I bought my typical Victorian mid-terrace back in 2018, and having lived in Bristol in similar houses for a few years I expected to find at least a little bit of damp when I moved in. The survey I had done while purchasing the house affirmed my expectation and recommended a damp proof course, but on a recommendation from a mutual friend (thanks Dave!) I decided to hold off and talk to Simon James Lewis at Neighbourhood Construction instead.
It wasn’t until a year later that I finally did get Simon round to my house for a home tutorial, and by then I’d got a bit of a feel for where all the damp was gathering in my house – which walls I had to clean mould off every few months, which rooms got condensation inside the windows, and where the paint and plaster were actively bubbling or peeling away. As we went around my house room by room, Simon explained the different factors affecting how the air was moving around my home and equipped me with a huge list of easy fixes I could do myself. It wasn’t long before I was boring my friends and colleagues in the pub by telling them all about my newfound enthusiasm for plugging holes with expandable foam!
Sealing up the small holes was one thing, but Simon pointed out that I had a big hole on the roof letting cold air sink right into the heart of my house, so one morning in December I decided to get to work sealing off my chimney. I did a bit of research and realised I needed to hire two ladders to be able to safely access the apex of my roof (a straight ladder to get up the side of the house, and a roof ladder hooked onto the apex itself to get my to the chimney), and I also noticed that there was a convenient hook drilled into the side of my house the I could secure a rope to. I’m an avid climber, and so I already had a climbing harness and some rope to attach myself and the ladder (as well as a willing housemate as a spotter/ladder holder) to make my trip to the roof as safe as possible. For the sealing of the chimney itself, Simon suggested a simple solution of a small roll of roof insulation and an easy to install metal roof cap. So I grabbed some gloves, clipped a bag with all my materials into my climbing harness and up the ladder I went!
It took less than half an hour total to cap the chimney; once I’d pushed the roll of insulation into the pot the cap simply consisted of a ring tightened with a screw to secure the cap on. However, one thing I did realise when I got to the roof was that I had not one, but two chimney pots. Something I probably could have done a bit more diligence and worked out from the ground… Oh well! Back to the hardware store, I went for another chimney cowl, and another half an hour and both chimneys were sealed.
I immediately noticed that my living room was staying warmer for longer, and I no longer get spots of mould in the recesses on either side of the chimney pot in the living room either. I’ve noticed my house get incrementally less damp with all of the small things I’ve been chipping away it on my journey to make my home warm, cosy and damp free, but capping the chimneys felt like a big improvement. It was easy to do (if a little nerve-wracking when a strong gust of wind came along as I was climbing down off the roof), and it made a tangible difference to how I feel about sitting in my living room. Now to seal off the bottom end!