Abstract In papers dealing with evolution of cometary nuclei it is commonly assumed that the coefficients of sublimation α s and condensation α c of vapour are both equal to one. The experimental investigation of ice samples under simulated cometary-like conditions (Kossacki, K.J., Kömle, N.I., Leliwa-Kopystyński, J., Kargl, G., 1997. Thermal and structural evolution of cometary subsurface layer: selfconsistent model and experimental verification. Icarus 128, 127–144) suggests, however, that the sublimation flux calculated with the Hertz–Knudsen formula and the above assumption is nearly an order of magnitude too high. This may imply that actual values of α s for the ice/dust sample used in these experiments are of the order of 0.1. A similar conclusion can be drawn for α c from the results of various experiments concerning growth of ice crystals from the vapour phase and their sublimation (Lamb, D., Scott, W.D., 1972. Linear growth rates of ice crystals grown from the vapor phase. Journal of Crystal Growth 12, 21–31; Beckmann, W., Lacmann, R., 1982. Interface kinetics of growth and evaporation of ice II. Journal of Crystal Growth 58, 433–442; Sei, T., Gonda, T., 1989. The growth mechanism and the habit change of ice crystals growing from the vapour phase. Journal of Crystal Growth 94, 697–707). The exact values of both of these coefficients depend on various parameters such as temperature, concentration of surface impurities and deviation of the vapour pressure from that of the phase equilibrium. In this work the temperature dependence of the sublimation and condensation coefficients is discussed and an appropriate formula is proposed to fit the experimental results. This new formulation is then used to analyse the implications for the thermal conductivity of a porous cometary-like ice and the rate of vapour flux from a cometary nucleus.