Despite Victorian builders having a good reputation, the ubiquitous victorian semi is often poorly constructed. Original features include high ceilings, a mix of suspended and solid floors (often at a lower level in the kitchen). No damp proof course and poor footings. the brickwork can look great to the front, but the party walls are often one brick thick, the walls are solid and the quality of the brick can vary from elevation to elevation.
They are great properties to own, compact and easy to remedy. Because they are a terrace, two sides of the property are heated by their neighbours, as long as the party wall isn’t a ventilated cavity, which it probably isn’t.
We can improve the energy efficiency of these properties with some ease. By added internal wall insulation to the front (planning normally precludes external wall insulation and the frontages of Victorian terraces are usually quite pretty) and external wall insulation to the back the heat loss ca nee easily reduced. by finishing the job with floor insulation and topping up the loft, if necessary, the house is effectively wrapped in insulation.
Choosing good quality and low energy double or triple glazing and the whole house can be turned into a very low energy comfortable home.
These properties are often the largest properties around, except for the self builds we see on Grand Designs. The build quality is often better than the average victorian terrace. This is due mainly dow not the original build cost. its the same today, that the more money you spend on a house, the better it is normally built.
High ceilings, Solid walls and a living space which is often spread over 2 floors means that these houses can be very difficult to heat. Buying any house of this age is more a labour of love than ready made home.
These properties can be the most difficult to retrofit and make energy efficient. Although it is possible. Focussing attention on the big wins can make a great difference to the property. Floor insulation to the ground floor and external wall insulation to the gable wall will have a massive effect on heat loss and comfortability.
Quite often the top floor is contained within the roof space, this makes it difficult to treat. But done in the right way the top floor can be the snuggest space of the entire house.Replacing windows with modern wooden sash windows can bring the property back to life, especially if it has been presented with the standard PVC windows.
Standard UK semi
This type of house is probably the most common of all house types. After the first world war the UK went through a massive building boom, it lasted until after the second world war. Most houses around now are of this type, however there are a great variety of build. Each town and even each area within a town will have a different type, and this adds great character to our towns and cities.
The cavity wall was started to be used, ceilings were lowered and the cellar had been replaced with a garage as the car grew in popularity. The cavity didn’t always extend around the house and this meant that the rear walls were often still solid. These were smaller houses than the Edwardian semi and the ceilings and room sizes were smaller.
The best solutions for this type of house will depend on its specific build. Quite often the brickwork was more ornate than it is now and the window sizes and shapes were not always rectangular. this makes standard of the shelf solution difficult to apply. Each house needs to be evaluated on its own merits.
A mix of internal and external wall insulation help these properties reduce there bills significantly. These are easier to heat, due to the overall size, and simple window and heating system upgrades will also improve the properties comfort.
60’s and 70’s non standard build
During the 60’s and 70’s there were a wide variety of building methods employed. This meant that when you look at areas built in the time, there is a huge change between houses. But there are characteristics that they have in common.
Cavity walls were the standard way of building, but they were filled with insulation. WIndows were starting to be changed to PVC double glazed units, early houses in the build type would still have wood casements but by the end of hte 70’s PVC was ht common material. houses rarely had cellars and more often had a garage. It was common to have bays or panels of non traditional build type, either rendered panels of timber clad sections. These are often left with only a outer decorative face and an inner face which was plaster. Lathe and plaster was starting to give way t plasterboard and most of the internal structure was timber stud work.
Put up quickly and cheaply these can be the worst types of house when it comes to energy efficney, but can reap the biggest rewards when retrofitting as there is the biggest scope for hte biggest improvements.
80’s and 90’s Detached
As we get closer to the present building regulations have steadily improved the build quality and regularised the structure of our homes. Throughout the 80’s, 90’s and now cavity walls are still common, but they are often filled cavities. Windows are usually double glazed pvc and loft insulation is a common addition. more modern boilers and radiator systems provide enough heat to adequately heat the whole house. Poor ventilation becomes a more prevalent problem as insulation levels rise but ventilation and airtightness are not yet considered an important build factor.