Finding Draughts

Draughts are bad news and you should work to seal them up, they are uncontrollable ventilation and they waste your heat, they reduce comfort and they bring in dust and dirt from outside.

To find them first of all look for them. If you can see daylight through a letter plate, keyhole or beside a door there will be a draught there. Look at the top of your airing cupboard, often there will be gaps or holes through the ceiling into the loft. Any crack that is discoloured black could well have a draught coming in through it, look under window sills, round window and door frames, under thresholds, round pipes etc.

The next method of locating draughts is to feel for them. Dampen the back of your hand and hold it close to a socket outlet, window sill board, window sash, skirting board or crack, if it feels cold then there is very likely a draught.

Other methods of finding draughts include using a candle flame, puffing with talcum powder, and using tracer smoke matches or pellets. You can also use a thermal imaging camera to find cold places, but with all the other methods it is not generally necessary to use one.

Places to look are; round, through and under doors, windows and frames, beside pipes, under skirtings, through electrical fittings, between floorboards, key holes, and any gaps or cracks.

Below are examples of some of the sources of draughts that we’ve encountered. Following that are some pointers to help you find draughts in your own home.

Finding draughts in your home

The George Hotel is believed to be the oldest existing building in Reading, dating back at least as far as 1423. But most of Reading’s buildings, including its housing, are much more recent.

Like other towns and cities, Reading’s house stock reflects the expectations, technology and fashions of the times in which they were built. It is worth remembering that much of the current housing stock was built at a time when homes weren’t centrally heated and the cost of fuel wasn’t such an issue. We all expect to live in warmer homes now, and as we get older it becomes important for our health. Still, it is worth reflecting that average indoor temperatures have risen from 12°C in 1970 to about 17.5°C (63.5°F) today. It is not surprising that older and more draughty homes, in particular, struggle to cope with changing expectations.

So before rushing ahead with any draughtproofing project it is worth spending a bit of time getting to know your house. That might sound odd, but different types of housing have their little draughty foibles. If you know what they are it is easier to spot them.

Below is a list of the most common types of houses found in Reading, along with a link to a page with pointers as to the sorts of draughts to which they are most prone, and their sources:

Dry-lined houses – homes often constructed on estates, with brick and block walls and plasterboard ‘dry lining’ rather than wet plaster.

Modern timber frame houses – homes that use wood as their main structural material. In the UK they often have an external brick skin, but all internal walls are finished with plaster-board.

Flats – these vary across the full range of house types, so choose the one that most closely matches your flat. You will generally have fewer problems as flats have fewer outside surfaces.

Victorian terraced houses – homes in the familiar rows found in many towns and city centres, with solid walls and slate roofs.

Cross-walled houses – homes where the front and back walls are mostly made of windows and panels. The cross-walls provide the structure. All the floor joists tend to run from side to side.

Early cavity walled houses – homes typically built from the 1930’s onward, prevalent postwar and up until the mid-1970s. Built with uninsulated cavities, although many now will have had cavity wall insulation added.

Chalet bungalows – homes that are mainly single story, but have a small living space on a second floor or loft often with a dormer window.

Concrete panel system houses – post-war prefab homes, with walls made of concrete panels bolted together. Often built as temporary structures, but some remain (and are highly cherished).

Stone walled and cob houses – homes with thick solid walls, usually built pre-1880.

Please do not assume that just because you own a new or recently built home that you won’t have draughts. Everyone has them to some degree.

Draughtproofing is about getting them under control so that you can decide when and where you want to introduce them back as controlled ventilation.