Innovative Composite Wall System for Sheathing Masonry Walls Page: 4 of 9
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with basements used as living space offer another retrofit opportunity for insulating
New Housing - Building codes have begun to dictate the insulation of basement walls in
regions of the country with severe winters. While many insulation approaches are in use,
each have strengths and weaknesses. The use of foam plastic boards on the exterior of
the wall creates the need for non-standard construction details and can also have
problems with termites and carpenter ants burrowing through the insulation if it is
untreated. The commonly used system of 2x4s, fiberglass batts, and standard drywall
placed on the inside of the basement wall consumes 4 inches of living space. This
commonly used system also does not withstand the rare instances of "flooding" (i.e.,
short-term standing water) that basements can experience during their life. This
"flooding" can result from a broken pipe, a backed-up drain, or an extended power
outage that prevents a sump pump from performing its job.
Providing a basement wall insulation system that is energy efficient at reasonable cost
and able to survive potentially adverse circumstances such as periodic standing water is a
challenge for new home builders.
COMPOSITE WALL SYSTEM
To address the problems of uninsulated masonry walls, a composite wall system has been
developed to sheath deteriorated plaster and encase the lead paint hazards on existing
wall surfaces while adding a tight, well-insulated, and durable interior surface to
perimeter walls. In addition, this system is intended to sheath the interior of both
existing and new basement walls.
This lower-cost composite wall system (Figure 1.) is a result of DOE-funded research and
development conducted by the Advanced Housing Technology Program at Oak Ridge
National Laboratory (ORNL) and the Existing Buildings Efficiency Research Program at
Argonne National Laboratory (ANL). In addition to ORNL and ANL, a collaborative
effort to demonstrate and field test the system in existing multifamily housing includes the
Chicago Housing Authority (CHA), the Louisiana-Pacific Corporation, and the Celotex
Corporation. A prototype wall was constructed and tested at CHA headquarters with
materials and labor provided by Louisiana-Pacific and Celotex. One housing unit at
CHA's Brooks Development has been completed as a field test (Figures 2. & 3.) and
several additional units are planned for retrofit with the system. The units' energy
performance will be monitored during the 1997/98 heating season. CHA is contributing
labor and standard materials for the field test while DOE is providing the "innovative"
materials. Discussions were also underway between the National Laboratories and
Louisiana-Pacific to identify a potential field test of the system in the basement of a new
The wall system includes cellulose-fiber-reinforced gypsum wall board, rigid foam
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Wendt, Robert L. & Cavallo, James. Innovative Composite Wall System for Sheathing Masonry Walls, article, September 25, 1997; Tennessee. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc694974/m1/4/: accessed February 15, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.