Prepare for the winter – how insulated are your floors?
In the middle of the summer it’s tempting to forget about the dark days of winter that are just around the corner (even after the wettest start to a summer on record!). But in just a few weeks’ time the nights will get longer, the temperature starts to drop and you think about putting the heating back on. While warming up the home might be a priority when the wind is howling outside, we all need to think about doing it on a budget these days too. Heating bills are spiralling upwards, and anything you can do to cut the cost of your winter fuel bills has to be welcomed.
You’ve checked that there are no draughts around your windows and doors, but have you checked your floors? Old wooden floors that haven’t been properly maintained may have that uber-chic ‘distressed’ look that’s so fashionable right now, but they also let cold air blast through the cracks and bring the temperature of your living room crashing down. Properly insulated floors can make an enormous difference to keeping your house warm, and your heating costs down.
Problems to look out for
The most obvious problem is gaps between floor boards. A simple visual inspection will instantly tell you if your floor boards fit properly, or if there are large gaps between them that lets the heat escape from your home and the cold air rush in. Large gaps can also compromise the integrity of the floor and perhaps suggest that there is a deeper, more serious underlying problem with the structure of the floor. At this stage, it is a wise move to call in an expert and have a full assessment of the condition of your wooden floor carried out. This assessment will either reassure you that your floor is in fact sound and merely needs a little gap filling treatment, or will alert you to a larger problem before it becomes a catastrophe!
Less obvious problems can also compromise the efficiency of your floor. Excessive movement may suggest that the underlying structure needs expert attention, while unexplained draughts when there are no obvious gaps to see may also hint at a floor that needs attention. Experts suggest that up to 12% of a household’s heat loss happens through the floor. This is the same as the amount of heat you lose through ill-fitting windows, and can make a considerable difference to your overall heating costs.
Thankfully, the solutions to thermally inefficient wooden floors are quite simple. You don’t have to overlay your beautiful wooden floor with thick carpeting to cut down on heating bills (and in fact it won’t make very much difference even if you do lay a thick carpet!). Simply ensuring that your floor is in tip-top condition, that all the gaps have been filled and that the surface of the wood is sealed with a good layer of varnish, wax or polish can make an instant improvement to the thermal efficiency of any wooden floor.
If you have a real problem with heat loss, then underfloor insulation may be an effective solution. This is quite a major renovation operation, but once completed it will drastically reduce any heat loss through the floor, creating a warmer, more comfortable home for years to come. Of course, the ultimate is to fit underfloor heating, but do check with your wooden floor sanding experts as this type of heating system can damage wooden floors over time, causing them to warp and twist.
No matter what solution you choose, ensuring that your wooden floors are thermally efficient can make a massive difference to your heating bills and help you budget your winter fuel costs more efficiently.