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November 2010

Thermal insulation - don't listen to a physics master

My daughter has moved into a Victorian house and is finding redecoration a challenge because of the antics of the previous owner.

A physics teacher at a local school, the man obviously had good, green ideals and was ahead of his time in recognising the need to insulate the single-brick construction. Trouble is, although presumably a good teacher he wasn’t a good builder and his approach was to stick 25 mm-thick sheets of insulation board directly to existing plaster.

The result? Partial covering of period features such as covings, ugly overhangs on traditional wainscoting and, where structural changes have been required, some very hard graft in removing the insulation. It has also adversely affected the proportions of some rooms in terms of depths of clearance under cills.

Now, if the well-minded school teacher had thought about external thermal insulation his life - and my daughter’s - would have been made much easier. The house is an end of terrace so the complete end façade could have been insulated in one relatively simple operation with a suitable render finish. The same is true of the back of the building, which would have left only the attractive front of the house with its brick detailing in its original state.

External thermal insulation is a modern building technique we are going to see much more of in the future as we face up to the need to minimise energy losses on our existing building stock.

' Mort'

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