Good ventilation – whether natural or mechanical – is an important part of a healthy building, as it helps to minimise condensation and prevent damp. Uncontrolled draughts, however, are invariably undesirable. They allow cold air to rush into your home while providing a path for precious heat to escape – leaving you with an uncomfortable home and unnecessarily large fuel bills.
If you’re building a new home from scratch, much of the draught proofing work will be integrated into the fabric of your property as standard. New windows and doors, for example, will be pre-fitted with appropriate seals, while materials such as airtight breather membranes are fitted as standard these days.
Older buildings tend to need greater ventilation than new houses in order to ‘breathe’ and thereby expel moisture. Nevertheless, they’re often much leakier than they need to be, so it makes sense to plug unwanted air gaps – according to the Energy Saving Trust, you could save around £55 per year by investing in good draught proofing. So what are the common culprits?
Checking your windows and external doors should be one of the first items on your checklist, as opening elements are always susceptible to leakage.
Casement windows are usually easy to upgrade – using self-adhesive compression seals (usually foam strips) is a cost-effective and quick to install option, but plastic or metal versions fitted with brushes or wipers are longer lasting and generally more effective. Timber sash windows usually need brush strips, such as those available from Reddiseals (from £15 for 100m of Weatherpile with a 5.5mm fin). They require significantly more skill to upgrade successfully, as elements of the joinery – such as at the rails, parting bead and staff bead – may need to be routed to discreetly accommodate weatherproof excluders without affecting the sliding action. You might prefer to bring in a professional company, such as Ventrolla, to deal with windows of historic importance.
Perimeter gaps around doors can be addressed in the same way as with casement windows, though the bottom rail should be fitted with a brush or hinged excluder. Letterboxes can be fitted with a suitably sized inner flap or brush, or you could invest in a purpose-made draughtproof version, such as the EcoFlap (priced from £23.99). Installing a simple escutcheon over a keyhole will set you back as little as £2.
Cold air naturally circulates under suspended ground floor structures, and can easily escape into the house through gaps in floorboards. According to Nigel’s Eco Store, around 15% of a home’s heat can be lost through the floor.
There’s a host of ways to combat this, from filling the cracks with a flexible product, such as decorator’s caulk, to pulling up the floor and retrofitting rigid EPS insulation (or loose mineral wool held up with netting). The latter approach is obviously disruptive and costly, but will net you significant savings on bills.
In between these methods is a range of options, including specially-designed seals for easy DIY installation, such as StopGap (£19.99 for a 40m roll) and Draught-Ex (pictured above). It’s also possible to cut down on draughts by fitting slithers of wood between the existing boards. If you’re leaving the floor exposed, you’ll want to find a good match to the original material – so consider picking up reclaimed timber to shave down.
Alternatively, you could opt for pre-packed wedges hewn from old wood, such as the Old Pine Company’s ‘Slivers’. Once you’ve glued and hammered these into position, you can sand them down to the level of your existing boards before applying a suitable finish.
A number of additional areas around your home could be worth treating. Unused chimneys are a common air leakage point – you may able to block yours off with a special chimney ‘balloon’. Loft hatches should be insulated and sealed with compression strips, while gaps around services may need filling, too.
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