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What Is Cold Bridging Condensation and How to Deal With It?

David Jones - 21 Oct 2019
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Cold bridging condensation is a term used to describe weaknesses in a property’s overall building envelope, where cold air can easily penetrate through insulation, due to a lack of structural integrity.

Consequently, reduced external temperatures can infiltrate the building with relative ease, meaning that internal surface temperatures are dramatically reduced, with cold spots disseminated throughout the rooms.

This creates droplets of condensation, which form in response to cold spots.

We explore common cold bridging condensation concerns, and the actions to take to prevent them.

The Causes of Cold Bridging Condensation

It’s no secret that day-to-day activities produce a substantial amount of water vapour. From cooking and washing, to having a shower or bath, the contrast between cold and hot currents is marked, inevitably resulting in the cold bridging condensation phenomenon.

When the air contains more moisture than it can hold, it reaches ‘saturation point’ and when this is reached, the moisture turns back into water and condensation occurs. The temperature reached at saturation point is called the ‘dew point.’

These problems are further exacerbated by inadequate ventilation and a lack of definitive, damp-proofing measures.

Although all buildings can be prone to these problems to some degree, those most at risk are period properties.

This is because if left unchecked, the moisture from the soil beneath the house can quickly rise up into ground floor rooms, and in some cases, cause detrimental damage to guttering.

Cold Bridging Condensation: A Persistent Problem

Although cold bridging condensation is a persistent problem in properties, if it’s accounted for during the design process, it’s far less likely to occur.

Properties build before 1930 are likely to have no insulation whatsoever, making them prone to cold spots, and, consequently, cost an extortionate amount to heat.

New-builds are less susceptible to cold bridging as they are constructed with energy-efficiency in mind due to stricter legislative requirements.

Traditional insulation materials have thus far proved ineffective at combatting cold and condensation long-term.

In contrast, spray foam insulation effectively controls both cold and airborne moisture, by using its flexibility to fit in the most awkward of gaps, as well as by enabling your building to breathe.

Cold Bridging Condensation and Commercial Properties

The structural integrity of a commercial building is greatly influenced by the robustness of the frame. Most frames on the market comprise of a mixture of both concrete and metal, reinforcing their strength, and ensuring they withstand the weight of the building.

For frames that are built solely from concrete, cold bridging can easily ensue. The predominant sign of cold bridging condensation in concrete frames is an explicit ‘blackening’ effect of the frame.

Unfortunately, this ‘blackening’ effect is commonly misdiagnosed being believed to stem from issues with a leaking roof instead, as both problems present similar symptoms.

Consequently, both expense and effort is concentrated on repairing a fully-functioning roof instead of focusing on the inherent failings of the frame.

Primary Factors Which Affect Cold Bridging Condensation

  • Moisture content of incoming ventilation air
  • Atmospheric temperature of internal air. This is influenced by both the age and number of occupants (i.e. houses with several young children are likely to require a greater frequency of clothes washing.)
  • Current room ventilation rates and their overall efficacy
  • The vapour resistance of elements within the construction
  • The air-tightness of the construction
  • The temperature within the construction and whether the building was designed to improve heat retention capacity.
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Other Cold Bridging Condensation Considerations: Extensions

There’s no denying that an extension can increase your property’s overall investment potential, but in order to capitalise on the resultant gains, you need to put just as much effort into the pre-planning as you do in the installation itself.

To maximise the energy-efficiency of your extension, adequate insulation is key.  Priority areas include both roofs, floors and around specific spaces where heat can easily escape from, such as the frames around windows and doors.

In this respect, spray foam offers a smart and savvy solution.  Construction projects are well-known for running behind schedule on numerous occasions.

The great thing about spray foam is that it can be installed in just a day with minimal upheaval, creating a superior seal that combats cold bridging condensation by virtually eliminating all air leaks.  It really is that simple.

Cold Bridging Condensation Solutions

Dehumidifiers

Extractor fans and dehumidifiers are two effective measures to control humidity, curbing cold bridging in the process.

Provide Adequate Ventilation

One main way of ensuring adequate ventilation is to upgrade your windows. Trickle vents in windows work well, but ultimately, you should aim to replace all existing windows with triple glazing instead.

When it comes to hinges, one standard, industry staple that’s proved popular with professionals is the Trojan ‘Mega’ Egress Hinge. Larger and stronger than standard hinge alternatives, egress hinges are easy to open, and are also the preferred hinge type to satisfy the latest fire safety regulations as well.

Add High-quality Insulation

Ensure optimal internal temperature is achieved by installing spray foam insulation. Spray foam is a multi-purpose product, which combats cold bridging immediately, by providing an impressively impenetrable barrier.

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