Q: My Husband and I experienced a bitterly cold winter in our 1920’s cottage in Freemans Bay last year. Our kids were consistently off school with colds. We were using an oil column heater, but it did very little in warming up the home. As the warmer weather sadly leaves us, we are wondering what we can do to warm up our house until we renovate in early 2020.
A: Houses from the early part of the last century are infamous for being cold, drafty and hard to heat. A lot of people expect to be able to heat them by simply using an oil column heater. Sadly this isn’t the case. There are however some steps that you can take to ensure you have a warm home this winter.
The first step would be to see what the condition of the insulation is in your ceiling and under the floor. In the ceiling, check to see that it is at least 12cm thick, covers the whole ceiling, and has no gaps. If you find that it is thin and sparse, you can add a top up layer of insulation. It is also important to inspect for any damage from rodents or the damp. If you do find that your insulation is damaged, you will need to remove it and replace completely.
Underfloor insulation is a little trickier to inspect. There are three scenarios you might find yourself in.
- You may have a look and find that you have no underfloor insulation at all, in which case it will pay to install some.
- There is a chance that you will find a foil based product, leave it alone and call a professional to let on you know what your next move should be.
- The last scenario is that you find that bulk insulation has been installed. Check to see that it has been tightly fitted, with no gaps or pieces missing.
Insulation in the walls will be brought up to standard when you complete your renovation.
For more information on insulation I recommend visiting energywise.govt.nz.
Next, I highly recommend donating your oil column heater to an op shop and installing some new heating options. In your living area, I suggest installing a heat pump, this will deliver a consistent level of heat throughout the space. This can be easily retrofitted after your renovation. In the bedrooms, an easy to install and cost effective solution is to install panel heaters. These are readily available from Mitre 10 or Placemakers.
Discuss how you will heat your home in the long-term with your architect. There are many systems available now to keep your home warm and dry, such as a ducted heating system which I highly recommend.
The next step would be to look at how excess moisture is leaving your house in your bathroom and kitchen. Do you have an extraction fan that is taking any steam or moist air caused from cooking/showering out of the house? If not, you will need to have one installed. I suggest using an electrician to do this, as anything to do with power can be dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing.
Also, make sure you aren’t drying washing inside the house, as this will add unnecessary dampness into the air. Using a dehumidifier in the kids rooms may be a good idea too.
Lastly, inspect the condition of your timber joinery. Is heat escaping from any gaps around windows or doors? As a short-term fix, Selleys No More Gaps will be able to be used to fill the gaps. In the long term, I highly recommend replacement of all timber joinery in your home, with new timber joinery as this will come with double glazing standard as well as frames that have been manufactured to a higher standard than they were when the home was first built. Ask your builder to use Next Level Joinery to manufacture this for you, as they are experts in the production of timber joinery for villas.
Hopefully, these tips help you and your family stay warm and dry this winter.
Brendon Sowerby is the Founder of Next Level Construct, an award-winning end-to-end residential construction company specialising in renovations, extensions and new builds. Brendon has worked in the building trade for over 17 years, meaning he knows the ins and outs of the industry.
Got a building question? Ask Brendon on firstname.lastname@example.org