This post is the first of four posts I will be doing on how to make your Victorian house warm. This is just an outline of where to start and what jobs need doing. I will be addressing the specific areas you need to target over the next four weeks. Insulating a period property can be a lengthy undertaking depending on what condition your house is in. It could also be as simple as finding and sealing up any drafts, fitting some new loft insulation and tinkering with the heating system.
The main problem with Victorian properties is that when they where built, the builders of these houses had much lower expectations of what the minimum inside temperature should be in winter. Victorian houses were originally built with no insulation and very little protection from the cold or heat. For modern day occupants this is not acceptable. Especially if you have always lived in a modern house and have been used to a home that is always warm and dry.
Most people expect their house to get to 19-21 degrees in the winter and maintain this heat throughout the house. I would personally think that 19 is a bit low, especially if you are sat around doing nothing. You’ll soon feel cold. 20-21 degrees is ideal.
This for me is one of the most important things. I’m really not a fan of being cold! Having a house that is warm and dry is absolutely imperative. Unfortunately this isn’t always the easiest thing to achieve. I have lived in cold houses before and without ripping down plaster walls, insulating floors and loft spaces you just aren’t going to get anywhere.
Even worse is if you have moved into a newly refurbished home but they haven’t insulated the walls, floors, roof space and lofts. Insulating becomes an even more difficult task because you know to get anything done you will need to pull down thousands of pounds worth of somebody else’s work. Insulating really does need to be one of the first jobs you do when you purchase a period property.
Its not just heating the house. If you have ever had any experience with damp or mouldy houses you’ll recognise the smell and air quality almost immediately. The smell of damp carpets and furniture is really bad. If you are moving new furniture into the house then prepare for your lovely new furniture to smell damp quite quickly. It may even become mouldy depending on the extent of the problem.
We lived in a recently refurbished 1960’s property for a few years. The developers had fitted the place out really nicely. Lovely hard wood floors, new carpets, bathrooms and the kitchen was a real feature. However, they hadn’t done anything to improve its thermal capabilities. It had double skinned brick walls, with plasterboard attached to the inner skin. They also hadn’t insulated the loft or floors.
The result was that within two years, black mould started to grow in some of the corners of the room. The walls were always freezing cold, even when the heating was on full. After about three years we started to notice an odour. We would only really smell it after we had been on holiday or been away from the house for a few days but it only got worse. The house was damp. We painted the house from top to bottom and treated all of the mouldy spots. This helped for about a year but the plaster underneath the paint was getting more and compromised as it was attached directly to the brick work and the icy cold bricks were radiating freezing cold air all the way through. This caused all sorts of damp and condensation related problems.
The only thing you can do to stop the damp from this point onwards is to take all of the plaster off the inside of all the external walls and properly insulate the walls. We also had cold coming at us from the floor and the even the loft. The house had been a bungalow and had the loft space converted into living space but the inside walls of the upstairs rooms also didn’t have any insulation. This is crazy! It wouldn’t have cost much or been particularly difficult to insulate the walls when the conversion was done. A few hundred pounds of insulation would have kept the upstairs bedrooms warm and cosy. Eventually mould patches started to show through the plaster boards walls of these rooms. The whole house was a mess and I was worried if it would start to impact our health.
So what is the best way to keep your Victorian house warm and cosy? It really will depend on what kind of shape your house is in. You always have two things to consider. Insulation whilst maintaining airflow. This is the key to a house that is warm, dry and likely to stay that way for years to come. The three main areas to tackle are the Floor, the walls and the ceiling/loft space.
Once you have dealt with these three issues you will be cold no more! These are also jobs you can do yourself; almost! With the probable exception of adding outside insulation to your exterior walls. That is a job for the experts. If you are adding insulation to the inside of the property then this is something you can tackle. Providing you don’t mind the mess and disruption some of these jobs can make. I’m not saying they are easy but they can be done. There are other blogs to prove it! I will link to some of these as they are really useful.
So lets get started! I’m going to start on the easiest of the three tasks the loft, next week. See you then!