Loft insulation makes all the difference
During this prolonged cold spell it seemed our central heating boiler was working overtime to keep the house warm. When it came to refilling the oil tank the bill was nothing short of frightening particularly in the week after Christmas.

I decided it was time to look at our house insulation. The loft was insulated to the depth of the ceiling joists – about 100mm – with what I think is vermiculite granules, small silvery brown flakes that get everywhere and are so light that they had formed into deep drifts due to the draughts swirling through the loft in high winds.

It was relatively easy to re-spread evenly with the back of a brush but, with Building Reg’s suggesting 270mm of insulation as a minimum I decided to act. I bought some standard loft insulation that claimed to be 170mm thick. It doesn’t look it on the roll but it quickly expands so don’t unwrap it until you are ready to roll!! I think I got a good deal at Wickes with a buy one get one free promotion. They come in 1200cm long rolls that are frankly not that easy to hoist into the loft by one not so sprightly guy.

A tip I learned and can pass on is that as they come partly precut you can cut through the outer plastic cover to the joist width you need before you lift them into the loft – older houses often 400mm and newer ones 600mm. There were guide marks on the wrapper on the ones I bought. In fact I laid the new insulation across the joist which is much easier and requires less cutting and handling. I used a Stanley knife but an old bread knife works well. Cut part way through all round the wrapper then the roll easily breaks in half.

Handling is a problem as the mineral fibre based material I used gave off fine particles which are a major irritant especially to the eyes and throat. There are alternatives that claim to be “itch” free but I found them to be far more expensive per square metre. I suggest you kit yourself out as I did with a good quality dust mask preferably one with a ventex type valve that reduces humidity build up in the mask. You also need a pair of goggles and a pair of work gloves. I wore a boiler suit, tucked the leg bottoms in my socks and put an old scarf round my neck. After cracking my head on the roof joists for the umpteenth time I wished I had a hard hat in my armoury but I had to settle for a beanie hat. Now in this get up stylish I was not – scary to my grandchildren? – Most definitely – but it did the job.

The difference the extra blanket has made cannot be understated. The house gets warmer much more quickly and stays warmer for longer when the heating is off which is very noticeable in the bedrooms.

And one more tip. There is a lot of publicity about “free grants” and it’s true if you are over 70 and or drawing certain Social Security Benefits you may be eligible to get your insulation upgraded for free. Otherwise you will get a percentage grant and your contribution for loft insulation in a typical home could be between £250 and £350 on average.

Considering the total cost of buying the insulation for my loft – around 80sq metres was £120 plus the labour, if you are fit enough, it is cheaper to do it yourself even if you allow an extra £25 for buying the right gear to do the job safely.