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Introduction To Insulating Your Older Home

We bring you the top ways to help you save energy and money when installing insulation into your home. We provide you with information within this article on the different types of insulation, insulation removal, installation techniques and eco friendly options.

What Is The Aim Of Insulating Your Home?

The aim with any home is to make it warm and cosy with reasonable running costs and for the property not to emit more CO2 than it has to. The two ways to achieve this is to put in more heat or insulate the property.

Choosing insulation is a very effective way of saving energy, but you need to make sure it is properly installed at all times by a professional so it does not cause any other problems going forward. You must also be aware of any permissions that may be needed to apply for before carrying out the work, especially if your home is listed or in a conservation area.

Types Of Insulation

Roof Insulation

Insulation within your loft space is a great way to insulate your home, improve efficiency and save money on your energy bills. Installing thick layers of insulation will not cause problems if it is installed carefully. Current building regulations require homeowners install around 300mm thickness of insulation within the loft to adequately improve the efficiency of the property.

Roof insulation at the rafter level can be added above, between or beneath the sloping rafters. Insulation added above rafters, known as sarking insulation, can be effective if installed in one continuous layer with no gaps.

The disadvantage of sarking insulation is that it will raise the roof slightly to accommodate the depth of insulation used. This could mean having to alter the gutters, gables, ridges and the abutments with chimneys; all of this work can significantly add to the cost of insulating the roof. 

Adding insulation between and below rafters of the roof can usually be tackled from within the building. Although this generally works out to be a cheaper option you have to consider that it will involve removing internal finishes in the property which may be a problem if the finishes are historically significant and are part of the properties character.

Floor Insulation

Many traditionally constructed buildings have a timber ground floor suspended above a ventilated sub-floor. Insulation material is placed between the joists underneath the floorboards, so insulating suspended timber floors will require access to the floor void.

Many older constructed homes have a timber ground floor suspended above a ventilated subfloor, compared to newer homes that are built on concrete foundations. This allows insulation material to be placed between the joists, underneath the floorboards. Insulating the suspended timber floors will therefore require access to the floor void. If the floor void is shallow in depth then all the floorboards will need to be lifted in order to add insulation.

This can be a difficult job to carry out as it is very easy to damage old floorboards. If the property has a basement or cellar it is possible to add insulation from below.

Losing heat through solid floors is generally smaller compared with many other forms of heat loss. In order to insulate a solid floor this usually requires excavation which can be potentially damaging to historic floors. Any alterations to the floor structure on an older period property need to be carefully considered. The amount of work that this could require and the cost associated with this type of work often makes it uneconomical relative to the savings that could be made.

Insulating Walls

As we mentioned previously in this article, a large proportion of properties constructed before 1920 were built with solid internal and external walls. Solid walls are not good insulators of heat and are often cold to touch year round. Solid walls can be difficult to insulate for a number of reasons we mention below:

  • There is a danger of trapping moisture
  • Skirting boards, architraves and services will need to be removed and refixed
  • Adding insulation can reduce the floor area which, if the room is already small, could be a significant issue

There is the option to add insulation to the outside of the solid walls but in most cases this is likely to radically change the external appearance of the building and alter its true character, something which homeowners of period properties are reluctant to change, and for good reason.

Michael Cornish