Page 1



AUTUMN 2018 £3.50 / €3.75

y(7HC5B5*PNQTKT( +z!@

ISSN 2515-5369


Dream it . Do it . Live it




Welcome... Necessity may be the mother of invention - think of byre dwellings that had cattle downstairs to help keep the house warm - but so is ingenuity. When we asked selfbuilders to submit their projects for publication in Selfbuild magazine, see page 129, we didn’t expect to hear about cattle still playing a part in heating Irish homes. Yet that’s exactly what Matt and Denise Donoghue have achieved in Co Cork with the help of a humble heat pump. Dairy farms spend a lot of money on cooling milk and Matt, assisted by his heating systems engineer, Work, work, came up with a way to use this waste heat for their work hot water and underfloor heating. The home office The heat pump works as any other, the only difference is where the heat is extracted from instead of it being from the air or ground, it’s from the milk. Their story starts page 20. The concept is simple, as all robust designs are, which once again shows how self-builders continue to be at the forefront of innovation and embracing Sliding with sustainable alternatives, and crucially that they’re style Pocket doors willing to invest in them.

Irish design heroes The contemporaries

Lego land

Building with insulating concrete formwork

Astrid Madsen - Editor astrid.madsen@selfbuild.ie

Follow the Selfbuild community:

selfbuild.ie AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 0 5

C O N T E N T S / W H AT ’ S I N S I D E

Selfbuild Dream it . Do it . Live it

56 20


82 44



0 6 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

W H AT ’ S I N S I D E / C O N T E N T S



Learn from the Irish self-builders who have been through the process of building and home improving


Living in a house that’s on the small side could be a solution to mortgage debt but planning permission may be an issue.



See how Denise and Matt Donoghue of Co Cork are harvesting heat for their family home from the milking parlour.

A new kitchen may not necessarily add as much value as you might think, find out where to invest in your home to sell it at the best price.


It took Siobhan Harkin and Gerry Gormley of Co Antrim three goes, and 16 years, to get the redesign of their farmhouse right.


Autumn is the time to reap the rewards of summer’s bounty, here’s how to harvest, pickle, freeze and store.

44 BACK TO BASICS Elaine and Noel O’Connor of Co Roscommon gave their architect free reign to redesign their farmhouse.


Neighbours sharing a semi-d had to apply for planning permission together to get the planners to allow them to change the appearance of their Co L’Derry seaside homes.

82 ICF BY DESIGN Architect Mel McGerr chose insulating concrete formwork for his home in Co Roscommon to guarantee a thermalbridge-free build.

88 ICF WITH DIY Sarah and Mark Ballantine of Co Antrim built up the insulating concrete formwork walls themselves.

102 DAMP BUSTERS John McIntyre’s house in Co Down was damp and mouldy; the solution was a whole house mechanised ventilation system.



Sliding internal doors add style and function to contemporary family homes.

114 WORK AWAY FROM WORK The home office has become a musthave feature of any home; find out how to integrate one in your bedroom or carve out a space in the living room.

Basic information about building or improving your home in any of the 32 counties




A method of construction that helps you build an airtight and thermal bridge free home without the headaches.


Nowadays a lot needs to go into the utility room, find out what there is to consider.


Moisture and damp are all too common in our homes, here’s a quick guide of how to tackle it.

118 METAL ROOFS Despite being more expensive than traditional roof coverings, metal can inject style to your project.

120 IRISH DESIGN HEROES Inspiration from contemporary Irish designers who aren’t afraid of using bold materials and colours.

Your self-build questions answered.

A showcase of Irish products and services from our sponsors


Product and industry news in the world of building and home improving.


How Denise and Matt Donoghue’s heat pump extracts heat from cow’s milk as explained by Mike Cotter of Alternative Heating & Cooling Ltd.


All articles equally cover the 32 counties; when we refer to the Republic of Ireland the abbreviation is ROI. For Northern Ireland it’s NI. AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 0 7





AUTUMN 2018 £3.50 / €3.75

Barry Callaghan

Jackie Carton

Mike Cotter

Caelan is a designer, artist and curator with extensive experience in ecological building design. She’s based in Co Tipperary. caelanbristow.com

Barry is the CEO of Timeless Sash Windows, a family run joinery business based in Co Meath. timelesssashwindows.ie / tel. 046 9023323

Jackie B.A. Des. is an interior designer based in Dublin 16. She is a member of the Interiors Association and of Institute Designers Ireland. stylemyroom.ie / tel. 01 494 8150

Mike is a renewable heating specialist who co-founded Alternative Heating & Cooling Ltd in 2001; he’s based in Co Cork. ahac.ie / tel. 028 23701

ISSN 2515-5369

Caelan Bristow

y(7HC5B5*PNQTKT( +z!$


Dream it . Do it . Live it



Cover Photo Anders Hviid vipp.com Editor Astrid Madsen astrid.madsen@selfbuild.ie Design Myles McCann myles.mccann@selfbuild.ie Shannon Quinn shannon.quinn@selfbuild.ie

Tadhg Feeney

John Flood

Tadhg runs Trustee Safes, a family business with over 40 years’ experience supplying and installing safes. trusteesafes.com / mobile ROI 0862538471 / mobile NI 07955 375213

Architect John Flood is a founder of Dublin-based DMVF Architects and holds an RIAI accreditation in sustainability. dmvf.ie / tel. 01 407 1080

Caroline Irvine

Marion McGarry

Caroline in an architect and award Dr Marion McGarry is an author, historian, winning interior designer who set up part-time Galway Mayo Insititute of her practice Irvine Nash in 2003. She’s Technology lecturer and freelance based in Co Dublin. illustrator. She is the author of The Irish irvine-nash.com / Cottage published by Orpen Press. mobile 087 2987401 @marion_mcgarry

Marketing Calum Lennon calum.lennon@selfbuild.ie Subscriptions Becca.Wilgar becca.wilgar@selfbuild.ie Business Development Manager Niamh Boyle niamh.boyle@selfbuild.ie Advertising Sales David Corry david.corry@selfbuild.ie Nicola Delacour-Dunne nicola.delacour@selfbuild.ie Lisa Killen lisa.killen@selfbuild.ie Maria Varela maria.varela@selfbuild.ie

Fiann Ó Nualláin

Paul O’Reilly

Andrew Stanway

Gerry Walsh

Award winning garden designer, author and broadcaster, Fiann has a background in fine art, ethnobotany and complementary medicine. theholisticgardener.com / @HolisticG

Paul is an award-winning energy consultant with over 25 years’ experience. He is a director of ORS consulting engineers and of Watt Footprint. ors.ie / wattfootprint.com

Andrew is a project manager with over 30 years’ experience. He is also a writer and the author of Managing Your Build published by Stobart Davies.

Gerry has over 20 years’ experience in the renewable energy sector; he is the director of Energy Superstore based in Tullamore, Co Offaly. energysuperstore.ie / tel. 057 932 4062

Come meet more experts at our events in Belfast, Dublin and Cork - turn to page 96 for details NI calling ROI prefix with 00353 and drop the first 0, ROI calling NI prefix with 048

Published by SelfBuild Ireland Ltd. 119 Cahard Rd, Saintfield, Co Down BT24 7LA. Tel: (NI 028 / ROI 048) 9751 0570 / Fax: (NI 028 / ROI 048) 9751 0576 info@selfbuild.ie / selfbuild.ie 0 8 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

Accounts Karen Kelly karen.kelly@selfbuild.ie Sales Director Mark Duffin mark.duffin@selfbuild.ie Managing Director Brian Corry brian.corry@selfbuild.ie Chairman Clive Corry clive.corry@selfbuild.ie Distribution EM News Distribution Ltd

The publishers cannot accept responsibility for errors or omissions nor for the accuracy of information reproduced. Where opinions may be given, these are personal and based upon the best information to hand. At all times readers are advised to seek the appropriate professional advice. Copyright: all rights reserved.

H I G H L I G H T S / W H AT ' S N E W

More carbon taxes on the way Levies on fuel and home heating could rise in the next ROI budget, the Irish Independent reports. Carbon taxes on petrol, diesel but also home heating oil and briquettes will ramp up in the coming years as part of “profound changes” in how we live our lives, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told a Project Ireland 2040 event on climate change in June.

Towards 100 per cent renewables ROI Minister for Energy Denis Naughten has announced his proposal for a pilot scheme for homeowners to invest in photovoltaics (generating electricity from the sun) is being finalised and will include not just domestic users but also other microgenerators. Meanwhile, a report from the World Economic Forum shows that by 2050, 100 per cent renewable energy will be achievable thanks to battery storage and peer to peer trading of renewables.

Grants for rural town cottages delayed The Department of Rural and Community Development told Selfbuild in July that their much-awaited pilot scheme to encourage residential occupancy in rural towns and villages is still subject to the work of the Steering Group, which is “ongoing”. The plan for the pilot scheme at this stage is to implement it in “a small number of towns initially with a view, subject to the scheme’s success, to a wider roll-out over time.” If the pilot is successful further funding could be secured under the Project Ireland 2040’s €1 billion rural regeneration and development fund. The department said it hoped to make an announcement before the end of August.

How to add value to your home on page 94

Grenfell sparks call for independent building control in England London local authority building control officers have called for ‘renationalisation’ of building control services in light of the final report into the Grenfell fire in London, which recommended a complete overhaul of the building regulations system. The fire claimed more than 70 lives in June of last year. The government review into the tragedy, led by engineer Judith Hackitt, called for a system that would be able to catch problems at the design and construction stages, and one that would have much tougher sanctions for breaches. The London branch of local authority building control inspectors have highlighted the “fundamental problem in allowing people to choose their own regulator”. In an open letter they stated: “It becomes extremely easy for the ‘regulated person’ to apply financial and commercial pressure to the person who is supposed to be upholding the standards. In a similar case I don’t think anyone would countenance a restaurant employing their own food hygiene inspector.” Building control services in England were privatised in the 1980s and 1990s with an ‘approved inspectors’ regime which allows private companies to provide building control oversight. In NI building control is still within the purview of the local authorities.

AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 0 9

W H AT ' S N E W / N E W S

Compliance issues highlighted at wastewater conference

Check it’s registered

A register of competent persons to install wastewater treatment systems was mooted by the ROI Department of Housing at the 10th annual Irish Onsite Wastewater Association (IOWA) conference and exhibition THIS YEAR’S IOWA ANNUAL MEETING did not unveil the much-awaited changes to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Code of Practice (CoP) for onsite wastewater systems (<10 p.e.) but instead focused on the issue of installation, certification and liability. The 2009 CoP specifies the kind of wastewater system you’re allowed to install on your selfbuild depending on your ground conditions. Changes to the CoP, which Selfbuild understands will be unveiled in 2019, are expected to make provisions for sites that score a T-value of up to 120 – as opposed to the current maximum T-value of 90. These sites with poor drainage will require specialised pumped systems such as low pressure pipe (LPP) and drip distribution (DD). Ongoing research at Trinity College on both these methods will help inform the updated CoP. Selfbuild understands the new CoP will also provide guidance

on desludging; currently only the Department of Housing has issued guidelines in the context of its onsite wastewater inspection and grant regime. The likely figure for an average family home is to desludge their septic tank every three years. Half of the septic tank failures are due to a lack of desludging, delegates heard. Eamonn Smyth of the Department of Housing argued for Part H of the Building Regulations, which deals with wastewater, to align itself to Part E which deals with sound. Part E states “sound insulation testing should be carried out by a competent person, possessing sufficient training, experience and knowledge in the measurement of sound insulation in buildings.” Furthermore: “Sound insulation tests carried out by a person certified by an independent third party to carry out this work offers a way of ensuring that such certification can be relied upon.” Even though tests must

Time to desludge! If you have an onsite wastewater treatment system and haven’t desludged your septic tank in over three years (or never have) check out the EPA website for information on who to get to do this for you. In addition to emptying the tank, as part of the desludging process the effluent filter, if installed, will have to be cleaned and the distribution boxes in the percolation area be checked. The desludging contractor must be registered for the disposal of effluent so do check that they are. In the case of a packaged system, annual maintenance is vital. Also percolation areas installed with low pressure pipe (LPP) networks must be flushed out annually to function – these aren’t that common nowadays but they do exist and there will be more to come with the Code of Practice update.

1 0 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

currently be carried out on the wastewater systems, the technical guidance document doesn’t specify by whom. A competent persons register could theoretically be set up by the IOWA. Currently site assessors, who are responsible for determining the ground conditions and what type of system (if any) is suitable for it, generally set out parameters but don’t draw out percolation areas – a job often left to the builders. Builders will usually be in charge of installing the entire system according to the site assessor’s report, but there generally is very little oversight. Smyth told delegates he was aware of a case whereby a builder had installed a packaged wastewater treatment system but hadn’t plugged it in, thinking it was someone else’s responsibility to do so, leading to avoidable system failure (thankfully it was easily fixed by turning on the electricity). If your project ‘opts in’ to appoint an assigned certifier, that person is likely to oversee the installation of the percolation area by the builder, or a ‘design and install’ certificate can be issued by the site assessor if that’s the person who oversees the process. In the case of an ‘opt out’ self-build there’s no need to file a certificate of compliance on the Building Control Management System, but the responsibility rests with the self-builder to ensure the installation of the septic tank and percolation area, and packaged system or other proprietary system if one is installed, are correct and to standard.

AS SELF-BUILDERS IN ROI ARE AWARE, Part H of the building regulations makes it a requirement that all new wastewater treatment systems installed are SR66 compliant. SR66 is a standard devised by the National Standards Authority of Ireland. The Department of Housing advises homeowners and specifiers to check the official list of all SR66 compliant products on: piagmbh.com/ga/referencesirish-certificates/ If you install a proprietary system it must be listed on this website. In the case of septic tanks, a CE marking is not enough – the CE marking means it complies with EU harmonised standards but not necessarily to all Irish-specific requirements. The CE marking comes with a Declaration of Performance which is what needs to be checked to ensure compliance with the Irish building regulations.

In the case of existing sites, if you have a septic tank that has to be replaced you must replace it with one that’s SR66 compliant (see above). This does not require planning permission as you’re replacing something that was already there, however if you increase the footprint/upgrade the system or dig a new hole you will need to secure planning permission, delegates heard.

N E W S / W H AT ' S N E W

Stronger eco-concrete coming to a site near you A stronger and more durable concrete using graphene was developed by the University of Exeter using nanoengineering technology. The new composite material, which is more than twice as strong and four times more water resistant than existing concretes, can be used directly by the construction industry on building sites. All of the concrete samples tested are according to British and European standards for construction. Crucially, the new graphenereinforced concentre material also drastically reduced the carbon footprint of conventional concrete production methods, making it more sustainable and environmentally friendly. This is because by including graphene the amount of materials required to make concrete can be

The new concrete developed using graphene by experts from the University of Exeter (Dimitar Dimov / University of Exeter)

reduced by around 50 per cent, leading to a reduction of 446kg/ tonne of the carbon emissions. The research team says the new technique could pave the way for other nanomaterials to be incorporated into concrete, and so further modernise the construction industry worldwide. The researchers are getting

their product tested by the Building Research Establishment with a view to bring it closer to commercialisation. The research was published in the journal Advanced Functional Material and was supported by the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Grants rolled out to test homes for radon The ROI Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will test 1,400 homes for radon levels with a view to rolling out a grant scheme to remediate homes with unsafe levels of the carcinogenic gas, the Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment announced in April. The Radon Testing and Remediation Survey will be allocated €70,000 to undertake a survey in East Galway and Roscommon high risk areas. The MidWest and West of the country are at risk of radon gas exposure yet little testing and remediation is carried out. Radon is colourless, odourless and tasteless and after smoking, it is the next biggest cause of lung cancer in ROI responsible for approximately five cases of lung cancer every week. The study will help inform the design of a new financial incentive scheme, which may be provided for in future legislation, stated Minister Naughten. The areas include Castlerea, Ballinsloes, Ballymoe, Loughrea, Tuam and Ballintober. 200 homes in each of the designated areas will be invited to test. The radon tests were to begin in June with

results by September. If high radon levels are found, the householder will be offered a grant of 50 per cent towards the cost of remediation work. Despite a high level of awareness of radon (the most recent Irish data show awareness at 75 per cent), most people underestimate the seriousness or long-term health effects of radon exposure, with only one in four concerned about radon in their home. Even when individuals are informed that their homes have high radon levels, remediation rates are low. The main barriers to action were found to be that people are “not convinced there is a risk” (35 per cent) and “concern about cost” (34 per cent). radon@epa.ie / tel. 1800 300 600

NI cheapest for energy costs In light of further energy cost hikes in ROI, the Analytical Services Division of the NI Department for the Economy released figures that show NI householders benefit from lower electricity rates than their UK or ROI counterparts.  The Energy in Northern Ireland 2018 report shows that in 2017, NI domestic customers had the lowest average unit cost for electricity. Based on an annual consumption figure of 3,800kWh/year, NI had the lowest average annual electricity bill of all 15 UK regions. Electricity costs were 48 per cent cheaper in NI than ROI and 16 per cent cheaper in NI than the rest of the UK. This is in stark contrast to 2015 when NI had the highest unit costs for direct debit customers and the third highest overall unit costs of any UK region. In 2016 the average electricity energy consumption per ROI dwelling stood at 4,600kWh/year. However between 2014 and 2017, NI had the highest weekly expenditure on energy in the UK, 18 per cent higher (at £27.80 per week in the period 2014-2017) compared to the UK average of £23.60. The apparent contradiction between lowest electricity costs and highest energy bills seems to be due to the two time frames (2017 for electricity prices and 2014-2017 for expenditure), also the data for expenditure is based on sample households. There is also NI’s heavy reliance on heating oil; it remains the dominant heating fuel in both NI and ROI rural areas, with two thirds of households using the fossil fuel for central heating. AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 1 1

O N L I N E / W H AT ' S N E W

Online reads Mortgage Underdogs “As a profession we need to celebrate architecture that is within the reach of everyone, not just those with deep pockets. There is no doubt that the typical budget for a building in NI is considerably lower than in the wealthier parts of the UK and I do wonder how much that is taken into account by the [Royal Institute of British Architects – RIBA] National Award judging panel.” – Joan McCoy, Royal Society of Ulster Architects president via twitter

Mortgage rates tied to energy rating First time buyers in Wales now benefit from energy assessed mortgages, the Building Research Establishment reports. Help-to-buy loans are now adjusted according to the energy rating of the home being purchased; this means more money can be borrowed against the house if the rating suggests low energy bills. The legislation is based on research by a consortium of industry experts showing the link between energy efficiency and household bills. epcmortgage.org.uk, bregroup.com

market reins in house price inflation ROI house prices are not increasing as much as they did last year, research for the second quarter of 2018 from Davy’s and myhome.ie shows, slowing down from double digit growth to just 7.2 per cent nationally, the slowest pace since 2016. Dublin’s housing stock has also increased by 25 per cent since last year. The Central Bank’s 3.5 loan to income ratio has helped prevent excessive debt and has reined in property prices from increasing too much, commented Davy’s analyst Conall MacCoille. The average mortgage approval amount in April was €233k, up 5.6 per cent year on year. myhome.ie

3D sustainable house

Dream it. Do it. Live it

Automated ICF A 95 sqm 3D printed family home in France cost 20 per cent less to build than traditional building methods, at €195,000, according to Nantes University. The 3D printer builds the walls by ‘printing’ a layer of polyurethane then a layer of cement then another layer of polyurethane, essentially the same build up as an insulating concrete formwork (ICF - see page 78) wall but with a robotic arm. The process just took a few days but then the roof, windows and services were added with traditional methods. batiprint3d.fr


Check out how you can incorporate renewable technologies and energy saving measures into your home with this interactive tool from Codema, Dublin’s energy agency. Find out more about solar panels, heating controls and a good overview of the technologies out there but also get some low cost tips like cleaning light bulbs and unplugging your charger. codema.ie/energyefficienthouse

Back by popular demand, Selfbuild Live Dublin this September (14th to 16th) will showcase a free Bootcamp session on each of the three days, to give you an overview of the entire process of selfbuilding, from finding a site to snagging, with expert advice on how to secure planning permission, the intricacies of building control and methods of construction. FREE tickets are available on facebook.com/selfbuild

AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 1 3

N E W S / W H AT ' S N E W

Deep retrofit grant extended Up to a 60 per cent grant is now available for energy upgrades, the ROI Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) told delegates at this year’s Deep Retrofit Conference. The SEAI has removed the requirement for a house to be built before 2006 to qualify for a Deep Retrofit grant. Grant amounts have also been increased to help with consultancy fees, meaning homeowners now only have to pay roughly 40 per cent of the total cost. The grant is at a pilot phase (launched last year and will run to the end of 2019) but is open to all existing Irish homes that don’t have an A-rated Building Energy Rating, as long as the building work results in an uplift of at least 150 kWh/sqm/yr so this means your house needs to be rated at least a C2 to qualify (and in that case be uplifted to an A1 rating or an energy positive home). Currently three quarters of ROI homes that have a BER are rated C2 or worse. There’s a total of 1.7 million occupied homes in ROI and roughly 750,000 homes have a BER rating. To qualify you also need to group your application with four other homes (five homes need to be upgraded at the same time) and present a professionally detailed design and building plan to the SEAI. The SEAI has a list of contractors whom the agency knows are participating in deep retrofit projects or expressing an interest in the space. Each of these contractors are likely to already have other homeowners on their list and they just need five to get the ball rolling. All projects are approved on their individual merits. Individual homeowners wishing to partake can call SEAI to get list of emerging deep retrofit contractors in their area. In total there are 200 valid applications on the roster and the pace is increasing every week, with individual homeowners (as opposed to housing associations) showing particular interest.

Grant amounts

The Deep Retrofit grant can fund 50 per cent of the building cost of bringing your home up to at least an A3 on the Building Energy Rating scale. An additional 5 per cent of the total project cost, including all professional and related fees, is available for project management delivery plus another 2 per cent of the total project cost for BER and consultancy to support upstream design to ensure a minimum A3 is achieved. The grant now also offers an additional 1 per cent of the total project cost if you achieve an airtightness result of 3m3/sqm/hr — the current requirement for new builds is 7m3/sqm/hr. It is mandatory to install mechanical ventilation and preworks airtightness plans must be in place to ensure comfort and air quality in the home. In total the SEAI says this is roughly the equivalent of a 60 per cent subsidy on building costs. The cost of a deep retrofit for a pre-2006 home can be as high as €65,000 to reach an A2 but the SEAI says these figures can be misleading because each house type is different, albeit acknowledging that for houses with no insulation the figure can be higher. The SEAI is in fact working on costed case studies to give each building type an indication of how much it might cost to deep retrofit.

