IMPROVING AN OLD HOUSE

Deficiencies of old buildings by way of draughts and other discomforts can easily be remedied.

OLDER types of houses, whether they be period or as late as Victorian or Edwardian, are usually at their best in the summer. In winter, unless they have been modernized and every detail in them brought up to date, they often fall far short of our present-day standards of comfort.

This lack of comfort may be due to a general haphazardness of design of the house itself – -numbers of narrow passages are, for instance, a fruitful source of draughts – or it may be traced to old-fashioned grates, faulty floors, or badly fitting doors and windows. Central heating is the ideal way of making an old house comfortable in winter; but if for any reason it is not practicable a slow-combustion stove placed in the entrance hall will go a long way towards warming the stairs and passages and, to a certain extent, the rooms themselves as well.

The stove should be kept burning con-tinuously through the winter months on coke or anthracite. It will only needstoking once in t welve hours, and as it is totally enclosed, there is no risk of fire when it is left burning at night. Passages, however, can be made considerably less draughty if the entrances to them are shut oil by some thick, well-fitting curtains which touch the ground.

Staircases of the enclosed kind, which are so often seen in old cottages, make an ideal playground for draughts, and a heavy curtain hung at the bottom will make a big improvement in the warmth of the hall.

Inefficient fireplaces in the living-rooms, especially those Victorian ones with bar fronts, are worse than useless, because a large proportion of the heat from a grate of this kind is drawn up the chimney and the fire only warms a small area of the room, while coal consumption is high.

If it is not possible to have an entirely modern fireplace put in – the ideal way – it is practicable to have one of the modern barless fires fitted to the old grate. These cost only a little over a pound, and are made so that they can be adjusted to fit any widtli of opening. You will be surprised at the difference in the fuel bill, and the improvement in the appearance of the hearth – cinders and ashes cannot fall out in front – is also a consideration.

There are people who never seem to be able to remember to close a door, and even in a new house open doors help to create draughts. An automatic door-closer not only gently shuts the door, but it prevents slamming and so saves wear and tear on the latch.

Ono type, in chromium-plated metal, is fairly inconspicuous, and it would be an excellent investment for all doors in constant use, including the one leading to the kitchen quarters, where it will prevent cooking smells from percolating through the rest of the house.

When this door needs to be kept open, a door-stop operated by a foot pedal which will lock the door open at any angle can be fitted to it.

Old doors are apt to warp slightly with age, and so fit badly at the sides and sometimes develop a gap between door and floor. Narrow strips of felt in a colour to match the paint, or rubber tubing nailed round the edge of the door, solve the problem of draughts at the sides and top. The space between door and floor can be filled up by a wooden draught-excluder, which is scarcely noticeable when painted to match the door itself. It is made with a rubber base to press firmly down on the carpet, but it lifts automatically when the door is opened to avoid any pulling or scratching.

Draught screens may be out of date, but they do serve a useful purpose in old houses when the doors fit badly or are awkwardly placed. A plain shape is best, covered with fine canvas or linen, or with a patterned furnishing fabric to match the upholstery or curtains. 1!.turning to this curtain question, there should be little discomfort from draughts from the windows in the evening if the curtains have been made with ample length and fullness and if the material is substantial enough to prevent the passage of aii. A warm interlining is of great help when a loosely woven fabric is chosen.

A fairly deep pelmet or valance, too, is of practical, as well as decorative, value in the winter, for it does definitely help to break the draught when a sash window is left open at the top.

When sash cords are being renewed OIK! Has a good opportunity to look at the windows and see that draughts are not being admitted by worn frames. If the wood has worn away at the sides by constant use, then some form of filling must be attached to the frame to fill up the space.

Neither felt nor rubber are very suitable for windows, as they pnish with the weather in time. Strips of grooved rustless metal will prove far more satisfactorj. Their convex shape provides a slight resistance when the window is closed, and they also provide good extra protection against driving winter rain. These strips, by the way, can quite well be fitted without removing the window from its frame at all.

The fact of putting down a good thick carpet does not always make the floors in an old house warm and comfortable to walk on. Draughts, for instance, can come up through wooden floors warped with age, while the chill from a tiled or stone floor will penetrate the thickest pile.

A parquet floor can be laid over a deal floor, and the resultant comfort and good appearance is well worth the initial cost. It conceals the old roughened wood and stops up the draught holes.

But if you are relying on a carpet for comfort, then it should be a fitted one, and backed by some damp and draught-proof underlay. One made of a bituminous com-position and covered on both sides with granulated cork is good, for the cork gives an extra feeling of spring and luxury to the carpet.

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