Yesterday, as well as going to the course on hen keeping, I also did some more work on the outbuilding, gradually revealing more of the old stone walls of the barn. They are solid and with the exception of a few patches of crumbly mortar, seem to be intact. It is good to know we have such solid walls to mold our plans around.
People tend to think of old, nineteenth-century stone-built buildings as damp and drafty. In fact, many of the perceived defects of these old buildings are due to later twentieth-century additions. Plasterboard is not right for the inside of these walls, for example. The solution when it comes to creating healthy and comfortable buildings seems to me to be about rejecting many of the building standards of the last century and combining simpler, age-old techniques with modern ecological method and innovation.
Stone walls actually have fairly good insulative properties, which can be enhanced with the right methods. They are solid and have great thermal mass, so regulating temperature. Putting insulation layers inside them is counter-productive (though common!) as it basically stops the heat gathered in the stone to radiate into the house.
As we make decisions about how to treat the insides of our stone walls, we will be thinking about working with rather than against the properties of the stone. Although I am no expert, we plan to explore the possibilities of an internal clay/straw daub or render, straight onto the stonework, which helps regulate moisture levels and heat within the building at the same time as increasing the insulative properties of the walls – a sustainable, healthy and effective building method.