A report back from our first DIY Retrofit for Homeowners course

by Blog

In November 2016 Carbon Co-op contracted Dan Chaplin to run a three day DIY Retrofit for Homeowners course. Running the course was a first for us, and a part of our effort to provide more support to those working on low cost DIY retrofits.

The course covered 6 key areas:
1. Key principles
2. Airtightness and draughtproofing
3. Ventilation
4. Loft insulation
5. Floor insulation
6. Wall insulation

On day one Dan taught key principles and we looked at loft insulation. Starting with key principles provided participants with an excellent basis for understanding the rest of the course. The basics around continuous airtightness and insulation layers were explained, as well as concepts such as thermal bridging and thermal bypassing. Personally I found learning these basic principles very empowering as it allowed me to join the dots between lots of concepts I had come across previously and understand their importance when looking at a whole house system.

Loft insulation, in particular learning how to deal with the tricky bits around the eaves was also covered on day one. The practical aspects of this section really helped participants gain confidence to make improvements to our own tricky loft spaces.

We covered airtightness, draughtproofing and floor insulation on day two. This day hosted at Equinox Housing Co-op, allowed participants to have a nosy around for cracks and gaps around doors, windows and pipework. Being in a real house really helped participants apply theory and knowledge learnt on day one to the complexity of a real home.

Day three covered ventilation and wall insulation. Dan did a thorough job of describing the risks of internal wall insulation, giving us all a clearer understanding of the complexity and pros and cons of various wall insulation systems, as well as going into the tricky bits around floor and ceiling junctions.

Overall Dan put together a great course, starting with the basics and moving through to explaining the complexity and risk involved in retrofit. His practical experience of retrofitting homes for LATCH in Leeds was invaluable, and hands on elements helped us gain confidence and knowledge.

As well as the course content being new for us, it was also the first time we have attempted to cover costs through fees. We were pleased that all participants felt it was value for money. The positive feedback has encouraged us to contract Dan to run the course again in spring 2017. If you are interested in attending please email me on aneaka@carbon.coop.

Here are some quotes from participants:

Great course! A lot of effort, clearly, and thanks for that… being able to pick Dan's brain was hugely fun, and very valuable!

Definitely [will be able to use learning from the course in my life] – it's really helped me prioritise what to do next and I feel I now know how to do it right.

I would recommend this [course] to my friends who are buying houses for the first time/future proofing the house they intend to live out in.

The course exceeded my expectation by miles! Gained so much knowledge. Really good structure, especially learning the theory before the practical parts. Really in depth teaching, especially around risks involved.

For me it was a good comprehensive summary of the principles (which I don't think is easy to get anywhere else), and what I particularly found useful was the hands-on work, especially the work in the "real" situation of your co-op house – not so much the work with the mock-ups of the lofts, window frames etc., but if there isn't a real house to hand they're better than just pure theory – so hopefully if the course runs again, I hope there would be a similar "guinea pig" property to practice on.