What Is A Thermal Bridge In Building Insulation?

Wednesday 6th March 2024

Ellen Warren

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Window installation and insulation with spray foam insulation to avoid thermal bridge


Improving energy efficiency and comfort in buildings requires a clear understanding of thermal bridges in building insulation. These elements can affect a building's thermal behaviour, causing more energy consumption over time.

At ICE Thermal, we provide thermal insulation installation services to your domestic or commercial properties across the UK. Whether you need to upgrade your insulation due to thermal bridging or require a complete replacement, our team of engineers can create a bespoke plan of action for you.

Read on to learn more about thermal bridges, their origins, how they reduce energy efficiency, and how to combat them with good insulation choices.

What is a thermal bridge?

thermal bridge is a route for heat to avoid insulation. This occurs when materials with high thermal conductivity extend through the insulating layer, creating a pathway for heat loss or gain.

This compromises the energy efficiency of buildings and affects indoor comfort levels. For example, during winter, these pathways can cause cold patches, increasing the likelihood of damp and mould.

What causes a thermal bridge?

Thermal bridges occur at junctions between different building materials or where there is a break in the insulation. Structural elements like steel and concrete beams are common culprits because they have higher heat conductivity than insulating materials. 

Balconies and lintels can also create paths for heat to escape or enter, reducing the building's energy. Disrupted insulation exacerbates this due to improper detailing during construction and poor sealing. 

These complications make it easier for heat to move in and out, increasing the amount of energy needed to keep temperatures regulated.

How do thermal bridges affect energy efficiency?

By acting as heat conduits, thermal bridges influence a building's temperature regulation and energy use, affecting how warm or cool it feels inside. 

In winter, thermal bridges can cause higher heat loss. This makes a building less comfortable and increases energy bills as heating systems work more to compensate for the lost heat. 

During summer, these same thermal paths invite unwanted heat into the building, increasing the need for air conditioning systems and raising costs.

Thermal bridges complicate the balance of a building's temperature throughout the year and contribute to higher energy expenses. Understanding how they influence energy-saving measures is key to changing how buildings operate whilst reducing power consumption.

How to prevent thermal bridges

To combat these pathways, incorporating thermal break materials is integral. These are specially designed insulators that interrupt the conductive path through the structure, slowing the heat transfer. 

Materials like expanded polystyrene or extruded polyurethane foam are best for this. The choice of material depends on several factors, including structural requirements, environmental conditions, and budget constraints. 

Another way to do this is with an unbroken insulation barrier throughout a structure's exterior. By paying attention to every junction point — where walls meet roofs or floors — and ensuring no gaps remain, you can reduce the impact of thermal bridging.

This approach requires intense detailing at the design stage but works well by lowering heating demands and enhancing indoor air quality.

What insulation is best to prevent thermal bridges?

Choosing the right external insulation material is crucial to prevent thermal bridging in buildings. This choice directly influences energy efficiency, comfort levels and heating or cooling costs.


Exterior insulation solutions like cork are known for their natural resistance to heat flow. Cork's unique cellular structure provides an excellent barrier against thermal bridging, making it a top contender for eco-conscious projects.

Spray foam

This material can conform to irregular surfaces and fill gaps that might otherwise contribute to thermal bridges. Its high R-value per inch makes spray foam particularly effective in preventing heat transfer through complex junctions.

Rigid board insulation

The simple setup of rigid board insulation paired with its ability to resist heat flow creates a blend of convenience and performance. Materials like extruded polystyrene (XPS) can be applied externally to prevent thermal bridges across various construction types.


This creates a barrier against fire while simultaneously minimising the movement of heat across the structure's boundaries. Rockwool resists temperature fluctuations by catching air and reducing heat transfer through thermal connectors.

Frequently asked questions

What is a thermal bridge in insulation?

A thermal bridge lets heat travel through your home, avoiding the path of insulation.

How can I stop thermal bridges?

You can stop thermal bridges by breaking the path with non-conductive materials.

Is thermal bridging an issue?

Yes, thermal bridges let heat out during winter and invite heat in summer, increasing energy bills.

How can thermal bridges be identified?

Thermal bridges are identified through thermal imaging, energy modelling software, or detailed building inspections.

Get in touch

For thorough thermal insulation installation services, you can rely on the engineers at ICE Thermal. We analyse your property and create a personalised construction plan - ensuring your property receives the best insulation depending on its size, location, and structure.

To learn more about our thermal insulation services, call our team today at 020 3376 4802 or send an email to [email protected]. We operate 24/7 nationwide, working all year round to help you with your insulation needs.

Zoe Dunning

Zoe Dunning

Sales Representative

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