Stage payments

To help tackle this cash flow issue, milestone payments are available. A further split in the payments was introduced in February of this year (it was

originally a single 50 per cent payment at 50 per cent completion) with: � First 25 per cent payment on 25 per cent completion; � Second payment of a further 25 per cent at 50 per cent completion; � Third a 40 per cent payment when the works are fully completed; � A fourth final payment of 10 per cent one year after works upon satisfactory receipt of the first of three year’s post occupancy monitoring data.


The way it works if for your contractor’s design team to put together the plan of what needs to be done and of what quality assurance measures will be put into place. The SEAI scrutinises the plans

to ensure they fall within the parameters set out by the pilot scheme and checks the airtightness and building energy rating results of each of the homes independently. According to Waterford Insulation, a pre-approved contractor, typical measures would include 150mm external wall insulation or cavity wall insulation with 100mm external wall insulation, 400mm roof space insulation, triple glazing, composite doors, an air-towater heat pump (fossil fuels are not eligible for funding under the scheme and cannot be included in the proposal), solar photovoltaic panels (1.2 to 2.4 kWpeak), demand control ventilation, drylining to slopes/ wallplate for a 0.16 to 0.20 W/sqmK U-value and a wood burning stove. AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 1 5

W H AT ’ S N E W / N E W S

Awards season It’s as close as self-builds get to the Oscars – architectural awards. Here’s a look at who got the 2018 NI and ROI accolades. Haddington Park

The 2018 Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) accolade for best architectural house design saw two Dublin homes scoop the awards — out of a shortlist of Dublin-only homes. The award for best house did not, as it had last year, have regional categories. The Best House category was won by GKMP Architects for its Vaulted House in Dublin. Photography by Alice Clancy. Runners up were Belgrave Mews by TAKA Architects and Ringsend House by LiD Architecture, photography by Gareth Byrne. The Best House Extension category was won by Ryan W. Kennihan Architects for St Catherine’s in Dublin. Photography by Aisling McCoy.

No. 37

Runners up were Haddington Park by Robert Bourke Architects, photography by Ste Murray and Portico by David Flynn Architects, photography by Aisling McCoy. The Royal Society of Ulster Architects’ 2018 awards, RIBA’s regional awards for Northern Ireland, saw three family homes commended for their architectural merit. The houses are part of the RIBA long list for house of the year, whose winner will be announced this autumn. A TV series revealing the detail behind these homes will air on Channel 4 later this year. Micah Jones’ barn house in Co Down was described as a “beautifully crafted building full of intelligent and delightful design play”. At a cost of £1,000 Ringsend house

1 6 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

Vaulted house

The Mews

I N S I D E R N E W S / W H AT ' S N E W

Next Generation

St Catherine’s

per sqm, this family home used sustainable materials wherever possible. BGA Architects’ Maison Wedge also impressed the judges; the careful detailing hides any utilitarian aspect that would interrupt the reading of the project as two simple sculptural bocks. No 37 by FÄMILY Architects, which at a cost of £1,700 per sqm, is a 56sqm family home that addresses the need to densify Belfast’s housing stock. The architects built this home for themselves within a restricted budget. Meanwhile a €1.27 million project in Dublin won Residential Project of the Year at the 2018 Irish Construction Industry Awards. Plus Architecture‘s House on Burrow Beach project combines an extension and renovation. The back of the house boasts views out over Dublin Bay while the frontage retains the late-Victorian villa’s signature style.


Grant Engineering is well known throughout the UK and Ireland for its top of the range condensing oil boilers, air to water heat pumps and innovative heating technologies including the Grant VortexAir Hybrid. In recognition of the rapidly growing demand for environmentally-friendly home heating products, Grant’s range of highly efficient Aerona3 inverter driven air source heat pumps (ASHP), which provide both heating and hot water for a property, now have a new dedicated website grantheatpumps.com With an ErP rating of A++, the Aerona3

delivers a range of benefits including greater operating efficiencies at lower external temperatures, larger outputs to match the type of properties encountered and reduced operational noise levels. The Grant Technical Team are also offering free of charge heat loss calculations to ensure you select the correct sized unit for your existing or new building regulations compliant property. For more information visit grant.eu Grant Engineering, Crinkle, Birr, Co Offaly, R42 D788, tel. 057 9126 967 Grant NI, Unit 117, 21 Botanic Avenue, Belfast, BT7 1IJ, freephone 0800 0443 264

Seamless Back in the late 1980s sliding doors had a bad reputation, mainly justified, based on old fashioned systems of tracks hand-built into walls. They were often noisy and wobbly, they jumped off the tracks and had sticky sliding actions. Today the sliding door has come of age, no longer used out of necessity it’s become a prized architectural design feature in many contemporary homes. Leader in this field is Italian company Eclisse which recently launched its Syntesis frameless range, a seamless mechanism that removes the need for architraves and jambs.

All of Eclisse’s high quality steel pocket kits, exclusively available in Ireland from pocketdoors.ie, come with a 15-year warranty and patented technology on the track, which is extractable for ease of maintenance. Eclisse tracks and frames are so easy to install, requiring no cutting or aligning of separate parts, they’re especially well-suited to self-builders. Doorware Limited t/a www.pocketdoors.ie, Ballybane, Co Galway, tel. 091 743 100 (NI prefix with 00353 and drop the first 0), pocketdoors.ie

AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 1 7

I N S I D E R N E W S / W H AT ' S N E W

On demand

Second nature

Nowadays most self-builders will specify a high level of airtightness with mechanised ventilation for their new build. The good news is that the range of ventilation products on offer is expanding, and one notable example is the Renson Edura Delta, a balanced demand-controlled heat recovery ventilation unit with built-in carbon dioxide, volatile organic compound (VOC) and humidity sensors to ventilate according to your exact needs and habits. Exclusively available in Ireland from AerHaus, the Endura Delta comes in three air flow versions (330, 380 and 450 m³/h) and provides frost protection. Coarse filters come as standard, with PM1 pollen filters also available. The heat exchanger is up to 89 per cent efficient and can be bypassed in the summer. It’s easy to install and comes with an app to control and program the system as well as monitor the indoor air quality. The app also lets you know when the filters need to be replaced or checked. AerHaus Ltd, Unit 18 Dungarvan Business Pk, Dungarvan, Co Waterford, tel. 058 20005, aerhaus.com

Smart fridges introduced us to technology in the kitchen, now the exciting news is that the Whirlpool W Collection has integrated it into cooking. Soufflés and chocolate fondants? No problem. Using the Whirlpool 6th Sense app your smart device or internet browser will get you to not only discover and download recipes but control your appliances and cooking results with unprecedented simplicity. The built-in suite pictured here features a T-Shape slim hood, 90cm induction hob that allows you to cook anywhere on the surface (eight flexible cooking zones), oven, steam oven, speed oven and microwave combi with a pocket

Spot the difference

handle. Black glass elegantly conceals cavities and the seamlessly integrated screens, which become invisible when powered off. A big bonus is that the reflective surfaces don’t leave any fingerprints. The W Collection’s ultra-modern looks, futuristic features and interaction also won two coveted iF Labels at the iF Design Awards 2018, one of the world’s foremost design competitions. whirpool.ie / whirlpool.co.uk

When choosing your roof covering, you’ll no doubt be looking for a cost effective, long lasting solution that looks the part. If that’s the case, make sure to check out the Imerys Clay Beauvoise Graphite – new to the Irish market, it’s not only more cost effective than buying natural slate but also reduces installation time on site. For many projects the company says the cost is also comparable to fibre cement slates. By specifying a clay product, the designer and roofer can be safe in the knowledge that the life expectancy of the roof tiles is at least equal to that of slates and the surface colour will remain for the life of the product; again, just like natural slate. The manufacturing process of Graphite enables aesthetic features such as riven lower and side edges, as well as the riven pattern on the top surfaces to emulate natural slate. A coloured protective coating is applied to the tile surface before firing, producing a strong vitrified, hard-wearing and permanent surface finish. imerys-rooftiles.com AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 1 9


2 0 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8



‘It takes 40 cows to heat the house in winter’ How Denise and Matt Donoghue’s research led them to devise an innovative heating and hot water system


hen Denise and Matt got married over a decade ago they set up their base on Matt’s family agricultural holdings, and lived in the farmhouse that had been on the land for over 100 years. The couple carried out an energy upgrade by adding insulation and solar thermal panels. But to make it really work as a functioning family home, they knew they needed to do some substantial work. “The house was cosy and warm for us but it was pretty dark because the windows were quite low,” explains Denise. They already knew an engineer who did architectural design so they contacted him to help with the overhaul. “A driving force behind the renovation was to turn it into a family home, we had two kids at the time,” says Denise. “Chatting about the project we realised how nervous we were about being so close to the farm, as soon as the children would get out the door they were in close proximity to the livestock and to the machinery. My heart would skip a beat if I realised they’d made their way outside.” So their engineer suggested building new instead. “He told us we had an ideal site to build on, as it was overlooking the farm but far enough to keep the children away. Building new also meant it would be easier to insulate it well.” “We thought it would be difficult to get planning permission but he told us it

was worth putting it in to see if we’d get it, so he asked how many bedrooms we’d like and quickly threw together plans. We were stunned when, six months later, our application was approved.” This was in 2009. “Then the downturn hit and we postponed the build; I was keen to get started but the timing wasn’t right for us. It was only in 2015 that we revived the project,” adds Denise. At this stage they’d sat down to revise the planning drawings. “We kept the shape but reconfigured the inside, we also only kept some of the stone that was originally 

‘We had an ideal site to build on, as it was overlooking the farm but far enough to keep the children away.‘

AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 2 1


use the waste heat from the parlour,” explains Matt. “A dairy farm’s biggest cost is cooling the milk, it needs to be stored at 3.5 degC and comes out at 36 degC.” The premise is simple: the house cools the water that cools the milk, and vice versa, the milk heats the water that heats the house. The set up consists of a heat pump with a 10,000 litre cold water cylinder; the return temperature from the house is 7 degC which helps cool the milk. (See page 35.) There are monitors for the flow and return temperatures, and the tank 

specified to go all around the house, and we got rid of the cedar cladding due to upkeep.” By 2015 Denise and Matt had four children. “We got to really know what we wanted, the older three were past the stage of destroying the place and presented new needs for the family.” They broke ground in August.

Heating courtesy of the milking parlour

Matt and Denise were very hands on from 2 2 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

the design stage. “When it came to deciding what heating system to go for we were told oil wasn’t an option – too expensive to run and outdated – so we looked at heat pumps, air source and geothermal,” says Denise. “In the farmhouse we had an oil boiler, a stove with a back boiler and solar thermal panels. In the new build the most important thing for me was to feel warm in the house.” “We were concerned whether or not a conventional heat pump would actually work and then our heating engineer suggested we look into a system that would


Denise’s Tips Check credentials. We didn’t check the references the first painter we hired gave us, and that was the only person we had trouble with. He was very impatient when it came to the second fix because he had to wait for others to finish before he could come in. I contacted him when the house was ready but he failed to show up. We had to get someone else. Don’t rush. With a young family we had to get all the wardrobes and bathrooms fully kitted out before we moved in, and the kids had a lot of fun choosing colours and decorating their spaces. Despite this aspect, I’d say take your time wherever you can with the finishes. A lot of things fall into place, I tried to pick out blinds before the build and I was overwhelmed by the variety of colours and styles. I only just got them the other day and I’m really happy I waited. There are things to pick out in advance of course like the kitchen and bathroom but the softer stuff can and should wait. The finer details take time, get a feel for the place first. Gather as you go along. Have some fun. We thought of the kids a lot during the design stage with the benches, bar stools and the L shape of the kitchen. Think of where you’ll be charging devices. If I could I would add more sockets in most of the rooms, or change their location. The kitchen is ok but the rest of the house needs more, especially to charge devices. I might also change the placement of some of the light switches so think long and hard about your lighting plan before you sign off on it.

2 4 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

temperature, all of which are connected to broadband. “I worked out the heating with the heating engineers, I wanted to use the cooled water back to the parlour which wasn’t originally specified to be used to cool the milk. We looked at our drawings and it seemed like it should work. And it did, we haven’t had any problems,” says Matt. “At the moment we’re only using half the heat that’s produced, we have too much, in December we only needed about 40 cows to supply the house with heat and hot water, we’re currently milking 150. You need very little energy for the hot water in the summer time.” In May 2016 they dug the trenches for the innovative system, by August 2016 it was up and running. “We turned on the heating to dry the house out for plastering and painting, it served as a test run too and we were happy to find it worked really well.” Their heating and hot water bill for a full calendar year is €280. But the system’s reliance on broadband meant it had to be shut down temporarily when work was being done on the phone line over a year and a half ago. “The heating had to be turned off during the maintenance work. What that tested there was the strategy we went for with the walls,”

adds Matt. “We insulated on the outside and the internal walls are concrete to store heat. This was in September and the house kept the heat for a surprising long time.” There’s underfloor heating upstairs and down, with solid concrete floors throughout. “I thought I’d never be able to live without radiators, I’ve always had them and relied on them to dry laundry,” says Denise. “Matt joked that we’d put the clothes on the floor for drying but actually, if I hang a towel on the back of the chair it dries overnight.” “I’m sure the heat recovery ventilation system we put in helps. Another benefit of underfloor heating is the floor drying 20 seconds after a good mop. I certainly don’t

‘The finer details take time, get a feel for the place first. Gather as you go along.’


miss the rads.” Denise says she finds they are still getting used to the ventilation system as they had some trouble switching from winter to summer mode. “With the warm weather we keep all of the windows open as the ventilation system doesn’t do enough to cool the air coming in, which means it can get very hot at night. We have had the company out a few times and we’re now waiting on a system upgrade.” The plumbing was done by Denise’s brother and the tiling they arranged on their own, hiring someone that had been recommended. “All of the rest was done by the builder who came highly recommended, he had built Matt’s parents’ house down the road and pretty much every other house down our laneway so we knew he could deliver,” says Denise. “It was the first time he did an external wall insulation new build, he wasn’t too keen to try something new but eventually came around to it.”

Kitchen at the heart of the home

Their engineer drew up the plans for the kitchen and Denise did the legwork, she went to two different companies to have a 

AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 2 5


look at their showrooms. “Then a friend of mine showed me her kitchen, made by a carpenter, and I loved it,” recounts Denise. “The island unit is an L shape with a dining area inside; the double sided stove separates the kitchen from the TV room.” “We had to tweak the design, for instance we realised the table would be too close to the fire so we had to move it. The curved views of fields would also have been to people’s backs so we reconfigured around that too.” “Once the structure was up we used pallets in the empty room to mock up the kitchen and drew on the floor.” “It’s an in frame kitchen with a granite top – we got samples from the joiner and the

2 6 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

fact that he was local meant he came to the house which helped tease out the design. We have a double Belfast sink at the counter and a circular sink in the island.” “I was after ordering a rose quartz cooker so we were limited in the colour scheme we could go for, we chose a light great theme, I definitely took a risk with the pink cooker but we made it work.” The rest of the finishes were also made to match but above all were chosen for dayto-day living. “In the old farmhouse we had laminate in the kitchen which wasn’t easy to

clean so we went for tiles this time around. Now the same tiles go to the front door and into the snug.” “We still designed in a sitting room which doubles up as a study, and there we put in a semi solid engineered wood. Everywhere else we have laminate as wood would be destroyed.” “In the farmhouse we had carpet upstairs, but my boy has asthma so we knew we didn’t want that. Prior to building we’d already chosen to go with mechanical ventilation with heat recovery for the same 


Q&A What piece of advice would you give a budding self-builder?

Look for a builder you can relate to and do your research. I spent all my nights researching, went to shows, read magazines, we’d have a completely different house had we built in 2009 and I’m so glad we waited. We definitely wouldn’t have done the heating, so taking the time to evaluate your options is a good thing.

What would you do differently?

when I got home I thought wow, that’s the one that feels right.” “I also got some advice from the tiler, especially for the bathrooms. I once brought back a tile and showed it to him to make sure it was ok, he explained the need to have more of a wow factor in smaller bathrooms and he had a good eye so that also helped us decide.”

I would add half a meter to the kitchen dining area – the table is too close to the sliding door, which is behind you when you’re sitting at the table. It’s fine for everyday use but when you have lots of people it can be annoying to have someone pass behind you all the time. I might also move our bedroom to the other side of the house. We currently have the bed in the middle with the wardrobe and ensuite behind but it still feels a bit small to me, even though I don’t need anything more in the room.


reason.” “And even though we didn’t plan for a central vacuum we were asked if we wanted to go with one – I’d heard of problems in relation to storing the hose but this system sucks it back into the cavity and that clinched it for us. There’s an outlet upstairs and one downstairs.” Denise had picked out the tiles in a shop in Cork and put down a deposit but kept going back because she wasn’t really happy with them. “One day I passed a local tile shop and decided to venture in and they encouraged me to bring samples back to the house, which was really helpful, I was convinced I’d go for a cream, the cream glossy ones were all the rage, but he asked that I take a grey tile back too, I was sure I’d discard it but

Living in a home with young children inevitably requires upkeep. “There is plenty of glass, including on the stairs, so we get a lot of paw prints but that’s the price to pay for openness. A clean now and then does the trick. Most of the build up is at the four year old’s eye level and where the dog jumps up and down to get in.” 

AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 2 7


Q&A What’s your favourite feature?

The farmhouse was at the bottom of the hill and now we’re three quarters of the way up which makes a huge difference. I love sitting at the kitchen, looking out the window and rolling fields – I really didn’t expect such a fantastic view, the factory in the distance, the fields. Funnily enough the garage has even better views of the valley but that’s where we put it in for planning so we couldn’t move it. It’s the plant room for the heating, ventilation and central vacuum. Indoors l love the snug room with TV. The current house has a lot of open space, plenty of light, and it’s very cosy and warm. The patio is also great.

What surprised you?

The weight that was lifted off my shoulders moving away from the farm, for the safety of the children. We have the best of both worlds because we can still see what’s going on, we’re near yet there’s none of the stress. We have a sliding gate that means they can’t go out on the road either.

Would you do it again? I would definitely do it again, don’t they say it’s only when you build your third house that you get it right? It was a very exciting experience, and represented a new chapter for us. It gave us more space and more freedom away from the farm.

2 8 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

“The windows are grey outside and chalk white inside, aluclad because of the style,” she adds. “The house is so well insulated we chose double glazing which already boasts a very good thermal performance. In many new build houses I’ve been in you’re sweating inside and we didn’t want that. We did however go triple glazed at the front door with the double height windows to make sure the hallway would be well insulated.” The builder also contributed to the success of this self-build. “He was really helpful, we’d ring him with any question – for the windows we wanted a specific brand and he brought out reps from both companies. We ended up liking his better because the windows looked really good, so he did help guide our decision making.” “Our builder was a great partner and his experience shone through – he was always

one step ahead. At one stage he asked us if we had the internal doors picked out, so we promptly went shopping to choose them (you really need to specify every single detail!) and I decided on the model and he said, great, when we get to that it won’t hold us up. It was so helpful to have him push us in this way.” As for the design, the configuration works for family life with four bedrooms upstairs. The box room which was originally intended to be the hot press before they decided on their heat pump system, was converted into a spare bedroom. “It doubled up as a room for an au pair when I was working and now we use it for guests, it’s handy to have as a spare. That’s also where we have the laundry chute.” Another knock-on effect of their heating system was for the fireplaces and stoves. “We’d originally planned to have a fireplace in the sitting room but we decided to take it out, then when we were building the house we thought something was missing, and that’s when we considered a gas fire.” “I thought it was too late to add one at that stage but as it turns out we could put in a balanced flue and a false chimney so that’s what we did. We have the gas piped from two bottles, in winter it’s nice to turn on the fire in the sitting room to entertain.” “The double sided stove that separates the kitchen from the dining area is for effect too, in the farmhouse we used to fill our stove with back boiler all day – with the current set up one and a half fills will do you.” Warm, cosy and tailor made for family life and the farm, this self-build ticks all the boxes for Denise and Matt.


More photographs available at facebook.com/selfbuild

Project information

Find out more about Denise and Matt’s new build project in Co Cork including the local companies involved... BUILDING SPECIFICATION


Floor 200mm hardcore under 150mm C35 concrete under radon barrier under 150mm polyurethane insulation under 75mm screed, masonry wall blocks laid on flat left exposed and insulated externally with 120mm rigid thermoset phenolic insulation under glass fibre mesh under two coat render over torch on felt over cement board over bedding compound finished with Liscanor guillotined stone cladding, roof 200mm fibreglass insulation, windows double glazed low-e argon filled.

Plot size: ¾ of an acre


House size: 3,100 sqft


Designer Mark Salter MIEI, Kinsale, Co Cork, mobile 087 795 1730, marksalterengineering@gmail.com



Heating system Alternative Heating & Cooling, Skibbereen, Co Cork, tel. 028 23701, ahac.ie


Ventilation Aerhaus, aerhaus.ie Central vacuum Cyclovac, cyclovac.com Double sided stove Boru, borustoves.ie Windows Munster Joinery, munsterjoinery.ie Kitchen Cullen View Interiors, Riverstick, Co Cork, mobile 086 308 9209, cullenviewinteriors.com




Range cooker Rose Quartz Lacanche, lacanche.co.uk

Gas stove Cork Gas, Cork, tel. 021 496 3749, corkgascentre.ie


Upper level concrete floors Ducon, duconconcrete.com NI calling ROI prefix with 00353 and drop the first 0


3 0 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8


Wardrobes Cork Tile & Wood Flooring, Cork, tel. 021 492 9399






I N S I D E T H E H E AT P U M P / P R O J E C T

Mike Cotter of Alternative Heating and Cooling explains the ins and outs of Denise and Matt’s heat pump system.

FARM 25 0m /8 20 ft


Milking heat from the cows

36 degC 5-30 degC 5-11 degC





Milk Refrigeration Unit

‘It is no different to a regular heat pump, the only difference is where the heat is coming from.’

7-15 degC 5-11 degC 7-4 degC


How was the system designed?

It is no different to a regular heat pump installation, the only difference is where the heat is coming from. Instead of extracting heat from the ground or the air we’re getting it from the milk. The controls and the mechanical components are all the same, the heat pump operates as if it was connected to an open loop setup (i.e. a water to water heat pump ). The pre-cooling plate acts like a switch board; when the house doesn’t need much heat (hot water only) most of the heat from the milk is sent straight to the refrigeration unit for cooling as had always been the case in the parlour. Milk must be stored at 4 degC. When the house does require

Heat pump at the house

some warmth, the milk’s heat is extracted into the large water storage tank in the farm yard. This is the heat source for the heat pump and the chilled water source for milk pre-cooling. Any heat recovered from the milk in advance of the bulk milk tank is a reduction in the cooling bill. In real life the house is benefiting very little in terms of heat pump efficiency, (slight gains over a closed loop collector), the savings are on the farm’s cooling bill.

How much did it cost?

