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RCI December 2017

INSULATION The improve not move trend It’s easy to assume that this ‘improve, not move’ trend is only evidenced in London. New London Architecture, an independent forum looking to help shape the capital’s architecture even holds annual ‘Don’t Move, Improve!’ awards for extensions and improvements to homes in the city. Justifiably so: the scale of ambition and quality of finish has to be seen to be believed. And the south east generally outperforms the rest of the country, but the figures bear out a national movement. The number of improvement projects requiring planning permission has increased in every region and country of Great Britain, except Scotland. Why are people not moving? A shortage of housing continues to drive up prices, with higher stamp duty rates also acting as a deterrent to would-be movers. The cost premium of a house with just one extra room, added to the fees associated with moving, is significantly outweighed by the possible cost of providing that extra room in an extension – and maybe leaving some budget to really put a personal stamp on the property. There is a wider issue at play here that some buyers might not be aware of: shortfalls in the build quality and energy efficiency of new homes means they will need to undergo a retrofit of their own by 2050 if the UK is to meet carbon reduction targets. Extra space is the most common requirement of homeowners, who also perceive older properties to have more generous room sizes than new houses – is it any wonder, then, that improving an older property is more attractive for some homeowners? Of course, even the most ingenious architect will struggle to design an extension where there is no land available – mid-terraced properties being a good example – so it’s little surprise that loft conversions and ‘room in a roof’ solutions find favour as home improvement projects. Converting the loft can add 10% to the value of a property, so extending up rather than out represents an attractive option. Up in the roof For older properties, if the roof covering is reaching the natural end of its service life, introducing extra accommodation in the loft is a good opportunity to also bring the roof up to modern standards. That means adding insulation and replacing traditional sarking felt with a breathable sarking membrane – assuming the roof has a sarking layer at all – in which case repair and refurbishment is likely to be all the more critical. In an old roof the timber rafters may be no more than 75mm deep, increasing the difficulty of L-Ments pitched roof product features high performance rigid insulation foamed around timber rafters applying modern insulation solutions. Of course, for the roof to be effective the timbers must also be in good condition, which might necessitate the replacement of structural timbers as part of the works – all of which can lead to an extensive programme of works. Rafter replacement, fitting a new sarking and covering, cutting and fitting insulation, and finishing the ceiling internally are all tasks to be carried out sequentially rather than concurrently. But what if there was a solution that could combine a number of these steps in one timesaving product? All-in-one roof panel Our L-Ments pitched roof product features high performance rigid insulation foamed around timber rafters. Craning the panels into position avoids the need for insulation boards to be carried up to the roof, cut and installed. As well as the insulation, the panels arrive on site complete with a breather membrane and counter-battens on the external side, further reducing the purchase of materials and storage on site. On the internal side, an aluminium foil facing simply requires the application of foil tape down each panel joint to provide a vapour control layer. At the same time as the roof covering is being fixed, the ceiling can be finished as preferred, incorporating a service void for cables and light fittings. L-Ments is particularly well suited to simple roof forms like the aforementioned terraced houses, and can accommodate roof windows for natural light into the loft. It sits on a purlin, which is already likely to be present if the original roof timbers were the smaller variety mentioned earlier, or which can be introduced into the building if necessary. L-Ments is one product fulfilling many functions: replacing existing timbers, providing a wellinsulated room in the roof, and minimising changes to the roof height. www.recticelinsulation.co.uk Factoring in the cost and stress of buying a house, it’s little wonder that people are looking at their current homes and – in a trend known as ‘improve, not move’ – wondering how they can make changes to achieve the extra space and improved comfort they desire. Paul Forrester, technical services manager at Recticel Insulation looks into this trend and what it means for contractors “Introducing extra accommodation in the loft is a good opportunity to also bring the roof up to modern standard”


RCI December 2017
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