9 Jan 2008
The Joy of Loft Insulation.
In an episode of the Alan Partridge radio show, one of his guests is a Lord, who had just written his autobiography (Partridge: “you’ve just published your autobiography. What’s that about?”). The statesman in question has a strong reputation for being outspoken and outrageous, and he ends up having a heart attack and dying live on the show. During the interview, Partridge asks him why he has always been such an outspoken advocate for pornography. The Lord replies “what a man chooses to do, in the privacy of his own attic, is his concern and no-one else’s”. Over the last few days of the Christmas break, I spent a few days in my loft, but for far more laudable motives. I did however experience the strangely delightful solitary pleasure that can only be achieved by insulating one’s own loft.
My house was built in the early ’60s, and its insulation consisted of some fairly sad looking, rather compacted, rockwool and indeed some whole areas where there was no insulation at all. I took the plunge just before Christmas and ordered my insulation which sat in the garage over Christmas until I launched into it just after New Year. What did I use? Well, I priced up hemp, sheepswool and the more natural versions, but given my somewhat tight finances at the moment, I couldn’t afford those ones. It would have cost over £1,000 to do the loft using British sheepswool insulation, I ended up spending just over £300.
I used [Eco Wool], which is made from about 85% old plastic bottles. It is like rockwool, comes on a roll, has no nasties in, no dust or fibres, and is a pleasure to work with. Unlike some insulation materials, especially those that are sealed into foil packs, it has no ozone depleting or global warming potential, as in the slow release of gases. It was delightful stuff to use.
Working away up in the loft was, even for a cack-handed DIYer like myself, pretty straightforward. I managed not to fall through the ceiling below, and bore in mind the few things you have to remember when insulating a loft… only step on the rafters, don’t cover electric cables or junction boxes, don’t cover any recessed lights, and make sure that you don’t block the air vents at the point where the joists meet the walls. Other than that, its like falling off a log.
Eco Wool comes 200mm thick, so I put in 400mm, on top of the 100mm already in place (doubling the current Building Regs). In some sections where I wanted boarding down so I could store things, I had to just fill the rafters, but everywhere else I ran it in the other direction over the top. I also had to insulate some vertical sections, which I did to 200mm, as I have yet to work out the practicalities of doing otherwise.
Whether or not the house feels any warmer it is hard to say, I think psychologically it does, but we’ll see. So there you have it, if you have been meaning to get up in the loft and sort out the enormous heat drain that many loft spaces are, I highly recommend it. Only challenge I had was that the lamp I was using to illuminate the loft broke, and all I had to light up the loft was our Christmas tree lights, which I draped around the rafters, and provided sufficient light for me to work. Did feel rather festive, up in the loft, Christmas lights tinkling, surrounded by expanses of white, snow-like insulation. A veritable Winter Wonderland.