How to insulate an Edwardian House properly

(89 Posts)
RoseAddict Sat 09-Oct-21 21:39:23

We have a drafty Edwardian end of terrace which is hard to heat. We tend to rely heavily on a log burner which we love but the more we read about it the more we realise we must make some changes and use it less. Last year we tried using the central heating more but we can’t really afford it, the house never gets very warm without the log burner on and this year the gas situation is frankly terrifying.

The loft is insulated a bit with that awful glass fibre stuff. There’s about 10cm in there with boards over it and loads of stuff I’m storing for a family member.

We have an original front door which we have worked on draft proofing but os basically still very drafty.

We have double glazing which is ok- last year we replaced the worst offending windows that were very badly fitting and didn’t close properly.

The wall on the detached side gets very cold. The cupboard under the stairs blows a gale in to the hall.

We are trying to think where to start. We don’t have loads of money to spare but could borrow if it were really going to make a difference.

We need to replace the downstairs floors, should we do underfloor insulation? Should we insist family member takes back the stuff from the loft and then triple the insulation up there? Should we look into external wall insulation (probably too ££ and problematic but we want to look at all options).

We could spend a couple of K right off or save up or borrow to do a bigger job if we really feel it’s worth doing.

We are not in a conservation area so have a reasonable amount of freedom wrt external insulation etc. House is currently pebbledashed so to take that off and insulate the outside wouldn’t be as sacrilegious as if we had pristine red bricks.

Or we could move! Would rather not move though

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LegoLady95 Sat 09-Oct-21 21:59:57

Can you put up thick curtains over your front door. Ours make a big difference with drafts.
If your loft is rammed with stuff it's probably doing some insulating anyway.
I would definitely look into some floor insulation. Made a huge difference when we put kingspan down.

RoseAddict Sat 09-Oct-21 22:27:14

Hi @LegoLady95 Yeah we have a thermal curtain over the front door and have doubled glazed the glass. We also have a letterbox cover. Still seems to blow a gale around the lock/ edges.

Under floor insulation sounds like it might be a good option yes.

I keep thinking there must be graphs and data on what is best to do first and what gives the best return on outlay

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MintJulia Sat 09-Oct-21 22:49:58

My house was much the same. The things that had the most impact were:
- an extra 10cm of insulation to the loft. Inexpensive & easy to fit.
- a new front door with 4* thermo/insulation and properly sealed letter box (about £1250 fitted).
- get rid of/fix any damp.
- get thermal linings for your curtains or blinds. If you're handy with a sewing machine, £200 could make the whole house warmer.

My floors are concrete so I couldn't have underfloor insulation.

Bobsyer Sun 10-Oct-21 01:55:03

I just saw a graph on reddit, think it was r/housingUK where the poster had tripled their loft insulation and monitored the warmth of the house. It had a huge impact.

I got an EPC for the house we're moving into (on Tuesday! Whoop!) and it did have how much it would cost to do X and the expected impact. If I can find the doc I'll see where that info comes from.

ablutiions Sun 10-Oct-21 02:05:36

You can get grants for some of that work, try Googling or go onto to find the information.

Also worth asking your energy provider what they offer.

Agree with PP re loft insulation. With the cupboard under the stairs sounds daft but can you out carpet in there - a cheap of offcut or little cheap rug cut down to,fit ?

You can also cheaply make draught excluders for doors using an old pillow for filling and some fabric.

A chimney sock in rooms where you have unused fireplaces stops draughts too.

Wearing slippers in the house also helps to,keep feet warm, which keeps the rest of you warmer.

SallyLockheart Sun 10-Oct-21 07:28:29

Underfloor insulation- would be well worth it - but make sure all the edges are done and maintain subfloor ventilation. Ditto roof insulation - easy win.

External wall insulation is very effective. Can be applied over pebbledash and rendered in a smoother modern render. Need to be considered with new windows though as windows not as easy to replace once installed. Hard to justify in pure financial terms but has made a huge difference to our house in terms of much more comfortable level of warmth when reduced heating on. Covering the pebbledash increased key appeal of house too. The government ought to be encouraging EWI etc but recent green initiatives have been poorly thought out and take up by installers has been poor.

Floor and loft first, and perhaps investigate EWI and see if any green initiatives come out in the future..


RoseAddict Sun 10-Oct-21 08:04:23

Thanks all. I feel like this must be a big subject this winter as we all face huge energy price rises. I’ve looked into grants a bit but as far as I can see there are no current schemes we are eligible for.

I’m really reluctant to lose the original front door but maybe we will have to consider it.

Good idea about carpet in the under stairs cupboard at least as a temporary measure.

I’ll get a quote for under floor insulation. I don’t know what our under floor situation is like and how much ventilation space is left as the house was underpinned 20 years ago so I know there’s a ton of concrete under there rather than just the. original construction.

Re loft insulation when I look up how to do it I keep reading horror stories of damp lofts caused by modern insulation standards. I suspect this would be more a problem in places that are colder- in the south of England has anyone found this a problem? When I read how to do it properly it involves either a waterproof membrane followed by insulation or a breathable membrane with breathable insulation on top. As we’ve already got a layer of glass fibre I can’t do either of those methods without taking it out and starting from scratch. We have a badly fitting loft hatch in the bathroom so I do have reason to worry about damp getting up there from that perspective too. Basically I have read too much about what can go wrong with loft insulation to feel able to do it! But I know it’s one of these things that millions of people who have insulation with no problems will not be writing about online!

