Your Guide to Heating a Period House

3 people sitting in a living room around a hearth.

There is a certain charm to old period homes that you just can’t find in a modern house. However, their structure is quite often very different and less effective when it comes to heat insulation. Don’t let this stop you from enjoying your best life in that beautiful vintage home, though. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of simple tips on heating a period house:

Take a Close Look

The first job on your to-do list is to carefully examine your home and look for areas for improvement. We need to take a holistic approach and look at the house as a system. It’s no good to only look at insulation because dampness is also a major reason behind houses being cold.

The first step is getting maintenance for your current heating systems and structures.Repair your current window panes and fix any drains that could make your walls damp. Damp structures lose significantly more heat than dry ones.

Cheap Tweaks

Once you have completed your maintenance, try some easy corrections with your current system to see if structural changes are really needed.

  1. Turn the thermostat down by a degree.
  2. Use draught excluders or any other material to draught-proof doors and windows. Most homes lose more heat to draughts than to poor insulation.
  3. A set of thick curtains can make a world of difference.
  4. Good quality rugs can also stop heat dissipation from the floor.

If you feel these methods are not proving to be sufficient, keep reading!

Kick out damp

This can be a real nuisance for those who own classic period homes. Thankfully, most cases are detectable and easy to fix. If you wish to know how to make your period house warmer, getting rid of and preventing damp is one of the best ways to do so.

Here are some signs that you have damp:

  • Stains on walls
  • Pungent smell
  • Paint peeling off
  • Droplets of water
  • Rotting floorboards

So, how do you tackle this problem?

Let Your Home Breathe

Old homes work differently from modern homes, as they do not have cavity walls or protective vapor films. The walls of old houses can easily absorb moisture, but that also means that the water evaporates easily.

To perfect the process of heating a period house, we must make sure the house can complete this process of absorption and evaporation efficiently. We need to be careful when installing modern tools like vapor barriers or damp-proof films. In fact, we recommend avoiding them altogether.

Install an extractor fan. Activities like cooking and showering can contribute highly to moisture that gets trapped within your house. An extractor fan is a great way to dispel that air.

If you can’t get an extractor fan, keep your windows open when cooking or showering.

Don’t Change The Temperature

Most people turn their thermostats down when they are going to bed at night or going out during the day. Though this saves energy and bills, it could cause dampness.

A change in temperature causes condensation, which falls on cool surfaces such as glass, tiles or bricks. We recommend finding a comfortable mild temperature for your thermostat and leaving it there.

Check Your Gutters

Leaking gutters or pipes can lead to a large buildup of water in your wall. Make sure you get them checked and fixed regularly as old pipes may not be able to handle the current weather conditions.

Upgrade Windows

Old windows can let heat escape your home. Therefore, we recommend switching out your old thin-glazed windows for modern double-glazed models. The best part is you can have them made in the same design, so there won’t be any aesthetic changes to worry about.

If you’re willing to spend a little extra, you can install magnetic systems that can easily be removed in the summer season. This way, you can enjoy the best of both worlds!

Insulate Your Floor

Most period homes have wooden floorboards. Though they’re great to look at and give off a unique vibe, they are prone to losing a lot of heat through the gaps and rising mold. Laying out a thick rug may not be enough to keep the heat from seeping out, so we recommend using easily available materials to fill the gaps.

The sensible thing to do here would be to replace your timber floors with concrete. This will completely stop any heat from dissipating through the ground or for any mold to rise. However, it is a lengthy and expensive process that not everyone has the time or money to carry out. Plus, the look just won’t sit right in a vintage home.

Like with roof insulation, use breathable material that will absorb moisture. Be careful not to leave any gaps when you are installing insulation and be gentle when you are lifting the floorboards to protect their integrity.

Underfloor heating is another method to heat an old house. This is done by installing hot water pipes or electrical heating tools in your floor to distribute warmth onto the surface. This does require installing insulation first, so proceed with what feels best for you.

Use insulation in your lofts to heat a house

Insulate the Roof

If you want to improve insulation, you need to focus on the roof as around 25% of the heat is lost through it. However, don’t worry, this is also one of the easiest places to insulate as it involves laying out the insulation material on the floor of your loft/attic.

We need to be careful while doing this, or it can lead to some pesky problems. Old period homes need to breathe, so ensure there is ample ventilation in the area between the loft floor and roof to prevent condensation.

When heating a period house, it’s better to use natural insulation materials, like loose cellulose or wool quilt, over man-made ones. Fiberglass or other man-made materials are unable to handle the warm moist air that frequently rises in old houses, leading to condensation. Natural materials are better able to absorb this moisture without it impacting their insulation capabilities.

The thickness of the insulation will vary for each house, so it’s important to talk to the experts who are doing the fitting to find the best option.

Insulate the Wall

Most of the heat, around 35%, escapes through the walls. Most vintage homes are built with solid material, meaning that there is no remaining space in the middle where you can add insulation. You can heat a period house in two ways through using wall insulation:

External Wall Insulation

As the name suggests, a layer of insulation material is attached to the outside of a wall and covered by a special type of coating. You can then choose the finishing, such as brick slips, painted, smooth, tiled or so on, according to your preference.

Pros of External Insulation:

  • Improved protection against the forces of nature
  • Does not reduce the inner floor space of your home
  • Freshens up the look of your house
  • Work is done outside the house, so you aren’t disturbed.

Cons of External Insulation:

  • You might need to get planning permission from your local council.
  • If your outer walls have irreparable damage, do not get external insulation as that wall may become weaker.
  • It can be costly.

Internal Wall Insulation

This method involves working on walls that are on the inside of your house. You install rigid insulation boards to the wall or erect a stud on a wall that holds soft insulation.

Pros of Internal Insulation

  • Often less expensive than insulating external walls
  • Doesn’t require special permission

Cons of Internal Insulation

  • Work is disruptive as it’s inside the house.
  • Reduces your floor space a little bit.
  • You might not be able to install heavy fixings on the wall.

Other Ideas for Heating a Period House

  • Reflect heat back into the room by installing enhancers on the backside of your radiators.
  • Close off the chimney if you don’t use it.
  • Get small electric heaters for separate rooms. Old homes were designed to be heated one room at a time, so this can be a great tactic.

Conclusion

Heating a period house can be difficult. Managing a period house is certainly more difficult than managing a modern home. However, a modern building doesn’t have the charm, history or character of a period house. That’s why we love period homes and would recommend not giving them up!

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