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24 July 2010 @ 12:47 pm
Insulating the Cellar  
Having, in a fit or organisational enthusiasm, purchased 40 rolls of sheep's wool insulation I spent most of last weekend installing it in the cellar.

I should perhaps explain that we have a cellar under about half the house that raises that section about three feet off the ground. The cellar was clearly intended to be ventilated by several large grills. Some previous occupant of the house placed windows in front of these, thus causing a damp problem and the presence of a rather large I-beam holding up some of our joists. Almost the first thing we did on entering the house was to open said windows and observed the humidity in the cellar drop dramatically with, it must be said, a certain smug satisfaction.

Almost the second thing we did was rip up the remaining carpet on the ground floor. Sometime later we got the floor sanded. We have lovely floorboards but when a light is on in the cellar you can clearly see it shining up in the gaps between them. This winter we observed a startling temperature gradient from floor to about knee height as the chill wind blew through the cellar and up between the floor boards.

Hence the sheep's wool insulation plan.

We used some sheep's wool insulation in part of the roof. One of its advantages is that it is much nicer to handle than regular insulation - although I still used gloves in the cellar (in the loft I was also removing the remains of traditional insuluation so I was in gloves and breathing mask and the works). One of the disadvantages of sheep's wool insulation is that it smells of, well, sheep. The stuff in roof didn't really smell that much, thus lulling us into a false sense of security. For the past week our ground floor has been filled with the delicate* aroma of damp sheep. We are hoping that this will reduce over time. Otherwise I suspect our choices are between acquiring a sudden and intense interest in scented candles and their brethren or sacrificing 600 pounds worth of insulation and the prospect of warm feet this winter.

* read strong and pungent

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/12687.html.
Susanlil_shepherd on July 24th, 2010 12:14 pm (UTC)
I think sheep's wool insulation is great but I wouldn't dare install it as I am allergic to lanolin and can't wear wool.
louisedennislouisedennis on July 24th, 2010 01:30 pm (UTC)
Handling that much of it certainly was an irritant so I can imagine it would be an allergy. We've also all been a bit sneezy. However I assume, away from real life sheep, the smell will eventually dissipate somewhat and hopefully the sneeziness will go with it.
Susanlil_shepherd on July 24th, 2010 01:47 pm (UTC)
Lanolin's a well known allergen.

On the other hand, it doesn't linger in the atmosphere the way it does in knitted and woven garments, no matter how often they're washed.
Gabbygabcd86 on July 24th, 2010 12:49 pm (UTC)
How big is a roll of sheep wool insulation? I can almost see you arriving home with the car over-flowing, or even better, with LOADS of bursting Tesco's bags, and B. opening the door to find you with an enthusiastically organised expression* on your face.

*remains to be defined
louisedennislouisedennis on July 24th, 2010 01:28 pm (UTC)
40 rolls of sheep's wool insulation was enough to basically fill my study. I ordered them on the Internet and they arrived in lorry.
reggietatereggietate on July 24th, 2010 01:56 pm (UTC)
*g* Scented candles sounds a good idea! Though it will probably fade over time, that might be a long time. But if this winter is anything like the last one, you might be happy to have the warm feet even if you get a bit of a pong!
louisedennislouisedennis on July 24th, 2010 02:52 pm (UTC)
I'm definitely looking forward to warm feet. Working at home this winter involved thick socks and slippers. To be honest I think we'll get used to the smell, but we are going to need some kind of solution for when we have visitors because it's very obvious.
Lucas Quinnverito295 on July 24th, 2010 01:58 pm (UTC)
We've been insulating our attic as well and plan to do our basement (also for the record, insulating an attic during an heat wave it definitely *not* the thing to do) but we've used regular fiberglass insulation. The sheep's wool sounds really interesting though, I had no idea they made it (might not make it in the US though). Good luck with the smell, I'm sure they sell scented candles in bulk ;)
louisedennislouisedennis on July 24th, 2010 02:55 pm (UTC)
I think we first heard about it through B's brother, who had worked in a church which had been insulated with it (and which also smelled of damp sheep). When I googled it there seemed to be several suppliers. I think there is also a form of insulation made from old newspapers so even if sheep's wool isn't available in the states, it might be worth checking out what green/recycled alternatives there might be to fibreglass.
MysteriousAliWays: Edge Oh Haimysteriousaliwz on July 24th, 2010 03:13 pm (UTC)
I've been thinking about insulating our attic with sheep's wool. Where did you get it from?
(Both my husband's family and mine were sheep farmers/shepherds a couple of generations ago, so it would be nice to support the industry as well as being environmentally riendly. A lot of the time these days the shorn fleece just gets thrown away because the price they get for it doesn't make it economic to sell.)

Maybe you could ask the suppliers how long the smell is likely to last before it dissipates?
louisedennislouisedennis on July 24th, 2010 03:59 pm (UTC)
We got it from These people but google threw up several suppliers when I searched. I think we picked that particular one because it was the easiest to use to calculate how much we wanted - though I still somehow ended up with 4 extra rolls - but I think that was because I was generous when I measure the cellar.
Tsixgun45lc on July 26th, 2010 06:21 pm (UTC)
So prefabbed insulation rolls made of sheeps wool? Really? That's kind of cool, actually. Out of curiosity, why use that instead of the artificial stuff or the foam board?
louisedennislouisedennis on July 30th, 2010 08:19 pm (UTC)
We avoided the artificial stuff largely because it's so unpleasant to work with. The foam board isn't much used in the UK, I don't think. In this case we'd have had to find a way to fix it up, while the wool mostly just holds itself up by friction or, in a some places, staples.

The house much less sheep-smelling after our week away!
Tsixgun45lc on July 30th, 2010 08:33 pm (UTC)
Glad it isn't as sheepy for you.

I have some of the foam board that I use fr my other nerdy pursuit, Warhammer 40k. it comes in handy for all sorts of odd things and is easy to work with. I'm surprised it isn't more common over there.

My wife would be all about the wool thing, though.
(Anonymous) on August 13th, 2010 10:23 am (UTC)
the sheep
I too am about to embark on the same project. There is so little out there on the net to give any guidance on getting cosy toes with a cellar, mine is under the whole ground floor.

How did you secure it? I have heard that pea netting and a staple gun works? I dont want to board because mines a bit damp.

Does the house smell, or just the cellar?
Sorry about the anon, but I do get sick of forgetting passwords and signing up for things for one off enquiries
lsellersficlsellersfic on August 13th, 2010 10:28 am (UTC)
Re: the sheep
Initially we chose a size of roll that was marginally wider than the average gap between the floor joists. This meant that the insulation was self-supporting, at least for a while. Since then we've been down once a week and applied a staple gun directly to the edges of all the bits that have fallen down. So far this seems to be working and the staples do seem to be holding the insulation up.

Mind you, this is probably not the most efficient way to do it but we had half-hoped it might prove to be entirely self-supporting.

The whole ground floor of the house smelled pretty strongly for at least a week. We then went on holiday for a week and it was a lot better when we came back. There is still a definite whiff of sheep from time to time though but it's not nearly so obvious. It stands to reason that the smell will dissipate eventually since there are no active chemical processes going on to keep generating it.

Hope this helps.