In today’s world, where climate change and ecology are very much mainstream subjects, few people aren’t aware that insulating their property is a good idea.
It means lower fuel bills and a warmer home, quite apart from the benefit of less pollution in the atmosphere.
If you’re renovating for profit, good insulation is now an excellent selling point too and will make your property more attractive than similar homes without it.
The first step is to eliminate as many draughts as possible, so that you’re not sending heat straight out of the house. This is the cheapest stage and probably the most cost-effective.
Any DIY store will have a variety of sealing options on sale, from self-adhesive foam tape to complex plastic mouldings for specific types of doors and windows.
Be careful with boilers and other heating equipment though, make sure that there is adequate ventilation for these items and if you need to leave gaps in door and window surrounds for this reason, leave them at the top, not the bottom or sides.
This will prevent cold air moving across rooms at the same level as people.
With a pitched roof, there are many materials that can be laid down between the roof joists. Government recommended amounts of loft insulation have gone up steadily since they first came in and now stand at ten inches (250mm) from 2 inches back in the Eighties.
Usually this insulation comes in rolls cut to the right width for the space between the joists, but if you have an older property, with non-standard gaps, loose-fill insulation can be used but you will probably need to apply a greater depth to achieve the same efficiency as a layer of glass-fibre or mineral wool.
A third option is to have specialist insulation mixes blown into the roof void. Some of these go on to the underside of the slates to keep them together, thus prolonging the life of the roof into the bargain. Others are blown onto the top of the ceiling layer where you would normally put rolls of insulation.
In between the First and Second World Wars houses in the UK began to be built with an inner and outer layer of brickwork with a gap between the two, to improve insulation and damp proofing.
These are known as cavity walls and these days there would be insulation placed between the two layers when building the house.
But many Twentieth Century houses will have the cavity but no insulation and, in these cases, insulation can be sprayed into the cavity to decrease heat loss from the home.
This is a job that needs a specialist to carry it out and often the cavity will need to be cleared out as well. In order to ensure that the correct products are used in each case, in many areas, this process is covered by building regulations, so check with your local planning department who will be able to advise the correct material and may be able to direct you to an approved contractor.
In an older home with only a single layer of brick or stone, you could insulate from the inside by dry lining with plasterboard fixed to battens and insulation and a vapour barrier behind the boards.
This would be incredibly disruptive in a house that you are living in but might be worthwhile in a renovation where the house has been largely stripped anyway.
Good news for some homeowners is that the government is doing something to help. On August 1st 2007 the UK government announced grants of between £100 and £300 tied to the Energy Performance Certificates introduced with the Home Information Packs.
These grants can be used toward the cost of cavity wall and loft insulation improvements recommended in a certificate.