/ Cold Terrace House - what would you do?
The downstairs of my house in Sheffield is freezing. Any advice on how to make it warmer would be great.
The house is a fairly standard three bed Victorian terrace. There are two rooms downstairs and small hallway leading upstairs.
Kitchen. We put this in a few years ago and insulated its floor. It also has a modern composite door, which we use to enter/exit the house. The window is double glazed.
There is also an old wooden door that leads down to the cellar. This badly fits the frame and currently has no draft exluders.
The front room hasn’t been done up/decorated since we brought the house. It has a wooden floor with the cellar below. This currently isn’t insulated.
It has a big bay window with a slated glass vent. This is single glazed. Next to it is standard wooden front door. This never gets used. It has a sofa in front of it. There is a single glazed window above it.
If this was your house what would you do to make it warmer?
Also would be you get a builder to do the windows or double glazing firm?
Any recommendations for Sheffield based builders would also be great.
Put some heating in it.
The front room has a gas fire and a radiator. The kitchen also has a radiator...
it depends how long you plan to stay there because it isn't a cheap option, but if this were my house I'd put in a woodburner.
More economical things that would make a difference would be a big rug or carpet fitted in the front room and draught stripping the bay window and the cellar door.
I'd also wear a jumper
Victorian, so I'm assuming solid walls? In which case, internal insulation & plasterboard cladding?
Insulate the underfloor (from the basement).
And yes, double glazing.
That about covers your major options, I think...
Despite you being a writer, and stating "The house is a fairly standard three bed Victorian terrace", I am struggling to picture this house.
You enter into the kitchen, but you mention a "front room"
Do you enter through the back?
Is the cellar used, ever?
Heavy lined curtains almost ceiling to floor and generously sized for width at bay window.
Is the loft insulated?
We a built a small vestibule on one old house. Double glazed glass walls, oak frame ( very pretty imho).. cut out masses of noise from outside, acted as air lock when entering leaving etc.. plus a natural place to leave outdoor shoes and jackets etc..
> Heavy lined curtains almost ceiling to floor and generously sized for width at bay window.
This. Vastly cheaper, quicker and easier to take with you than double glazing
Then insulate under the living room accessing from the basement with rockwool or simlar. Horrible job but cheap and easy to do
Sort out the drafty cellar door. Cheap and easy.
Do you heat upstairs? If so, insulate the loft (if it is already insulated, put more in. In fact do this anyway. Cheap and easy.
Then see how you are doing.
Thick curtains over the cellar and front doors.
I am guessing high ceilings so more air to heat? Plus hot air rises. Do you close the doors on the rooms? As suggested above, heavy curtains as well.
As always, it depends; because it may be cheaper to move than fix, so if you're not tied to the area or house you're in get everything costed properly before doing anything.
That said, double glazing - ask your neighbours who did theirs and what they thought - a porch for that front door, possibly done in conjunction with the windows, sealing gaps to the cellar and, ideally, a woodburner would raise your room's temperature very nicely.
I used to have one of these in sheffield. If you share a wall with the ginnel the you lose loads of heat via that. A mate had doors fitted to the ginnel which helped a lot cutting down draughts.
A bifold door at the bottom of the stairs made a huge difference. Stops all the heat shooting upstairs.
Good carpets and underlay. Double glazed but solid wood frames to keep the style. Good curtains.
Efficient condensing gas boiler.
Lovely house - would never have moved if it had had a garden.
We've got a terraced house. We draught-proofed everything but ended up putting new heating in. When it's cold, the heating stays on low all day - seems to work (but costs a lot - a trade-off for living in a nice gaff)
Is the heating system working properly, do the rads need back flushing etc?
(& if you've got a ginnel, put a traversing wall in it!)
> Despite you being a writer, and stating "The house is a fairly standard three bed Victorian terrace", I am struggling to picture this house.
If you lived in Sheffield I don't think you would be, there are *thousands* of them.
Double glazing throughout is probably the biggest single thing you can do to improve it. If you can't for any reason, even secondary glazing (this can be done quite cheaply using perspex and sticky backed magnetic strips) will make a significant difference.
If you get draughts through the front door you may want to put some kind of draught excluders around it or even a thick curtain across it.
