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I've been searching around for an answer or pointers on this for a while, it's possible I'm using the wrong phrases when searching!

I have a UK 1930's built semi-detached house, Streetview pic before it was repainted:

enter image description here

The room over the porch has always been quite cold and I was looking at insulating the floor of it using rockwool or similar. Construction of this ceiling is lath and plaster, ~300mm separated joists and standard floor boards.

My only worry is how best to go about doing this, there are a couple of cables in the floor which go to outside lights, from what I've read, any insulation should go under these which is fine. My main questions are, do I need a moisture barrier underneath, am I better off with loosefill instead of rockwool and is there anything else I should be concerned about before doing this?

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2 Answers

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Actually, since you are primarily concerned with heating conditions, the vapour barrier goes on the warm side of insulation, meaning right up against the sub floor boards. This is to keep moisture from the house from condensing in the cooler insulation. Outside moisture would not condense in the insulation as it should always be warmer than the dew point of the outside air, though in the UK it may often be a close call.

Loose fill generally provides a more complete insulation job, filling the whole space completely. Batt insulation is much easier for DIY work. Even if you access from below, loose fill may be possible. You could actually install loose fill by cutting a hole in each joist bay, instead of removing the ceiling. The main problem is you have no way to verify the void was completely filled. It is highly dependent on the skill of the installer. It also negates the ability to place a vapour barrier, but depending on the flooring system, it may not be a serious issue. In your case though, it is probably an issue.

If any recessed lights are in this space, if they are not rated for placement in insulation, they will need to be replaced. If you go in from the ceiling, it will be hard to get a good vapour barrier. Just do the best you can, sealing it well to each joist. You'll have to allow the joists to be part of the barrier. It may be worth spraying them with a quick latex primer coat to help make a better barrier.

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Thanks, thats very helpful, half the reason I'm looking at doing this at the moment is I have the room empty and carpet up redecorating so top access is going to be the preference. There's no vapour barrier at all which I'm guessing means I realistically need to take up all floor boards, loose fill and then put a vapour barrier across (over the joists I guess) before putting the boards back. –  Duncan Dec 31 '12 at 0:10
    
Yes, you got the picture. It may be easier to put in new sheet sub-flooring rather than trying to salvage the floor boards. Depending on how the house was framed, you may need some blocking or an extra joist in the end bays for end/edge support since you can't access the end joist under the wall. –  bcworkz Dec 31 '12 at 22:58
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Using a closed-cell spray foam would be a good option. It serves as both insulation and vapour barrier (you don't need to put up a separate one), and the R value per inch is very high: usually at least R7 per inch (compared to fiberglass batt insulation which is typically R3 to R5 per inch). It's also the best coverage you can get: it expands, and it also can be sprayed into every little nook and cranny, around pipes/wires, joist bridges, etc.

enter image description here

It is definitely more expensive than batt insulation, but the time and ability to retrofit may make up for that. There are DIY kits but from what I've read and priced out myself, may not be worthwhile: the pros have better foam and equipment, and there's a lot of hassle to DIY (notice the guy in the pic is 100% wearing a full-body suit with respirator, and is totally covered in bits of foam).

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