A geothermal system for this house, considering it’s 250 metres uphill from the farm and required a large pump to get the water to the house, would cost about €12,000

Alternative Heating & Cooling Ltd.


including VAT. The proprietary components for this cow milking system cost an additional €2,000. Costs are very much site specific. In terms of electricity bills there’s been a huge drop because the milk refrigeration unit, which runs on electricity, has to work a lot less. Year-round the farm’s total electrical bill has reduced since the new house was added to the equation. This is not reflected in the BER rating of the house

How is it working out?

In the summer time, when there’s little demand from the house apart from hot water, the refrigeration unit to cool the milk is used more than it is in winter. Most of the savings come when there’s demand for heat as well as hot water from the house. Most of the winter there’s more heat produced than the house can use but there is a two-week period when a large proportion of the cows aren’t being milked. During that short time frame the heat extracted from the cow’s milk still meets the demand from the house.

Alternative Heating and Cooling Ltd., Unit 3 IDA Industrial Estate, Baltimore Road, Skibbereen, Co Cork, tel. 028 237 01 / NI tel. 00353 28 237 01, ahac.ie

AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 3 1



Hands-on Converting your home into a space thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s tailor-made for you can have life changing consequences, as Siobhan Hawkins and Gerry Gormley learned Words: Astrid Madsen Photography: Paul Lindsay

3 2 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8


Q&A Favourite part of the house?

We love it all, both Gerry and I, especially the stairs. I personally love one of the chairs in the dining room area where you can take in the outside through several different windows.

What would you change?


n 1994 Gerry and Siobhan bought their first home, a 3-bed semi-d, in Belfast to renovate, which they did in 1997. “We were hands on doing a lot of ripping out of the old bathroom, salvaging the kitchen, decorating and spent about £20,000 on complete re-plumbing, electrics, windows, architrave, doors, a bathroom refit and decorating,” recalls Siobhan. City life lost its lustre and Gerry and Siobhan started to look further afield. “We both grew up in the countryside and secretly harboured a dream of living on a small farm.” “Gerry and I had been actively looking but neither my sister nor we were aware of the planned auction of the house next door to her, an old farmhouse, probably because it was being sold as a farm auction.” “We had our place in Belfast sold and negotiated a price with the owner, who was happy to withdraw his home from the auction and sell to us. We remain grateful that Norman chose to allow us to be the next custodians of the home that he and his large family of siblings had been raised on.” “In spite of the fact that the house was in need of modernisation what swung us was the massive mature beech trees at the back of the garden. Before we did the renovation we got a tree surgeon out and he recommended the removal of three of the trees. We were disappointed but the signs of rot were there and, heavy of heart, we decided to have them felled.”

Farmhouse magic

“When we moved in 1999 we did enough to make the house work adequately for us. We put in a new inexpensive kitchen, a shower, decorated and carpeted. Four more children and nearly 16 years later we started the big renovation!” There were two previous attempts to renovate the farmhouse. The first was in early 2003 when the couple was expecting their third child. “We had no idea how to pick an architect and went to the yellow pages and selected someone local. We 

We would like sea or mountain views, but on a more practical level the electricity pole is an eyesore and we’re currently negotiating its demise with the electricity board. Our ambition for 2019 is to create a new road entrance with better visibility lines and put in a turning circle in front of the house and really do up the garden. At the time of the build we put in a patio area at the back and a full path all the way around; the builder levelled the site out and we got some extra soil delivered which meant we didn’t have to do much with landscaping up until now.

 AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 3 3


thought that they would somehow, using their arcane architectural skills, wow us with sketches that represented the vision of what we needed and secretly wanted.” “Long story short that engagement was an expensive lesson as we ended up paying for multiple iterations of plans, each of which was a vision of an impractical, unimaginative home. We did not know what ‘good’ looked like but we knew we were not presented with it.” “We actually put that experience behind us very quickly and with little rancour; we had a new child coming and we easily made the decision to focus on that,” adds Siobhan. “We finished adding to our family in the first half of 2007; there were then five children and two adults in a house that was way too small.” “We re-energised ourselves towards the end of 2009 by engaging a new architect (based on recommendation this time). We got as far as planning approval and getting quotes for a replacement dwelling.” “But a couple of things stayed our hand in progressing with the renovation – firstly family responsibilities meant that Gerry was away at weekends and secondly we were still not happy to demolish and wipe out all that 

3 4 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

‘You need to have the confidence to get the structure right – where the glazing is, how the light enters the house and the layout to make it all flow. The rest is decoration.’


Q&A with Siobhan What piece of advice would you give a selfbuilder?

Make sure you’ve given yourself the time to form your own views; every year you refine your dream. Twenty plus years ago we would have gone more traditional in style, it has taken time to mature our view of what works best for us and to develop the confidence to go for it. Be aware that the biggest stress can come from yourself. Be organised, understand your obligations, be reasonable with your architect and builder. Build up the confidence to make decisions fast. Be realistic about how much it will cost, you’ll be in for one miserable ride if your budget is over-optimistic; all our non-builder items were based on retail prices from the start, or a healthy provision was made. From a practical point of view for us it was very important to be living so close to the build because it meant we could really be involved.

What surprised you?

How stress-free it was – apart from a couple of break-ins at an outbuilding on site. Opportunist thieves are always on the look out for builders’ tools. It is important that you ensure you keep your site well secured, especially so in the later stages of the build when you might have lots of electrics or sanitary ware waiting to be installed. If you have bought these yourself then they won’t be covered by the builder’s insurance.

Would you do it again?

I have another build in me, maybe in another 10 years’ time, another iteration of our current house. I can’t stop changing it in my head. Gerry thinks I’m joking!

3 6 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

was there before, it seemed disrespectful to Norman. I also was not fully happy with the house design even though Gerry liked the handsome traditionally balanced façade.” “Once you get into the process it keeps rolling forward and you go with the momentum. I expected my reservations would abate; but they didn’t. Thankfully we took the decision to pause the process at that point knowing we had a few years before planning would lapse. We’d spent a lot of money to get to this stage but felt we couldn’t continue with the project if we weren’t totally happy with it.” “Circumstances changed in the spring of 2014, at which point our eldest had turned 15.” “We really needed to create a home the children could bring their buddies back to, we also worried they wouldn’t want to come home from university at weekends!” “We had learned from previous attempts and decided to tackle the whole thing differently. We focused on what was important to us in the home and put in as much effort as we could muster into capturing that vision.”

Final iteration

“So from early 2014 we refined what we wanted in the renovated home. We spent several months of effort on this; we’d redraw and park it for a week. It was done to scale on graph paper with sofas, chairs, beds, light switches and we refined this until we thought it would work for our family.” “I was doing most of the design, but my daughter who is now 17 was interested at the time; she’s very artistic and was inclined to give her input. Gerry wasn’t sold on the contemporary idea at the beginning, he felt incorporating some oak would make the house feel more homely. As the house was getting built he became persuaded that the streamlined style could be comfortable and he now loves it.” “At the core of the drawings was an acceptance that we were not prepared to eradicate what had been there before; we did not want to demolish the thick stone walls that had sheltered generations before us, even if it was a more expensive approach.” They did however decide to remove the outbuildings that abutted the house. “These had to go as they weren’t worth


salvaging and would only have detracted from the renovated building.” The original kitchen, hall, stairs and bathroom were demolished bringing the farmhouse back to a 90sqm two storey shell. Gerry was very hands on from the beginning and helped with the removal of the internal fittings such as door frames, skirting boards and stud partitions. “Once we were convinced we had a sketch that represented what we wanted we searched the internet and came on the architectural practice that helped us through the process.” “We loved the online gallery showcasing their previous projects but we were a bit concerned that they might be a bit too lofty for us. As soon as we met Joe and Steven that concern evaporated, they were as down to earth as could be. The whole process went smoothly from that point on.” “Joe took our sketch and did up the first computer drawings. We iterated back and forth from September to early December, mainly by email to refine the layout. Joe submitted the initial plans in early December 2014, after months of waiting it was rejected – as the scale of the ‘renovation’ was too big, this despite the

fact that we’d previously obtained planning permission to demolish and rebuild a house of the same scale.” “We took it in our stride and our architect resubmitted the plans again with a 3D model to help illustrate the volume of the house. It took six months from initial submission to approval. It was frustrating but nothing we lost any sleep over; we just worked the process.” Their architects supplied them with the name of a builder that had a good reputation for quality work. “We contacted a number of that builder’s previous customers who gave positive endorsements, so we made the decision to go with him if the quote was reasonable. We had a pretty good idea of what the expected range per square metre should be and used that as our gauge.”

The build

“The builder did up a very detailed quantity survey report to which we added in some things we felt were missing such as retiling of old roof to match new. We had the feeling from the start that we would be able to work with him and during the whole build we never came anywhere near getting annoyed.”  AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 3 7


Siobhan’s Tips Choose a good architect that you can work with. Before you meet them, know what you want. Light? Spatial flow? Access to outside? What you put into the design process is what you get out of it. Think in 3D. Imagine yourself in the home navigating the space. Do and redo on paper to get it as close to what you want. Know where every stick of furniture will sit and how you will navigate it – is there enough space for people to pass each other? Make sure no one has to move their chair to let others past. Is there enough access to get to and from beds comfortably? Think it all through as far as you can. Use the internet. There is so much material online. Read, research, get ideas and familiarise yourself with relevant building regulations. Pick a builder with a good reputation and play fair. Get your funding lined up and have it ready for the builder; don’t squeeze them unreasonably on every penny. If you pick the right builder and you both have a bit of give and take, it keeps the stress levels right down.

“We each fulfilled our role as builder and client and it worked very well. When we signed the contract we couldn’t believe this really was happening, after all these years of planning.” The builder project-managed the build down to the painting, working from the detailed architectural drawings provided by the architect. “We moved out to a rental property just three minutes away and it was a real chore, especially knowing we’d have to do it all over again in 10 months’ time!” The entire build took nine and a half months. “I visited the site faithfully early every morning while Gerry got the children ready for school, I went at my lunch break and we both visited the site together in the evening.

I work from home and because we rented so close it meant I was there to make and confirm any decisions as they needed to be made.” “We managed the finances and kept track of any items that we agreed to add to the initial contract price, e.g. we upped the spec of the roof light in the kitchen and recorded that as extra owed to the builder. We kept everything in a spreadsheet and shared it regularly with the builder as a record of the staged payments, the extras and so on.” Heating and hot water comes from an oil boiler and a wood burning stove, with the house divided into five heating zones. “We went with radiators because we didn’t find anyone who would tell us underfloor heating was economical to run with oil. The house is very well insulated – our aim was to maximise heat retention and keep heating costs to a minimum. Even in winter the sun can provide sufficient heat to keep the house comfortable during the day. In the winter evenings the wood burner is the main source of heat with the occasional boost from the oil heating.”

Light, light and more light

Central to the refurbishment were the windows. “Our house is designed so that we live primarily in the north to avoid squinting through harsh southern or western (evening) shafts of light. We didn’t want to become slaves to adjusting curtains. We compensated for the northern orientation by adding more windows.” 3 8 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8


Siobhan’s Tips Plan the position of every door (how it opens), light switch, plug, TV point, radiator, light, and internet point before you submit plans. Same goes for the bathrooms and kitchen; know where all the pipes are to go and make sure they are pretty much perfectly located and know where tall units like the fridge will fit.

“The family TV room is on the south side but we’ve recessed the television in an alcove 4ftx9ft to prevent glare and no light hits it from the patio window.” “What I love most is that you can see outside from anywhere in the house. I move freely from window to window. Bringing the glass down to floor level is one of the best things we did,” adds Siobhan. “This configuration draws the eye out, to pictures that change daily. We opted for grey framed uPVC double glazed units with a chunky profile to act as the picture frames. We only use blinds in bedrooms and

bathrooms.” The big windows in the hall are triple glazed to avoid it becoming a cold spot in the heart of the home. “In a house I always focus on the views, not on what’s on show inside. Also, I don’t like dark spaces, they make me want to leave quickly and find some light. The house was designed to prevent any feeling of being boxed in or of wanting to move to another location.” “The earlier attempts at renovating the house had envisioned a sunroom, but we feel that a sunroom tends to make a hallway out of the room adjoining it and can also 

Decide if you want the focus of your home to be inside or outside. I realised that I wanted the focus of our home to be outwards for the eye to be constantly pulled outside. This is reflected in the orientation of furniture, navigation and windows. Other people prefer an internal focus, e.g. orient the space so that the attention is given to a beautiful fireplace.

AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 3 9


Siobhan’s Tips Remember that the cheapest changes are at the ‘drawing on paper’ design stage. The closer you get to completion the more expensive variations become. Also consider lead times to avoid delays – your bathroom suites, tiles, kitchen and stove – as your builder won’t necessarily give you a lot of notice when he needs them. Don’t over inflate the frustrations of planning hurdles. It is a process that your architect will navigate you through. Know your plans inside out. Prevent any rework by early detection of potential issues – this will make your life and the builder’s much easier. Wire for broadband. The house is wired with CAT6 data cabling and co-axial TV wiring left ready for fibre to be blown in from the local telephone pole when high speed fibre becomes available.

be hard to heat in winter and too hot in summer.” The staircase adds to the light and airy feel of the house. “We designed it ourselves; we wanted something sculptural, with no spindles to collect dust. It was so tempting to go with glass but with five kids leaving fingerprints it would have been torture for us all.” The choice was plaster. “Gerry did have an initial concern that the stairs would look 1970s and dated. We also had to figure out how to get a handrail

to anchor into the wood, we opted for a solid brushed steel pipe which Gerry got from a specialist steel manufacturer. He had to hacksaw it down to fit in the car! He also needed to get the engineered attachment, which he sourced online.” The house is now three times the size of the original but it takes a fraction of the time to get it clean, says Siobhan. “It’s tiled downstairs so a microfibre mop does the trick. With seven access points (six of which are glazed to bring in the light) for wet feet it was important to choose a non-slip surface that was easy to clean as we didn’t want to become slaves to polishing tiles. The finish we chose is grainy enough so footprints don’t drive us nuts; all the walls are white and we chose a dark floor to anchor the contemporary design.” With maintenance and dust-free fittings in mind all the light fittings are recessed LEDs apart from one centre piece in the hall.

Kitchen and interiors

“I worked with the architects to plan the layout; Gerry provided practical handson skills (including converting the felled trees into a very useful pile of firewood) and my sister Caroline injected taste. She really came into her own on picking the floor and wall tiles, kitchen doors, and door furniture.” “Take the floor tiles as an example – we 4 0 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8


would take a bottle of water (to test the grip) and a small bag of dirt/dust with us to the tile shop and assess the tiles. We hit it off with a local supplier and went with them for everything. They were very obliging during the build about dropping off extra tiles, grout, etc. as needed.” “We remain grateful for the supplier’s recommendation to use low profile antislip shower trays – with so many girls in the house using hair conditioner it has eliminated a very real danger. We also opted for lightly frosted shower screens in the bathroom; the shower areas are oriented so that the screens afford privacy from the clear glass windows and the frosting disguises the soap residue on the shower screens.” The other family involvement was from Gerry’s brother who has his own kitchen business. “Because he’s based a good distance from us, Gerry and I opted to design the kitchen layout ourselves and draw it up to scale. Again, my sister reviewed it for us, as she had designed her own kitchen and mum’s.” “I didn’t want high level cupboards as they’re difficult to access for kids and shorter adults like me which can result in injury. We do, however, have a 6x3ft larder (1.8mx1m) cupboard. We drew everything up on squared paper and agreed we would take responsibility for any issues with the measurements.” Again with a focus on the practicalities of daily life Siobhan chose foldable island stool seating. “I love big luxurious bar stools but they would have been a barrier to access

at the island for people picking up food. The island is large at 3m long but it’s less than a metre wide so we can clean the entire width from one side. At the kitchen window the sill is higher to minimise splashes on the glass.” “We would also recommend having two full size sinks, one for washing up, the other for food preparation. In the old house one of us always seemed to need the sink when the other was already using it!” “On Caroline’s recommendation we

went to get a stone worktop in a warehouse. It was one of the most surprisingly enjoyable afternoons we had; we got a guided tour to see the slabs of granite, marble and quartz. We knew the one we wanted as soon as we saw it and took a sample home to look at for a while to ensure it was right for us.” “In our experience the basic cost of the worktop was approximately 40 per cent of the final price as it cost us the same again for cutting out all the holes and moulded edges and then a final 20 per cent of cost on the measuring/fitting. Well spent though as it is lovely. The company we dealt with was notably professional.” “The 1m circular coffee table in the living room upcycled from our old kitchen table was finished with a damage-resistant Perspex top. Our artistic daughter painted a motif on the coffee table to match the décor.” “I have to thank my mum for the lovely dining set she got us and thanks to my sister and her husband who bought us the lovely large leather sofa as a housewarming gift.” Overall Siobhan says the process itself is empowering and gives great confidence. “I feel like we were tripping over each other and the furniture before the transformation – everything is now so organised and easy, it makes family life much more harmonious. The experience has truly been life changing.” AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 4 1


Project information

More photographs available at facebook.com/selfbuild

Find out more about Siobhan and Gerry’s major extension and renovation project in Co Antrim including the local companies involved... BUILDING SPECIFICATION Existing walls 500mm stone externally insulated with 200mm EPS and silicone render, new walls 100mm cavity filled with EPS platinum beads finished with silicone render, floor 150mm PIR insulation throughout with thin screed finish, existing roof insulated with 400mm mineral wool, new roof 100mm PIR boards between rafters and 50mm PIR under rafters, windows double glazed uPVC low-e argon filled.




Before: 130 sqm After: 350 sqm


Site: 1 acre farmyard site on 20+ acre farm Project cost: ballpark £250,000



Architect Slemish Design Studio Architects, Ballymena, Co Antrim, tel. 2586 2461, slemishdesignstudio.co.uk Builder Estco NI Ltd, Ahoghill, Co Antrim, mobile 07989 502 646, estconi.com Bathrooms and tiles Antrim Tile and Bath, Randalstown, Co Antrim, tel. 94 462 385, antrimtileandbath.co.uk



House value: estimate £450,000


Countertop Lamont Stone, Coleraine, Co L’Derry, tel. 7032 8882, lamontstone.com Kitchen Gormley Kitchens, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, tel. 6865 8618, gormleykitchens.com


Kitchen appliances Donaghy Brothers, Kilrea, Co L’Derry, tel. 2954 0001, donaghybros.ie Insulation Kingspan, kingspaninsulation.com


Silicone render K Rend, k-rend.co.uk Photography Paul Lindsay of Christopher Hill Photographic, scenicireland.com ROI calling NI prefix with 048, prefix mobile numbers with 0044 and drop the first 0

4 2 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8








4 4 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8



Back to basics This 1890s family farmhouse got a new lease of life when Elaine and Noel Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Connor decided to convert it into their holiday home Words: Astrid Madsen Photography: Denise Kavanagh

AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 4 5


Q&A with Elaine What surprised you?

How much good design could change the house! The kitchen is even bigger than I thought possible. I love making blackcurrant jam there in the summer.

What would you change?

The water tank is not in the attic upstairs and the bathroom before was lower than it currently is so the pressure at the new bathroom tap isn’t great. The electric shower works fine so we haven’t done much about it yet. We knew that this would be an issue from the beginning, so we will add a pump before we move in full time.

4 6 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8


y husband Noel inherited this farmhouse when his parents passed away in 2007 and 2008,” says Elaine who is originally from Co Kilkenny. “Both Noel and I live and work in Dublin and looked to use the farmhouse as a holiday home and for longer occupation on retirement.” Their Dublin home is in many ways the opposite of this rural retreat. “It’s an Edwardian house that doesn’t capture light because the orientation isn’t as good, with a

darkish kitchen, but it’s got great character. It’s quite a different experience.” “We’ve been living there all our lives, for over 25 years, renovating it on an ongoing basis and it’s been stressful at times partly because we live in it – with the farmhouse we were in no hurry which I’m sure helped the process.”

New and old

“We looked at a number of options; to either renovate the old house with a new roof or to explore a more radical intervention where we would get an architect to advise us. We kept an open mind of what could be done with it as we hadn’t seen that many farmhouse conversions.” “It was already comfortable and well maintained but had come to a point where it needed to be updated for insulation and generally renovated. It had been extended over many decades but these alterations were done before modern building standards were in place. In addition, the roof needed replacing and chimneys were leaking,” explains Elaine. “Noel’s family and neighbours were delighted to see it being renovated, and eager to see how it turned out when it was done – it was a great experience for everyone,” she adds. “We’re so happy to be getting good use out of the house as it was Noel’s parents’ home, it also shows what can be done with farmhouses, many of which are going derelict around the country.” And so they chose to go down the architectural route. “We were clear we wanted something a bit different, we might have been more conservative had it been our family home but as a holiday home we felt 


Q&A with Elaine What advice would you give someone renovating a farmhouse?

It takes longer and more money than you probably imagine. We also underestimated the amount of work that was required.

Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s your favourite feature?

I love looking out the kitchen window at the fields, and having a garden back and front.

Would you do it again?

Yes! We were very lucky to have Mark as our architect as well as a great team who made it possible.

4 8 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8


‘‘We generally wanted a brighter and airier space as the house was mostly north facing.’’

we could push the envelope,” she confides. “We had identified a few things that we wanted to achieve. These included a modern open plan kitchen dining area, lots of light, a good downstairs toilet and shower room. We also wanted a downstairs bedroom if possible. And for the old house to be renovated.” “We generally wanted a brighter and airier space, the windows were small which we wanted to change and the house was mostly north facing. The sun goes all around the house and this was never captured before, so that was another thing to add to the wish list,” she says. “We had planned to meet a local architect based in Mayo close to the farmhouse in Roscommon. We had our eye on him for the Simon Open Door weekend but he was booked out, so we went ahead and made an appointment to meet after the event, which he was able to do at the weekend. We were both working at the time so that was really helpful,” relates Elaine. This was in 2011. “He too felt that the orientation of the farmhouse and its southerly location overlooking fields were not being optimised. In our own mind we thought the best course of action would be to remove one of the two extensions and replace it with a new one in the same style as the house.” “But Mark suggested that a modern extension which clearly distinguished the old from the new might be a better way to go. He also recommended that we open out onto the fields, with the front of house relatively private.” “We felt that we would be guided by him and that we would, all things being equal follow his recommendations,” adds Noel. Mark went away and came back with a plan and a 3D model. “It was astonishing, we loved it. We trusted him and thought why not, let’s go for it.” “My brother’s farmhouse in Kilkenny swayed it for us, he added a modern extension to his farmhouse and it greatly

improved the feel of the entire place,” says Elaine. “Our design went as far as it could in contemporary design keeping the old sheds at the side, which are part of the farmhouse scene.”

