Insulating A House With Climbing Plants

A creeper or climbing plant grown up the side of your house to provide some insulation will have to be a permanent feature, so colourful annuals such as morning glory and nasturtium are no good. The choice of creeper will depend on personal preference, on the speed of growth required, the type of soil and the orientation of the particular wall. Wisteria will only grow well on a sunny south or west wall and will establish itself slowly. It will also need hard pruning if it is to flower well. It is not self-clinging and will require some support, and when fully grown and covered in leaf and flower, it will be heavy. The Russian vine will thrive in any soil, including chalk, and on any wall whether north- or south-facing. It does, however, still require supporting wires but grows three or four metres in a year.

Supporting wires are best arranged before planting. Fix galvanised screw eyes in the wall at 600mm centres; screw them into holes drilled in the wall and filled with plastic plugs. Alternatively galvanised vine eyes can be banged into the mortar joints. Thread 13 gauge galvanised wire through the eyes and fasten it by twisting it over the final eye with pliers. The lines of wire should be 200-300mm apart up the wall. You could use a length of galvanised chain link netting instead of the wire, in which case the fixings would be along the top and bottom edges and the netting would be tied to the eyes with galvanised wire.

supporting-climbing-plants

If you prefer a self-clinging creeper, the common ivy will thrive in any position or soil. Beware of using a self-clinging creeper on old brickwork as the aerial roots may work their way into the old mortar joints, allowing rainwater to run along them and penetrate the brickwork. Many other species of plant can be trained or encouraged up a wall, some with flowers such as clematis, ethers with splendid autumnal foliage such as the Virginia creeper. As yet there is no official recognition of the insulating value of the various types available, so there is no pseudo-scientific reason for selecting any particular species. Nor does such a simple alteration of the external appearance of your house require official permission.

Building a trellistrellis for climbing plants

When planning a trellis to shade a south-facing window in summer choose a deciduous creeper such as a rose (select a climber or a rambler), a honeysuckle, or a clematis. All the wood used for making the trellis should be Tanalised or treated with three liberally applied coats of creosote.

Over the window to be protected fix a 50mm x100mm member allowing an overhang of approximately 2 metres either side of the end of the window, or as wide as the building will allow. The fixings can be made with 75mm no 12 zinc-plated screws and plastic wall plugs at 600mm centres. Mark out the positions for the uprights which should be spaced at 2 metre centres, 1.5 metres away from the wall of your house.

Dig holes at these points so that the posts can be let into the ground to a depth of 600mm.

The holes will automatically be large enough to allow some tolerance in the exact positioning of the posts. Working on the ground you should screw the 75mm x75mm posts to a second 50mm x 100mm member the same length as that fixed to the wall, again using 75mm no 12 zinc-plated screws. Now lift this framework into place with the help of a friend; fill the holes in and firm the earth around the posts.

A 50mm x 50mm piece temporarily nailed between the framework and the wall member can be used to check that the structure is at right angles; the posts should also be checked with a level so that they are set vertically in the ground. Then nail 50mm x 50mm pieces, cut to give a projection, at 600mm centres on top of the 50mm x 100mm members using 75mm galvanised wire nails. The addition of wires stapled to the underside of the 50mm x 50mm pieces will provide support for the climbers.

The plants can either be put in at the foot of the posts or against the wall, in which case additional wires will be needed to train the plant up the framework.

It may be difficult actually to affect the climate around your home with new planting, but in planning a new house the planting of the garden should be an integral part of the design. However, it is not so much the single house that may be usefully protected but rather groups of houses that could benefit by the protection of a wide shelter-belt of trees.

Planting is not the only thing that could be considered with the cooperation of your neighbours. It would be easier to add external insulation to a whole terrace of houses at once than to insulate each house separately; a solar heating system serving a village might be easier to control and operate than fifty sets of solar panels; a wind turbine large enough to provide the lighting needs of a group of houses will have less visual impact than a number of smaller ones, and be only a single maintenance problem.

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