyond these regulatory requirements, homeowners and developers may also wish to insulate floors to improve comfort levels and to reduce energy consumption.
Which floor type?
For homes with a suspended floor, the solution is relatively straightforward. Rigid insulation, such as Kingspan Kooltherm K103 Floorboard, can be cut with a fine toothed saw and slotted between the floor joists (for best practice tips take a look at our suspended floor insulation guide).
Solid floors, however, present an altogether different challenge. These constructions typically feature a 75-100 mm screed layer above a thick concrete floor slab. The three retrofitting options are:
- Digging down and lowering the floor slab level. This requires an extensive and costly manual labour programme. Workers must dig-out, remove and then re-lay several inches of concrete without the use of heavy machinery.
- Raising the floor level. This may not be possible in properties with lower ceilings, and the reduction in floor to ceiling height may make other rooms feel cramped. It also requires fixtures and services such as plug sockets, door lintels and radiators to be raised in line with the floor level, creating yet more remedial work and again increasing the time and cost involved.
- Installing a slimmer screed layer. Under this approach, the original screed layer is replaced with a thinner, modern alternative. This creates a slight space for insulation to be installed above the floor slab. It also avoids the added cost and complexity of raising floor levels. The challenge is finding an insulation product which can deliver the required level of thermal performance, within the strict confines available. That’s where VIPs come in.
What are vacuum insulation panels?
Unlike conventional insulation, VIPs feature a micro-porous core, which is evacuated and sealed in a thin, gas-tight membrane. This allows the panels to achieve an aged thermal conductivity as low as 0.007 W/m·K – up to five times better than other commonly used insulation materials. As a result, they’re ideal for problem applications, such as solid floors, where the available space for insulation is highly limited.
The use of VIPs in flooring applications has become a popular way to insulate, particularly due to the thinness of the panel and increasing importance placed on accessibility and comfort within the home. VIPs are commonly used in balconies and terraces to avoid that ‘step up’ when insulating due to their space saving benefits; the same benefits can apply in flooring.
*where more than half of the floor is being replaced
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