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How to Insulate an Old House: The Complete Guide

old house

Old homes are often beautiful and filled with period features like elegant doors, windows and fireplaces. 

Unfortunately, the price you pay for these features is often dealing with draughts, poor temperature regulation and excess moisture. 

Structurally, you can also find your roof, walls and floor to be seriously lacking in their temperature control abilities. 

These issues can quite literally put a dampener on how you enjoy your home. Read on to find out how to insulate an old house. 

Why Insulating an Old House is Important

While old houses may have character, they also have shortcomings. Modern building standards, such as minimum R-Value requirements, were not commonplace in past decades. If your house is old enough, they may not have even been invented yet!

Read our complete guide to R-Values. 

While old houses are known for their sturdiness, things like insulation and proper finishing and sealing are often absent. 

If you’re routinely throwing an extra log into your vintage fireplace, all of that extra heat is just compensating for the cold air that is entering your home. 

Paying to insulate your old house will save you money in the future by limiting how much you need to rely on other heating sources. It will also make you much more comfortable and able to enjoy your home. 

Doors, Windows and Fireplaces

In old houses, when things like doors, windows and fireplaces were installed the owners were more concerned with how they looked than how they functioned. Because of this, they aren’t as well fitted or sealed compared to their modern day equivalents.

Have your doors and windows assessed to see if they are letting in draughts. Often the frames of wooden sliding windows will have worn down since they were installed and draughts can easily filter through the gaps. Fireplace chimneys are another common culprit for unwanted cold airflow, with gaps often leading into the roof cavity or the living room itself.

Getting any gaps or holes fixed should be your first priority. You’ll be amazed by how quickly it makes a difference!

The Roof

Up to 35% of a house’s total heat loss is through its roof. In old houses, this problem can be made worse by deteriorating materials and larger cavities.

Australia’s climate is hot, so modern homes are built with small roof cavities to reduce the amount of space for hot air to collect. In England, however, regular snowfall makes pitched roofs (pointed rather than flat surfaces) necessary. 

Much of Australia’s late 1800’s/early 1900’s infrastructure was still being built to reflect an English pitched style. If you have an old home with a pitched roof, you need to insulate it. 

In winter and summer, this cavity will fill with cold and hot air respectively. If the materials on your roof are worn with age, there could be gaps leading from the cavity to the interior, or from the cavity to the outside air. Both of these issues will make living in your old house uncomfortable. 

The following insulation materials will fix your issue:

  • Woolcell
  • Polyester 
  • Fibreglass

Woolcell pump in insulation is the most effective choice. As its name suggests, it can be pumped into your roof cavity without needing a person to physically gain access and install it. Once it settles, it will fill any gaps and create a breathable blanket that is great for preventing moisture buildup that is common in old houses. 

The Walls

Now that the roof is insulated, it’s time to turn your attention to the walls. Your walls can lose up to 25% of your house’s heat. Even if you have insulated your roof, 25% is significant and will still be noticeable. . 

The issue with insulating walls in old houses is the process is radically different depending on whether or not the wall has a cavity. 

Many older homes don’t have wall cavities, as they didn’t become commonplace until later in the 1900’s. To check, you can examine your brickwork. If all of your bricks are horizontal, you likely have a cavity. If some of them only show the end of the brick, you likely have a solid wall. 

To be certain, you should get a professional to inspect your walls. 

Wall Does Have a Cavity

If the wall does have a cavity, there are a number of solutions, including:

  • Insulbloc
  • Rockwool Pump-In Fibreglass
  • Batts

Insulbloc is an insulation material made from small polyester cubes that can be pumped into wall cavities through small, discrete holes. These cubes settle to form a strong protective barrier against the cold outside air, and they don’t cause any visible damage that could jeopardise the heritage listing or character of your old house. 

The Floor

With the roof and the walls insulated, there is just one surface left before your old house is toasty warm – and you’re standing on it!

Approximately 20% of your house’s heat is lost through its floor. Because the floor is the surface that you actually stand on, it’s one of the most important places to insulate. No one wants cold feet on a chilly winter morning!

Much like the walls of an old house, there are two kinds of floors, each with different insulation processes. 

Floor Does Not Have a Cavity 

If your floor doesn’t have a cavity it can be insulated, but the process is very disruptive and expensive. You will need to hire professionals who will raise your floor to create a cavity. This cavity will then be insulated with polyester batts. 

This process will rip up your floor and cost you living space because your new floor will be higher than your old one. Not to mention, floors without a cavity are less likely to need insulating since there is no room for draughts to travel underneath. This option should only be considered as a last resort. 

Floor Does Have a Cavity

To insulate a floor with a cavity, professional installers simply have to measure the distance between floor joists and fit your polyester batts between them. This is non-destructive and doesn’t take long. You can have your old house feeling as snug as a modern one in no time. 

4 Seasons Insulation

Old houses are fantastic for letting you enjoy classic styles and features from the past, but they can also come with their fair share of issues.

By insulating the roof, walls and floor of your old house (where applicable), you can make sure that the cold air stays where it belongs – outside!

4 Seasons Insulation are experts at insulating any kind of home, old or new, and offer a range of insulation varieties and solutions. 

For a free measure and quote, get in touch with us today!