There is a reason why the only place you tend to see single-glazed windows these days is on houses with some kind of listing or similar requiring the retention of original sash windows.
If it was anything like our old house I would imagine a front room, middle room and kitchen downstairs and three bedrooms upstairs with one of them over the kitchen
> there are *thousands* of them.
Drill a hole in the front room floor. Open the slatted vent. Start a smouldering fire in the cellar.
Et voilà, underfloor heating.
The correct number for Zulus is "bloody hundreds" iirc
Heat rises, you haven't described anything about upstairs, start there.
> Put some heating in it.
Get the neighbours to turn up their heating
In our freezing Sheffield terrace house many years ago, I packed the beams under the floor board with rock wool and held it in place with hardboard sheets. This helped in that room.
We had an open fire in there as well but that was pretty crap. These days I would put a wood burner in and that would definitely make it warm when you need it.
I presume your cellar is ventilated and therefore properly cold. Insulate under the floor, this should be pretty straightforward with access from below. Fiberglass and hardboard/osb is probably cheapest, foam is quick and easy but you need to make sure there are no draughts between it and the boards or it or it's a waste of time.
Fix the cellar door up with new seals, fill cracks etc and back it with a piece of foam.
Draughtproof (brushes/tape/caulk as appropriate) the windows and old door then invest in heavy lined curtains, snuggly fitted at the edges and sweeping the floor at the bottom for both. Draughts are a much bigger heat loss than single glazed panes, modern units will fix both at a cost but the curtains and fixing the draughts will make a big difference.
A general builder is unlikely to be FENSA registered like a specialist window fitter so you'd have to factor in the cost of building control signing the job off or the hassle and cost of selling without the right paperwork in the future.
Put a curtain across the stairs, ideally at the bottom as it's safer.
If you have a lot of exposed external brickwork you could use insulated plasterboard but you'll have to plaster, redecorate, potentially extend wiring and of course make good all the woodwork. I've gone this route because most of that work needed doing anyway but it's probably not worth the effort otherwise.
Hunt down other draughts (use a candle) and where possible deal with them.
Once you've insulated and made the property more airtight; you must pay close attention to condensation control.
Victorian properties were designed to breath. As soon as you fill every nook and cranny with insulation and install double glazing etc, you essentially bung up all the ventilation points.
This can then lead to mould and condensation problems
"The sentries report Zulus to the South West. Thousands of them."
I don't think it really matters that much though, as long as you only blow the bloody doors off.
Not a lot of people know that
Putting in a wood burner is fine, provided that you are happy to be complicit in the pollution of the air that you and your neighbours breathe.
I’ve already got a gas fire. I don’t like the faff of wood burners or the amount of mess they create.
Thanks for all the advice everyone.
Anyone recommend a firm in Sheffield to do my windows?
Also what are the pros and cons of celotex versus rock wool for insulating the floor?
I'm not really answering your question, but take note of what handofgod said above.
I found this book really good (I have the first edition but doubt much has changed.) If you are going to change much in your house, get it.
Cellotex may kill you in a fire with toxic smoke. Rockwool won't. Rockwool is irritating to install.
In case you missed it, I already did.
You've loads of options, so work out and do the most efficient one first.
You lose heat through surfaces or air changes, so measure the area of the windows and work out how much less heat would be lost with double glazing or secondary glazing using R and U values. There will be an online calculator for that. Ditto for the loft and downstairs floor if the cellar is draughty (as it should be).
One thing not mentioned is fireplaces - an unused chimney will vent warm air out the house like it's going out of fashion, so get chimney balloons and block them (either totally, or partially if damp is a concern).
Recycled PET insulation is like rockwool but itchfree .
Consider external insulation if it's possible as that's a lot more efficient than thermalboarding - for a start the brick walls won't absorb gallons of rainwater like they are currently. It takes a lot of heating to evaporate all that water out the walls.
Woodburner - only if you can get free wood and have somewhere to store it. However, a multifuel stove burning coal is a lot more efficient than an open fire burning coal and has the advantage of being able to throttle the chimney when it's not in use, so consider that if you burn coal already.
> I'm not really answering your question, but take note of what handofgod said above.
