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Heating help needed…

Home Forums Heat & Hot Water Heating help needed…

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  • November 30, 2010 at 1:49 pm #3948


    Afternoon all

    We bought a beautiful old barn conversion last Nov and it is fab. It was originally built in 1320 and converted around 87/88. As lovely as it is it’s bloomin cold. We’ve replaced all rads for larger, period ones and upgraded the boiler to a modern, efficient one. All rads are the correct btu for each room, but it’s still blumin’ cold.

    The walls are approx 2ft solid stone, and we’ve mainly got vaulted ceiling (we live upstairs and sleep/wash downstairs). As is usual the windows are pretty small too.

    Who can I call to come and give me advise? I’m almost thinking I might need a thermal image producing to show where the cold spots are. But then it would be great if someone could convert that into a series of things that need doing. Architect, builder etc?

    We’re not sure how much insulation was used and we’d have to strip the plasterboard or tiles from the roof to check. Neither I’d rush to do!

    I’m in the Manchester area. Was hoping someone may know of a heating expert that could tell us if the heat us being lost through the walls or windows or roof etc. At least if we know we can make a decision of whether we do it or not. At the moment the rads are piping hot but the rooms chilly.

    Many thanks

    True North

    December 9, 2010 at 11:29 am #5459

    Key Master

    Regardless of how you proceed, you’ll need to establish how much insulation you have and what it is – can’t you access the roof space / attic or isn’t there one (in which case adding insulation is going to be tricky)? – warm air rises and all that – I suggest you be a devil and cut small hatches into the plasterboard to see what lies beneath. You only need small holes and they’re easily filled.

    Once you have established what you have in terms of insulation your options will be pretty well defined by the structure of your building (unless you want to undertake major works). For example, a blown ‘lose’ insulation may be appropriate in the void between your plasterboard and the stone wall. With no attic, additional roof insulation will need to be in the form of boards that can be inserted between the existing rafters etc.

    Establish your options then bring in the professionals…

    April 22, 2012 at 3:49 pm #5460


    True North,

    As mentioned above the starting point has to be the insulation already in place, you will need to determine this.

    The problem with barns, and other structures constructed some time ago, is that they are high mass due to their thick walls. They slowly absorb the cold from outside and transmit it through the wall to the inside where the reduced temperature emits cold radiation into the room. This cold radiation is what you are feeling, you get the same cold radiation from other high mass structures such as cathedrals.

    Try to think of your house as a box and you are trying to heat the inside of it. The top of the box is the easiest to deal with as it is relatively easy to add insulation to the roof space. Just dealing with the loft will not help much as you have only tackled one of the six sides.

    The walls are four sides of the box so if you can tackle these you have then done 5 of the six sides and big improvements in comfort would result. This is where you need to insulate yourself from the cold radiation. If you have a lined structure with a gap between the plasterboard and wall then the loose fill option mentioned above would be the easiest and cheapest. If this is not the case you can create your own space by lining the outside walls with timber studding with say 100mm foil faced foamed insulation between the studs and plasterboard fixed to the studs. This obviously reduces the room size by the amount taken up by the insulation. A less effective option is to use insulated plasterboard fixed with dot and dab, if the wall is straight. Generally the insulation thickness with this method is only 30mm so it is not as effective. With all these internal insulation options a vapour seal in the form of say a visqueen covering under the plasterboard should be applied to prevent interstitial condensation. The other component of the wall is the windows, of course, the benefit of changing these for double glazing is dependent upon the area of glass in the room. Small windows having less effect than large windows and glazed doors. If the windows are relatively small then their effect can be reduced with heavy curtains. If the windows are relatively large then they should be double glazed as the heat loss through them can be more than halved.

    The last side of the box is the floor and I would say that this should be the final element dealt with, as the cold effect is less that the walls. If it is a timber suspended floor then there is an opportunity to insulate between the joists; access to below the floor can usually be easily gained or made. If it is a solid floor I would say that it would be very difficult to add insulation and you may wish to think in terms of improving floor coverings via underlay and carpet etc.

    The final consideration is a really importand one; you need to protect your box from infiltration or cold drafts. A windy day significantly increases the heat loss from a building. If you can feel air coming in through door or window gaps then you will have great difficulty keeping the house warm. Modern doors and windows have very good sealing to restrict infiltration; you should try to copy this by adding door or window seals all around the frame.


    Chartered Building Services Engineer

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