When we decided to strip the living room floor, little did we know…

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When we decided to strip the living room floor of our 1908 Edwardian terraced house, little did we know what awaited us.

  1. Ceiling and walls decorated: check.
  2. Depredations of previous owner – picture rail, fireplace – restored: check.
  3. New coal-effect gas fire: check.
  4. Pine floor stripped and finished: check.
  5. New traditional rug: check.
  6. August sun streaming in through original sash bay window: check.
  7. Sit back and enjoy: check.


“Shall we turn the radiator up a bit? The fire is lovely but I’m just a teensy weensy bit cold”


“Why are my feet cold when the radiator says ‘5’?”

Mid October

“Why is the rug levitating dear? It’s OK, I don’t mind. Really. I like watching telly in the kitchen. We can come back in here in May.”

Houston; we have a problem.

The problem

It was clear that there was draught through the gaps between the floorboards. What was not immediately clear was that those tiny individual gaps added up to an unbelievable total. Doing the maths revealed that our overall gap problem amounted to an area around half a metre by half a metre; about 3 sq ft in old money. Mystery solved.

Unless something could be done, the room had become uninhabitable. Hang on, we’ve spent a wedge and now we’ve got a 3 square foot hole to the outside? Simple: down to B&Q for some floorboard draught seal. Err.., sorry, no such thing.

Possible solutions

Research revealed our options to be very few. Methods proposed on forums by enthusiastic, well-meaning people were, in reality, complete nonsense. “get some string, stain it the same colour as the floor and push it in the gaps. Use different size string for different size gaps…”, “cut up bits of cork, stain them and push them in” etc. We ended up with a very short list of ‘traditional’ cures: we could use papier-mâché or a mix of glue and sawdust, or flexible sealant. We could pay someone with carpentry skills to fashion wood wedges to fit in the gaps or take up the whole floor and relay it plank by plank, adding a, hopefully matching, board at the end. That was it.

They all involved upheaval and mess. The papier-messy, glue or sealant methods were reported to have a limited life span. Some would involve days of work. Most called for the floor to be re-sanded and re-finished. Of course, we could always buy a carpet.All of these were completely unacceptable and further research online and in DIY stores produced an unavoidable conclusion: there was no off-the-shelf fix. A brand new solution would be necessary. That was it; I would have to become an inventor.

The invention

The overriding requirement was to stop the movement of air through widely varying and irregular gaps without the need to re-finish the floor. It would be nice if it was inconspicuous and was able to compensate for movement of the wood with the seasons. If it was inexpensive, durable, easily applied, and environmentally friendly, then that would be a bonus.The obvious answer was a foam strip squeezed into the gap. In practice, this required a range of different thicknesses to cope with the varying gap widths. When the gap narrowed you would have to cut the strip and change to a thinner one. When the gap widened again…etc. Unless extreme care was taken, it was easy to push the strip too far down and it would have to be pulled out to start again. It was very difficult to seal gaps of 2mm or less. Overall, fitting the strip was tedious and time-consuming. It was better than the alternatives but something more was needed.

After much thought and experimentation, the Eureka moment arrived: a ‘V’ shaped plastic strip, folding to less than 1mm thick for ease of insertion, then springing back into shape to grip the sides of the gap. But how could we justify the cost of producing just enough for our floor?Then came the magic words: “do you think many other people have this problem?” Statistics for the hire of dedicated floor-sanding machines indicated that there were likely to be around a million UK homes suffering the curse of cold feet from draughty floorboards. Several hundred thousand more were being added every year. That was it; I would have to become a businessman.

A new product

Numerous Blue Peter-style plastic-and-scissors samples proved the concept and identified optimum dimensions. Choice of material would be important; the seal would need to be durable and retain its spring. How do you go about choosing the right one from a bewildering array of modern plastics? How was it to be manufactured?By an amazing stroke of luck, the Welsh Assembly Government chose this moment in history to start a government-funded Inventor’s Club, the only one of its kind in Europe. Membership gave access to University Departments and materials experts; polypropylene was the one to go for, ideal for hinge applications. There was assistance for design and development work and the tricky subject of Intellectual Property protection.

StopGap is a very simple product but is tricky to manufacture. The dimensions have to be kept to very fine tolerances – 5 thousandths of a millimetre – for the seal to function effectively. This proved a considerable stumbling block and meant months of searching to find a manufacturer willing to take it on.Finally, all the decisions had been taken, the prototypes tried, altered, tried again, production samples tested and signed off, packaging designed. The new product was ready and a first production batch produced.

A new business

We took the plunge and launched the StopGap website in July 2004 as a way of making the product available to the wider public. It was a leap of faith. A few weeks went by. Nothing. At that time, we had no statistics to show if anyone had even visited the site. We managed to keep our nerve. Then, on the 2nd August, Sophie from Hull ordered one 40m roll. The memory of that first order still lingers.

Sales started to grow. StopGap started to get mentions in magazines. A letter to the Guardian produced 2 months worth of sales in a week. The demand was clearly there.Since then, we have been pleased to receive a wealth of messages telling us how StopGap has been of benefit to householders all over the UK as well as USA, Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, Finland, Denmark, Ireland.


StopGap is inexpensive, paying for itself within one heating season and saving money every year thereafter; it avoids the use of sealants and their associated chemicals and solvents; it causes no mess; it can be used retrospectively where floors have been finished before the curse of cold draught has been recognised; it works in gaps from 1mm to 8mm and is hardly visible; a 12-foot by 12-foot room can be sealed in under an hour. StopGap can be used in most places where there is a gap to be filled: under skirting boards, in old sash windows or draughty French doors.

StopGap can prevent or reduce draught, dirt, dust, noise, smells and insects. We still await feedback on the question of mice.

2 responses to “When we decided to strip the living room floor, little did we know…”

  1. What a fantastic product! Really very easy to install, such a pleasure as it went down exactly as the instructions said it would and what a difference it has made to the warmth of my living room! I had had the floorboards on the ground insulated using chicken wire to hold the insulation in place underneath the boards about two years ago and although it had improved the warmth there were still gaps in the floorboards which were letting in very cold air, especially during the current cold snap. In fact if I lit a log fire the cold air was literally drawn into the room and made my legs and feet very cold – almost cutting them in half! Stop Gap has resolved this problem – I can’t recommend it highly enough and have already started to do so to friends and neighbours. I’m now looking at other places I can use it to stop draughts such as to seal rarely opened windows. Thank you for such a simple but effective invention!