Original form

In many ways this project quickly became an exercise in bringing the building back to its original form – the staircase originally had a window on the middle landing which had been converted into a doorway leading into an extension which accommodated two bedrooms and a large bathroom. By demolishing this extension the original window could be reinstated. “I now find myself standing on the landing staring out at the wonderful view framed by this window, I love it,” says Elaine. “The plan also called for the removal of the single storey extension that accommodated a kitchen and living area with a garage and toilet. The old 1980s wooden windows were in a poor state and were replaced with cream coloured uPVC. The existing house was insulated from the inside which meant removing many of the built-in presses.”  AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 4 9


Noel and Elaine’s tips Get an architect and listen to the advice and tease out issues that might be of concern. Don’t be afraid to question and offer views. Upstairs we felt the connecting corridor could be wider and Mark agreed and now we have a much better space. In a bedroom that was dual aspect the corridor now cut off one of the windows and Mark came up with a roof light that makes a real difference.

“Mark then added a new two storey extension that delivered a large new kitchen and dining area and a modern shower room where the old kitchen and garage used to be. Upstairs he created a large modern bedroom with a large bathroom right above the ground floor bathroom.” With two extensions demolished and a new one added, the house went from four to three bedrooms, making the footprint more compact. “Even though we essentially lost a bedroom we have the option of transforming the parlour into one downstairs if we ever want to,” explains Elaine. “The

5 0 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

new layout is much more practical, and very much revolves around the windows, you can look out any of them and you have a view. It connects you to the countryside.” In terms of heating they opted for a traditional central heating system. “As we were living in Dublin we felt this was the easiest option, we went for a range with an oil burner and a balanced flue,” adds Elaine. “This was an expensive addition but it removed a need for a separate oil burner and as it was a balanced flue it did not require a chimney. It also replaced the solid fuel range that was in the old kitchen, all 

Insulate both the existing building and the extension. The two are very energy efficient thanks to the specification and very comfortable to be in winter as well as summer. With the level of insulation put in to the old part and new extension, the house is very warm and uses much less oil that in the past.


Noel and Elaine’s tips Spend more time investigating lighting fittings. We didn’t and regret it now. Upcycle. We reused stuff we already had to decorate and furnish the house, such as tables, chairs, coat stands, etc. A coat of paint makes a big difference. The china tea sets used for the Station Mass are lovely to display. The Station Mass is still a tradition in Roscommon where Mass is celebrated in the house and all the neighbours come in for a cup of tea.

supplied by our builder’s merchant.” The open fire was converted to a wood burning stove and with the reconfiguration the hot press was taken out. The couple find the house very warm and comfortable in winter and very pleasant to be in summer. “The dining area is the shaded part of the open plan which works well because the windows can throw a lot of light and heat in summer,” says Noel.

Home stretch

“When the planning application was submitted we thought that the extension might be seen as very modern and might not

5 2 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

find favour with the planners but thankfully this was not the case and full planning was granted,” recounts Noel. “Mark also included the removal of a hedge at the roadside and the inclusion of a new wall with tree planting in the application, this proved very useful as it allowed us to do this work without a further planning application.” “We also applied for the removal of the septic tank to be upgraded with a packaged system. We didn’t do this at the time but had to within the five-year timeframe the planning application was valid so we just added it last year at a cost of €7,000 to


€8,000,” he adds. Planning was obtained in early 2012 which is when construction started; the build was completed in October of that year. “Construction was undertaken by local skilled builders managed by Michael Mulligan, a family friend who acted as the project manager for the renovation and the new build,” says Noel. “We couldn’t have done it without him, unfortunately he has since retired. He had very good connections and would keep us updated and would visit us on site when needed.” The couple set up an account, paid monthly, with the local builder’s merchant for the provision and delivery of all the materials. The demolition of the extensions was undertaken by a family member with a digger. “Through Mark an engineer was retained, this combination proved very useful as we lived in Dublin and professionals signed off on progress. We tried wherever possible to use local skilled craftsmen,” adds Elaine. “The builder did however suggest that the new contemporary extension be attached to the house to save on costs, but Mark was adamant to have a gap between the old and new so we went with his advice as we agreed it was necessary. What we did take out was the glass finish for the bridge floor leading to the upstairs bedroom – for just a couple of feet it would have added about €6,000 which we felt was too expensive an addition.” The only problem that arose during construction was due to the need for steel

reinforcement for an upstairs wall. “This was priced at several thousand euros but after discussions between Mark and the engineer it was agreed to change the specification to a concrete floor with a ring beam to support the wall. This was a much cheaper option and provided a much better fire proof solution. Having the right professional advice for problems like this is crucial.” Elaine advises anyone embarking on a similar adventure to have fun with the design and enjoy decorating. “I like the notion of picking colours and above all, being involved in the design which gives you ownership of the project. I would love to see more farmhouses being renovated.”

AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 5 3

Project information

More photographs available at facebook.com/selfbuild

Find out more about Noel and Elaine’s extension and renovation project in Co Roscommon including the local companies involved... BUILDING SPECIFICATION


New build masonry cavity blockwork with 150mm cavity and 100mm PIR insulation with 62mm insulated plasterboard internally, roof and floor similar insulation levels. Existing farmhouse drylined internally.

Plot site: 5.2 acres House before: 160 sqm House after: 190 sqm Total cost including fees, landscaping to date and septic tank: €175,000




Architect Mark Stephens Architects, Swinford, Co Mayo, mobile 085 1594048


Kitchen Garage GARAGE

Room 2 2 ROOM Room 1

Structural Engineer Paul Cuddy, Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon, mobile 086 1227039




Builder Gerry Flanagan Construction, Roscommon, mobile 0872548963 Electrician Pat Rafferty, Castlerea, Co Roscommon, mobile 086 0815495



Ironwork Willie Finneran, Roscommon, mobile 086 0740176





Plumber Kieran O’Grady, mobile 087 2634451 Range Stanley, waterfordstanley.com


Stonemason Michael Carney Stoneworks, Co Roscommon, mobile 086 8090641




Windows Grady Joinery, Co Mayo, tel. 094 9291000 Michael Creighton Windows, Roscommon, tel. 094 9620648 Builder’s merchant Michael Cooney & Sons, Castlerea, Co Roscommon, tel. 094 9870007











BEDROOM Bedroom Landing


5 4 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8


Bridge Void


Photography Denise Kavanagh, Co Sligo, denisekimages.com NI calling ROI prefix with 00353 and drop the first 0

P R O J E C T / C O Lâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; D E R R Y


Game of two halves Planning permission can be especially hard to secure if you want to alter the front of your semi-detached house. The solution in this coastal Co Lâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Derry town was to get both sets of homeowners to apply at the same time. Words: Astrid Madsen Photography: Emma Stewart

5 6 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

C O Lâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; D E R R Y / P R O J E C T

AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 5 7

P R O J E C T / C O L’ D E R R Y


he project started off when Heather and Ian Rankin decided to upgrade their holiday home. “We inherited the house from my aunt, to which nothing had been done for at least 40 years,” explains Heather. “We always intended to keep it as a holiday home, but it did need a full renovation.” “Ian is a painter and has been working with a builder called Damien for years and knew he was excellent at his job so we didn’t even look for anyone else. It was Damien who suggested we work with Michael as he’s the architect he usually employs on his projects. We hit it off straight away and the

‘The plan was to make the most of the views and be able to sit and look out...’ creative process was a really enjoyable one,” adds Heather. Central to the reconfiguration at the front of the house was a balcony. “The plan was to make the most of the views and be able to sit and look out – we initially thought of having the living area upstairs but at the time the children were aged four and one, and we wanted them to be able to get out to the garden easily.” “So what we did is put the balcony at the front for the views and in summer we use it a lot. We get sun at the at the back day and night.” Things only started to get tricky when it came to securing planning permission. “It took us three goes,” says Heather. “At first the balcony at the front was the main issue, then it was something else at the back.” “We eventually realised the planners want semi-detached houses to look uniform so changing one side on its own didn’t work for them. Thankfully this is when Karen and Russell decided to do up their house which is what clinched it for us.” Karen and Russell Yates own the second half of the semi-d. “We’ve been living in the house since 1991 with two children and had extended at the back in 1999,” says Karen.  8 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 56

C O Lâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; D E R R Y / P R O J E C T


P R O J E C T / C O L’ D E R R Y

“We had modernised the inside but always wanted to do more with the front. We just thought we couldn’t change it because of planning.” “When we saw Heather and Ian’s initial plans we thought it was a great opportunity for us to update the look of our house too, we were keen to get rid of the flat roof at the front. We talked about it with them and they told us who their architect and builder were, and after meeting them, we all agreed to get them to do the two projects in parallel.” “We really liked the architect’s work, his contemporary style and Ian knew the builder very well which means he came highly recommended,” adds Russell. After Karen and Russell submitted their plans, 

‘We really liked the architect’s work, his contemporary style and Ian knew the builder very well which means he came highly recommended...’

5 66 0 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

Heather and Ian’s kitchen

P R O J E C T / C O L’ D E R R Y

Heather & Ian’s Tips Pick your builder based on a recommendation from someone you know. If the builder isn’t right it will be a nightmare. Be prepared to be involved. Even if you have a builder overseeing the trades, you’ll need to be on site to clarify a lot of things otherwise the decisions will be made without you and are likely to be impossible to reverse unless you pay for it. I was there twice a week and more often towards the end to meet the fit-out suppliers, e.g. kitchen, bathroom, etc.

planning permission was secured relatively quickly for both houses, even though the balcony was still a bone of contention, in April 2016. The savings associated to renovating and extending the two homes at the same time were minimal as each project required its own set of plans, but it did make the process go very smoothly. Yet for Karen and Russell, the timings in terms of planning permission meant moving quickly on their own design. “Michael worked with us to put together some brilliant plans in a very short space of time to ensure the planners would assess both applications at the same time,” says Russell. 

6 2 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

‘The savings associated to renovating and extending the two homes at the same time were minimal as each project required its own set of plans...’

P R O J E C T / C O L’ D E R R Y

“For us it all started on a modest scale but it quickly came to the point where we thought we might as well take the opportunity to change things around,” explains Karen. “Initially the plan was just to add a balcony at the front but as we were doing structural work anyway we replaced the front door with a larger door which gives us a much better looking entrance than before.” “This had the knock-on effect of requiring a large lintel and that in turn meant we were changing the porch and adding steps, so it made us think of how the rest of the house was going to link up. We also wanted a bit more space in our busy

‘Initially the plan was just to add a balcony at the front but it quickly turned into a full fledged renovation project...’ household of five, and were looking at some sort of accommodation in the garage.” “There was also the fact that we discovered the front of the house had no insulation so we upgraded that and insulated the roof space as well, and decided to make it airtight to increase the comfort level of the house and reduce energy bills.” “As a result we introduced a mechanical ventilation system to keep the indoor air quality high; we kept our oil boiler for heat and hot water but we may look at replacing it with a renewable system when it starts showing signs of age.” “We went through our wish list by adding space to the master bedroom, and bringing in a lot more light and a seating area.” “This is when we thought we might as well replace the windows too,” says Russell. “They were over 20 years old and we wanted them to match the modern front we had chosen as well as get better quality units that would be much more energy efficient than the ones we had.” “When we looked at the reconfiguration we thought the sunroom would also benefit from floor to ceiling windows at the back. Strategically placed artificial lighting,  66 4 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 5

C O Lâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; D E R R Y / P R O J E C T


P R O J E C T / C O L’ D E R R Y

Karen & Russell’s Tips Do your research. In our case the windows required quite a bit of investigation as we’re in an exposed seaside location, we’re on the coast with the weather beating, so it took us a while to get answers from the various suppliers. We originally wanted alu-clad but it turned out to be more expensive and not the right option for us – we chose grey uPVC with as narrow a profile the supplier was willing to build for us! In one instance they even wanted to break up one of the big panes of glass with a frame but we fought our case and came around to a solution. We got a lot of ideas through online mood boards and our architect and builder were able to source what we wanted – our choices were of course balanced by the budget.

6 6 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

C O L’ D E R R Y / P R O J E C T

especially with LEDs, also really helped with the brightness levels in the house.” “Downstairs you can leave all the doors open for conviviality or have some privacy and keep them closed. We thought of going open plan but wanted to keep to the budget and that meant keeping the original walls,” adds Karen. “We stayed in the house while the works took place – as we had when we refurbished the previous time. We figured as long as we had access to a kitchen it would be alright but we really should’ve moved out as the changes were being made back to front, this meant looking at a lot of hardboard blocking out different parts of the house at different times.” “Fortunately we were building at a good time, we started in May and were finished in October but even at that I thought the house was cold and draughty,” says Karen. “You do feel a bit vulnerable to the elements and the fact that you can’t properly lock up the  AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 6 7

P R O J E C T / C O L’ D E R R Y

Karen & Russell’s Tips Renovation work tends to cost more than a new build. The house was originally pebbled dashed which we replaced with a smooth render and rounded side. We hadn’t thought this would be a big expense but it was more than simply plastering a new wall, we had to prepare it first with a bonding layer for the new plaster to take to and got a specialist in to do.

house isn’t great either.” “There was a delay with the glass being delivered – we had to get the opening spaces fixed before they could measure up for the glass and then we had to wait for another six to eight weeks for delivery.” “So it was actually good to have the builders about all day as it kept the site secure, and it also made us appreciate how good the team we had actually was,” she adds.

6 8 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

For both couples the balconies have made a massive difference. “When we drive up to the house now we love the way it looks. Along with the patio, the balcony has added so much more useable space to the house,” says Karen. “They shelter us from the rain and wind and are wonderful places to be in.” Heather concurs: “We get the most wonderful views.”




AUTUMN 2018 £3.50 / €3.75


SUMMER 2018 £3.50 / €3.75

Dream it . Do it . Live it

ISSN 2515-5369

y(7HC5B5*PNQTKT( +z!$

ISSN 2515-5369


y(7HC5B5*PNQTKT( +z!@



Dream it . Do it . Live it








*Receive the Winter 2018 Edition FREE when you subscribe. This is a recurring subscription every quarter with FREE P&P RRP including P&P is €6.50/£5.50 per issue

Next Winter Edition content.... l Ultimate bathroom and wetroom tips l Conventional vs modern heating l Why self-build? l Basics guide to finance, planning and building in ROI And much more.....




SELFBUILD.IE/SHOP - (048) 9751 0570

P R O J E C T / C O L’ D E R R Y More photographs available at facebook.com/selfbuild

Project information

Find out more about Ian and Heather and Karen and Russell’s renovation projects in Co L’Derry including the local companies involved... BUILDING SPECIFICATION


Both houses renovated to the same building envelope specification.

Heather and Ian plot size: 0.18 acres, house size before 110sqm/1,200sqft after 126 sqm/ 1,360sqft

Floor: 75mm screed above 100mm PIR insulation board above 150mm concrete ground bearing slab, U-value 0.19 W/sqmK Roof: charcoal concrete tile over trusses supplied, 300mm mineral wool insulation at ceiling level, 12.5mm plasterboard skimmed, U-value 0.14 W/sqmK Wall: smooth sand:cement render for the Yates, Siberian larch for the Rankins, 100mm dense concrete blocks, 50mm cavity, 50mm PIR Insulation, 100mm dense concrete blocks, skim plaster, U-value 0.28 W/sqmK

SUPPLIERS Architect Michael Williams of Williams Creative Design, Portrush, mobile 07921194487, williamscreativedesign.com 

1 2

Windows Double glazed, argon filled, anthracite grey RAL 7016 with frameless glass to the front, U-Value of 1.4 W/sqmK supplied by Swish Windows, Cookstown, Co Tyrone, tel. 86766147, swishwindows.net Insulation Kingspan Kooltherm, kingspaninsulation.com




Photography Emma Stewart, emmastewartphotography.com



4 4








3 3


1 6







1 6

5 2

7 0 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8








Yates’ fit-out RightPrice Carpets in Coleraine rightprice.co.uk, and Patton Interiors in Coleraine pattons.co.uk, the rest was decoration with paint sourced from Little Greene littlegreene.ie

NI calling ROI prefix with 00353 and drop the first 0


4 1








Trusses Rafferty Roof Trusses, Coleraine, Co L’Derry, raffertyrooftrusses.co.uk Rankins’ fit-out Kitchen from Limavady Kitchens in Co L’derry with stone worktop from Lamont Fireplaces in Coleraine lamontfireplaces.com, flooring from Ronan Kealey Carpets in Limavady ronankealeycarpets.com, bathroom from Haldane Fisher bathline-bathrooms.com, tiles from Tiles Plus in Ballymoney Co Antrim tilesplus.net, furnishings from Flair Interiors NI Ltd (all of downstairs) in Limavady flairinteriors.com, Right Price Carpets in Coleraine and Select Home Furnishings in Limavady. Stove from Otterbrook Stoves and Fireplaces in Limavady, electrics by Basil Knipe Electrics in Ballymoney basilknipe.com, painting and decoration by EJ Rankin & Son in Limavady.

Karen and Russell’s house is on the left hand side of the semi-d; drawings below are before & after for ground and upper floors



Builder Damian Moore of Kermore Construction, Dungiven, Co L’Derry, mobile 07753637928

Karen and Russell plot size: 0.24 acres, house size before 237 sqm/ 2,550sqft after 244 sqm/ 2,620sqft

4 6



Tiny homes A great future or a current fad? Words: Andrew Stanway

Mobile micro home with bedroom in the loft area, invisiblestudio.org


he tiny house movement started in the US in the 1990s as a reaction against increasingly huge houses and unaffordable prices. It’s now well under way in many other countries, including Canada and Australia. The idea hasn’t caught on as fast in Ireland because, unlike in the other countries, there simply isn’t much ‘freely available’ land. In ROI and the UK most people put these tiny homes in their garden or on existing land they already own rather than building from scratch on a new plot. There is plenty of demand for tiny homes but securing planning permission and the shortage of suitable places to put them continues to hold them back. 7 2 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

Typically around 16 to 40 square metres in floor area these mini houses are insulated to near zero energy standards; are complete homes; are quick to build in sustainable materials; have LED lighting; cost virtually nothing to heat; and are double-glazed. They’re also cheap to build, at about £1,100 / €1,250 per square metre plus VAT; are frequently off-grid; and are designed to last a lifetime. They are in no sense temporary or ‘shed-like’. Although some tiny home owners, perhaps even the majority, get into the subject as part of a bigger sustainable, almost political, agenda, it isn’t necessary to be evangelistic on the matter, you can do it just because it makes sense for one of many reasons.

What are they used for?

If you have access to land and the right planning, tiny homes are great: � As a starter home, for student accommodation or as a way of affording a home after a divorce or separation. � As additional ad hoc accommodation alongside an existing property, perhaps for a teenager, au pair, or granny. Using one for a dependent granny can find favour with planners as it means less pressure on local care services. � For hospitality accommodation at adventure parks, caravan sites, bed and breakfast businesses and the holiday market. � With ever increasing competition in the home rental market, the uniqueness


Tiny Homes Ireland, tinyhomes.ie

of a tiny home really makes the listing stand out from the pack and can pay for itself in rental income in two to four years. However the planners would have something to say about this commercial use. � As a temporary home while building your own permanent one with the possibility, with suitable planning permission, to retain it for future use. � For anyone wanting to rid themselves of debt. Accommodation is most people’s largest single living cost. A tiny house frees up money to do other things. � For those who abhor ‘stuff’ and enjoy minimalist living. The fact is that many of us could happily live in far less accommodation than we currently have. � If you want to live off-grid. About 40 per cent of all carbon emissions comes from our homes. The smaller the home the less the carbon footprint. � If you want portability. Many tiny homes are built on a chassis, like a caravan or mobile home, and can be easily moved. � If a family member with reduced mobility wants to achieve a level of independence, the customisability aspect of tiny homes can lead to a house being tailored to their specific needs.


How tiny houses are built: eco-modular systems There are many examples of low impact prefabricated and modular construction systems that could be well suited to tiny homes produced in quantity. In light of Ireland’s small size, there aren’t many prefab manufacturers here but a variety of systems (some still in R&D) are produced in North America, the UK, Europe and Asia. Full modular systems, in which the floor/ wall/roof panels are all manufactured in a factory with quality control and efficient assembly line production, offer the best energy performance and airtightness. Once on site, the assembly is speedy and there are minimal work or disturbance. Modular systems include (but are not limited to): • Rammed Earth precast panels on steel frame; rammed earth wall systems with steel reinforced inner/outer leaves and foam insulation between; currently produced in the US and Canada. • Hemp panel systems

with fully dried timber/ OSB frame with hemp lime insulation infill and wood fibre sheathing or composite joist filled with bio-composite material made of hemp shiv and lime based binder; currently produced in the UK. • OSB-3 Structural Insulated Panel systems with EPS insulation between panels, cut and notched for streamline assembly; currently produced in Ireland. • Timber frame closed panels containing natural insulation such as straw, wool, or cellulose, and lined with breathable racking board; produced in Ireland, the UK, France and North America. An experimental building, The Endeavor Centre in Ontario, Canada, demonstrates how to achieve zero waste and zero toxins using straw bale panels, mycofoam (mushroom) external insulation and recycled beverage containers for internal wall insulation. • Structural timber such as Cross Laminated Timber. CLT is made of

layers of vertical and horizontal timber to create a structural panel, common in Germany and increasingly popular in the UK. Some systems contain formaldehyde glues used but there are now gluefree options available. You can also build from natural modular parts, which are usually manufactured in a factory and typically in moulded block or brick form. Some examples include: • Rammed Earth blocks, developed in the USA, zero cement. • Hempcrete blocks made of a lime and hemp shiv mix, available in the US, UK, Europe and Asia. • Clay blocks including 1) fired clay honeycomb blocks that use no vertical mortar, 2) expanded clay (insulating) blocks or 3) lime block containing lime, slag and natural clays. • Cellulose (papercrete) blocks made of recycled cellulose, cement and organic additives; currently produced in the US. - Caelan Bristow

Too good to be true?

Though micro living has its fans, for the above reasons, there are many detractors who are concerned that: � Such small units could start a craze among property developers who would soon see them as a way to huge profits as they try to convince us that we can live in smaller and smaller units. � Standards might drop from current highend specifications to become ‘dog-kennel’ homes over time. Building regulations standards and guarantees provided by the contractor should prevent this. � Psychological and emotional issues could arise over time living in such small spaces unless light and ventilation are properly

addressed. � Such homes won’t keep pace with the rise in value of normal-sized ones � Mortgage companies won’t embrace them unless perhaps if the structure is fixed to a solid foundation and is not transportable. � Because entry is usually via steps, this might not embrace universal design guidelines but there are many different types of entry; ramp, pathway, singular step, disabled access etc. � Bedrooms are usually up in the roof space, which doesn’t appeal to some.

What about planning consent?

