Showing posts from June, 2018

Between a rock(wool) and a hard place

CIGA agreed that my insulation needed to be removed, but then took no responsibility for it! I pointed out that it was an illegal install into a narrow cavity and repeated it 3 times before they replied:

Despite your references to a less than adequate cavity width this has no relevance to the lack of maintenance which has resulted in compromised insulation and internal décor damage.
What does less than adequate mean? Inadequate. Here are some other words from the thesaurus entry for inadequate : -  deficient, faulty, incompetent, incomplete, lacking.

I asked them if I could remove the material myself and then claim the cost back through arbitration.

"The CIGA guarantee covers the insulation in your property, once the cavity wall insulation has been removed there will no longer be a guarantee on your property.
If there is no guarantee on the property the arbitration process isn’t available."
This is insane. They know there is a problem and the internal deco will get worse over t…

Ventilation , open fires and Cavity wall insulation

Our living room has what's called an open flue solid fire -  or an open fire for burning coal and wood to you and me.
For a fire to function safely it needs to be able to draw new air into a room , use the oxygen as part of combustion and allow  the heat and smoke is drawn up the chimney and out of the building.
Old buildings  were pretty draughty and the the fire could draw enough air though the house but as we have strived to make houses airtight,  building regulations have dictated that open fires require a dedicated vent which travels through the cavity wall to the outside world in order for the flue to work effectively.
As part of the CWI installation checks, any room with an open fire was required to have an airvent From CIGA Technical install guide "'Flues, chimneys and combustion air ventilators 2006"which is the guidance in use when our CWI would have been installed.

It states quite clearly that a 225mm x 125mm sleeved air-vent is required before installation can…

Record keeping

CIGA issues a 25 year guarantee on an installation however from the surveying guide - "suitability of external walls for filling with cavity wall insulation 2003"

The client should be provided with a copy of the assessment report.
The documented assessment report should be provided to the Technician.
After installation the documented assessment report should be retained at the installer’s office together with other records relating to the installation.
Records should be retained for10 years.
This doesn't make any sense at all. One of the main complains that consumers have is that of an inadequate survey. In our case as the installer has gone bust we don't have a chance of getting a copy of the assessment report. By capping the requirement at 10 years , installers can quite happily shred their documents with 15 years remaining on the guarantee.

This guide was issued in 2003 so I don't know what the current guidance for retention of r…

Maintenance clause, confirmation bias

Confirmation bias is a cognitive error that people make when they are only willing to accept new information when it confirms what they already believe. People who fall into the trap of confirmation bias tend to purposefully seek out evidence that supports already solidified beliefs and purposefully reject any evidence that goes against those beliefs. - Peter Wason
When CIGA's inspector came to assess my damp complaint, it became pretty obvious that their agenda was to gather evidence for poor maintenance and gloss over anything that may suggest another cause.
As mentioned, the inspector did not check the loft space where I found all the spillage, did not measure the cavity widths, did not comment on the drilling pattern. Failed to investigate the condensation in the bedroom. Did not use thermal imaging to look for voids or slumps in the insulation, did not inspect the wall ties even though it was stated as a primary concern.

Their conclusion - poor maintenance is the cause
Please …

Hung out to dry

5 days after soaking the sample of insulation and putting it in an open container in a window it looked pretty sad and dried out.
But it's actually still highly saturated with water as demonstrated by placing a kitchen towel on top.  If this is still wet after 5 days in the open on a summer day then what chance does a closed cavity with kilograms of the is stuff have of drying out.  If you imagine the piece of tissue paper below being your new plaster board, then you can see that it will eventually wick the water and ruin your internal decor again and again. It simply has to be removed.

EPC (energy performance certificate) and defective CWI

When selling a house, one of the 'services'  estate agents offer is to provide a EPC(Energy performance certificate) for the seller.
If you are selling your house then you must provide a certificate but it's actually quite cheap in the scheme of things (maybe £50-150) and you don't need an estate agent who may add a mark up to it.

The performance is based on algorithm which sums up negative and positive attributes of the house to derive an overall energy rating - it's not based on actual performance.
The Domestic Energy Assessor completing the EPC rating makes assumptions and doesn't check for presence of insulation. They will write things like (flat roof assumed no insulation).

In older houses, retrofit insulation does a lot to push up the rating:

However, what happens when you have damp insulation? Technically It's a negative rating as heating the inside of the house causes large thermal loss via heat transfer through the damp wall into the soggy insulati…

Building control and cavity wall insulation

When CWI is put in, the installer must notify building control of the insulation. And that's about it.
When you sell your property the application date and presence of CWI will show up on building regulation searches initiated by the potential buyer's solicitor.

Building control have no record of the type of insulation and the search does not tell you which company installed it. If you do need to get CWI removed, then it's not clear how this would work. Should building control make a record of the removal?

In my area local authority building control is provided by Southern Building Control Partnership so I though I would ask them about what happens when it is removed. My main worry was that somehow that we would be forced to replace it with a different type of insulation.

