Certain songs have been the soundtrack to our renovation so far. There’s a special mention to Take That’s These Days or as it’s known here, Andy’s pudding song – We’re Gonna Live For Cheesecake, but my ear worm this weekend is Meghan Trainor’s fabulous All About That Bass and I have my own version as the mammoth task of filling in every gap between timber frame work with rigid insulation boards begins: it’s all about the cuts, bout the cuts, no mistakes. With a little booty shimmy with every saw cut.
I’ve been renovating houses since 1996 and in the ‘olden days’ before eco warriors, sky high bills and the green revolution, no-one really thought much about properly super insulating our homes. Unlike the sensible Scandis, who’ve been right on this forever, us Brits always thought a bit of loft insulation would do the trick. Even now, with unbelievably high energy bills crippling normal households, the Green Deal is widely perceived as a failure, too complicated, too may sales type shysters involved and detail which feels to most people like wading through mud. Self and new builders are on it like a bonnet but to the regular Joe with a Victorian terrace or Edwardian semi, the heating dial simply gets turned up. For those who can’t afford to turn the dial up, or even put the dial on, the future look bleak.
In 2003/4 I renovated a building split into five flats, then just five years later renovated next door, split into six flats. On the first one we followed building regs in terms of rigid insulation but didn’t take down any existing ceilings as a retro fit or go the extra mile. On the second I’d been researching self-builds so was much more aware of insulation issues, plus by that time, 2009, insulated plasterboards were starting to be easier to get hold of locally. I specified 35mm insulated plasterboards for all the walls and guess what, all the builders told me I was potty. Waste of money they said, no landlords do this they said, you’ll regret it they said.
And guess what? I don’t. The building and flats done in 2009 are so SO much warmer than the ones done in 2004. The bills for tenants are cheaper, the feel of the flats when they’re empty and unheated is warmer, the walls are toastier to the touch and I’m just all round totally convinced it’s money hugely well spent. Ok, a 12.5mm regular plasterboard might be a little over £5 and insulated board might be triple that, more if thicker, but consider how much you’ll actually use for an average room – the difference is probably around £100. For a warmer, more comfortable room with lower bills – totally worth it.
I’ve seen and experimented first hand with Omitting Versus Using insulation and can attest from experience that every little extra is valuable. There is no way we are scrimping here at Moregeous Mansions. After 8yrs of being freezing cold in winter, with ice on the inside of windows, heat literally pouring out of the roof and walls too chilly to put anything against, we are doing everything properly and I’ve waited long enough to want the best. That means Kingspan rigid insulation boards up the sides & in the tops of the dormers, on the main West Wing pitch and also in the main house up in the roof void. You can get cheaper than Kingspan, there are other brands out there, but they’re not as good and to get the same insulation levels you’d really need thicker boards. Eg, (without getting too technical) in the roof pitch we’re using 100mm thick rigid board, but for a cheaper brand to get the same levels of insulation, I’m advised we’d need to go thicker, maybe 120mm or 150mm. It fits snuggly (if cut well with a sharp and level saw) between all the timbers to prevent cold coming in and heat getting out – perfect!
In old houses anything you can do to insulate is worth it, but if you’re serious about your home and are in it for the long haul, these things are worth properly considering and going that one step further can make all the difference. In our home we are adding to the shallow existing roof rafters of the main house to get a decent depth for 100mm rigid insulation and taking off ALL the existing plaster throughout to replace with new insulated board for example, but at this stage when everything is such a mess, it’s worth doing. If you’re having re-plastering done, why not think about thermal boards instead of the regular 12.5mm plasterboard a builder will almost always get for you.
For this next few weeks here it’s all about the cuts, filling every gap between the structural timbers properly and carefully and creating a super warm shell before I turn my mind to the interiors. Get the bones of a house right first before you even start thinking about the dressing stages, that’s my considered advice x