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Retrofitting creative insulation and draught exclusion

August 15, 2012 in Blog


This entry describes the challenges of my home. My house was built in 1977 as a rectangle with long walls on the south and north and short walls on the east and west but with completely wrong orientation- the living areas face predominately south and laundry, bathrooms, and kitchen face north. There is also a car port on the north wall meaning the one narrow window in the lounge that faces north gets no sun. There is a pergola to the south (which is actually very nice in summer but as the house is not quite north-south also gets some western sun which at times can blind you) but no sun enters downstairs in the living areas or downstairs bedroom. The oroginal house had exposed beams as part of its country style design. In 1988 a Cape Cod second storey was added and featured exposed beams under a raked cathedral ceiling which did not give enough space for roof insulation. The second storey covered most of the house except the lounge room at the east end of the house which was insulated when built. There is also original roof insulation between the ground floor and upstairs, and the second storey (which is weather board) has wall insulation put in 1988. The upstairs in keeping with downstairs also had living areas on the south (where the best views are) and the bathroom is on the north. A bedroom with small windows faces north and east (and this is lovely on winter mornings) and the main bedroom takes the whole of the western end of upstairs but has windows to the west (with awnings that are closed all summer but open in winter for the sun) and glass doors to the south (opening to a balcony which further shades the downstairs bedroom). So downstairs is always cool (including in summer) and upstairs is warm, but lost a lot of heat through the roof in winter.

We wanted to put insulation in the roof but liked the exposed beams. So we enclosed half the beams by installing lining boards half-way down the beam. This allowed insuation of recycled polystyrene bits to be pumped into the space between the original ceiling and lining boards to an EER of 6. The ordinary flat ceilings under the gabled roof (nortnside of upstairs) was insulated with woolcell (mixture of wool and cellulose) fibre to an EER of 5 and the ceiling above the lounge room (originally insulated in 1977) was redone as well.

An immediate difference was felt.

However after insulating the roof, I felt we needed to do something about the gaps left for ventilation in the toilets and laundry. Under an outdated building code the windows above the toilets both downstairs and upstairs had a large gap in the glass and there was a ventilation grill above the laundry door. (To make matters worse the laundry door also had a broken cat flap (the dog broke it) so we have put a new laundry door in that allows light (it is half glass- remember this is on the north side) with a new complete cat flap which closes tightly with no gaps.) I ordered new glass to replace the windows above the toilets- this was fitted today and I am looking forwards to the improvement on the next minus five morning.

But this still left the grill above the laundry door – I tried putting bubble wrap up but it blew down. But here is where the creativity came in.

The upstairs bathroom has two windows- one above the toilet which had the ventilation gap (no longer!) and a non-opening pane of clear glass into which a wooden bathroom cabinet had been fitted leaving a strip of clear glass above so not enclosing the space completely.

Things in the cabinet have been known to freeze over cold winter nights or melt as the sun beats down on the window. It also didn’t look that good when looking at the window from outside. We had bought some polystyrene sheets to insulate the dog kennel and had some left over. These sheets were exactly the width of the gap between the cabinet and window so we placed a sheet behind the cabinet which now insulates the cabinet. But polysturene does not look good from outside. So we painted the polystyrene- And now there is a painting of a cartoon angel dog (our dog died recently and this design was chosen by my grandaughters who painted the picture with their uncle) that can be seen from outside – this is the creative solution to an insulation challenge.

But we had mis-measured and had to cut the picture to fit- the strips of styrene left over fitted over the ventilation grill above the laundry door so now I have a painting of green grass with flowers under a blue sky above my laundry door and no breeze.

I still have to fit rubber to the bottom of the new laundry door and something where it closes (cork lining maybe) to ensure a tight fit as I can feel some air movement and perhaps fit a sheet of perspex to the glass on the door but I am well on the way to excluding draughts and letting in extra light.

3 comments to 'Retrofitting creative insulation and draught exclusion'

  1. Great to see you are overcoming a lack of foresight when your home was originally built and making the most of products originally purchased for other purposes.

    It concerns me that there still doesn’t seem to be enough of a focus on building more sustainable homes; maybe now with electricity going through the roof things will change.

  2. Thanks for sharing your creative ideas. We also have the ventilation gaps in our bathroom, toilet and laundry. I just wanted to check how you installed the glass in the gaps?

  3. Nice to know I am not alone in the minus five cold bathroom experience. I think alot of older homes face the issue of ventilation gaps. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

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