This is a tricky subject that needs looking into before you start. Begin by talking with your neighbours to get them on side. Tell them exactly what you have in mind, including how big it will be, where it will go, how high it will be and so on. Because it could come as a shock to them if you don’t do this, you could find they’ll object your application. Show them pictures of what it’ll look like. Next it’s time to involve the local planning office. Every  AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 7 3



Cross section of the Wikihouse

‘The tiny house movement started in the US in the 1990s as a reaction against increasingly huge houses and unaffordable prices.’

Could they be the answer to low-cost housing for people starting out on the property ladder?

local authority will have its own views but for structures that aren’t permanent, all planning departments will have a set of rules that’ll tell you exactly what you can and cannot do. Technically speaking, the structure should be either mobile (though perhaps not literally on wheels) or ‘demountable’....that is, able to be taken away easily. Only rarely will planners allow such homes to be truly permanent. Think static mobile homes and you won’t go far wrong. The planners will also guide you on matters such as sewage. There are ways of dealing effectively with sewage without actually connecting to the main sewer. Connecting to the mains drains, for example, always requires planning permission. Compost toilets are an easy way to deal with sewage but again can be an issue with the planners, and they are not everyone’s cup of tea. Almost all local authorities will insist that it’s not attached to your main home (or that would make it an extension); and that it covers only a certain proportion of the garden area. They will also want to dictate how far it is from the nearest boundary; how high it is; whether or not you are allowed a porch; the type of roof; whether or not any sort of decking is allowed; and many other details. 7 4 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

All this is vital to get right before you start because although tiny homes are cheaper than bricks and mortar versions they still cost from £25,000/€30,000 or more depending on size and design, which is too big a gamble to take unless you are very wealthy. If you have already extended your home and used up your ‘permitted development’ quota, your planning department may not allow you to have a tiny home in your garden - or anywhere on your land - at all. If you’re doing all this under permitted development rules, then no building control applies. This said, if you use a good company they’ll be working to building control standards that are the same as those used by loft converters sometimes better.

How do I finance one?

Though mortgage companies don’t make funds available for these homes, it is possible to get finance. Because the cost is so small compared with bricks and mortar extensions, many people use their own money. How they are paid for varies according to the individual supplier. They are still such a niche market that you virtually do a one-off deal on everything with the manufacturer.

They could but nothing much is happening on this front yet. In a sense, static mobilehome parks provide this type of service to the community already. Mass market developers are probably unlikely to use their valuable land banks to create homes that provide only small profits for them, when they could build larger ones and maximise their returns. Perhaps if central government, local authorities or charitable trusts were to make land available cheaply, tiny-home ‘estates’ would work. Tiny homes or ‘Tiny House Estates’ are also particularly viable in areas of the country where land is cheap, e.g. rural towns, villages, or seasonal tourist destinations.

How quickly can they be built?

Once you’ve ascertained that your neighbours and the local planners are OK with the project, things can happen very fast indeed. Good companies will have your tiny home built within a few weeks. Some supply them as kits that you and your builder can assemble; others build the thing as a shell and subsequently allow you to use your own trades; and yet others will do everything as a turnkey project, ready to walk into. Doing more yourself will, of course, save money. The vast majority are timber-framed jobs (little or no steel) that are easily assembled on site (after being delivered as flat-packs) then fitted out internally. If this isn’t the case, and you want the thing pre-built, they are usually delivered in two sections that are then bolted together. If going this route they come 


Are they really like proper houses?

Vipp Shelter, vipp.com Images by Anders Hviid and Mark Seelen

on a suitable low-loader/truck with load handling equipment. If the site is inaccessible, they may have to be lifted over the house. Hiring a crane for this can be very expensive, so access can dictate the method of the build and indeed the sort of structure you settle for. Any good supplier will discuss all this with you before you even start.

Yes. Although most people start out imagining they’ll be a sort of glorified shed, this isn’t the case. They are timberframed, permanent structures that can last for decades. Once you’re inside, they feel and perform exactly like a bricks and mortar home. How you manage the look of the exterior will depend on how much you want to spend and what the planners will allow. Look online at the various manufacturers who’ll show you what they specialise in. Some look a bit like a caravan while others are entirely and very convincingly house-like. As with any self-build, tastes and needs differ a lot. Some manufacturers are open to doing anything pretty much that you want while others have standard homes that you can vary (outside) only very little. Interior finishes can be whatever you can afford to pay for, exactly as with any selfbuild.

Additional information Colla McMahon, Co-Founder/ Director of Tiny Homes Ireland, tinyhomes.ie

Vipp Shelter, vipp.com

7 6 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

An ELAN g! Entertainment and Home Control System allows you to easily manage your CCTV, heating and entertainment, and gives you total control over your home, by seamlessly integrating with other systems.

Wirelessly, effortlessly, flawlessly. Sonos allows you to control music in every room of your house, and gives you instant access to a world of music.

GMS Intelligent Systems are specialists in intelligent home solutions. We offer complete wiring packages, from the initial electrical installation to intelligent package solutions.

Digital Lighting / Phone/Data Systems / TV/Satellite/Blu-ray / Multi-Room AV Surround Sound / Security Systems / Plasma / LCD Screens Authorised Installer


11 The Oaks, Lurgan, Co. Armagh, BT66 6NY Northern Ireland 0800 2985009 (after 7pm) | 07754 789163 | www.gms-intellsys.co.uk | george@gms-intellsys.co.uk


Insulating Concrete Formwork This quick and cost-effective method of construction is increasing in popularity among self-builders. Words: Andrew Stanway


Co Cork ICF build as seen in the Winter 2011 issue

nsulating Concrete Formwork (ICF) originated in Germany in the 1950s and has since proven its worth, especially in North America where, even after many years of development, several manufacturers still complete only a few thousand homes per year between them. In the UK and Ireland, where it has been used since the 1970s, it is an even more niche construction method. Perhaps the boxy, simple designs of the early years and the unfamiliar building hurdles not encountered in normal cavity-wall or timber-frame builds put others off. The basic principle, though, is very simple – even elegant. Large, hollow, lightweight polystyrene blocks (a bit like Lego bricks), lock together to create instant formwork, that is then filled with concrete to make structural walls.

Advantages of ICF

� Quick. A small team of semi-skilled (NVQ level 2) operatives can put up the ground floor of a four-room home on a prepared foundation in only two days. The blocks fit snugly together vertically and horizontally and the two leaves are kept in position by various patented metal, plastic or polystyrene spacers. Blocks can be cut on site with a hot wire or a hand saw and specialised components (such as lintels) can be ordered with the package. Many companies have flooring systems that allow you to cast both walls and middle floors at the same time. Manufacturers claim that self-builders can save up to three months on their build using this method. � Can use unskilled labour. Although this is true, it makes sense to have at least one operative on site who has been trained in the system. Most companies offer training 7 8 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

days and it‘s vital for whoever is going to be in charge of the installation to have experienced at least one concrete pour, as this is the trickiest part. � Cost-effective. Although it’s about 5 per cent more costly than standard domestic construction methods, the speed of construction usually more than offset this initial extra outlay. � Immune to bad weather. Because the system is so robust and quick, it’s very good for situations where the weather could be against you. As soon as it’s complete, it’s watertight. Once roofed, follow-on trades can get cracking much earlier than with other building systems. This can be a real time and money saver. � Strong. Almost every ICF system uses reinforcing steels within the walls and floors. You’ll be guided by the manufacturer as to what’s needed for your

‘In the UK and Ireland, where it has been used since the 1970s, it is an even more niche construction method.’



unique situation. Some companies supply all the steel reinforcement cut to size ready for installation. � Good thermal performance. U-values can be as good as 0.11W/sqmK. The very nature of the system also means it is easy to make airtight. � Improved acoustics. The polystyrene formwork is intrinsically good at absorbing sound, and mass concrete reduces airborne noise transmission. People who live in ICF homes (especially those who have used it for middle floors), say how exceptionally quiet it is. � Fire-retardant. Although the polystyrene inner lining could, theoretically, eventually catch fire, even though it is treated with a fire retardant, normal plasterboard used in the normal way provides an excellent inhibitor in the first place. After that, the concrete walls cannot, of course, burn. Intermediate timber floors are still vulnerable. � Heat storage. If you use ICF for your internal walls you’ll find that they’ll act as thermal stores, giving off heat long after your central heating has turned off. � Flexible design. One of the best things about ICF is that it can very easily cope with curves, arches and all manner of odd shapes, provided they are planned for right from the start (see below). � Ideal for basements. Use water-resistant concrete and take advice about soil loadings if parts of the basement will eventually be covered with soil. � Chasing for services. The inner polystyrene leaf can easily be chased for electrical and other services. It’s wise not to chase the structural concrete element. Some companies offer different thicknesses of insulation that make this

chasing very easy and practical. With careful preparation it’s possible to pre-plan and create service voids within the concrete walls for say, rainwater pipes. � Can be clad externally with any material. This means that whatever external appearance you want, the underlying ICF can cope with it. You could, at this stage, add even more insulation, depending on the U-values you’re aiming to achieve, before your final cladding. The outer skin of the polystyrene blocks has to be clad (using built-in fixings or wall ties) with something – it can’t be left open to the elements. This outer skin can, though, be easily chased to make room for rainwater downpipes and even other utilities. � Very little waste. Because you order only the exact number of polystyrene units (and their accompanying accessories) you need, and the blocks are easily cut on site, there’s very little wastage. Concrete can then

be ordered in exact amounts per pour, a real plus if you have no room to store aggregates, sand and cement.


AS Ballantine

Co Cork ICF build as seen in the Winter 2011 issue

� Poor image. In the UK and to some extent in Ireland there’s still some resistance to new construction methods. Many small builders especially seem reluctant to try new things. Because ICF can be done by anyone with a high level of DIY competence this also deters professional builders who pride themselves on their skilled, professional tradesmen. � Confusing choice. Because there is no agreed ‘best method’ in this market, the different types of products make it all seem more complicated than it is. Needless to say, every company boasts its superiority in one way or another and, in a world where there are very few ICF ‘experts’ it can be hard to know which way to turn. It’s probably best to discuss all this with your designer, then to talk with a proposed supplier to see if what they have to offer makes sense to all the parties involved. Different designs and technical specifications call for different methods. You may need to do your homework on several systems before deciding. 

AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 7 9



How does it comply with the regs? Your designer will make an informed decision on compliance with the building regulations and will be able to advise. The first port of call is to check for the company’s Agrément certificate, in ROI on the National Standards Authority of Ireland’s website nsai.ie and in NI on the British Board of Agrément’s website bbacerts.co.uk Note that ICF is recognised as a standard type of construction by the UK’s Council of Mortgage Lenders for mortgage purposes and is accepted by all the main warranty providers, including NHBC. The relevant documentation can be found on the website of the Insulating Concrete Formwork Association, icfa.org.uk.

8 0 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

Variations on a theme

As with any innovative building system, many companies are hard at work creating better and more sophisticated ways of doing things.

Most of these have involved tinkering around the edges but not all – there’s now a method for ICF to be used for multistorey, and even substantial commercial builds. Starting from recycled timber chip-board impregnated with cement to create a strong, water-proof construction board, it then uses various thicknesses of polystyrene insulation inside the cavity to produce the desired U-vales. Concrete is then poured into the void as with all other ICF systems. Because the internal and external surfaces are made of this board, it’s easy to fix things to the inside and outside of the shell. In fact, the boards are so strong that they can be used to make internal (nonload-bearing) walls without the use of any concrete. Another new ICF system supplies wood-cement elements as blocks rather than panels. These wood-fibre-cement blocks are so substantial that once fitted together they don’t need any propping or support before pouring the concrete.

Additional information Jonathan Ballantine of asballantine.com

Co Cork ICF build as seen in the Winter 2011 issue

� Hard to make later alterations. When building with this method it’s vital get your design right the first time. This means telling your designer you’re intending to use ICF, then having him or her design the house around the unit sizes and the methods used by the company you intend to use. This can usually be easily achieved but has to be taken into account from the start. There are several different ICF systems, some of which can cope very well with concrete middle floors, internal walls and all kinds of design requirements. But because what you’ll be building is essentially a concrete-walled house, making changes later (for example adding or moving doors, windows or services) can be difficult and expensive. You’ll find yourself having to rely on ICF experts with specialist cutting tools and they don’t do this work cheaply. � Concrete pour not as simple as it seems. Without a doubt, the most skilful part of ICF is the pour. Most companies will advise you on this well before you start your project and at your training days you’ll learn how to support the walls so they don’t sag or, even worse, burst as you load them with tonnes of wet concrete. You’ll be told how high you can build any given wall before it needs filling. Different companies have their own recommendations on this. You’ll need

access for a concrete pump. The concrete itself also has to be at exactly the right consistency (wetness) or it won’t flow into all the cavities of the formwork. Some companies insist that you use a particular grade of concrete (aggregate size). Finally, if you are going multi-storey bear in mind that multiple visits of the delivery trucks will cost a lot. � ‘Green’? Because the wastage is small and you can use thermally-efficient concrete (aerated) or lower-embodiedenergy concrete (GGBS), this system can be ‘greener’ than some other similar methods. Where it isn’t ‘green’ is at its life’s end. It is still concrete, steel and polystyrene, none of which are intrinsically sustainable. But this said, concrete buildings have an extremely long life. � Must consider a mechanised ventilation system. Because these homes are so airtight you’ll have to manage ventilation really well.

Design by DMVF Architects, Photography by Ros Kavanagh

PASSIVE HOUSE DESIGN A passive house is one which is so energy-efficient that it does not require a conventional heating system to provide heating within the building, relying instead on a combination of green energy sources, high levels of insulation and airtightness to reduce heat loss. A passive house typically consumes up to 90% less energy than a house built to the minimum requirements for building regulations.

Kilbroney Timberframe, Valley Business Park, 48 Newtown Road, Rostrevor, Co. Down, N. Ireland. BT34 3BZ T: (028) 4173 9077 E: info@kilbroneytimberframe.com W: www.kilbroneytimberframe.com

1st Floor, 6 Centre Court, Blyry Business & Commercial Park, Athlone, Co. Westmeath. N37 N8Y8 T: 090 64 60006 E: info@mmaarchitects.ie

Visit us at SelfBuild Dublin 2018 - Stand F2

Call us on +44 28 3754 8791 101 Drumflugh Road Benburb Co. Tyrone BT71 7LF info@mcmullanodonnell.com Fax: +44 28 3754 8543




ICF by design Mel McGerr chose ICF for the peace of mind of a thermal-bridge-free build. Photography: Dermot Byrne

Why did you choose to build with ICF, what other methods did you consider?


e wanted a simple method, one that was robust and most critically dealt with thermal bridging. ICF eradicated a lot of the uneasiness associated with air leakages at junctions. The 8 2 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

insulation of the ICF wall is in direct contact with the floor and roof insulation, and is not bridged at any point by poor insulating materials such as rising blockwork, or blockwork which goes from outside to inside, e.g. at a ground floor sunroom/bay window etc. We also used a course of thermal blocks for the internal walls to reduce thermal bridging in these locations. And as the wall is solid concrete as opposed to a porous block,

it is inherently airtight. We still had to tape around windows and fit membranes to the ceilings but we werenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t relying on plastering walls to further achieve the airtightness rating. For the energy performance we were aiming to achieve, ICF with external wall insulation came in cheaper than blockwork. But then when you add the cost of plastering itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s about the same. I would have liked to build the roof with


ICF but this would have required the input of another supplier. We ended up with a cut roof which we insulated at the rafters, the house is fully airtight and the test came back at 1.1 air changes per hour. I did the Passive House course halfway through the build and was able to incorporate some of that detailing in my drawings, especially around the windows.

Did you come across any planning or insurance issues?

Planning permission has very little to do with the method of construction, in our case we had to deal with things like meeting local needs criteria, ridge heights, the form of the house and location. In terms of insurance and the mortgage, we didn’t come across any problems in relation to building with ICF, we just ticked the box for a concrete house as opposed to a blockwork house. I’ve recently worked on two other ICF projects and neither of them have come across any hurdles of this type either.  AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 8 3


this part of it on so I asked the ICF supplier to recommend a subcontractor. The tricky bit is working out how to lay the blocks and making sure they are plumb, straight and fixed correctly. Because of the height of the house we had to do two pours and despite the good work there is a section, at the double height ceiling in the kitchen, where the concrete did leak through. We had to use metal and timber supports, and this is where the concrete pushed some blocks off square. But it was minor enough that it could be hidden behind the internal plasterwork.

What type of blocks did you use and how did you finish the walls?

We chose a 280mm wide EPS block with a 150mm cavity, and then applied 100mm EPS external wall insulation (EWI) which we did ourselves. We had to add the EWI to get the thermal performance we wanted in DEAP, the software to prove compliance with the building regulations. We felt that doing the EWI work ourselves would be easier than the ICF blocks because we had existing walls to guide us. We just had to attach the insulation to the plastic ribs which were spaced at 150mm centres. The EWI supplier came out to give us a bit of training; at the beginning we were quite slow and some rework was required. But once we got the hang of it, towards the 

How was the project managed and built?

Our budget was tight so we went for semidirect labour. We got a main contractor to undertake the groundworks, civils, foundations, internal blockwork and plastering. We employed subcontractors to undertake specific works and then we did as much as we could ourselves. A lot of the finishing off was done at weekends and holidays.

Did you lay the ICF blocks?

No. We may have considered it if the shape had been simple, and if we’d been brave enough! The design is quite complicated, there are a lot of angles and curves, and we didn’t feel confident we’d be able to lay the blocks correctly. If I were a carpenter or in the trade I’d probably do it with my eyes closed but my work is mostly at the desk, I wasn’t sure enough of my DIY skills to take 8 4 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8


Mel’s Tips Research. I’d advise anyone considering this method to be comfortable with it, talk to people who’ve used it before. Everyone I spoke to at the time of building said they were happy with it and amazed at how easy it was to build. On site adjustments. An interesting benefit of ICF is that once you have a section of wall built you can stand back and look at where the window openings are and adjust them slightly before they are braced – the window might be a bit too big or too small or might benefit from being moved slightly, within reason as you can’t adjust too much due to planning permission (which was gained on the grounds of the submitted drawing details) and advice should be sought from the professional signing off on compliance with planning to ensure any minor tweaks are acceptable. Internally similar conditions as for a timber frame house apply – to hang anything heavy up on an ICF wall you need to find the fixing in the wall, spaced at 150mm centres. Additional costs. There were two for us – the proprietary silicone render you have to use on the ICF external walls is a specialised product that costs quite a bit more than a standard sand cement render, which I hadn’t expected. That said, cladding can be very cost effective with ICF so depending on the finish you choose you may not incur any additional cost. The second costly exercise was due to last minute changes which meant we had to add a vent in the wall during the build, and this required a specialist contractor to core it out as the concrete had already been poured.

AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 8 5


‘I’d advise anyone considering this method to be comfortable with it, talk to people who’ve used it before.’

end, it went up quickly. We did it over the summer of 2013, evenings after work and at the weekends. It definitely took longer than a professional would have had.

What did you do for heat and hot water and how is the house working out? We put in an air to water heat pump and a wood burning stove. The heat emitters are aluminium radiators instead of underfloor heating; as we both work during the day we were happy with this solution. It suits our lifestyle very well and we also made a saving as they cost significantly less. The house is always lovely and warm and our bills are extremely low.

What’s your favourite room/ feature?

We’re in four years this Christmas and I still love the vaulted ceiling in the kitchen, I love looking out at the lake from there.

If you were to change one thing about the process what would it be?

As an architect I always wanted to build my own house and was lucky to get the chance but I can’t help but think of some slight modifications to the house in my head – I’m 90 to 95 per cent happy with it. There are some details that I would like to change, like junctions in the internal plasterwork, things that drive me mad but no one else sees! We built a basement to make the house less visible for planning purposes, and with hindsight I might try to find another solution as it was quite an expensive one. To add floor space we perhaps could have built a section of the house higher, instead of going down.

Would you do it again? In ICF, yes, absolutely.

SIZE & SUPPLIERS Plot size: ¾ acre House size: 2,500 sqft BER: A3 Architect MMA Architects, Mel McGerr MRIAI MCIAT, Athlone, Co Westmeath, tel. 90 646 0006, mmaarchitects.ie ICF and silicone render Amvic, Naas, Co Kildare, tel. 045 889 276, amvicireland.com Main Contractor Buckley Construction & Engineering Ltd, Athlone, Co Westmeath, tel. 0906 485177 Landscaping Kilduff Construction, Athlone, Co Westmeath, kilduff.ie Heat pump and radiators Panasonic Aquarea T-Cap Monobloc system from Heat Merchants, heatmerchants.ie Demand Control Ventilation Aereco, Little Island, Co Cork, tel. 021 429 6030, aereco.ie Roof covering Lagan Snowdon, lbsproducts.com Photography Dermot Byrne, Co Wicklow, tel. 01 282 9560, dermotbyrnephoto.ie NI calling ROI prefix with 00353 and drop the first 0

8 6 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8


‘We researched everything, went to every Selfbuild Live event, every showroom, we asked lots of questions and aimed to get the best quality for the best value.’

8 8 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8


ICF with DIY Sarah and Mark Ballantine took a hands-on approach to their ICF build Photography: Paul Lindsay

Why did you choose to build with ICF, what other methods did you consider?

Sarah: We briefly considered other building methods including Structural Insulated Panels and timber frame, but due to the performance and experiences we had heard from other ICF builds we were persuaded fairly early on to go with this method of construction. Mark’s parents had recently built an extension using ICF onto their timber frame family home and the performance in terms of heat retention and living comfort was hard to deny. Our ICF builder is Mark’s uncle and Mark had worked with him one summer building ICF houses and other buildings, he understood the building method and he was very convinced by its advantages. Both in theory and more importantly in reality. We knew we wanted to put as much effort into the energy efficiency of the house as possible. In terms of building there are no downsides, wall structures can go up pretty rapidly using ICF. Anyone with basic DIY can get to grips with the process and be

involved if they want to be hands on. All of the normal options in terms of external and internal finishes are possible but may require a different method during the application.

Did you come across any planning or insurance issues?

