Following on from the Demolition article, I thought that I would take a look at what to do while the walls are open.
Substantial renovations, extensions and new builds offer an unexpected opportunity for most home owners. Given the great technological growth of the last few decades, and accepting the fact that the bulk of New Zealand’s housing stock was built well before many of the modern amenities that we want to have in our houses were invented, stripping wall linings off and exposing the framework of the house gives us the opportunity to update the infrastructure of the house we call home.
Think about many of the frustrations you might have with your own home right now. Power points for the TV are halfway across the room from the spot you what to put the TV, and the aerial cable is halfway across the room too, but in the other direction. Want to have a home office but have found that the phone jack is in the kitchen. You want to move the bedroom to another room, but find that the noise of the toilet flushing next door wakes the sleeping. While much of our focus while renovating is on appearance, let’s spend some time looking at features that we can introduce that will make our homes better to live in, not just look at.
When working with clients to renovate or extend their homes, the thought of removing the interior wall lining is sometimes a little daunting. But the benefits of this are great if you intend to stay for a longer period of time, or can imagine the improved performance of the house. With this in mind, let’s look at what can be achieved when the lining is removed.
Insulation in NZ homes only became mandatory in 1978, so the vast majority of our homes have little bar the lining and exterior cladding between you and the elements. While most of us have adapted to living in cold, draughty and energy inefficient homes by adding a jumper or turning up the heater, spending time in a home with good insulation, well performing joinery and energy efficient heating is something of a revelation. Installing insulation into the ceilings and underfloor of most houses is possible ( see the ECCA initiatives) installing insulation into the wall is much easier when the lining is removed. When working with my renovation clients, I always suggest that we remove the lining, and my main focus is services and insulation . Please see my Insulation article for more specific details.
Much of the frustration of living in older homes is the lack of services.
This will include too few powerpoints, or that they are in the wrong places for modern living. In some cases, older homes will have very old electrical cabling and this needs to be removed as it can become brittle and unsafe. Most often, rooms have 1 single powerpoint, and a single central light. While the lining is removed, adding extra powerpoints and cabling for new lights, or wall lights is a breeze. Allowing for additional capacity is easy to do at this point. By this I mean that adding an extra cable from the distribution board to the roof space, or allowing an extra conduit from the road to the house means that new cabling can be added without too much disruption. Basically these simple steps are a way of future proofing your home. Fibre optics and ultrafast broadband are just around the corner, so having provision for it to enter your house just makes sense.
Electrical cabling is now only one part of the wiring of a home. Whether you are planning a fully automated home, or simply taking advantage of the connectivity offered by modern devices, there is now more to wiring a home than power and lights. Data cabling to connect the home computer to the tv, linking alarms to telephones or a modem and cabling for home theatre can all be done while the walls are open. Unsightly cables from the DVD or decoder to the wall mounted flat screen can be a thing of the past if you take the opportunity to run cables while the walls are exposed. While a full home automation system is out of the reach of most of us renovating a home, thinking ahead and planning how you intend to use your home in the future is a worthwhile investment. Some extra cable or a draw wire, or an empty conduit that can be used in the future is a small price to pay for adaptibilty and expansion in the future.
Insulation is covered in detail in my other article, but I will mention heating here. Again, while linings are removed, new cabling or pipework for your chosen heating system can be installed. Whether this is cabling for electrical heating or pipework for other systems, now is the time to do this. Gas fired radiators, electrical radiant heating, pellet burning fireplaces, or ducted central heating, the options are varied, but all have one common feature, they are quicker (and cheaper) to install when the walls are exposed.
I will not go into detail here about plumbing, as every alteration involving the installation of new pipe work generally means removing and replacing lining anyway. While it may seem like I am suggesting that even the most minor of alterations should involve the complete removal of the wall lining, I would recommend that the additional cost of new lining will mean a better end result, and I have seen a lot of people spend a lot of time (and money) trying to keep the lining intact only to end up with a less than satisfactory finish and much frustration. We’ll look at insulation next, then linings in detail.