Victorian Terrace

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Case study:
A retrofitted 1870 terrace in South Manchester.


How to Heat:

A British Victorian Terrace

Topics: Insulation, bay windows, space-saving and open-plan homes.

Victorian terrace living room, bay window with cast iron radiator, Farrow and Ball wallpaper

You worship the original hearth tiles but there’s just never enough plug points.

Modern life doesn’t always slot perfectly into a Victorian home and renovations can feel like a struggle between past and present. When it comes to heating though, you don’t have to compromise on character to achieve modern comfort and efficiency.

Home heating hurdles

1. Insulate to accumulate

Victorian terrace hallway with column radiator

These are 100-150 year old properties so draughts are often an issue, especially where windows and exterior doors are still the originals. Gaps between floorboards and under skirting, open chimneys, cellars and coal holes can also contribute.

Before working out heat requirements (and making choices on radiators), we always advise insulating and draught proofing as much as possible to reduce heat loss and wasted energy.

You can also combat cold spots and keep warm air circulating by positioning your radiators strategically. Read our case study below for tips and book an at-home consultation for expert, tailored advice.

 

2. Roommates 

Victorian terrace ornate radiator next to cast iron tiled fireplace

While cast iron radiators are a Victorian invention, most domestic housing back then wouldn’t have had indoor plumbing, let alone central heating. Coal fires were the only option and would have been found in almost every room. As a result, radiators often share the room with a fireplace.

Even when it’s purely decorative, a fireplace is a key feature in the room which dominates one wall. Tuck your radiators under windows so that they complement rather than detract from this focal point.

To keep your fireside glow more hygge and less Hades, use TRVs to automatically turn your radiators off when the fire is on.

 

3. Open-minded

These terrace houses lend themselves to modernisation and the 21st-Century open-plan Victorian property has developed an interior style all of its own. In a contemporary extension, radiators can help to reference the period of the house and marry a new space with the older part.

Bigger, multi-use rooms call for higher heat outputs. Cast-iron radiators give you the necessary oomph, working with rather than against the modern styling of your period interior.

Cast iron radiators in bay window of open plan kitchen and dining room in victorian terrace

Use a combination of radiators to get the output you need. Above, one long, low radiator sets off the bay window area, while a second, taller model supplements the output.

Steel column radiator in contemporary kitchen

Adding more glass increases light but reduces wall space. Vertical radiators, like this 3-column Florence, are an excellent solution. Placing this steel radiator beside the door helps to combat any cold draughts.

Slimline column radiator in contemporary open plan kitchen

Where space is particularly tight, like in this kitchen where the cupboards and the washer open next to the radiator, the ultra-slim profile of our Verona model easily solves the issue.

4. Straight and narrow: Heating hallways

Column radiator in Victorian terrace hallway with Little Greene wallpaper

Terraces usually have narrow hallways so, with space at a premium, go for slimline two- or three-column models. 

Ornate radiator in Victorian house under stairs with stripped pine floorboards

Space is tight, but don’t be tempted to ignore heating requirements in hallways and landings.
Radiators at the entrance counteract cold air rushing in through the front door.

There’s actually no harm in stepping up the output in these areas - typically the staircase sits in the middle of the house so heat from hallway radiators filters into adjoining rooms and rises up through the property. Provided your loft insulation is adequate, this heat will not go to waste. Read our How to heat hallways guide for more detail.

5. Space-saving tips

Polished ornate cast iron radiator under window with plantation shutters in Victorian kitchen

Make use of space below windows as far as possible. It’s an ideal spot for your radiator.

Read our How to heat under windows guide to find out why.

 

Ornate column radiator in Victorian terrace living room with Farrow and Ball wallpaper

A slimline radiator can fit neatly beside an interior door for an efficient use of otherwise dead space.

 

Traditional towel warmer in Victorian terrace bathroom with cast iron roll top bath and encaustic tiles

Towel radiators, like the Vivien above, are a particularly compact solution for small bathrooms. With both hot water and electric options, our Elara towel warmers can be mounted higher than a regular radiator and on virtually any wall.

 

Tall steel column radiator in kitchen with British Standard kitchen units and Ercol table and chairs

Where horizontal space is limited, our steel Florence radiators allow you to use the height of the wall.

 

6. Bays of glory

Traditional radiators in bay window of open plan victorian terrace

It’s a classic look that always works no matter how you chose to style your bay window. We advise fitting a single radiator below the central window, and if the bay is big enough, two smaller radiators can sometimes work on either side. If the room needs more heat, add an extra radiator on a different wall. Our Florence range also offers the possibility of curving your radiator to sweep across the full length of the window. We've put together a guide to heating under windows that includes measurements for perfect positioning.


Case study - South Manchester

Overview

The house - A three-bedroom semi-detached house built around 1870 just south of Manchester city centre.
The project - A partial renovation focused on retaining the period feel of the house and improving energy efficiency.

Victorian terrace hallway with column radiator
The slimline 3-column radiator right by the front door heats cold air as soon as it enters the house.

 

The top priority was insulation and draught-proofing.

All exterior walls had 50mm insulation board added. Instead of replacing the original, characterful front door, new double-glazed draught-proof doors were added to create a porch and insulate against the cold. A new brass letterbox and keyhole cover helped to further reduce any draughts.

The windows were already double glazed but with fairly out-dated UPVC windows which could not be fully opened. These were replaced with new UPVC sash windows providing a traditional feel with modern efficiency. Caulking as many gaps around the house as possible, and increasing insulation in the loft space also made a big difference.

Victorian terrace living room, bay window with cast iron radiator, Farrow and Ball wallpaper

 

The living room is 5m by 6m with 3m-high ceilings, one big bay window and a wood-burning stove. The bay window would only allow for a low, Rococo III radiator of 13 sections which could not fulfil the room’s heat requirements alone. An additional tall, narrow Rococo I radiator was positioned behind the door, boosting the heat output and making use of otherwise dead space in the room.

Ornate column radiator in Victorian terrace living room with Farrow and Ball wallpaper

The old steel panel radiator had been on the wall facing the fireplace, also the ideal place to put the sofa. Removing the radiator from this wall improved the temperature balance across the room. The radiators in this room were fitted with TRVs meaning that the radiators turn off automatically when the wood-burning stove is in use.

Tall steel column radiator in kitchen with British Standard kitchen units and Ercol table and chairs

In the kitchen, most of the wall space was devoted to the floor-standing units. Opting for a tall Florence model provided enough heat output while also leaving space for a table and chairs under the window.

Brass towel warmer and walk in, hexagonal and marble tile shower in contemporary bathroom in victorian terrace

Bathrooms need to be warm and a radiator below the window easily meets the room’s heat requirements. A handy Elara towel warmer in brass was added next to the walk-in shower. As well as being practically positioned, this became a feature in the room, enhancing the colour scheme. It is electric, meaning it can operate year-round, independently of the central heating.

Column radiators under windows in bedroom with Little Greene paint in victorian terrace

Although the master bedroom is fairly large, the insulation on the walls and carpeted floors meant that the BTU requirement was relatively low for the size of the room. One radiator would have been adequate but it was decided to use two radiators, one below each window, for symmetry and balance. Using TRVs on both limits the output and maintains a comfortable, stable temperature.

Ornate cast iron radiator in victorian terrace dining room under sash window

A wall was taken out between the second reception room and the hallway to create a larger space that communicates with the kitchen and serves as both a dining room and family room. A larger Rococo II radiator in combination with the wood burner ensures this open-plan area of the house retains a cosy feel.

 

Typical red brick Victorian semi detached property. Bay window.
Typical Victorian semi detached home in Manchester.