Sarah: The planners had no issue with the build type, we had other issues such as access, visibility, and size of the house itself. We were building close to farmland but didn’t want to share a lane as we have a small child and another on the way; their safety is paramount. We also knew we needed to have a separate lane for mortgage purposes as most people had assured us this would be an issue. As we live in NI our options for a self-build mortgage were limited. But we easily found a bank who were happy with ICF but they needed more paperwork and inspections than a standard build. It was still a relatively smooth process. The main thing that made it difficult for us was the person who valued our house, he valued the house appropriately but as he had never seen ICF before he put it down as a concern which in turn meant the bank asked a lot more questions. All the questions  AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 8 9


Sarah & Mark’s Tips Planning: We planned for two years before we started digging, we knew we had to do the thinking before babies came along and there would be less flexibility in our schedule, but it was so helpful because we were certain of what we wanted by the time it came to making decisions. We researched everything, went to every Selfbuild Live event, every showroom, we asked lots of questions and aimed to get the best quality for the best value. We went on a weekend away to Dublin just before our little girl was born to meet with three window suppliers, and look for prams! Patience: Assume nothing will happen when you want it to, people will let you down, whether it is getting back with quotes or showing up on time. If you get frustrated the first time this happens, it will be a very long process. We made lots of frustrated phone calls during the build but overall we didn’t let it influence our happiness or drive to see the project completed.

were answered by our ICF supplier but we also had to get a letter from an insurance company to prove the house could and would be insured once it was built and that the policy would not be loaded as a result of the ICF walls. I doubt everyone would be asked for this but we were. Our insurance is no more expensive than for a regular house. For the builder’s insurance, you can get a document online from the Council of Mortgage Lenders that says they accept

this form of non-traditional construction. Our ICF method has a BBA (Agrément) certificate and we also had proof that structural building insurance provider CRL or the National House Building Council accept ICF walls. We had normal building insurance when the house was being built and they understood and had dealt with ICF before, our house and contents insurance now has no issues at all.

How was the project managed and built?

Sarah: We co-managed it along with our builder, Mark’s uncle who also supplied the ICF system. We had some local contacts and he had built up relationships in the trade from his own experience so we knew who to contact. Mark and I took full responsibility for decisions made and our builder gave us ideas and told us what to organise next. I was off on maternity during the build so was able to show people in and liaise with them, and most importantly do research. Throughout the build we had minor hiccups which seem to be common to many self-builds, mostly to do with delays and some issues with tradesmen. We lived next door during the build with my granny so I was on site when any issues arose, or to answer any queries and to make LOTS of phone calls!

9 0 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8


You put up some of the ICF yourselves, was it difficult?

Mark: Two guys who do this for a living could put up the blocks in two the three days per storey, by going DIY it probably takes an extra day. I’d done some work with my uncle on ICF builds so I was familiar with the method, but it’s quite straightforward. The important thing is to make sure everything is secured and the corners tied up because the pour is the

trickiest bit – that’s when the EPS blocks can move or burst if you haven’t put them together properly. You can get away with a single pour if you’re building a bungalow or a one and a half storey, the maximum height for a single pour with our system is a 6m gable with an experienced crew, but as our house was two storey we had two pours to allow the floors to go in. There were two trained adults putting

up the blocks with the help of my cousins aged 15 and 12. It was a fun experience and presented no danger to them, the most hazardous tool on site was a rubber mallet and a handsaw to cut the blocks to size. My uncle is the ICF supplier and he came on site the first day to make sure we all got the hang of it, and he was also there during the pour. It took us two to three days to get to the first floor level. We did a first pour and then had to wait about two weeks, to build internal walls before the concrete slabs were placed. As this period coincided with the Christmas holidays we let it set for three to four weeks. Then it took us another four days to put up the blocks for the second storey. We didn’t have to wait as long for the second pour to set, about 10 days, as we put in rafters and a cut roof which is lighter in weight than the concrete floor. We looked into an ICF roof but it was more expensive than going with the timber rafters. It’s a good option for people who are thinking of going nearly zero energy but we didn’t feel it justified the extra cost.

What type of blocks did you use and how did you finish the walls?

Mark: We chose the 64mm EPS blocks with a six inch (152mm) core for a total width of 11 inches or 280mm.  AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 9 1


For the finish we went for a mix of larch cladding, that was very simple to put on with the system because each of the blocks have ABS plastic furring strips every 8 inches/200mm to which we fixed on battens for the cladding. We also went with a limestone finish which was put up by a stone mason and we used a thin coat silicone render system supplied by our builder which has a mesh troweled into the base coat that is applied directly to the ICF.

What did you do for heat and hot water?

Sarah: We are using a ground source heat pump. We missed the government incentive (Renewable Heat Incentive and grant for installation) but at this stage we had invested in installing the ground loop. From the first year of living in the house we have realised our heat pump is possibly unnecessary, for approximately nine months of the year we only use it for domestic hot water. Much of this is due to the design of the house which maximises solar gain from the large area of south facing glazing. We had been advised that the redundancy of the heat pump could be a possibility but overall we do not regret it. I think both of us weren’t brave enough to go fully passive and rely solely on wood burning stoves or electric radiators, but in hindsight when using ICF this is easily achievable. We embedded solar photovoltaic panels in the roof, this saved money on slates and it runs the heating, when needed, and auxiliaries during the day.

How is the house working out?

Sarah: We moved in November 2016 and so far so good, the energy bills have been low and the house has a warm constant heat. We used LED spot lights almost exclusively throughout the house, the nominal load from evening lighting is negligible. Our electrician was a friend whom we trusted to design the lighting correctly.

What would you change about your approach?

Sarah: We would follow our instinct more, if someone is a nuisance to deal with at quotation stage or bad mouths other companies they will probably be harder to deal with. Mark: As we worked with companies in 9 2 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

other countries, it would be advised to keep back a percentage of payment until you are happy with the product as it gives more leverage to get things fixed or amended.

Would you do it again?

Sarah: No, we are exactly where we want to be. I am enjoying helping others with self-builds, doing research, etc. Maybe a retirement house in 30 years’ time!

SIZE & SUPPLIERS Plot size: 2/3 acre House size: 2,500 sqft Architectural technologist Ryan Hawthorne MCIAT of Home Architecture, Parkgate, Co Antrim, mobile 07946379337, homearchitecture.co.uk ICF and silicon render supplier IntegraSpec from AS Ballantine Ltd, Strabane, Co Tyrone, tel. 028 7139 8276, asballantine.co.uk Glass and balustrade, inside and out Ronald McConnell of Mourne Craft, Kilkeel, Co Down, tel. 417 63664, mournecraft.com Stairs, exterior details and structural beams fabrication Jason of JMS engineering, Colerain, Co L’Derry, tel. 2954 0864, jmsmetaltec.com Roof insulation Spray foam from One Step Insulation, across NI, tel. 9332 1159, onestepinsulation.co.uk Kitchen Stormer designs, Belfast, tel. 90 315131, stormerdesigns.com Solar PV Green energy store, Belfast tel. 91 460883, Dublin tel. 01 234 3734, greenenergystore.co.uk Bathrooms Bathline (Bathrooms at Haldane Fisher) bathline-bathrooms.com Photography Paul Lindsay of Christopher Hill Photographic, scenicirelandgallery.com ROI calling NI prefix with 048, mobile prefix with 0044 and drop the first 0

T O P 5 / A D D I N G VA L U E

Adding value to your home Most people don’t build to sell, but when the time does come to move on to your next self-build or property you’ll be glad to know the work you’ve put into the house over the years has added value. Words: Caroline Irvine

Photography: Paul Lindsay important as the door itself. A climbing plant or creeper always adds allure but dead leaves must be tended to. Roses and jasmine have universal appeal and clipped box or bay to either side of a front door make for a tidy composition. As for window boxes, these miniature gardens can truly transform a property; they can be planted in any season to add texture, colour, interest and charm.



Kerb and front door appeal

Never underestimate the value of a wellpresented exterior. The house with the ‘white picket fence and climbing rose’ comes to mind; this is the house that everybody admires and by which travel directions are given. In order to maximise kerb appeal it is important that the grass is cut, the flower beds weeded, loose paving is fixed, the door-bell works, the windows are clean, the garden tap doesn’t drip and there are fish in the fish pond. The list of repairs and ‘to dos’ can be endless but are essential when you consider it takes buyers no more than eight seconds to decide whether they like a house and a few of these are spent waiting at the door. A defining feature, and one of the first things that potential buyers will see when they arrive at your home is your front door. Bright and beautiful or subtle and 9 4 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

sophisticated a front door has a big impact on buyers’ first impressions and if not in good repair it sends out all the wrong signals. A fresh lick of paint doesn’t take long to apply (but make sure to prepare the surface well before you reach for the brush!) and can totally transform the look of a home. Pick a colour that best suits the style and character of the property; look online for inspiration. Be sure to have door furniture gleaming; if it’s worn or dull looking consider replacing it and remember to invest in quality (people will be able to tell by the feel). Choose door knockers and letterboxes in keeping with the style of your property: brass will suit a period home and for a contemporary look opt for chrome or brushed aluminum. House numerals should be well positioned and easy to read. To make a good impression, plants surrounding the door can be almost as

Outdoor living space

Few things have more ‘lifestyle’ appeal than an outdoor living area, where potential buyers can picture themselves sipping a glass of wine after work, having friends around for a barbeque or simply sitting on a bench with a book. Making the most of any outdoor space, be it large or small, is therefore a good investment. Whether you are setting the scene by providing table and chairs for alfresco entertaining on the terrace or creating a cosy nook in a tiny garden with a bench or bistro table for two, you will be increasing the living space of your home while sparking the imaginations of potential purchasers. Equally with apartments, even if your balcony is the size of a postage stamp, it 

SMALL JOBS Unfinished repairs can reflect badly on the overall maintenance of a property, creating an impression that there is a lot of work to be done. Assuage potential cause for concern and ensure outstanding odd jobs are completed by fixing door handles, stuck drawers, squeaky floorboards and the like.

A D D I N G VA L U E / T O P 5


Market value

is an extension of your living space and should be included in the staging of your property. Dress it up with a café table and chairs and let buyers imagine themselves reading the paper and having breakfast outdoors.


The kitchen and bathroom

Even though upgrading your kitchen from a tired and dated style to a more contemporary look with modern spacious storage units is one of the best investments you can make, when budgeting remember that any home improvements should be in line with the value of a home – don’t spend more than 20 per cent of the house value on your kitchen makeover. Don’t blow the budget on finishes, appliances or cabinetry that won’t add much value or ones that will date quickly. Sometimes basic home maintenance can pay greater dividends than a new kitchen or bathroom – you might be better off painting the cabinets, replacing handles, splash backs and countertops as opposed to buying a completely new kitchen. The right lighting and appliances can increase the appeal factor too. For bathrooms, the same precepts apply as for the kitchen but also consider whether your money might be better spent in adding value by converting the spare room into a family bathroom or ensuite. Always remember to select design classics in sanitary ware, tiles, paint colours, cabinetry etc. As with kitchens not everyone has the ‘perfect’ bathroom; renovations can be costly and sometimes it is a better strategy to work with what you have. When even an extreme clean doesn’t get rid of unsightly stains it’s time to re-grout and re-caulk your bathroom. If you’re going to replace fixtures

and fittings consider off-the-floor wash hand basins and wcs to make small spaces appear bigger. Updating light fittings, towel racks and door furniture is less expensive and can have a similar effect.


The spare room


The feel: tidy and clean

Instead of having it as the dumping ground consider converting it into useful space such as an office, guest room, ensuite, extra bathroom, or nursery. Rooms with a function other than storage will add more value by showing off their potential.

Cleaning the house will have the greatest impact on the feel so make sure it’s gleaming. Add a lick of paint wherever necessary – no single effort can do more or provide a greater return on investment. Whites and neutrals when used on walls provide the perfect canvas against which any potential buyer can imagine their belongings. Walk-in wardrobes should be ‘walkin-able’; take half the stuff out and neatly organise what’s left allowing for at least 20 to 30 percent free space. If you are using your attic space for storage make sure it’s clean, tidy and well-lit. Our brains love symmetry and whether we are aware of it or not a ‘balanced’ interior is not only aesthetically pleasing but creates a feeling of harmony in a space; two-seater sofas positioned opposite each other with a coffee table and rug between them is a familiar configuration. All rooms and circulation areas should be easy to navigate and kept obstacle free. Any spare chairs or armchairs should be put into storage, or space permitting used to add seating areas to bedrooms; counterintuitively, a chair in the corner of the room or bench at the end of a bed will give the impression that the room is larger.

Efficient central heating systems, double glazing, secure doors and windows, and a garden top UK homebuyers’ lists of must-have home features, according to price comparison website GoCompare. ‘Friendly neighbours’ and a parking place slip down the list as compared to their 2017 survey, while open plan living spaces, highly rated schools and period features all fail to make the top 20. A reliable broadband connection has moved up into the top five home essentials from 8th last year, while a clear mobile signal and a good energy efficiency rating are both in the top 10 for the first time. Other property features on buyers’ ‘must-have’ lists include plenty of electrical sockets, easy access to local shops and other amenities, at least two toilets, a bath tub, a shower cubicle and cavity wall insulation. Other research, this time from the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), the HomeOwners Alliance (HOA) and The Guild of Property Professionals, shows that the following additions increase the value of a home (listed from most to least): � Removing an internal wall to create an open plan kitchen and dining � Building a garden room or outside playroom for the kids � Converting a cupboard under the stairs into a downstairs toilet � Converting part of the master bedroom into an en suite bathroom � Building a new driveway � Installing decking and lighting in the back garden AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 9 5

Selfbuild Dublin



The GO TO resource for anyone building new, extending or renovating in any of the 32 counties of Ireland. Visit us in Dublin, Cork and Belfast for an unrivalled interactive experience: chat with independent experts, meet those at the coalface of turning your dreams turn into reality, and immerse yourself in the latest technologies.

KITCHENS BATHROOMS INTERIORS BUILD EXTENSIONS RENOVATIONS IMPROVEMENTS... l Kitchen Design Clinics l Bathroom Design Clinics l Garden Design Clinics l Interior Design Clinics l Planning Advice Clinics

l Resident Experts l Construction Expert Talks l Home Style Talks l Selfbuild Advice Talks l Selfbuild Bootcamp

This past year we hosted... 40k Visitors / 9 Theatres / 480+ Exhibitors / 45+ Seminars / 55+ Talks





Like us on Facebook for special offers and LIVE updates


Why should you come.... - Meet the people who will make your dream come true - Interact with the products on offer - Discuss your plans for FREE - Fill up on ideas and inspiration - Get advice and information from the experts - Experience what your building project could look like and be like - Attend the FREE Selfbuild Bootcamp for an overview of the process



Supersize me Now that our homes are full of building services, unless you have a dedicated plant room the utility needs to be bigger than ever.


Bulky items Apart from the obvious washing machine and dryer, here’s what might need to go in:


Ventilation unit Don’t put the fan for your ventilation system (heat recovery or otherwise) in a hard to reach place like the attic. You will need to change the filters regularly and this is more likely to get done if you can access it easily. This location will help the engineer when it needs professional servicing too.

Words: Astrid Madsen


Underfloor / zoned radiator manifold Thermostats in each room individually require a pipe run. Each of these have to go back to a central hub known as a manifold, which takes up some room too.



aundry is no one’s idea of relaxing at the weekend but the reality for many is that we spend more time in the utility room than we care to admit. This is partly why it can never be too big. Like the kitchen, it’s pivotal to the success of a functioning family home.

One size fits all

3mx2m is an average size for a utility room but it all depends on what needs to go in, have a realistic checklist from the get go (see Bulky items). Hiding your stuff from view may be important to keep the open plan area tidy so add these to the list, e.g. appliances and gadgets. Also decide whether you want the utility to be home to a second fridge or sink. The minimum size for a washing machine and dryer is roughly 4.5 sqm – if you want storage for coats you’re easily looking at 7 sqm. With additions like the ventilation unit, you’re probably looking at 9 8 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

10 sqm or more depending on the shape. Standard units and machines are square, 600mm wide and deep.

Checklist l It’s a good idea to keep the utility close to the kitchen, for convenience and reduced expense when it comes to plumbing and electrics. l To save space you could stack the washer and dryer. l Even if you dislike overhead cupboards consider the need for tall cupboards for things like mops and vacuum cleaners, and lower level ones for unsightly cleaning products. l Keep the space well ventilated preferably with mechanised ventilation, and ideally incorporate a window or rooflight – natural lighting will make for a much more enjoyable experience.

Heating / hot water unit Whether you’re going for an integrated heat pump (which will include the ventilation unit) or air source/geothermal, there will be equipment associated with it. In the case of a boiler installation, think of where it and the hot water tank will go. These are often put in a ‘hot press’ where the heat losses are captured in the cupboard to warm up towels.


A/V controls If you have a home automation system chances are the cabling will run back to this room. Broadband and electrical connections are likely to end up here too.


Plumbing The utility may be a good place for a stopcock (to turn off the water in the house), but bulkier items may also find a home here, like water softeners and pumps that don’t have a shed to go into.


‘If you plan to dry laundry in the room it’s vital to have an extractor fan to deal with the humidity and make sure there’s plenty of space to bring out the clotheshorse...’

Stacking the washing machine and dryer saves space

l Have fun with colour. It’s a bit of a slog to do the laundry so brighten up the space with feature walls, children’s art and anything else that will put a smile on your face.

with a layout similar to that of a galley kitchen, you may get a hallway-like feel. To counteract this, you could position the door that provides access to the rest of the house out of the sightline of the back door.

Additional information Caroline Irvine MRIAI, irvine-nash.com


l If you plan to dry laundry in the room it’s vital to have an extractor fan to deal with the humidity and make sure there’s plenty of space to bring out the clothes-horse and fold it back without banging against walls or open presses. It may be useful to use your current house as a model for what you need – you can act out the processes if you think the planned space might be too tight.

as airtight as possible (sealed when shut) as these can otherwise easily cause energy losses. Some people find it useful to use this room as a depository for chopped wood – it prevents having to go outside to get extra fuel for the stove in the middle of the night. Allocate a space if this is something you’d like. Finally, most boot rooms have a door accessing the outside. If that’s the case, and

Boot room

If you want to use the utility room as a buffer zone between the house and the outdoors factor in hooks and drying space for coats and/or cupboards for items like worker’s pants. You will also need seating to take off muddy boots, and as storage is always high on the priority list, consider integrated benches with pull-out drawers or baskets. Many of these outdoor items will be wet and damp, especially if you live in the countryside, so again remember the importance of ventilation. Also where relevant, provide adequate space for rinsing off and if possible factor in a floor drain or incorporate a small shower area. Make sure the sink is large enough. If you have pets think of how to use this area for them – will they sleep or be washed here? Consider access for your pets and installing a pet door or flap to your external door. Try to get a flap that’s AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 9 9



Dealing with damp Different types of damp and how to deal with it. Words: Astrid Madsen with Anthea Savage


he most common source of damp in our wet and humid climate is condensation, and it happens when warm, moisture-laden air hits a colder surface. The amount of water held in the air rises and falls with room temperature so when warm air cools, water is slowly released in the form of condensation. Having poor external wall insulation, no heating and poor ventilation in the room will exacerbate the problem by making 1 0 0 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

surfaces cold. Should the surface be non-porous (like windows or tiles) it can form droplets. When surfaces are porous (like brickwork and plaster) it usually cannot be seen because it is absorbed. Houses with condensation problems are usually unhealthy to live in because fungi and bacteria thrive in the warm, humid air they create and can trigger many illnesses, including asthma. Ventilation is the single best solution for dealing with condensation, preferably with a dedicated whole house system. Heating the house, making sure

Disclaimer This article is for information purposes only, consult a qualified building professional for your specific circumstances.

it has good heat retention (levels of insulation, draughtproofing) and generally cutting down on the production of moisture indoors will also lead to improvement. Installing trickle vents on your windows is especially useful if you cannot open them, e.g. where noise or security issues are present. Trickle vents will create a cold draught so if you can afford it, consider the ones that are fitted with a moisture sensor. If you can, when you are cooking, bathing or washing remember to open at least one window in the room, and closing


the internal door to make sure the moist air exits the house through the open window, rather than propagate elsewhere within the house.

Rising Damp

Many factors have an influence on whether damp rises in a wall and actually creates a problem, such as a defective damp proof course (DPC) or poor drainage outside. It is for this reason that rising damp generally affects older properties. The level of water penetration will be dependent on the porosity, width and construction of the wall, as well as the amount of moisture it is subjected to. Damp proof courses/membranes were not introduced into houses until around the 1950s so if your house is older than this, the chances are it mightnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have one, or alternatively, if one was fitted, it may now be working ineffectively. Indeed, in properties where there is rising or penetrating damp, there is often increased condensation due to moisture evaporating from damp walls. In all cases, before you make any alterations, do everything you can to remove any potential sources of damp. Note that paints and coatings can provide some weatherproofing but if not breathable, may block interior moisture from escaping. Ground and surface drainage surfaces butting up to the walls of your property should be angled slightly upwards so that rainwater drains away from the building or at least includes a rainwater channel to draw water away. If ground drainage is blocked, the property is at risk of flooding. In the USA it is common to have the ground fall away from the house walls at a 10 degree tilt downwards from the house. French drains consist of a perforated pipe below a bed of pea shingles, (gravel below 10mm in size), that leads to a drain. Even without the drain, consider that pea shingles on their own are better at dissipating water than hard surfaces which tend to create higher splashes. If the problem persists you could then consult a remedial expert for advice before choosing one or more of the following solutions:

Tanking system. This method of removing excess water draws and tracks moisture to a single area in a room which is then pumped out. It does not prevent the rising damp from coming back so needs to be used in conjunction with another strategy. Porous tube and hollow bricks. Porous tubes consist of a clay pipe inserted into holes drilled at a low level to increase the rate of evaporation and therefore limit the amount of moisture that can rise above them. Hollow bricks are similarly fixed to the outside wall of your house allowing dry air to flow for a permanent solution that can also help in eliminating, preventing and controlling damp regardless of its cause. Not all bricks work in the same way so talk to a remedial expert. Also know that these systems can clog over time with salts, which will limit their effect. Other systems include an airpocketed sheet fitted to the inside of damp exterior walls to allow them to breathe. They are then replastered/drylined and finished with breathable materials. Less proven is the chemical damp-proof course which consists of a siliconebased liquid injected into a series of holes drilled into the wall to create a water-repelling layer. Electro-osmotic damp proofing is another not fully proven alternative whereby an electric charge is applied across a damp wall, the water molecules are drawn to the negative electrode rather than rising through the wall. The electrodes and wires are hidden beneath the mortar and connected to a power unit, which plugs into a standard 13amp socket and the system is earthed.

Temporary solutions Replacing single glazed windows with double glazing and insulated frames, or thermally broken frames, will help around the window area (although if your property is listed or protected you wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be permitted to replace single glazing). This will eliminate condensation on your windows but may transfer the moisture to the walls or clothing and leather items instead. Dehumidifiers can reduce the humidity in a room by collecting condensation in the air but again does nothing to get to the root of the problem. Special mould paints are available and can temporarily help too.

guttering and signs of cracks in brickwork, renders and plinths, and for leaks which often occur at joints (grouting, washers, etc.) and lead to tide marks. When a chimney is not in use and closed off from the bottom, rainfall can no longer be dried by the updraught coming from the fireplace. This is more of a problem with old chimneys which have no horizontal damp tray. The first signs of damp are often a yellow brown watermark on the wall of an upstairs room where the chimney breast is; this is the sulphur deposit from the inside of the chimney face leaching through the brickwork to the plaster. To prevent this and keep the wall dry, you can fit a ventilator towards the top of the original fireplace opening and a bird and rain proof cowl at the top. If a chimney has damaged internal brickwork and failed mortar lining, it can be re-lined to enable use.

