Robbens underfloor heating makes a perfect companion for homes old and new, including those that are reborn from an earlier career in agriculture, industry - or even the church.

When University student James Shelley acquired the old Methodist Chapel, in North Waltham near Basingstoke, he faced a daunting task in converting it into a home.

Since the Methodist congregation abandoned the building in 2002 it had fallen into a sad state of disrepair. Damp climbed the stone walls and cold winds blew through the thin coloured glass of the windows.

Fortunately James, 23, is a young man not easily deterred. With the help and advice of his developer father he spent the next three years creating a modern, comfortable home - qualifying as a surveyor and acquiring a day job in the process.

Essential character Keen to maintain the essential character of the building James opted for a single large bedroom on a newly created mezzanine floor, rather than closing off the entire upper storey. As a result the main living room and dining area has a high ceiling, with its exposed, sandblasted beams some 5 metres above floor level.

This height made it possible to install a battened floating floor above the concrete original. It also made the selection of underfloor heating even more obvious. Heating the huge volume of space involved from the floor up, rather than the ceiling down, is more efficient (

The void between the battens was first filled with insulation material to prevent downward heat transfer. The loops of Robbens multi-layer aluminium and p-EX pipework could then be clipped in position below special aluminium heat conducting sheets.

The entire ground floor area was finally topped with conditioned oak boards installed by James himself

Each of the ten floor loops is connected to the flow and return sections of a specially designed manifold, concealed in a bathroom cupboard; the manifold being connected in turn, to a new gas-fired condensing boiler in the kitchen. The low flow temperatures required by the Robbens systems ensure that the boiler is kept in high efficiency condensing mode virtually all the time.

Custom built

The custom built Robbens manifold, which incorporates an automatic air vent, makes it possible to divide the heating system into independent zones – bathroom, main living space, kitchen and bedroom – each controlled by its own room thermostat.

The end result is unconfined comfort throughout the home that James Shelley now shares with his Spanish girlfriend Pili. Uncluttered walls make every inch of space available and the Old Chapel now has living room aplenty.

Even so, James sometimes finds it hard to believe that 150 Methodists once sat in his front room!

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