500 Year Vision

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Traditional methods of restoring historical buildings


I’ve started researching into damp – and come across an interesting German site:

“Did your audacious restoration…of your historic building change to a disaster? Have you lost all your money and hope?”

It’s been machine translated into English, so the language is a little strange… but clearly passionate. The gist of the site is this: if buildings are to stand for hundreds of years, it is best to use methods that have been tested for hundreds of years. Many new building technologies are now on the market which may have been tested for a year or two, but then go on to fail within years or decades – and additionally, many ‘solutions’ are being sold by cowboys.

So, an interesting (though a little ranty) page about mould: http://www.konrad-fischer-info.de/7mold.htm

Some advice about ‘the fraud of rising damp in old buildings’: http://www.konrad-fischer-info.de/2auffen.htm


After a bit of a read about, it looks to me like underfloor heating is the way to go. BUT this has to be reliable – the last thing you want is burst pipes under your floors. With the cold Czech winters – this means that the underfloor heating will need to be on permanently – so it would be important to have a back up electricity/energy supply. Likewise with the heat pump – will this be guaranteed against failure & what will be the ‘reserve’ in case of break down?

I would like to get hold of an old fire powered water heater for the downstairs bathroom. This will mean that we have a temporary solution to our hot water & could remain independent of any more sophisticated system. Where on earth to find something like that?

I have also read recently that energy prices are set to rise here. Mike & the builder want to take down some of the chimneys in the house, rather than repairing them. My gut instinct is that this would be a bad thing to do. I want to leave our heating options as open as possible. Not yet sure how to heat the upstairs rooms… I’m more reluctant to use water as the medium to transfer heat. We know from experience in Britain how expensive it can be to heat a house using electric heating – we may be able to alleviate this somewhat with home generation. The upstairs rooms will be carpeted, so that will make it feel a little warmer. Perhaps if we have underfloor electric heating upstairs, but controlled on a room by room basis, so that it is only on when an individual room is in use, with fireplaces remaining in situ for a quick boost when we need it. Hmm, I think that sounds about right.

The principle of the angry German (site referred to earlier) is essentially that the science is faulty in many examples of modern building methods, as well as eco & energy efficiency schemes. At the moment, my mind keeps going back to the heat sink that was put in the greenhouse at ‘it’s not easy being green’ in Cornwall. If we have solar panels on the roof of Novy Mlyn, how is that better than just letting the sun shine on the roof. Would the roof not be warmed anyway. So, two alternatives spring to mind – to put the solar panels somewhere else – capturing energy from the sun that we would not otherwise use – or, finding a different way of moving some of the warmth created in the loft during the day.

One Comment to

“Traditional methods of restoring historical buildings”

  1. On May 20th, 2007 at 8:18 am Sue Powell Says:

    I’ve at last managed to find my user name/password (I’d saved it in such a safe place, I couldn’t find it!). It’s always very interesting to find out about life in and around Tabor and Novy Mlyn and how you and M are enjoying and discovering Czech life. I’m also learning a great deal about innovative (and now traditional) building methods and techniques.
    Interesting about the roof tiles – perhaps you could find some buildings to see how they stand the test of time and how they cope with water (warping/shrinkage?) or fire (flammability – though I guess if thatch can be used . . . . .)
    A few thoughts about heating. Some people I know here in the UK are putting wood burning stoves in a room in their house (including my brother). I know there are lots of wood burning stoves in Novy Mlyn. Will you still be keeping some of them? I remember years back (before central heating was so widespread) people used to have things called back boilers. They would have a solid fuel burner in the living room (I think it was enclosed like a wood burner) and it also somehow heated the hot water.

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to hearing more about it all very soon when you’re back in the UK for a few days. Very much looking forward to seeing you bothXXX

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