Penetrating Damp

Any damp which comes through the outer walls or roof. The main causes of it are poor fitting or broken elements attached to the exterior of the house. Victorian red brick was particularly susceptible because of its permeability, which means that driving rain tended to penetrate it, causing moisture ingress creating damp patches where there was poor insulation, heating and ventilation. Repairing the source of water is generally accepted as the main solution, so check for broken AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 1 0 1


Damp busters James McIntyre’s solution to mould and mildew was a whole house mechanical ventilation system with heat recovery.

When and how was your home built?

Our bungalow was built with blockwork in 1985 to the insulation and ventilation requirements of the time, approved by Building Control. The house was built on a sheltered site. We carried out minor renovations in 2012 including increasing attic insulation levels, making the home even more airtight. We considered a mechanical ventilation system but the cost seemed too high at the time. Shortly afterwards, condensation and mould started appearing on the outside walls and ceiling of the main bedroom; regular redecorating ensued. 1 0 2 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

What led you to install a mechanical ventilation system?

The condensation and mould problems escalated and started to affect curtains, window blinds, bed clothes in contact with outside walls, and led to damage to clothes in the wardrobe. The mould was ruining our bedroom and repeated cleaning and decorating was not addressing the source of the problem. The only viable solution was to stop the problem at source by addressing air quality and moisture content problems. We regularly had to repaint the worst affected ceiling and walls. So in October 2017, we decided to fit a mechanical ventilation with

‘The only viable solution was to stop the problem at source by addressing air quality and moisture content problems.’


heat recovery (MVHR) system which was subsequently installed in November 2017.

How long did it take and cost?

The system was installed in only two days and cost £5,200 including VAT. I was impressed with the professionalism of the installers and how quickly it was done.

How did the installation go?

It was easy to install the ducting in the roof space as I live in a bungalow. The only issues we came across was getting the 225mm diameter cores for the inlet and outlet ducts drilled into the gable wall, this turned out to be a messy and it cost £120 + VAT (not included in the cost of the installation). We also had to re-use and adapt the existing extractor fan in the bathroom ceiling because the heat recovery vents we were using were not large enough to cover the holes for mounting the existing extractor fan.

Was there much redecorating after? The bedroom was redecorated in February 2018. The ceiling was coated with mouldresistant primer before being painted with emulsion. We stripped the wallpaper and replaced it. We also had to purchase a new carpet, new curtains, new vertical louvre blinds and a new bed, all of which cost about another £6,000 or so. We also had to deep clean the sliding wardrobe and installed an air supply duct inside to circulate fresh air around the wardrobe to stop our clothes being ruined by mould.

cured. Even when we had the snow and bitter frosts (the ultimate test!), there was no condensation on the inside of the bedroom window in the morning. I also notice that there is generally a better atmosphere in the house, there is much less condensation in the bathroom when having a shower and cooking odours in the kitchen dissipate much more quickly. I kept a record of the MVHR system’s performance over a period of five months. The highest humidity level was recorded in December, at 57 per cent, and the lowest in February 2018 at 44 per cent; the optimal humidity level for a house is between 45 and 65 per cent. Temperatures are recorded in degrees Celsius; the results are below.

Have you seen an increase in electricity costs as a result of the ventilation system?

Yes. My best estimate is around £2 per week. Bear in mind that the system has a circulation fan going 24/7. Considering the fact that gutting the bedroom cost more than the MVHR system, £2 per week is not a bad price to pay to have a mould-free bedroom.

Are you happy with the system?

Yes. Fortunately, we haven’t seen the return of the wee black spots on the ceiling. As we have got over the worst of the winter weather I can safely say the problem is 17h










Fresh air temperature entering habitable rooms






Average indoor air temperatures from wet rooms






Outside air temperature






Relative humidity (per cent)






Indoor air temperature






Fan speed (from 1 to 3)






MVHR system supplied by Homecare Systems, homecaresystems.biz AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 1 0 3


Kitchen garden harvest tips Autumn is the time of the great reward – the harvest – after having toiled all spring and summer in the kitchen garden, veg patch or allotment fending off frost, drought, torrents of rain, scorching heat, sap sucking aphids, leaf munching slugs and caterpillars and even pesky pigeons plucking away at seedlings and maturing crops. Words: Fiann Ó Nualláin


ummer is over and has done its job, the garden is bounteous with fruit and veg and lovely herbs. And, just as there was a knack to growing and caring for each crop there is a skill to gathering the loot without damaging the plant, reducing its taste or storage capacity. Personally I harvest to cook, so in most cases I lift my veg as the water boils on the stove, for minimal nutrient loss and no storage wastage (be that space or spoils). But even for the take-as-you-go gardener there comes a time when you will have to lift more than you can eat – before they go to seed, become too hard or too bitter, or because winter will do them in. Storage is an eventual necessity to all Grow It Yourself efforts so be it a staggered harvest or a single event, how you take and store each crop is the true success or failure of all your growing efforts.

Harvesting salad ingredients

Cutting herbs is one of those pleasant opportunities to get aroma on your hands and wafting in the air. You can clip them any time they are in active growth but there are some tricks to consider. Herbs in the leafy annuals category such as basil, coriander and dill should be collected by pinching out or clipping the leaves from the tips of the stems. Do this close to the next below leaf-pair so as not to leave a stub that will die back and potentially slow regrowth. This method actually helps plants to bulk up and bush out. Even though parsley is a biennial, it is harvested as an annual in this same manner or cut as a bundle. Those slightly woody perennial herbs 1 0 4 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

such as rosemary, oregano, tarragon, thyme, sage, etc. are best harvested by taking a full stem or sprig away. Prune out with scissors or secateurs for a clean cut. Perennial favourites such as mint, lemon balm and chives are harvested as and when their leaves form and before they flower. Salad crops tend to become bitter or bolt under heat stress so if you are leaving yours to grow beyond baby leaves or aren’t successional sowing then plant in a shady spot or add a screen above the crop. Leaf lettuce varieties are good to cut 40 days from seeding. They are best harvested in the morning when the leaves are crisper.

You can pick individual leaves or cut from the base an entire plant. Head lettuce and Romaine take a bit longer to mature – on average at 60 to 70 days from seeding but are harvested in the same manner. Edible flowers and garnish herbs can be picked fresh to dress salads and other dishes. Some tomato varieties self -shed or drop when ripe but most simply evolve into a ‘ripeness colour’ as there are so many shades available today from yellow to orange, orange-red to scarlet or bull’s blood red and even near black, keep the packet or label handy. In general we harvest tomatoes when firm and full colour


and pick as required. Snip with scissors or pinch out by hand.

Harvesting beans and peas

They come in many types and varieties within each. Both bush and pole varieties of snap beans, such as string or runner beans, like repeat pickings to keep them productive and repeatedly producing more pods so there is no ideal time to mass harvest but rather as you require over the duration of the plant’s productivity. We tend to favour sweeter beans and so pick at an immature stage before the seeds bulge – that’s generally when the pods are pencil thick. The tips should be pliable and the pod should be firm and snap crisply when you break one in half; the seeds inside will be small (underdeveloped) but full of flavour. The best way to pick is to carefully hold the stem with one hand and with the other pinch off or snip away the pod – this way we avoid damaging stems and branching systems that will produce more flowers and pods. Snap peas and snow peas can be pinched or snipped as required and the pod is eaten whole. Garden peas, the ones we shell, are generally ready to harvest around three weeks after their flowers first appear and if you successional harvest, they will continue to produce into late autumn or first frosts. For maximum flavour pick plump pods that are just starting to be bumpy rather than fully bulging. Firm crisp pods also store longer. I rather fresh from

the plant as stored pea sugars can become starchy very quickly. Pinch or snip because plucking can damage the plant and even partially uproot some of the shallower rooting varieties. Sometimes you can’t keep up with the conveyer belt of pea productivity and you can miss some – so dried or shrivelled pods are past their taste prime but could potentially can make next year’s seed. Bush and pole varieties of shell beans from Fava to Lima are ones where we want a swollen seed bean inside the pod to be shelled out. The tradition is to harvest pods on the cusp of full maturity, when the beans inside are fully formed but not yet dried out. The indicator of this stage is when pods change colour. Pick while still plump and tender and you get a bean not a seed. You can harvest every couple of days over the season to keep the plant in productive mode. Pinch or snip away pods. 


Preserving herbs For the woody-stemmed herbs such as oregano, thyme, rosemary and lavender it is as simple as cutting off a few long stems, making a bundle with some string or elastic band and hanging them up to dry in an airy room. Place them inside a paper bag before hanging to hold the aromatic oils inside the plant and to make for a more flavorful dried herb. The process usually takes two to three weeks. Mint and other soft stemmed herbs tend to wilt once cut so a drying rack in full sun is the traditional way but today many opt for a food dehydrator or oven drying (it’s less weather dependent!). Freezing herbs is a popular

method and it works brilliantly

for all herb types but especially well with soft stems such as mint, basil, parsley – and many argue that freezing retains more flavour than drying. The simplest option is to gather and wash the herb and place it in an ice cube with water and freeze solid. You can pop them out a cube at a time to throw into your soups, stews, stir fries, etc. Or you could coat the herbs in a little olive oil and store in freezer bags. Finally you can make herb pastes to freeze – simple blitz up the herb in a food processor with some culinary oil of choice and decant into ice cube trays to freeze, pop out of the tray once done and seal in airlock bags in the freezer.


The curing process Potatoes will vary not just in size and shape but in the thickness of their skins. If you are harvesting to cook then there is no issue but if you are harvesting to store then choose the thicker skinned variety. Potatoes can lose moisture through their skins and either begin to shrivel or become starchy with time. One way of slowing or halting this process is to cure the skin – which is basically to let it dry and thicken over a seven to 10 day period between lift and storage. This was traditionally done by forking potatoes up and leaving them on the soil surface for a week. Today wire racks and outside shelving can be used or a tented membrane to prevent rain slowing the cure. Squashes and pumpkins are often cured before storage and thereafter can last for up to three months. With root vegetables such as carrots, beetroot, parsnips and potatoes, the old method was to ‘clamp’ – to bury in an earthen mound outside in the garden or to cure for a few days and then store in sand boxes in the larder but they do fine in hessian sacks or veg storage crates. A cured root crop will seal the moisture inside and retain flavour as well as store better for being dry on the surface. The other key here is to remove the leafy tops which are prone to degrade quickly and to clean off the excess soil to remove potential pathogens but do not scrub – you will wash later before cooking. These guys like to be stored in the dark, potatoes in particular as they form toxic agents in the light that makes them inedible, detected by any greening of the skin.

AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 1 0 5


Within the group known as dried beans – that’s navy, pinto, etc. – be it pole or bush, we let the pod mature a bit longer, as we want the bean inside to become more seed like, hardened and dry. That captures flavour fully and also stores longer. Our optimum picking time is when the pod becomes a case and the seeds rattle inside but just before it splits and starts to shed the seed. Some years the weather is a touch too damp to allow complete drying on the vine so we harvest to hang upside down indoors for a couple of days and shell as the cracks appear.

Harvesting brassicas

All cabbages, spring, summer, winter or otherwise labelled, are ready to be harvested once the head is full and firm. For early season cabbages the best practice is to cut the stalk at the base of the head using a sharp knife as this helps the base heal quickly and leaves the potential to form new small heads that can be harvested later as mini-cabbages. With later season cabbages pull out the whole plant and discard roots and a few outer leaves before storing. An old tradition is to harvest cabbages early in the morning, when the heads are cool and plant sugars are stable. Kale can be harvested once the foliage gets to about hand height, you can cut off at the base for an entire plant or you can pick away individual leaves. Begin with the lower, outermost leaves and work inward toward the center of the plant. Don’t pick clean, instead leave a few central leaves to encourage regrowth and you can harvest again from that plant in no time

1 0 6 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

at all. Kale is one of those vegetables that become sweeter after a touch of frost. Broccoli is essentially a bud harvested before it opens into flower. Make sure it is firmly compacted and showing deep green or defined purple in the case of purple sprouting varieties. Any flash of yellow indicates the emerging petals of the opening flower and that it’s about to go beyond its best. You can cut the stems around 10-15 cm below the bud, traditionally at a slant to encourage more side-shoots to form in the axils of leaves for an additional crop several weeks later. There are several tricks with Brussels Sprouts; they are best picked off from the base up as that’s the sequence of ripening. Pick while still firm. If you take the sprout but leave the foliage you keep the plant photosynthesising and so productive for longer. Some growers like to pinch out the top of the plant which encourages the formation of larger sprouts. Cauliflower varieties are best taken when heads are firm and before their curds (centres) begin to separate or turn yellow. A trick to delay splitting and yellowing is to take the outer leaves and fold them over the head, preferably when the heads are at 3-5cm in diameter. Leave space for the head to keep developing then tie with some garden string to keep in place. Wait two to three weeks to harvest. Cut the stem clean with a sharp knife. Cauliflowers are best harvested in staggered successions as they don’t store all that well. 


Harvesting root crops

Root crops are often left in the ground to the last minute as many reach peak aroma or sweetness as frosts approach. You may be plucking or prizing up as you go – and that’s kind of a requirement for potatoes and the underground tubers – but the later crops should yield the most flavour. The best indicator of a ready root crop is mathematical: either a set count of days after planting or flowering, or a measurement of the diameter of its crown. Not as complicated as it seems. I like carrots and beetroots at any size but some traditional growers would say a carrot is best taken at 2.5- 3cm and a beetroot at 3-5cm. All growers agree parsnips yield their best flavour after a frost; they also keep longer in the ground than on a shelf or in a basket. All roots are best gently prized up with a fork – preferably on a still dry day as their flavour molecules will not waft on the air and alert their natural pests and predators to their location. Turnips and swedes come in all sizes and seasons so best to follow the packet instructions and consult your calendar as to when you planted – in general early types can come up after about five weeks while main crop are best harvested after six to 10 weeks. Garlic and onions tell you they are ready by browning their foliage. The standard guide is to lift when 75 per cent of the foliage is brown and leave to dry (‘cure’) for a few days to a week. There are overwintering varieties that remain in the ground until spring. Leeks are improved with frost and many grow them as an overwintering crop to harvest when the chilly day calls for some potato and leek soup.

Harvesting fruit

By autumn, soft fruit will already have been harvested but hard fruit such as apples and pears are just coming into their own right now. Apples are not plucked from apple trees rather they are cupped in the palm of your hand and lifted with a gentle twist off of their fruiting spur. Different varieties mature at different times of the year, many will self-shed or ‘windfall’. If it happens in June consider it a removal of excess fruit to allow the remainder to bulk up, if it happens in September reach for the ladder before the whole crop is on the ground. A sure fire way to know if your apple crop is ready for the picking is to slice one and if the seeds are light coloured it has time yet but if the seeds are dark brown it’s time to take them down. Pears are often picked in advance of 1 0 8 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8


Storing fruit and veg A harvest larder can consist of a garden shed or part thereof, of a freestanding shelving unit in the spare room or it could be a purpose-built storage unit in the kitchen or utility room. In one way it may just depend on the quantities you are growing and harvesting and on the other hand it’s simply down to personal preference. Whatever the location, success lies in the right conditions. The key is vigilance, firstly in choosing unblemished specimens to store – bruised or damaged ones are already commencing to rot, they are best consumed within the coming days, divested of the damage and if still sufficient and edible, frozen or preserved. Otherwise discard in the compost heap. You should be checking your stock regularly and remove any specimen showing signs of damage or decomposition: one bad apple does spoil the barrel. Next is the aspect of the storage space. It is essential that it be dry and wellventilated as most disease or spoiling occurs when the air is moist and stuffy. The colder it is the slower the food will take to dry out,

and the longer it will take to shrivel up or decline in its qualities. It can be as simple as turning the radiator off in the spare room and leaving the window ajar or it may mean selecting the cupboard to stand in the utility room to be against the cooler wall that backs to the outside of your home. With hard fruit such as apples, pears and quinces, I like to lay them in flat single layers with space between each, you can wrap each fruit in newspaper to preserve longer. Berries and currants are best dried, made into jam or frozen. With tomatoes they are best stored at room temperature, refrigeration

full ripeness – matured but still hard – and allowed to soften and ripen indoors. They don’t last very long when ripe. Most pears slightly lighten in colour before optimum harvest but if you don’t notice the change then those that easily come away with a lift and slight twist are perfect. When it comes to pumpkins and squashes we don’t always have the weather for their curing requirements which are best delivered by 24 to 27 degC for 10 to 12 days so a spell inside in a dry, well-ventilated area will do the trick.

causes a decline in both flavour and texture. Leafy crops such as spinach and kale and also lettuce and other salad leaves do not store well and are best eaten within a few days of harvesting, or frozen. Cabbages will store well enough if the heads are firm and singly spaced. Courgettes and marrows tend to go over quickly and often have but a two to three week lifespan if refrigerated. Pickling, preserving (chutneys, etc.) and freezing are options. Peas and beans can either be dried for storage, or blanched in hot water and frozen.

087 2538471 info@trusteesafes.com www.trusteesafes.com

We are a family business involved in the supply and installation of safes, strongrooms, time locks and pneumatic cash transfer systems We have been in this business over 40 years and cover the entire country. We offer clients a free advisory service on the most suitable safe for their needs. Confidentiality is of the utmost importance in our business and to that end all installations are carried out by our family members at all times.

We supply the complete range of Chubb, Dudley, S.M.P. and Rosengrens Euro Graded and certified safes in all sizes and strengths. We are available anytime for advice.

U VALUE Spray Foam Insulation

“The new generation of insulation”

Air flow created with vent card


No need to worry about freezing pipes anymore. Just insulate with spray foam and get complete “Air tightness”. Save your money on heating “Bills”. Trap your Heat In with spray foam “No More Heat Loss” live in comfort. If you stop a Draught you stop Heat Loss.

Cold bridging prevented with full coverage

Your Local Insulator KEEP WARM THIS WINTER The only way to be sure is to use “Spray Foam”

Give us a call for a free quote on 086 8690234


Open up to pocket doors Doors that slide into your walls are a sleek alternative to hinged doors. Here’s what to consider if you put one in your home. Words: John Flood


ocket, sliding or hidden doors are a design feature growing in popularity in large open plan areas (kitchen, dining and living in the same room). This is because when the doors are closed they act as a dividing wall, making the entire space more flexible as the living room can readily be closed off from the dining and kitchen activities, for example. The larger the pocket door system is, the more it feels like a moveable wall. The other most useful place to use sliding doors is in confined areas, say a wc, a wardrobe or a larder/pantry. It’s a fabulous space saving solution that adds a touch of glamour. However sliding doors don’t really

‘In terms of installation for a single sized door you could get away with installing the kit yourself but for larger door openings get a professional.’ work under stairs as the track would be too low – opening doors or pull out drawers work better there. Most systems are top hung as bottom rails quickly turn into dirt catchers and present a trip hazard. Hanging the door from the top also means you don’t see a track on the floor, instead it’s entirely hidden in the wall with no door heading.  1 1 0 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8


Design by DMVF Architects, Photography by Ros Kavanagh

Design by DMVF Architects, Photography by Paul Tierney

AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 1 1 1


That said if you choose a regular door handle to slide the door open and shut, then this will be your stopping point and the door will protrude slightly from the wall. That’s why more common is a fingertip closer which consists of a metal plate on each face of the door. Encased in a standard (timber or metal) stud wall, the mechanism is straightforward: a metal formwork with a rail. The cost is also reasonable, with the sliding mechanism for a standard sized door in the region of €100/£90. Doors off the shelf can cost anywhere from €20/£18 to €200/£180, or you could repurpose a door you already have. Wherever possible choose an extractable track as this will prevent you from having to damage or demolish the wall to access the rail for maintenance, replacement or upgrade. The weight of the door is what determines the kind of track to choose. The heavier the door, so say glass, the more robust the sliding mechanism needs to be. You also need the door to be sized correctly so it can slot into the wall fully – it needs to be smaller than the formwork. Check the sliding door kit for dimensions. For large openings, upwards of 3m in length, which require a bespoke solution for both mechanism and door, you’re looking at the starting cost of the track at roughly €400 to €500, or about £450, and the cost of the door €2,5000 to €3,000 or in the region of £2,500. For a large open plan area you can budget approximately €5,000 / £4,500 for a high quality moveable wall which will incorporate multiple doors. Soft close mechanisms are now standard, this prevents heavy doors from closing too fast. The way it works is for the track to stop the door before it reaches the wall to


In an existing house

Make the Home You Love by Fiona McPhilips with Colm Doyle, Lisa McVeigh and John Flood, published by O’Brien Press, ISBN, obrien.ie, makethehomeyoulove.com, dmvf.ie, €24.99 / £20

prevent slamming, especially useful if there are tiles or objects hung on either side. Brush seals are often incorporated at the wall to prevent you seeing the mechanism inside. In terms of installation for a single sized door you could get away with installing the kit yourself but for larger door openings you really should get a professional to do the job. If it’s in any way off level, it won’t slide properly. In all cases, spend as much as you can on the track as this will have a direct impact on how smoothly the door will slide. Higher end brands will also provide a complete system, including finishing timber work, brushes and rubber, which will make installation easier. Additional information: Elina Sailere of pocketdoors.ie

Adding a pocket door to an existing wall can get complicated; if there are electrical or plumbing services running through them you could be looking at considerable expense moving them, or if the wall is made of a solid material like brick then it won’t be possible to do. This is why in many cases, a new stud partition wall is built to by DMVF Architects, house Design the pocket door but Photography by Paul Tierney this can have implications for the rest of the room including architraves, etc.


Barn door A variant of the pocket door is the sliding barn door which displays the rail to which the door is attached (it’s not hidden in the wall). This is a more straightforward mechanism with greater DIY appeal. But do bear in mind it tends to have a particular rustic look.

