Period Refurbishment: Channel energy into roof, floors and walls

The complete area of energy efficiency inside period houses is a touchy subject and the point period dwellings are free from the Building Energy Rating (BER) certification procedure indicates period households and energy performance are not natural partners.

On the other hand, when the Irish Georgian Society performed a series of classes on energy proficiency 5 years ago, close to 1,000 owners of period properties came for advice on the best ways to heat their properties. The idea of keeping heated by just sporting a further sweatshirt or fleece coat or dressing in your jacket inside your home is less popular today than in the past.

If you want to purchase brush strips for your windows and doors to preserve heat in a period home, head over to JA Seals.

What is the most effective way to make your period house warmer without undermining the characteristics of the home? Carl Raftery, conservation research officer at Dublin City Council, proposes looking at the parts of your home with the biggest heat loss (eg attics and under floors) prior to embarking on updating single-glazed windows to double-glazed. “The key is to consider what energy enhancements provide the best return with minimal influence, so it’s better to pinpoint the roofing, flooring and walls,” suggests Raftery.

Doing as much as necessary but as little as possible is the motto of conservationists thinking about energy efficiency.


Attic insulation is the ideal place to begin, as indicated by Raftery. It’s a budget friendly, low-impact energy-efficient measure with a increased return. Twenty-five % of heat loss from the regular period home is through the roof structure. Insulation can be executed under the slates (if the house is being reroofed) or on top of ceiling level otherwise.

“It’s exceptionally crucial that you maintain ventilation and air flow. And, because synthetic fibre-glass components slump and catch dampness as time passes, the more organic the insulation you can afford, the better,” says Raftery.

Draught-proofing traditional windows with brush seals is an additional low-impact measure. Adding secondary glazing – that can easily be taken away during the summer time months – stops heat loss while keeping original wood framed glass windows. Neither of these two procedures needs planning agreement in houses on the Record of Protected Structures.
Best practice

“Putting in hanging floor heat retaining material is yet another energy-saving solution that can be carried out in line with best conservation practice and doesn’t call for planning acceptance,” affirms Raftery.

15 per cent of heat losses takes place through the floor space of period homes. (It’s crucial for you to number floor boards when lifting them to insert insulation since they must be inserted back down in the right order.)

Any time you go for interior or outer wall insulation for a secured structure, you should have planning approval. Issues can come up, in particular with inner insulating material on solid masonry walls. “It hides the issue but doesn’t target it. Dry lining will drive mould a layer behind, where you can’t see it, nonetheless you will still breathe it in,” states Raftery.

Yet another challenge is that a lot of period homes that want energy-efficiency improvements won’t fulfill the minimal needs for the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) grants without risking great quantities of moisture content gathering inside the solid walls of their households. But various types of natural insulation are now out there which are suitable for period homes.
Additional glazing

The replacement of authentic doors and windows with double-glazed windows and doors will likely require planning permission. Raftery is a massive fan of secondary glazing, which can be still quite uncommon in period properties.

“It’s good for noise reduction. It can be included with timber- or metal-framed windows and taken off in the summer months, while still maintaining the use of shutters. Double glazing includes a horrible material impact, a huge carbon footprint along with a confined lifespan,” Raftery claims. One study identified secondary glazing combined with shutters decreases heat loss via windows by 75 per cent.

An in depth study of energy-efficient renovations to houses constructed ahead of 1945 is soon to be released. Cofunded by Dublin City Council and also the Heritage Council, the Built to Last task looked in more detail at 15 homes retrofitted for energy efficiency whilst keeping the historic material of the architecture as much as possible.

Joseph Little and Fergal McGirl were the lead architects on the project. “One of the complications with energy-efficiency in historic properties is that people in preservation have shied far from energy efficiency and saw anything beyond the basic servicing as a negative,” claims Little.
“The complete debate regarding the high sorts and levels of insulation in period homes hasn’t bedded down yet.

“Nobody was insulating solid-brick-wall properties or rubble-wall cottages up to now and we haven’t yet absolutely worked out how to join [external insulation] with traditional eaves,” states Little, who has recently become assistant head of architecture at the Dublin Institute of Technology.

Fergal McGirl adds, “You have to be cautious transforming the stipulations of an older house in a retrofit. These kinds of properties ought to be able to absorb and discharge moisture and the retrofit shouldn’t lessen that natural procedure.”

McGirl also affirms occasionally householders expect greater cutbacks in their expenses following a retrofit.

“If a home owner invests roughly €35,000 on energy improvements (attic insulation, an energy efficient boiler, under-floor insulation, wall insulation and double glazing on windows), they expect energy financial savings on the BER developments. But exactly what happens in some residences is that individuals soak up the comfort levels without creating a massive influence on their fuel charges.”

Energy upgrades to a Victorian redbrick in Ranelagh: ‘We could sense the cold coming up through the floor boards’

Caitriona Fisher is enthusiastic about energy efficiency. The owner of a Victorian semi-detached redbrick house in Ranelagh, she decided to do energy upgrades following the cold winters of 2009-2010 and 2010-2011.

“There was ice inside the north-facing bay windows and we could feel the cold coming up through the floor boards in the dining and sittingrooms,” she states.

“We had brushes put on the windows over 20 years ago, some attic insulation although no insulation underneath the floors,” announces Fisher. The household was given an E1 Building Energy Rating (BER) ahead of works began.

“I had spoken with a friend who is an architect, who defined the difficulties of mould growth when using external insulating material on an old house therefore we opted for a breathable calcium-silicate internal insulation board on the external walls of the rooms on the kitchen area and rooms on the first-floor return. We did not put inside insulation on the dining and sittingrooms and upstairs bedrooms as a result of cornices. I have since found that you can get graduated insulation board which thins out to meet cornices.”