Transition Culture

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9 Jan 2008

The Joy of Loft Insulation.

2In 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.

l1Whether 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.

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18 Jan 2:07pm

I need to insulate a ‘room’ in our loft. What did you use to hold the vertical insulation in place?

Graham Burnett
4 Jan 6:51pm

Hi Rob, I’ve just insulated our loft, been meaning to do it for years but putting it off as one does… Our house is a Victorian Terrace, built @ 1910 I think, but the loft sounds similar to yours, ie, previously there was 70mm of what looks like rockwool between the joists, which I’ve now topped up by 200mm all over, but doubled up in places (ie to 400mm), particularly over my duaghters north facing bedroom which never seems to really warm up properly.

So, one year later, do you think your house really is warmer. I’m sure ours is, although I only finished an hour or so ago!! But then anthing feels warm after a few hours in our attic… I’ll try and do a write up for the Transition Westcliff blog…

However I must say your other posting has totally put me off the idea of underfloor insulation

Graham Burnett
4 Jan 6:52pm

PS, why did you need to do the vertical insulation in places?

Graham Burnett
4 Jan 7:07pm

BTW, I’ve noticed that there are huge fluctuations in the price of loft insulation at the moment, initially I bought 12 rolls (4 packs of 3)from B&Q at a tenner a pack. Later I saw some Ecowool in Homebase at 4.40 a roll, but with a BOGOF offer making it 2.20 a roll. It took me a few days to arrange transport with a car owning friend, but by the time we returned the BOGOF had not only finished, but the Ecowool had gone up to about 6 quid a roll (but with a 10% discount???) so it was back to B&Q, where the Top Up packs I’d previously paid ten quid each for had gone down to a fiver a pack…

the pricing of gas and oil is nothing compared to the fluctuating value of loft insulation it seems…

PS. I hate shopping in these superstores, particularly the out of town B&Q, but like you say Rob, its all about compromise and what is affordable…

4 Jan 9:36pm

Hi Graham
Great to hear you have done the loft! In terms of whether the house feels any warmer, hard to say. It does in some places, but not everywhere, and you do have to still get heat in there in the first place…. I have noticed a difference though. Doing the floor made a more immediately noticable difference though. In terms of why do the vertical bits, its because in my roof there are vertical wall bits that are part of the building envelope… sorry to put you off doing the floors… it is definitely worth the effort! Happy new year….