We were finally wind and water tight, just in time for the new year.
After our windows were in, Cal and I both took on winter jobs - doing some tree planting and seasonal picking to rebuild funds for the project.
As winter became spring, we decided to divide an conquer - a strategy we would use for the whole summer, only again working on projects together in late Autumn.
Cal had two main goals during this time. He was in charge of first-fix plumbing and electrics, as well as bringing in more income for the project.
While he got underway with these tasks, it would be my job to insulate the house, lay flooring throughout, and plasterboard our walls, with the help of our incredible volunteers.
Insulating Our Home
As Cal got on with first fix plumbing and electrics, I made it my mission to insulate our home. This part of our project was key to our sustainable renovation’s success. Jameswood is an old Victorian home, and like 91% of the UK’s traditionally built, solid-walled homes - she has never had wall insulation (1) - and like 32% of all British homes, the building had such a small layer of loft insulation included, that by British standards, the home was considered to be uninsulated (1).
For our home to be efficient, and ready for life in the 21st century, we were going to wrap the building in a continuous layer of insulation - under the floors, in the walls and of course, in the ceilings. But there were some factors we had to consider when choosing how to insulate this property. Traditionally built homes are made of solid stone walls, with an air gap between this, and the inner layer of lathe and plaster that encloses the living space. The stone walls are designed to get damp in rainy conditions, and with the help of ventilation blocks in the crawl space, air flow gaps in the eaves and the air gap between the outer and inner layer of the walls, the walls will breath and dry out in dry weather conditions. It’s essential that this process is unimpeded by the insulation we put in our home (2).
Unfortunately, SheepWool insulation is expensive. In terms of costs, it is comparable to Kingspan - which has also become an expensive way of insulating a home, and is far more expensive that Glass wool insulation. We decided to be strategic about its use in our home, because we just didn’t have the cash to insulate our entire home in the material.
In the roof space and under the floor, we used glasswool insulation, some of which was salvaged from a friends renovation project. We used Kingspan sparingly - it was used around window and door reveals, where room was tight, and we needed a highly efficient, thin insulating material - for these, we managed to get second-hand boards for many of the spaces, and “seconds” - rejected boards with small defects, for the rest.
With an insulation plan in place, I got to insulating! Working with the Sheep Wool insulation was a dream! It has a sweet grass smell to it, it was easy to cut and install, and it was safe to work with - no PPE required!
Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said of our glass wool and Kingspan insulation. They were itchy and dusty to work with (always wear a proper face mask when working with this material!) and worming my way under the floor, and crawling around in the attic wasn’t the most fun job I’ve had to do in our renovation - but we quickly saw progress, and in no time at all, we had an insulated home! An exciting milestone for our project!
With an energy crisis AND and climate crisis in our midst, it’s increasingly important that we insulate our homes.
Putting wall insulation into a Victorian can be a bit tricky, and can require taking plaster down, reframing walls, and replastering large spaces. It’s not a practical solutions for everyone to tackle. However, there are some easy places to make your home more effiicient.
Check your loft - it should have about 300mm of insulation. If it doesn’t, topping up your insulation is a very quick, easy and inexpensive way of increasing the energy efficiency of your home. You could make savings that cover the cost of this upgrade in as little as a year (5)!
If you’re taking up flooring while doing renovations, consider putting underfloor insulation in as well. This job could save up to 10-20% extra on your energy bills (6).
Make sure your insulation creates a continuous envelope, with no gaps. A gap in your insulation can dramatically decrease its energy efficiency - it’s like putting on a jacket in the winter, but refusing to zip it up - you’ll get cold!
Check out your local government’s website for energy improvement grants. Right now, the Scottish government will cover the costs of putting insulation in your home! If you don’t own your home, make your landlord aware of these grants and ask that they make these important energy improvements.
What Have We Dunoon Blog by Claire Segeren is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at whathavewedunoon.weebly.com.