Social Housing Insulation Guide: Types, Benefits & Fitting

By Jamie Orr
Date 16/03/2023
social housing insulation guide types, benefits & fitting

Social housing is an important part of the welfare state, providing not-for-profit homes – often to the people who need them most. But as the cost of living rises, attention is turning to measures to keep those homes affordable.

Enter social housing insulation. In this post, we’ll explore why it’s so important, the different types available and how it’s installed.

The importance of insulation for social housing

The National Housing Federation recently reported that social housing insulation and draught-proofing could reduce residents’ heating bills by 42%. It focused on homes with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating below C, and the impact of improving that rating to C or above.

On average, doing so would cut a £1,343 annual spend on heating down to £776, based on the October 2022 Price Guarantee. That’s a saving of £567 each year, which could become even higher as prices continue to rise.

Above all else, this is the primary reason why social housing insulation is so vital. Affordability is one of the four key requirements of social housing, outlined by Shelter. But there are two other key benefits on top of that…

Keeping homes inhabitable

Alongside availability and stability, the final requirement listed by Shelter is that social housing is quality controlled. Put simply, it should meet the standard for ‘decent’ housing. That includes insulation and energy efficiency, as well as ensuring basics like smoke alarms are working.

Over time, this can prevent more serious problems, like the emergency of mould in homes. Because it causes a range of health issues, mould can essentially make homes uninhabitable – hence why social housing associations want to avoid it. Insulation helps them do that by keeping homes warmer.

Saving housing authorities time and money

Another benefit of insulation for social housing is the savings for local councils and housing associations. Keeping homes warmer means fewer callouts for issues like damp and mould, not to mention the cost of combatting those problems.

It also ensures that housing stock is kept up to standard, which could minimise disruption in the long run – if the minimum EPC rating for properties goes up, for example.

Types of social housing insulation

There are a number of different types of insulation for social housing. These vary by the area being insulated, as well as the type of insulation being used. First, here are the different areas that can be insulated:

  • Walls – Aside from cavity wall insulation, solid walls can be insulated both internally and externally.
  • Roof – Both flat and pitched roofs can be insulated, including loft insulation for the latter.
  • Floors – This varies depending on whether underfloor or solid floor insulation is required.
  • Fixtures – While it’s not insulation, per se, it’s also important that windows and doors are energy efficient and free from draughts.

To dig a little deeper, here are some of the different options available for each broad type of insulation.

Underfloor insulation

Underfloor insulation is suitable for social housing with suspended floors. It involves filling the cavity below flooring with an insulative material, which can be anything from mineral wool rolls to rigid insulation boards.

Solid floor insulation

If you’re dealing with a solid floor (typically concrete), insulation needs to be laid on top of it. That can be done using solid insulation boards, or by laying a floating floor to create a cavity, which is then filled with insulation.

Flat roof insulation

Flat roof insulation can be warm or cold. A warm roof has insulation on the outside, applied on top of the deck before a waterproof membrane is applied. Cold flat roof insulation is installed between the rafters, directly above the ceiling. The different terms simply describe whether the roof itself is kept warm or left cold when insulating the living space below.

Pitched roof insulation

Similarly, pitched roof insulation can create a warm or cold pitched roof. A warm pitched roof has insulation between and over the rafters, keeping the roof space warm. Alternatively, a cold pitched roof has insulation at ceiling level – also known as loft insulation – where the roof space is left cold.

Cavity wall insulation

Cavity wall insulation can take the form of polystyrene beads, expanding foam or mineral fibre. If cavities are being insulated during the building process, there’s also the option of insulation rolls or rigid boards.

Solid wall insulation

Solid walls can be insulated from the inside or outside, using either panels, fibre-based systems or a sprayed insulative coating.

The challenges of retrofitting insulation for social housing

While new-builds will be adequately insulated from the get-go, there’s still the challenge of over 1.2 million energy inefficient social homes – in England alone – which need retrofit insulation. With most of these homes occupied, councils and housing associations need insulation solutions that are as quick and easy as possible.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case for many of the options mentioned above. Underfloor insulation requires floorboards to be pulled up at the very least, for example. Going one further, solid floor insulation can raise the floor level, which requires electrical work to adjust the position of plug sockets.

The same can be true for wall insulation if panels are used. Externally, their bulk might make it necessary to adjust fixtures like gutters and windows. Internally, they can impact the living space available to tenants.

While roof insulation and cavity wall insulation are relatively simple to install, this box has already been checked for many properties – and hasn’t done enough. According to government figures from the end of 2020, 70% of properties with cavity walls have them insulated, while 66% of properties with a loft have loft insulation.

Fast, effective social housing insulation

If you’re looking for a way to improve insulation on social housing stock without causing major disruption, CorkSol can help. Our SprayCork coating can be used to reduce heat loss by 30% and cut energy bills over time.

Applied on internal walls, it provides an insulative layer that’s only 8mm thick, so it won’t impact tenants’ living space. It’s also moisture-resistant to stop damp and mould forming on the surface. Thanks to its spray application, it’s equally simple to retrofit on external walls, where it provides additional protection from the elements, alongside added heat retention.

Best of all, CorkSol has a fully trained network of approved applicators, ready and waiting to help councils and housing associations across the UK. Want to find out more? Contact us today on 01484 442420 or email [email protected].


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