> I found this book really good (I have the first edition but doubt much has changed.) If you are going to change much in your house, get it.
> Cellotex may kill you in a fire with toxic smoke. Rockwool won't. Rockwool is irritating to install.
Celotex has a higher peformance than rockwool and has a class 0 flame spread rating (the best rating). That's not to say it doesn't burn if it gets hot enough. That being said you can still pack plenty of mineral wool insulation into the depth of Vicotorian floor joists, and that would be my preffered choice because it's cheaper. I used some earthwool recently (for sound insulation) and found the fibres a lot less irritating than rockwool, plus it came in handy 600 x 1200 'slabs' that are easy to cut and fit.
I've used Sheffield Window Centre and had no complaints, very tidy job and they made good on their guarantee when we had a small issue with some ironmongery 3 years after the install.
Someone mentioned ACA windows, seen them working on our street twice and also looks like they do a good job. Both are registered on building regs self-cetrification schemes (FENSA and CERTASS respectively)
Addressing drafts has been the single most helpful thing towards making my own terraced house warmer. Even somewhere with coldness but no drafts on the other side of the door can reduce the temperature. Not surprisingly, really, but it wasn't the first thing on my list of places to sort re covering gaps around doors and things.
> Cellotex may kill you in a fire with toxic smoke. Rockwool won't. Rockwool is irritating to install.
Toxic smoke. Please can you provide more info on this.
All smoke is toxic. Regarding Cellotex (and similar)
> Celotex has a higher peformance than rockwool and has a class 0 flame spread rating (the best rating). That's not to say it doesn't burn if it gets hot enough.
Flame spread ratings say nothing about toxicity of combustion products.
> All smoke is toxic. Regarding Cellotex (and similar)
When you burn anything; wood, plastic, leather, carpets, wall paper, rugs etc they all give off toxic gases. Usually Carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide are the most prevalent gases given off.
Cyanide ( which I assume you are referring to, the media love banding this one about..) is given off in much smaller quantities but once again, burn any every day object you might find around your house and cyanide will be given off. The very keyboard your typing on, will give off cyanide when burnt and so will mineral wool which is what Rockwool is made from ( Rockwool just being a brand name). So your initial statement is a little miss guide.
Celotex and PIR based products alike, are all excellent insulators and if you can afford them, far more superior in all aspects compared with the cheap rolls of glass fibre sold in say B&Q.
Also you comment about Class 0 surface spread of flame is a little misguided too. Do you understand what this term means and why it’s in the Build Regulations?
Edit: just thought, even cigarettes have cyanide in.
> Also you comment about Class 0 surface spread of flame is a little misguided too. Do you understand what this term means and why it’s in the Build Regulations?
Yes I do. You seem to have agenda here of some sort. I've given you the link as requested showing why PIR products are more likely to poison you than rockwool in a fire. Do what you like with it. Personally I have both types on insulation in my house. Note, from the conlcusion of the above paper
"However, it is evident from the data presented here and that of other studies that the contribution to the fire toxicity for either glass wool or stone wool is negligible compared to that from any of the foam products"
No agenda. I have a lot of PIR in my roof, so any mention of toxic gases pricks my ears.
> "However, it is evident from the data presented here and that of other studies that the contribution to the fire toxicity for either glass wool or stone wool is negligible compared to that from any of the foam products"
But that is my point, everything in your home when burnt will give off toxic gasses.
Curtains, carpets, TV, PC etc etc.
The fact the insulation which is usually in your roof space ( once the fire has reached your roof you are up sh!t creek anyway) gives off the same toxic gases is irrelevant. No?
> But that is my point, everything in your home when burnt will give off toxic gasses.
Which is why I wrote above, all smoke is toxic. However, the more material you have that gives of particularly toxic smoke, the more likely it is to affect or kill you. It's worth at least being aware of this before filling every void in your house with such stuff. In the discussion above it was floor, not roof insulation being considered.
> Then insulate under the living room accessing from the basement with rockwool or simlar. Horrible job but cheap and easy to do
You can get rockwool wrapped in "silver foil" which makes it much easier to handle. We held it in place using twine strung across between the joists (attached to the joists with staples).
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