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I recently moved into (am renting) a new place and have set up a desk in an attic like space. It's overall not an ideal setup but I have limited financial resources. The issue I am facing right now is that, because this is an attic like space, it is getting rather cold in here and I fear that this may make the desk unusable in the winter months. My goal is to insulate the small area around the desk so that I can continue to use it during the winter.

I mentioned that the space I am in is an attic like space because, although having many of the features of an attic, is really an entire additional floor of the house together with what would typically be an attic (maybe whoever constructed it ran out of money to finish). That is there are no interior walls or ceilings and the space is only separated by the exterior walls from the outside. The exterior walls are also not properly insulated (some parts are, but most aren't). Because of this it is already getting rather cold up here despite the outside temperature only dropping into the 40s.

What I am looking to do is to insulate the area around my desk, about 10x10 feet. I have a 1500 Watt radiator and plan on using that to provide heat, but doing this without trapping the air and separating it from the rest of the space has proven to be pointless.

Important aspects of a solution to this problem are that:

  • it be cheap. Although I can potentially throw a few hundred dollars at this I would prefer not to. Again, I have limited financial resources.
  • it not be excessively permanent. As I mentioned, I am renting this place so I pretty much have to run this solution by my landlord anyway and I have a feeling they'll not be too happy at the idea of me making significant changes to this space. I will also have to completely remove the thing next spring, as I will likely have the opposite problem during the summer.
  • it be simple. This only needs to trap the air enough that a simple heater will be more effective.

More information about the space in question:

  • Two adjacent walls of the space feature vertical wooden beams about a foot and a half apart. From what I can tell the space between the beams should have insulation, but does not.
  • About eight feet above the space are similar horizontal wooden beams, also about 18 inches apart. I assume this is where a ceiling would be been built had the space ever been finished.

My initial idea was to simply get blue tarps and attach them to the various beams using cable ties or something similar. This would be rather cheap and simple, but I am unconvinced that it would provide the necessary insulation. Maybe someone with more knowledge on this can correct me.

What is the best way to keep this small area warm?

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One possible solution maybe to construct walls from 2" thick, R-10, foam insulation board. You might be able to make it rigid enough using 3" drywall screws and duct tape. (and perhaps Gorilla glue(?)). If this proves not to be strong enough, you can use some cheap strip furring to add strength. R-10 will certainly not be sufficient if your low outside temps drop and remain in the 20s or worse.

The foam board is NOT cheap however. It'll probably cost you around $250-300 for that (10 sheets 4x8 @ ~$25-30ea.). You might can even use one of the sheets as a door--with duct tape 'hinges'. (if that doesn't work well, you can just fashion some handles to it and remove/replace as a door entry way.).

It you are running computer equipment in the area, that will reduce your heating needs if you leave the equipment running. Good luck.

  • This is not a bad idea, although I'm surprised by the assessment that this won't be enough insulation in the face of 20 degree outdoor weather. This is a very small space to heat, and assuming I do a reasonable job of minimizing warm air leakage, will the heat really conduct through such material that quickly? – DreamConspiracy Oct 18 at 12:07
  • The heat loss issue will be more about infiltration than conduction. Still, R-10 is not very much insulation relatively speaking... and every open/close of a 4 ft 'door' is going to result in nearly a 100% air exchange more than likely... – peinal Oct 18 at 12:12
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I would look into buying a low cost "garden shed" of the type that you assemble yourself and assemble it in your attic-like space. Not sure where in the world you are, but if you are in North America, you can go to someplace like Home Depot, Lowes, etc. and look at them. It would cost you more, but you could easily disassemble it and move it (or sell it) if you ever leave and would not need to be permanently attached to the structure of the house, keeping your landlord out of it.

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Your best bet is to build a small "room" out of plaster board in the space, and heat just that space. If you build a 10x10 room that is 7'6 high, you will probably find that 1500W continuously will make it uncomfortable warm. (Don't get rid of the radiator though - you will want it to warm up the room when you get started.) If you can put some insulation on the plasterboard, that will be even better - but just confining the heat to a small space is the most important thing.

The biggest expense will be getting a door for the room - try and find someone who is throwing out a door as part of renovations. (Freecycle is often good for this sort of thing.)

  • This was my general idea too, but looking at installation instructions for plasterboard this seems much more involved than I was hoping for. Is this necessary or is there an easier solution? – DreamConspiracy Oct 18 at 9:38
  • I certainly don't intend to have the radiator running constantly, but rather only as necessary. I just mentioned that to give an idea as to how effective the insulation needs to be. – DreamConspiracy Oct 18 at 9:39

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