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I was surprised to learn that that there are risks with insulating the interior walls in older all-brick houses - particularly in cold climates. This article outlines some of the issues:

http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/musings/insulating-old-brick-buildings

To summarize, the risks are:

  • Wooden joists sitting on (the now colder) brick will be wet from moist air condensing on the brick and the ends can rot

  • The inner layer (wythe) of brick will not be able to dry inwards. If the brick remains wet, it could fail (especially with freeze/thaw cycles)

These issues sound reasonable - however, articles refer to insulation in all-or-nothing terms. I'm wondering if there is some middle ground, to add some insulation to save some energy and increase comfort, without much risk of damaging the brick?

  • Could a vapour barrier be omitted, to allow for the brick to dry inwards?

  • Can a reduced level of insulation be used so the brick will still be warmed by the heat of the house?

  • Can walls have gaps in the insulation? e.g. leaving 12 inches at the top to warm the brick and help keep the joist ends dry?

  • Would techniques recommend for basement insulation be applicable? (e.g. use EPS or XPS board)

Any other safer options for interior insulation in an all-brick house?

  • I have found that just a small airgap behind basement walls do as much good as adding insulation because there is no air movement. As far as the block failing because of freeze thaw cycles I have never seen that happen. – Ed Beal Feb 10 '17 at 14:38
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A thermal resistant coating from outside may help to insulate the surface further more.

  • Exterior insulation is not an option. – Jason Moore Feb 14 '17 at 13:59

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