In many traditionally constructed houses ground floors are the source of a large amount of heat loss. Happily they can often be effectively, if not cheaply, insulated and draught-proofed to reduce heat losses and improve comfort.
Many traditional buildings have a timber ground floor suspended above a ventilated sub-floor void or ‘crawl space’. This design was introduced to avoid the dampness of earlier solid floors. Some have full-height cellars beneath the floor.
Ventilation to the sub- floor was usually provided by airbricks set low in the walls on either side of the building. Unfortunately these airbricks were frequently inadvertently blocked by flowerbeds or sealed deliberately to prevent draughts. If the earth beneath the house is at all damp and if ventilation is limited, these can be the ideal conditions for the development of fungal decay in the floor timbers. This decay can grow undetected over many years.
The most common solution to cold and draughty timber floors in the past was the use of underlay and fitted carpets. This combination is moderately effective at improving thermal comfort, but often hides an attractive wooden floor. The use of rubber underlay and rubber backing to carpets can trap moisture, causing decay in the floorboards.
If you have a solid floor you may want to consider adding insulation though this can be quite disruptive as it will mean taking up the floor and relaying it, a process which could potentially damage the flooring materials. Solid floors are not a major source of heat loss so you may decide the cost and disruption outweigh the benefits.
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