Is Your Basement a Goldmine? Preventing Heat Loss Through Thermal Bridging



November 4, 2023 - DMC Residential Inspection Services Inc.


When it comes to reducing our home heating bill, one often-overlooked area is the basement. This area of the house can often be forgotten and viewed as only serving to provide a foundation of the house. Improper insulation in the basement can lead to significant heat loss, higher costs, and reduced comfort through thermal bridging.

What is Thermal Bridging? This is a phenomenon in which heat is lost through a conductive material on an external wall, creating a path for heat to escape. This occurs when there is nothing insulating the heat in the home from an external cold wall surface allowing heat to flow from the warm interior to the cold exterior. The most common areas for thermal bridging to occur in the basement include concrete walls, pillars, beams and rim joists (area above the sill plate located in between each joist) among other areas.
Many times, basements are left unfinished. This provides a perfect environment for thermal bridging to occur because it often leaves large, uncovered concrete and/or wood external wall surfaces exposed. This means that without proper insulation, heat can easily escape and lose heat through these surfaces to the outside, leading to higher heating costs and a less comfortable living space. Without proper insulation and vapour barrier, heat loss can force your heating and cooling system to work harder and cost you more.
One other thing a basement can be prone to is moisture. A high moisture content can lead to mold and mildew. Insulation and vapour barrier plays a critical role in controlling moisture because it can help prevent condensation and moisture from finding it way into your home. Insulation materials like closed-cell spray foam have the added benefit of also acting as a vapor barrier, further protecting your basement from moisture problems.
Basement insulation not only provides reduced heating costs, but also contributes to the structural integrity of your home. Uninsulated concrete surfaces can experience thermal stress due to greater temperature fluctuations. This can result in cracks, which not only provides a greater opportunity for water intrusion, but can also weaken the structural integrity of your home's foundation over time. Proper insulation can help stabilize the temperature and reduce the risk of cracks and structural damage.
Improved basement insulation can also have positive effects on your health. As mentioned earlier, insulation helps control moisture. Reducing moisture in your home can help reduce the risk of mold and mildew growth. Mold and mildew can release harmful spores into the air, leading to various health issues, particularly for individuals with respiratory conditions. By insulating your basement and controlling moisture, you can create a healthier indoor environment.
Selecting the right insulation materials for your basement is critical step in achieving the maximum benefit. Some common insulation options such as Close Cell Spray Foam Insulation (excellent for basements as it provides a seamless air tight vapour barrier as well). Some other are Rigid Foam, and Fiberglass to name a few. There are a number of insulation options to choose from and its important to choose a product with fire safety in mind, so it is best to discuss with a Professional Insulation Contractor on what options are best for your application.
Insulating your basement is an important step in reducing heat loss due to thermal bridging. It can provide a wide range of benefits beyond just energy savings and can contribute to structural integrity and a healthier home. By addressing thermal bridging in your basement through proper insulation, you can create a more comfortable, healthier, living environment while at the same time enjoy your pot of gold savings from your reduced home heating costs.