The worst affected seems to be my room. It is the end of the turret with a massive vent (now gaffa-tape sealed) I will be sitting by the wall and actually feel the freezing cold air against my neck from the wall. The radiator seems to do nothing to help matters.

I have put tin foil behind the radiator (not sure if it has helped yet because the weather is warmer than what it was before I did it), but the radiator is on a different (and much less breezy) wall.

I took some steps to solve the draft in the flat (still a way to go mind), but I am at a loss on how to fix the back wall in a cheap way. I thought about tin foil but then I very quickly realised I would not be happy to have tin foil on my wall.

The landlord said he was sympathetic about cold but that they don't like vents being closed because of worry about damp/black stuff growing on walls. I did notice that some wallpaper came away from the wall when I closed the vent but at the same time it is in a stupid place if ever there was one.

Would stapling a decorative material help matters? Or maybe I could get away with hiding tin foil behind some decorative wall cloth so it does the job but looks half decent too?

Note about rental: I think I can get away with a bit of stapling/nailing but I cannot do anything to permanently alter the wall.

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    Where is the draft coming from? I don't see how tinfoil on the wall would do anything. Is the draft maybe coming from cheap windows? If so, consider getting the 3M plastic covers for them. – DA01 Jan 4 '13 at 2:08
  • done already. Definitely coming right through the walls. It's the end of terrace and the wind just seems to get the wall. That said there are lots of other sources of the draft but it is worst on my wall (no window on that wall - just the vent) I will draw a diagram. – Magpie Jan 4 '13 at 3:05
  • A diagram would definitely help. – DA01 Jan 4 '13 at 4:23

If you have a draft then the best thing is to seal the source of the draft. If this is a window, then as DA01 mentioned, you can install temporary plastic covers. If it is around a door then you should look into replacing the weather stripping. Also check visible gaps in the wall, floor, electrical and cable outlets - if they are drafty you can spray in expanding foam (e.g. Great Stuff) around the box (not inside). Check outside too for visible gaps around openings.

You mentioned you closed up a vent - hopefully this was not a cold air return. If the vent is the source of the problem then your best bet is to fill it in with rigid foam and seal the edges of the foam with caulking.

If the root issue is a lack of insulation in the walls then there is little you can really do that doesn't involve tearing up the walls. Hanging long thick curtains along the wall might help a tiny bit. I doubt tin foil will do anything besides making your friends suspicious.

  • I like the idea of filling the vent. It is tempting as it may well have a lot to do with the problem. The gap is about 10 inches in diameter. I am not sure whether filling this might get me into trouble with my landlady though. Something more temporary? – Magpie Jan 4 '13 at 3:08
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    Just peel off the caulking and remove the boards - pretty easily removed. – Steven Jan 4 '13 at 3:13
  • I don't know what caulkin is. It is a plastic vent over a circular hole about a foot deep and 10 inch diameter leading out to the turret. No wonder I am cold though. I will take a photo. I don't want to cause any damage but i cannot understand why it is there in the first place. – Magpie Jan 4 '13 at 3:25
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    so it's a thru-the-wall vent? That's basically a hole in the wall, so yea, that could definitely be the problem. ;) – DA01 Jan 4 '13 at 4:24
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    XPS is Extruded polystyrene foam. It is usually pink in color. The white stuff is Expanded polystyrene which will work just fine for your scenario (though XPS has better R values per inch) – Steven Jan 5 '13 at 2:24

As Steven said, you need to properly seal any openings. As mentioned, it is helpful to backup any sealing method with insulating material as well. But gaffer tape alone should have sealed off any actual air infiltration, even if the job could have been done better. It sounds to me like you are feeling the radiant heat loss into a very cold uninsulated wall.

This is where I disagree with Steven. There IS something you can do about cold walls without tearing them apart. Steven hinted at the solution. XPS foam panels. (Sidebar: XPS may be more cost effective, but polyisocyanurate has a higher C value (R-value per inch of thickness))

You can buy large sheets of XPS foam panels in varying thicknesses in many countries for reasonable cost. The thicker the better, but you don't need to go crazy, an inch or a couple cm will do. Don't buy the cheaper EPS panels, you'll keep getting little white foam pellets loose in your room. You can just place the panels against the current wall surface. They can be held in place by a few small nails in the adjacent wall or ceiling. If you can't use nails, or in addition to nails, you might be able to lightly glue the panels to the wall with large spots of rubber cement. Rubber cement can be cleanly removed from most surfaces simply by rubbing it. However, the solvent used may melt the foam. Do some testing before committing to a glue solution. For extra measure, tape, caulk or otherwise seal the intermediate joints.

You're probably not keen about the foam face as a decorative element. You can easily glue fabric or wallpaper to the foam surface. Wall paper paste should stick to the foam, especially the type for vinyl wallpaper, and there's no risk of it melting the foam since it's water based. It won't be a tight installation like to a regular wall, but it should look reasonably tidy. You'll get a clean edge look by folding the material around to the back at all edges. At the panel corners, cut out little triangles of fabric or wallpaper at the panel rear to prevent the material from bunching up.

  • I had considered suggesting XPS against the existing wall, but it is supposed to be installed with a big grid of glue and would not be easily removable. As well you risk vapor forming behind the board which would damage the wall board and could cause mold issues, especially if there is already a vapor barrier. One last thing is that XPS must be covered with something like drywall as lets off toxic fumes if burned. – Steven Jan 5 '13 at 2:26

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