A domestic insulation project. Chapter 1 – preparing for chaos.

Prelude: Work and life collide in the next few blog posts, which will be about retrofitting internal wall insulation in my house. Three rooms are being done; the bathroom, a bedroom, and the study. Owing to my interest in plants as building materials, I am choosing to use miscanthus-lime cast against the walls. We did a few test panels of this at work within the BEACON project (see here for blog post), and it was fairly similar to hemp. Seeing as we breed miscanthus at work, it seems wrong not to be using it. There is more detail about why I am doing this project in another blog post here.

The work is scheduled to take a couple of months, although that includes a 3 week gap in the middle whilst the insulation cures.

Week zero

Preparation is key. And leaving enough time for preparation is also key, which is something I will remember next time. Doing internal wall insulation in 3 rooms simultaneously meant that all of the stuff had to come out of each room, all the furniture, then the carpets and underlay, and finally some of the furniture and possessions had to go back in again because there wasn’t anywhere else to put it.

Turns out that I am not very good at throwing stuff out, so most of it ended up in boxes. And despite the fact that only(!) 3 rooms in the house are going to be a building site, the overflow of furniture and stuff means the rest of the house is also chaotic.

The study, stripped of furniture, carpets and belongings, and ready for work to begin.

I am glad I live on a quiet street. You can carry carpets out of the house and put them on the road to hoover them before rolling them up to store. Managed to only stab myself with carpet gripper rods a couple of times. Rooms have strange echoes now, reminding me of how important furnishings are for controlling noise levels.

Mouldy corner in the bedroom. Moisture condenses on cold surfaces and if you have doube glazed windows and solid stone walls, the wall surface is colder than the window. So this wall is probably damp and mouldy because of its temperature rather than because of any water penetrating from outside.

I chose to make life more complicated than necessary by measuring the heat flux of one of the walls before starting. These measurements are best done in the winter when the temperature difference between indoors and outdoors is large. To get around this problem, I heated the room up to around 28C for a week. So packing stuff away into boxes was a sweaty business. But the data has been collected, and the project can begin. More next week…

Heat flux sensor. Will hopefully get round to writing a bit more about how and why I did this at a later date.
I’d been meaning to renovate the bathroom for at least 15 years having inherited a glorious(!) salmon pink bathroom suite… But once I’d replaced the toilet and the basin, I lost impetus and put up with the fact that it was freezing cold and rather damp.

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