What Is Continuous Insulation and Why Does It Matter?


Building performance should matter at every stage of construction. Shifts in the construction industry have made high-performing buildings a hot topic, but with natural disasters on the rise and economic crises across the globe, it’s more crucial than ever to design more energy-efficient, high-performing, and durable structures.

Continuous insulation can help guarantee that your building performs like it should, even with today’s more stringent building codes, severe weather and higher client demand.

What Is Continuous Insulation?

Continuous insulation (CI) protects the integrity of a space with insulation that covers all structural components of your building.

LWI Exterior

There are a few approaches to building protection and some tried-and-true methods for continuous insulation. Historically, designers and builders apply insulation to the building cavity, but over time, more innovative and comprehensive insulation methods were developed. “Evolving from what was once a rare practice or perceived as an advanced green-building, high-efficiency option to today where CI is now a standard method and materials practice across most climatic regions,” according to the U.S. Green Building Council.

Continuous insulation is installed on the interior or exterior of the building and can come in a few different applications. Continuous insulation is a part of code-compliant construction; it is measured against international code standards for energy conservation and material strength.

Relevant codes and standards for continuous insulation include:

  • ASTM C578 and C1289 for foam board insulation
  • IECC/IRC Chapter 11 for energy conservation codes
  • ASHRAE 90.1 for energy conservation standards

Continuous insulation is one of the most effective ways to ensure a high-performing building envelope. This breaks down in a few beneficial ways.

Why Does Continuous Insulation Matter?

Continuous insulation that’s applied to roofs, walls and below-grade construction offers several benefits. By adding layers across the entirety of the structure, not just the cavities, you’ll help prevent thermal bridging and ensure an energy-efficient, code-compliant building.

Continuous insulation helps to keep your building safe and dry, which is key since moisture can wreak havoc on your structure in serious ways. “A moisture problem generally occurs when the building element susceptible to damage (such as rot, corrosion, and microbial growth) is exposed to air, and allowed to remain ‘wet’ at a level that is above its safe storage capacity for moisture for an extended period of time,” according to the Whole Building Design Guide.

There are a few ways continuous insulation helps your building perform better:

  • Helps to lower the risk of condensation and moisture cycling in your building.
  • Helps prevent damage that comes from moisture accumulation, like the expansion and contraction of materials in your building, corrosion, and mold damage.
  • Provides more stable and dry conditions, which helps with indoor air quality and occupant comfort.

Planning Out Effective Continuous Insulation

To plan out the kind of continuous insulation you’ll need to ensure a building that stands up to water and severe conditions over time, it helps to keep a few strategies in mind.

You’ll want to design a building that’s temperature-controlled to reduce any risk of condensation building up. Vapor retarder materials can help control temperature and protect other materials in the assembly.

Some continuous insulation materials can also be used in a water-resistive barrier but should be tested again building codes for compliance. Always use the manufacturer’s approved materials or sealing components to ensure a code-compliant assembly!

Don’t overthink it! Continuous insulation can be made simpler by installing a laminated continuous wall insulation product. Using a combination of polymeric film facers, ThermalStar Laminated Wall Insulation (LWI) is available in an open configuration and can come in sheets or fanfold, which is suitable for retrofit or new construction.

Thermal Star LWI

Simple CI Design for Safer, Healthier Buildings

There are a few materials that can help you achieve continuous insulation, but today’s building materials industry offers an overwhelming number of options.

Sometimes simple is best, so Atlas Molded Products offers builders and other construction professionals a solution: the ThermalStar® product line. ThermalStar® products offer builders various continuous insulation options and can eliminate the need for extra layers of insulation.

“Designers must review standard details to ensure they are aligned with continuous insulation design principles that are quickly becoming standard practice,” according to the USBGC. “As a result of this new best practice, energy consumption, moisture accumulation, and the growth of mold and mildew are all anticipated to be reduced in future buildings throughout America.”

See how protecting your building is easier when you use more effective, high-performing materials. Learn more about our available ThermalStar® solutions today.