How can I insulate a pitched (sloping) roof?

A 'cold loft' roof, with the insulation at ceiling level (laid flat in the floor of the loft) is generally the most economical, and easy to install. However, if you want to insulate in the slope of a roof in order to make use of the space, then here are some tips.

The most economical way of achieving a good thickness of insulation in the roof slope is to have two layers of timber, one supporting the roof finish and another supporting the insulation and ceiling finish. To reduce cold-bridging, timber I-Beams can be used in new constructions.  In an existing roof (with rafters supported on roof beams), the second layer of timbers (ceiling joists) can be hung off the rafters using hardboard, ply or timber 'hangers', or nailed crosswise to them, or they can span between the roof beams. This technique can also be used with flat roofs.

An air space of 50mm must be left between the insulation and the tiling felt, unless the felt is of a low-vapour resistance type. If using a breathable membrane, with insulation up against it, then above the membrane you would put counter battens (top to bottom) as well as the standard battens (side to side), for adequate ventilation beneath the tiles. Sometimes, a breathable membrane is used with only standard battens, with the membrane slightly draped between rafters to allow ventilation - in this case an air gap of about 25 mm would be needed between membrane and insulation.

Pitched Roof Insulation

Thin wood-fibre boards (22 or 35mm thick) can be used as an alternative to a membrane under tiles. When re-roofing, the fibre-board is laid over the rafters, and then counter battens (in line with rafters), and then standard battens to fix the tiles/slates to. Thicker wood fibre boards can also be used, to give more insulation and achieve a lower U-value (to minimise heat loss).

A 'warm roof' will have waterproof insulation on the outside of the structure (so the main timbers are on the warm side of the insulation). It's a useful way of upgrading an existing roof when internal room height is at a premium. On a sloping roof, the tiling battens are supported by rigid insulation and fixed through to the rafters by special screwnail fixings. The insulation must be waterproof, such as cork, foamed glass or closed-cell plastic foam board - these will tend to be more expensive than the standard insulation materials for internal use.

There are many different types of insulation material to choose from - click here to read more. Please do contact us if you need to find suppliers of natural/renewable insulation.

You can also read more at these webpages:

http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/domestic/roof-and-loft

https://historicengland.org.uk/images-books/publications/eehb-insulating-pitched-roofs-rafter-level-warm-roofs/

https://historicengland.org.uk/images-books/publications/eehb-insulating-pitched-roofs-ceiling-level-cold-roofs/

http://www.greenspec.co.uk/building-design/unventilated-roof-insulation/

http://www.greenspec.co.uk/building-design/ventilated-roof-insulation/

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