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The8thMonth Sun 10-Oct-21 08:07:50

I have a semi detached home and our external side of the house was so cold. We did insulate that whole wall/ side of the house on both floors and it made a big difference. We insulated on the inside of the house.

We also had drafty exposed floorboards throughout the house. We ended up not insulating the ground floor, but instead putting new wood flooring down and then adding vents to the ground floor so that the old house remained well ventilated. We left the drafty floor boards upstairs so the warm air downstairs goes to the first floor.

We put in a new front door because the old one was so drafty, as well as new double glazing in the windows.

If you have any newer parts of the ground floor, then underfloor heating there would help to heat the rest of the ground floor without needing to put in more radiators.

The8thMonth Sun 10-Oct-21 08:13:41

One other thing, if you want to retain your original door you can ask a good joiner to see if he would be able to help. They might be able to adjust the frame to the door or the door to the frame better. (For example the could add more wood to the edges of your existing door). They can certainly fit a less drafty letterbox and draft excluder to the bottom of the door .

Our door was not original, if it had been, that's the route I would have taken.

Instead, i

RoseAddict Sun 10-Oct-21 08:14:05

That’s so interesting. I’m reluctant to insulate the side wall internally because I think it’ll make the stator see narrower how thick was your insulation @The8thMonth?

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RoseAddict Sun 10-Oct-21 08:14:34

Staircase that should have said!

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MythicalBiologicalFennel Sun 10-Oct-21 08:16:42

We did external wall insulation years ago, part financed by a short-lived, not well advertised government scheme.

The difference is unbelievable. Before the heating could be on 24 hours a day and you would hardly get to 14 degrees in the house in the winter. I used to get in from work and not take my coat off. I used to have to potter around the house wearing two jumpers and two pairs of socks, having hot drinks to keep me warm...

Now the house is toasty through the winter. The heating only comes on very cold days and only for a couple of hours a day - it gets warm easily and stays warm effortlessly.

RoseAddict Sun 10-Oct-21 08:30:24

So far we haven’t asked a joiner to improve the front door fitting but yes that is a good idea. We have a ridiculous oversized letter box for some reason. We’ve put an insulating flap on the inside but I suspect this could be improved too. Most of our neighbours have modern front doors and are very pleased with the added warmth but they really don’t look as nice… plus we got the stained glass replaced according to the original design when we moved in. I guess we could sell the glass locally but seems a shame

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RoseAddict Sun 10-Oct-21 08:31:30

@MythicalBiologicalFennel that’s amazing! Yes I come home and keep my coat on during the winter!

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The8thMonth Sun 10-Oct-21 08:34:45

@RoseAddict I can't find exactly how thick it was. We were guided by the contractor in how much was necessary and what they used. It can't have been much more than 10cm. We didn't have your concern of a narrow hallway...

The external wall for us was in a sitting room and upstairs bedroom. We didn't lose the alcoves either side of the chimney breast on that side of the house even after the insulation on the inside of the house.

SallyLockheart Sun 10-Oct-21 08:34:58

Re lofts. If you have a “cold” loft, as many older houses were designed with, adding more insulation is fine as it should be well ventilated and therefore cold. Insulated loft covers - can be DIY - can be very effective too

SallyLockheart Sun 10-Oct-21 08:41:12

Presuming you still wooden floor joists and a subfloor gap, then sub floor ventilation is absolutely vital and anybody quoting for the job needs to talk to you about maintaining that air flow.

The8thMonth Sun 10-Oct-21 08:41:23

@RoseAddict our front door is new but looks original. We ordered double glazed stained glass fitted into the door we designed with the joiner. Got quite a few asks on where we purchased the door, but it took us 3 tradesmen to achieve the door: joiner, glazier and painter.

We did look into buying an antique door and then getting a joiner to fit it to our door frame. This is totally possible, we just didn't find an antique door we liked enough. Had we, I know that the three tradesmen would have been able to do it up

RoseAddict Sun 10-Oct-21 08:43:23

@SallyLockheart We would leave gaps around the edge for ventilation but my concern is if loads of shower condensation gets through the loft hatch every day which I’m assuming it currently does and then it can’t get past the insulation we’ll get rot in the joists.

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RoseAddict Sun 10-Oct-21 08:44:10

@The8thMonth so yours is wooden not composite?

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Decorhate Sun 10-Oct-21 08:47:35

Would it be possible to add an enclosed porch to the front so you could keep your original front door? Our house originally had an open porch area (overhanging roof & bay window). Previous occupants had enclosed it & although the porch door is not well fitted it does mean there is less of a draft in the hallway

SallyLockheart Sun 10-Oct-21 08:55:07

Rose, if your only shower ventilation is via the loft hatch, I would look into proper ventilation for the shower and then insulate the loft hatch?

On the basis that heat rises, a relatively tightly sealed and insulated loft hatch is very useful

The8thMonth Sun 10-Oct-21 08:55:30

@RoseAddict yes the new door is wooden. The glass above the door is original and the glass in the door is new

RoseAddict Sun 10-Oct-21 10:18:35

@The8thMonth that’s beautiful!

Thanks @SallyLockheart (incidentally I am currently reading the Sally Lockhart books!)

These are all fab ideas and I want to do all of them but what should we do first? For example properly ventilating the shower and improving the loft hatch was loosely scheduled for ‘not yet’ as it would go with renovating the bathroom which is currently functional although in a hideous 80s way.

I am very keen on external insulation even though we would have to borrow to do it, but the point about it having to go with new windows is offputting as we have decent but not nice upvc windows that are still fine but that we would want to replace at some stage with sashes.

I’m thinking we start with loft and then do underfloor insulation 🤔

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