6 Jan 2010
My House Retrofit Comes Up Against a (Poorly Insulated) Brick Wall
I remember going to Chepstow last year for their Official Unleashing, and being told that they had nearly put out a press release about a project of theirs, which proclaimed that they wanted to make Chepstow “the most insulted town in Wales”, rather than insulated, spotting the typo just in time. Regular readers will have been following my ongoing attempts to retrofit my 1963 dormer bungalow. I have insulated the loft, crawled under the floors insulating between the joists, hemp and lime plastered my kitchen. Over the summer, we also insulated the trickier parts of our upstairs rooms with Pavatherm boards, and took up the floorboards in the rest of the downstairs and insulated under them, and put thicker carpets down. Yesterday however, we came up against a ghastly Catch 22 situation, and, dear reader, I have to say I am stumped, and feeling more insulted than insulated, and asking for any brilliant solutions the collective Transition Culture readership might have.
In spite of all our hard work, in this very cold weather, the house is still really rather nippy. The house has two sections, the main house and the kitchen. The kitchen is a converted garage, it has never had its cavity filled and is really rather chilly. The main house had its cavity filled with a kind of powdered Rockwool type stuff, blown into the cavities in 1979 (keep that date in mind, it comes back into the story later).
In my explorations in various bits of wall, I am sure that in some sections there is actually little or no insulation left in the cavities, and the walls themselves are very cold to the touch. So, I availed of the Cosy Devon scheme, the local energy advice centre (0800 512012, for anyone in the South West of England), who offer subsidised cavity wall insulation at £150 for the whole house. Great I thought. So, out came the guy yesterday with his clipboard. I had dug out, as he requested, the guarantee that came with the house when we bought it. Turns out the 30 year guarantee for the cavity wall insulation of the main house (from Rentokil, who I never knew offered such services) expired in May last year. Dang and blast!
He said they could do the kitchen no problem, but they couldn’t fill the other walls as they still had some stuff in them and it wouldn’t do to mix cavity wall insulation products. The two products can’t be mixed as you get pockets where they don’t meet and can cause mould and dampness. All he could suggest was a process whereby his company would come along, remove bricks at intervals around the house, suck out all the existing insulation, put the bricks back, and start again. That, he said, would be a very expensive operation (not covered by the existing grants).
So I’m left a bit high and dry. I can’t afford to have the substandard 30 years and 7 month old insulation removed, and I can’t put an effective cavity wall insulation in while it is still there. With all the best will in the world, and dedication to retrofitting and carbon reduction, things like this are the practical realities of actual retrofitting on a tight budget. For Government, enabling the Great Retrofit across the UK will be made or broken on the hard to treat houses, the ones with no cavity, or daft compromised cavities like mine, ones that need external cladding but have no overhanging roof, etc, etc. I have to admit to being stumped… and chilly. Any suggestions?