Cottage Q&A: Heating half a room

A room divider for heating half a room By sf_freelance/Shutterstock

We have a large dining room. How can I put in a temporary structure that will allow me to cut off half the room so I don’t have to heat the whole thing?—Spatially Challenged

Sticking a new structure in there sounds complicated. And unnecessary. But sectioning off part of the room and heating only that space is totally doable.

How much money and effort do you want to spend on this project? Options range from simple and visually appealing (thermal curtains hung from a rod) to simple and ugly (thick plastic) to more labour-intensive but still decent looking (building a temporary wall with a series of structural insulated panels). A basic SIP is rigid foam (such as extruded polystyrene) sandwiched between some kind of sheet material (such as panelling or beadboard). The sheets extend beyond the foam to create flanges for screws to attach one SIP to another, or to 2x4s. You could screw the 2x4s to the floor, ceiling, and walls and then slide the SIPs in place.

The problem with a temporary solution is that it’s…temporary. And since curtains offer no vapour barrier, you could get frost and eventually mould (don’t hang any luxury brocade). As an attractive and multi-use option, architect Dale Parkes, a senior lecturer at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, B.C., recommends a set of well-insulated double swing doors. These could split the dining room in two whenever you want. “You can order them in many sizes from almost any hardware store,” says Parkes. And if you’re handy, you can install them yourself.

Check with your building department. A curtain won’t require a permit, but constructing a temporary wall may.

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