I spoke to a chap who to be honest wasn't at all helpful.
He told me that building regulations inspectors would only have to be involved if 25% or more of the bricks in the external leaf would have to …

Making good (or breaking bad!)

CIGA are particularly concerned about the appearance of a building that has had retrofit CWI installed.

From CIGA's documentation "Technician’s guide to best practice Version 2.0 - Issued July 2002"

The importance of making good after the installation is completed, cannot be over- emphasised. Leaving the property in the same condition that you found it is the best possible advertisement for the industry, and your best source of new business leads. Rendered or Tyrolean-faced walls
Special care must be taken with rendered walls; the colour and texture of the render and the type of chip or pebble should be copied as closely as possible.
Colour matching can be carried out using paints or colour dyes, but remember to ask customers if they have any of the original paint Minimise the area you are painting to reduce the repair area.
A mortar based on white cement may be useful for filling holes in a white rendered wall. 
 It sounds like a lot of care an attention goes into findin…

Drilling patterns

Best practice drilling patterns From COSYTHERM WHITE WOOL CAVITY WALL INSULATION Agrément Certificate No 01/3789

7.3 Injection holes are drilled in a diamond pattern at approximately 1.35 m centres. The topmost injection holes should not be more than 350 mm below the upper edge of the cavity and not more than 1.0 m apart. The bottom row of holes should start approximately 800 mm above the dpc level.

The bottom holes are 0.9m above the ground level where the damp proof course but in places it's even higher being 0.8m from the bottom of the incomplete render (which is not the damp proof course).

Summary Although there will inevitably some variation in drilling patterns to match brick/mortar boundries and to work around features such as chimneys. This installation falls short of the BAA certificate recommendation.

Size of the cavity

The Building Regulations 2000 (England and Wales) specifically prohibit retrofit cavity insulation in cavities less than 50mm.

The following design conditions have been taken from the BBA joint publication Cavity Insulation of Masonry Walls — Dampness Risks and How to Minimise Them.
The cavity width must be at least 50 mm
When the CIGA inpsector investigated a damp wall which was highlighted by an independent damp surveyor  as being saturated with wet cavity wall insulator he exclaimed that cavity was really narrow but none of this made it into the report.

CIGA tells us you cannot rely on a single measure of cavity width on a property.
In the CIGA"Technician’s guide to best practice Version 2.0 - Issued July 2002  Installing Cavity Wall insulation states"

At least ten cavity width measurements should be made at various places, throughout the building, to give an accurate calculation.
Measuring my cavity Using the wall affected by damp, I measured the corner brick to confirm…

Water repelling properties of my cavity wall insulation (or lack of)

Since the incompetent installers left a pile of insulation in the loft, I decided to examine the water repelling properties of the material

Cosytherm® white wool material description
Here is the salient information from the Cosytherm White wool BBA Agrément Certificate No 01/3789:

5 Description
5.1 Cosytherm White Wool Cavity Wall Insulation consists of granulated glass wool fibres which are treated with an inert water repellent during manufacture. The length of the fibres and degree of granulation are subject to regular quality control checks by the manufacturer.
In relation to Building regulations Section C4 (England and Wales) .
Resistance to weather and ground moisture
Tests for water resistance carried out by the BBA indicate that a wall filled with the product meets this Requirement provided the wall complies with the conditions set out in sections 7.2, 7.4, 7.6 and 9.2 of this Certificate.
The product does not absorb water by capillary action and may therefore be used in situatio…

Attic Attack

A couple of weeks after CIGA had determined that the installation was done to specification I gained access to the loft space with a ladder. It's not the easiest space to see though but I know the Home Buyer's surveyor had looked around and taken a photo and only really commented on presence of a cold water cistern. I was horrified to find the white wool overflowing from the cavity into the loft space with soggy wool in the cold water cistern and the overflow tank. Given that the wool is known to be a skin and respiratory irritant, I was not pleased to be bathing in this stuff.

We also found wool under the bath panel - if the bath overflowed at anytime then there is a massive gap underneath open to the cavity with wool poking out of it.
It's pretty clear that the installer made a right mess and should be liable for cleanup. As the installer is no longer trading, that responsibility falls on CIGA.

CIGA guidance to installers regarding roof spaces and under baths

What's in the walls?

I hope this article is helpful for homeowners or potential buyers who want to know more about what's been squirted into the walls.

When we bought the house, we got a copy of the CIGA 25 year guarantee and no other paperwork.
We were able to check the installer's limited company information on company house website which listed them as in liquidation.
The previous owner told us and the various surveyors we sent around that foam had been installed with Urea Formaldehyde foam being the only credible product.

We were very worried about the prospect of having to remove foam as it's one of the most difficult CWI products to break up and extract. It requires a 'whip' with lots of blowing and sucking and the formaldehyde dust may be a irritant/carcinogen and so the property and that of neighbours may need to be vacated. We had negotiated a reduction on our offer-price to take into account the cost of having the foam removed using a quote from a Cavity wall extraction compa…