Sliding door in a small openings


1 1 2 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8



Designs by DMVF Architects






Work away from work With modern technology to the forefront of our lives, and the resulting increase in people working from home, an office space has become a standard brief for interior designers. Words: Jackie Carton


iven the increasing number of hours spent at the desk, it’s worth considering the optimal way to incorporate this space into your home. There are two types, those incorporated into existing rooms and if you’re lucky and have enough room, dedicated home offices. Here are some tips on how to get whatever space you have work for maximum productivity. When space is tight, you may have no choice but to incorporate the home office in the bedroom. In this photograph a simple inexpensive desk was added at the foot of the bed, creating an instant study zone facing away from the night time activities. Positioning is important and near a window is ideal for natural light with its myriad of benefits. Drawers are useful for keeping pens/paper to hand and a desk lamp ideal for task lighting at evening time. Incorporating the same colour scheme as the rest of the bedroom helps unify the space.  A dedicated office space provides a separate zone to work in, which can be closed off when not in use. The average 

‘Positioning is important and near a window is ideal for natural light with its myriad of benefits.’ 1 1 4 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

Dekoscreed, Seamless Resin Floors, our floors are always a combined design project with our clients, architects and interior designers with attention to interior, environment, safety and design. Your vision our vision united, connected spaces for a better living, making your dreams and ideas a reality.



021 4700291


box room is a great size for an office and if necessary a pull out sofa bed can permit occasional use as a guest room.  Flat pack stores have a great range of affordable office furniture, as pictured in this home office (right). Clutter is the enemy of productive work so invest in shelving/storage boxes to keep unused items out of sight. To elevate the look of this space, designer touches like the bookworm bookshelf add instant appeal. A stylish mid century style office chair provides support and mobility.

3D example

Should the budget permit, a complete home office design can facilitate working from home full time. This example was carved out of a larger room created as an extension to the original house. Intended to function as a space for the family’s teenage children, it was actually too large to suit their needs. Meanwhile the existing home office incorporated the dining table, which definitely wasn’t conducive to working from home. I therefore designed a layout that divided the large teenage room with

a feature curved wall. 3D visuals helped to decide the final layout. The far side was turned into a much needed home office featuring bespoke cabinets and two desks with painted finish and contrasting walnut desktops.                               A large desk projects into the space, providing garden views for moments of contemplation. Its rounded side prevents bumping into the desk whilst echoing the smooth curved wall. The custom built storage units house all the files, paperwork, printers and so on. Textured wallpaper adds softness and warmth, while the colour scheme with green accents is crisp and fresh and conducive to long spells at the desk. So many gadgets are now charged via USB that I advise using wall sockets that include USB ports, thus reducing the amount of sockets needed overall.  1 1 6 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

COLOUR The most productive colours are thought to be blue and green as they are meant to increase efficiency and focus. To spark productivity, more active colours like red, orange and yellow are good in small doses to inject vibrancy and creativity. Stimulation comes by way of the depth and intensity of colour, mellow hues will soothe.

Visit us at

Stand E2Liv7e at Selfbuild Dublin 2018 for more info

EQC will feature their Seamlock metal standing seam system for roof and wall cladding which provides an original and modern roofline for any property and suitable for low pitch or curved roofs.

EQC are proud to be ColorcoatÂŽ by supply chain partner in Ireland to offer technical guidance, quick availability and high levels of quality and service.

EQC is at the heart of architecturally designed residential, multi housing and commercial sectors offering solutions for metal roof & wall cladding systems. Euro Quality Cladding Limited, Monread Industrial Estate, Naas, Co. Kildare, W91 T924 T: +353 (0) 45 981100 E: info@ecq.ie W: www.eqc.ie

B A S I C S / M E TA L R O O F I N G


Metal roofing Metal roofs have become much more popular over the last decade; here’s an overview of what they’re about. Words: Andrew Stanway


ost people’s ideas of a metal roof date back to the corrugated, galvanised steel so widely found on commercial, industrial and agricultural buildings of the past. But things have come on a long way over the past twenty years and metal roofing materials that were once to be found only on commercial buildings now grace some modern homes. This said, corrugated sheet roofing is still popular in Australia, where it has

1 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

a cultural significance that persists even in some newly-constructed buildings. As with any building material, the way it is installed, the way it performs and how it is used will vary according to design and the actual material itself. When thinking about metal roofing alternatives seek the advice of a good supplier/installer


� Lasts a long time: Properly installed, a metal roof should last the lifetime of your home.

Cost From cheapest to most expensive: traditional standingseam steel; natural zinc; aluminium; pre-weathered zinc; copper. Simple runs of flat areas shouldn’t break the bank. It’s the extra work, expertise and materials involved with gutters/gullies/ verges/eaves details and so on that significantly add to the cost.

� Sheds water, snow and dirt well: Because a metal roof is smooth it lets anything that lands on it slide off easily, compared with traditional roofing materials that retain water, snow and dirt which, in the long term, cause deterioration and in the short term require cleaning. � Can be coloured: Although most metal roofs are grey in colour, it is possible to have them made in almost any colour. Certain metallic roofing materials such as copper have their own distinctive colour. � Fast to install: Because most metal roofing comes as sheets or

M E TA L R O O F I N G / B A S I C S

panels it can be installed by skilled professionals very fast. This can be a real bonus if you’re working with short weather windows. � Looks modern: Although some people feel any type of metal roof on a domestic building looks too ‘industrial’, and indeed for many architectural styles it would be entirely wrong, for the builder of anything contemporary in style it can literally be the crowning glory of the entire project. � Lightweight: At first you may not think this matters much but, in reality, because metal roofs are so light, the underlying structures required to hold them up can be less sturdy, and thus less bulky and expensive. Most steel and aluminium profiles are selfsupporting. A metal roof structure weighs only a small fraction of a concrete-tiled one. Because of this lightness metal roofs can be installed over existing roofs and can save the day on very old structures that couldn’t take a heavier roof. In spite of this light weight, metal roofs provide less wind resistance than standard roofs. � Conducts heat: Because metal (especially when of a pale colour) reflects radiant heat from the sun, a metal roof minimises heat gain. This, coupled with adequate insulation beneath it, means that metal roofing can be cool on hot days. � Minimal roof pitch: It’s easy to forget that the greater your roof pitch, the more its area increases. This usually means that substantial pitches bring substantial bills. Because metal roofing is so ‘slippery’ it can be laid on very shallow-pitched roofs. This, later on, can also mean that servicing the roof (see below) can be possible without the use of expensive access systems. This low pitch advantage also means that mono-pitch and even very-nearly-flat roofs can be designed with complete confidence.


� Noise: Although some people like the ‘homely’ sound of rain on their metal roof, it can be annoying to others. This can be overcome by installing plenty of insulation (for heat) which doubles as sound deadening. Such roofs have to be installed on a timber

deck, so this can be thickened and sound-deadened underneath if necessary (e.g. live in an area where hailstones are a common problem). Metal roofing panels that have insulation already attached provide very good sound insulation. � Denting: It’s impossible to deny that metal roofing of all kinds is pretty fragile and susceptible to denting. It is vital to walk only on the seams of a standing-seam metal roof, though you can put your weight on thick, rigid, kneeling pads placed between the seams, for servicing work. Large hailstones can dent metal roofing permanently. Aluminium and copper are exceptionally fragile. � Needs careful installation: In my opinion, metal roofing is best done by professionals who do it all the time. It’s easy to graze the paintwork or dent the panels unless you are very careful. � Expansion and contraction: Metals are subject to heat in ways other roofing materials are not. Most metal roofing has fastening systems that accommodate such thermal movement. But even so, expansion and contraction can produce problems at edges and verges. These are not often serious if the original design and installation were good. � House fires: Although a metal roof will keep fires that are outside from attacking the building, a fire inside can be more difficult to put out should the fire services need to break into the roof.


Metal roofs are usually made of thin (less than 1mm) steel, formed into large sheets, pans or panels that fit together at seams that stand up from the flat roof itself. These are the so-called ‘standing seams’. They make the whole structure waterproof. Some such roofing comes attached to built-in insulation, so whole areas can be installed as large panels, making it a very fast process. The steel is coated to prevent rust, then sealed. This is all done by the manufacturer. Other metals used include copper, aluminium, zinc alloys, lead, tin and even stainless steel. Aluminium is very light and won’t rust but must be coated, by the manufacturer, for appearance.

Lightning Some people fear that their home will be subject to more lighting strikes if they have a steel roof. There is no evidence that this is true.

It dents and mars easily and some environmentally-conscious people are concerned that this precious metal shouldn’t be used for roofing at all. Copper is, like aluminium, very soft but has a pleasing appeal as it ages and gets covered with green copper oxides. It’s possible to obtain ‘pre-patinated’ copper roofing materials that have this pleasant green colour from Day One. Lead is rarely used, except on renovation and restoration projects and is, of course, very heavy indeed compared with other metal roofing materials. This expensive metal calls for highly-skilled installers but is extremely robust and can last for hundreds of years. If you’re thinking of a metal roof, start by discussing it with your designer. S/he may steer you towards a specialist company that can talk you through the prices and other practicalities. Such a professional will also help you decide about how, or if, to include similar materials on your vertical wall surfaces, such as cladding. This can look stunning but, again, is an expensive option. Finally if sustainability matters to you, bear in mind that a lot of metal roofing contains a high proportion of recycled material.

‘Because metal roofs are so light, the underlying structures required to hold them up can be less sturdy, and thus less bulky and expensive...’

AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 1 1 9


Contemporary catalysts Some interior design inspiration from contemporary Irish design heroes Aiveen Daly, Orla Kiely, Philip Treacy and David Collins. Words: Marion McGarry


ork born Aiveen Daly attended Trinity College, Dublin before moving to the UK where she later studied traditional upholstery techniques at the London College of Furniture. There she built up a reputation for her unique approach in connecting this traditional craft with the vibrant world of fashion through luxe interiors. Much of Daly’s work is anthropomorphic; her pieces have great character and presence and are highly original in their mimicking aspects of haute couture. She draws inspiration from the work of Fendi, Gucci, Alexander McQueen and Givenchy, seeking out the finer details of their work to inspire hers: the intricacies of jewellery, shoes and handbag detailing, but recreated in practical terms for furniture. Her famous corseted Spank Stiletto chair has ‘super skinny’ glossy black legs. Similarly, the Chevron chair has details like an evening gown featuring metallics stitched in geometric overlays, pictured top right. The Love Love sofa below is pink

1 2 0 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

and playful, with prominent button details, while her Arabian Nights Bed pictured below is a luxurious four poster bejewelled bed with hundreds of tiny pearls and silver studs, in deep navy satin. Known for craftsmanship and fabric manipulation in her pieces, Daly’s work is also characterised by beading, pleating, embroidery and leather crafts, all done by hand. The pieces are meticulously crafted with that same couture finish. Some are made of opulent fabrics specially dyed or woven, or hand-dyed feathers. The Aiveen Daly workshop in London is supplemented by a team of highly experienced makers, who can spend months on a single project. Most of the work is made to order and involves hours of labour, sumptuous materials and painstaking attention to detail. In recent years Daly has worked with major interior designers, on luxury hotels including the Langham Hong Kong, Mandarin Oriental and the Corinthia London. As her work evolves, it has become more architectural and includes

All images on this page courtesy of Aiveen Daly © 2018

The queen of upholstery

designs for doors, silk headboards and wall panels alongside metal work, polished show wood and other materials. Although Daly’s bespoke pieces for luxury hotels, ‘super-yachts’ and private homes may be aimed at the wealthy, she has recently launched an online store that makes one-off pieces of her designs more accessible to the public.


In print and beyond

Orla Kiely is known chiefly for her bold print designs, especially her patterned handbags which have made her name internationally famous. A multi-faceted designer of homewares, fashion and even furniture, she’s also a successful businesswoman. Kiely studied textile design at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin and later moved to London to pursue a Master’s degree at the Royal College of Art. Early in her career she designed for companies like Esprit and Marks and Spencer, and then began producing canvas bags and hats printed onto cotton fabric in distinctive simple designs inspired by the rather kitschy aesthetic of the midtwentieth century. She eventually started to print onto more durable laminated cloth which at the time was more associated with domestic © Heal’s

homewares such as tablecloths. Her famous ‘Stem’ print was born at this time: a simple rounded leaf shape in sets of six arranged symmetrically along a central stemlike vertical line. The beauty of this pattern was that it easily lent itself to colour combinations, interchangeable or monochromatic, allowing it to be seasonally adapted. Variations of the pattern have included tulips, dandelions and watermelons all using bold, bright colours. The Stem appeared on bags, tablecloths, wallpaper, cushions, mugs, duvet covers, curtains, phone cases and even London buses. It has become synonymous with the Orla Kiely brand. Despite this firm focus on print, Kiely has developed a fashion range, again influenced by the mid-century look (prominent clients include the Duchess of Cambridge). Over the years, Kiely produced many branded products including the range of furniture bearing her name for UK retailer Heal’s. The Lusk sofa picture above from an early collection has dark wood raised tapered legs, set off by the brightly coloured upholstery. It’s surprisingly comfortable and shows that Kiely’s skill as a designer is multi-faceted and branching out. 


House style To get this contemporary Irish designer look in your home, the trick is to recognise the role of luxury without tipping into vulgarity and using fun elements so that the design doesn’t take itself too seriously. Here are some specific pointers:


Don’t be afraid of bold colours. Treacy’s g Hotel and Daly’s Love Love sofa use bright pinks. Orla Kiely is fond of blocks of single colours which complement and contrast. One of Collins’ most iconic interiors, the Blue Bar, had a strong colour theme using blue accented with dark orange-reds. Do not be afraid to be bold but check with a colour wheel first to see if your chosen schemes work. If you are not sure you could confine your colour statement to one feature wall on which you have a block of colour, texture or pattern which is then referenced in the rest of the room. Choose polished surfaces. In Collins’ and Treacy’s interiors there is a great emphasis on shiny surfaces such as mirrors, glass and polished stone, used not only to reflect light but also to create dramatic dark spaces. In your home, be sure to balance these with texture such as rugs or tactile upholsteries, otherwise they may be perceived as cold and noisy.


Let lighting be your friend. Use strong lighting features to form focal points: chandeliers, statement lamps, cascading lighting features. Choose lighting with polished materials such as chrome, mirror and glass.


Tactile surfaces. Many of the designs featured here invite the visitor to reach out and touch. Materials such as velvet and satin, plush carpets and soft furnishings entice you to interact with them and in doing so help create a sensual atmosphere.



Creature comforts. Don’t be seduced into buying furniture that just looks good, make sure it is comfortable. Although the emphasis is on looks, the interiors and furniture must be welcoming and relaxing.


Unleash your inner eccentric. Accessorise with unusual and fun things: use feathers, velvet, mid-century patterns, unusual but stylish flower arrangements, these can make your interior witty and fun, and not take itself too seriously.


Accessorise. Most of us who are on a budget will be unable or will not want to recreate the expensive luxurious interiors in their entirety, but we can reference our Irish design heroes with accessories: a Camilla mirror or a Stem print cushion for example.


Develop your own style. All the designers here have made their careers from getting noticed and setting trends with their own inimitable look. You do not need to follow fashion for your interior and can instead develop your own style but it helps to know what’s on trend to be able to go with or against it. Familiarise yourself with what’s out there by browsing as many retail stores as you can and make a note of what’s similar. Notice ‘microtrends’ that come and go from stores quickly. Familiarise yourself with design history; there is a free permanent exhibit on Eileen Gray’s work at the National Museum of Ireland (Decorative Arts) at Collins Barracks, Dublin, for example. As you do this you can get a feel for what you like, not just current trends, and by embracing this you can create a design for your own home that will turn into your own personal timeless classic.

AU T U M N 2 0 1 8 / S E L F B U I L D / 1 2 1


Perhaps the least well-known of our contemporary design heroes is the late Dublin born David Collins. Having studied architecture at Bolton Street he moved to London at the height of the 1980s recession, and in 1985 began work on interior design projects and later established David Collins Studio. Although he is associated with the design of bars, restaurant and hotel interiors, he also became known for domestic interiors for wealthy clients and was later involved with retail fit-outs. His notable, well-appointed yet cool restaurant interiors in London include Mirabelle (Marco Pierre White), Claridge’s Bar, The Blue Bar, Nobu, The Connaught Bar and Bob Bob Ricard. His design aesthetic was luxury in its many guises and he used extravagant materials such as solid marble and polished surfaces, glass and brass, to convey it. His work is characterised by saturated colour,

David Collins’ Home – Simon Watson All images by permission of David Collins Studio, 2018

The life of the party

The Wolseley – David Loftus

David Collins’ Home – Simon Watson 1 2 2 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

notably shades of blue accented with gold or contrasting vibrant shades. He was also known for varying textures in his interiors to achieve balance and for evoking the glamour of Eileen Gray and Cedric Gibbons with his use of Art Deco, which he sometimes balanced with neoclassical details such as columns. Much of his furniture was evocative of the French Empire style, his plump chairs often featured gondola arms and the designs encouraged the user to recline slightly and make themselves comfortable. Like many designers of Irish origin who work abroad, Collins was not known or celebrated in Ireland during his life as much as he should have been – a rare project in his homeland was Kilkenny’s Langton House Hotel. Sadly, David Collins died in 2013. Today, the studio that still carries his name is as busy as ever with 60 employees working on design projects worldwide. 

â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Let Fernhill be the Corner Stone when Building your Homeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;

NI: 0870 224 7201 / ROI: 1850 839 900 info@fernhillstone.com / www.fernhillstone.com


David Collins’ Home – Simon

Internationally renowned, award winning and enduring, Philip Treacy is another prolific contemporary Irish design hero. A native of rural Galway, he studied fashion in the National College of Art and Design, Dublin before moving to London to obtain his MA at the Royal College of Art. It was here that he followed his passion and started to specialise in millinery, the design of hats, which at the time was considered outdated and confined to ladies ‘of a certain age’. He literally reinvented the hat with his witty, flamboyant and flattering designs that lend poise, status and added colour. People who love fashion and who are profoundly connected to that world appreciate Treacy’s work; among them Lady Gaga, Sarah Jessica Parker and the late Isabella Blow. For a period in the 2000s Treacy began to experiment in furniture design and

Bedroom at the g by permission of the g Hotel and Spa, 2018 Grand Salon by permission of the g Hotel and Spa, 2018; Camilla mirrors on walls

Grand Salon by permission of the g Hotel and Spa, 2018; Camilla mirrors on walls

1 2 4 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

David Collins’ Home – Simon Watson All images by permission of David Collins Studio, 2018

Poise and posture

interiors, these too involved complimenting the user and providing a setting for luxury. His Portrait chair, designed for Habitat in 2004, was conceived to give composure and emphasise posture. In 2005 he became the design director of the five-star g Hotel in Galway, on which he worked alongside Douglas Wallace Architects. Set in a steel and glass building outside the city, Treacy designed an interior which makes a bold, colourful statement. A dark and intimate reception area greets guests, this gives way to a long gallery with a hot pink carpet, which opens onto bright drawing rooms lit by floor to ceiling windows overlooking Lough Atalia. The Grand Salon is in tones of silver and the focal point polished lighting here which seems to tumble from the ceiling is designed by Tom Dixon. There is a mix of historical and contemporary references, with some furniture and accessories reminiscent of eighteenth century France but emboldened by bright Treacy-esque colours. Many features wittily reference Treacy’s famous work in the world of fashion: a silver gilt mirror frame invokes the headdress he designed for Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall for her wedding to Prince Charles. By going against the grain in terms of expectations of what an Irish hotel interior should be, Treacy created a timeless design classic in the g hotel. This design, reflective of his successful career, stands as a shining example to Irish designers everywhere to embrace difference and to be unafraid of colour and ostentation.

WASTE WATER TREATMENT SYSTEMS  Certified to EN 12566-3 & SR66  Systems available from 6PE up to 50PE  Larger system design available on request


 Certified to EN12566-1 &SR66

RAINWATER HARVESTING  Domestic and commercial solutions


   

Slurry Storage  Rain Water Effluent Storage  Clean Water Dairy Washings Reservoirs for farms Fully Slatted Lids with poor water supply

Visit our website to see our NEW installation videos


Drumderry, Bunclody, Co Wexford M: Michael 087 979 8032 E: build@carlowtanks.com

Our Ground Source / Air Source heat pumps are market leaders in the renewble energy field. They provide comfort to homes whilst also being cost efficient and environmentally friendly. These heat pumps paired with underfloor heating make for all round comfort in your home or business. � “Waterfurnace” Water to Water ranging from 6kw to 145kw, “Panasonic” Air to Water from 5 to 72kw � We offer heating and cooling solutions for both domestic and commercial markets,ranging from small apartments to sport complexes, nursing homes and innovative systems for Aquafarms and Dairy Farms � SEAI Approved Contractor for Better Energy Homes Scheme. (ID 10349)

Alternative Heating & Cooling Ltd, Unit 3 IDA Industrial Estate, Baltimore Road, Skibbereen, Co.Cork Tel: 028-23701

Email: info@ahac.ie

Website: www.ahac.ie


Ask the expert You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers. And if we don’t, we’ll find out by scouring our Facebook group, calling help lines and talking to the experts. Q. I’m replacing my boiler with a heat pump but am not installing underfloor heating. Do I need to replace all of the radiators too?

INSIDER VIEW Q. I have a solid fuel stove but I find it’s a lot of work between feeding the fire, emptying the ashes, and dusting around the house. What are my alternatives? A. If your house is well insulated, you could consider replacing your entire heating system with a heat pump which is eligible for a grant in ROI (see seai.ie). Another very popular renewable heating system is the wood pellet stove which is self-cleaning and can heat your radiators or underfloor heating along with providing hot water. They are self-igniting, either manually or set with a timer, and have a real flame which gives you the feel of having an open fire without the hassle of having one. There is also an app you can download on your smartphone to control your wood pellet stove when you are away from home. The ashes can be used as a fertiliser in your garden or added into your compost heap.

A. There may not be a need to replace

them all, or any, depending on the house. I would advise to keep your radiators and see how they perform with the heat pump. Your existing steel radiators would have probably been oversized for the room they were installed in, which is exactly what you need for a heat pump. The low temperature of the heat pump requires a higher waterflow, so improving the delivery system will help as flow rate effects radiator performance. A 1 kW steel radiator has the same output as a 1 kW aluminium one so it’s a good idea to see if you’re efficiently reaching temperature room by room. Obviously in terms of output versus physical size, the aluminium radiator will outperform steel and is always the best choice, if not the only when upgrading. In many of the projects we work on we keep some steel radiators and replace others with aluminium. Mike Cotter of ahac.ie

Gerry Walsh of energysuperstore.ie

Q. I want to protect my cash, valuables and important documents; are all safes similar in quality? A. Absolutely not, safes are graded in terms of

quality/strength for insurance purposes. Don’t be tempted to purchase a light weight ‘safe’ in a hardware store or online as these merely act as a collection point for valuables – they’re very vulnerable because they are easily removed from the home and make a thief’s job easy. Also know that only certain safes which are properly furnace tested can claim to have proper fire resisting qualities. As with all of your purchases buy from a reputable supplier, we always invite prospective clients to check our credentials through their local Garda station or the PSNI. Tadhg Feeney of trusteesafes.com

1 2 6 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

Burke Interiors Oldchapel, Bandon 023 8852488

Heat pumps � Underfloor � VHR � Pellet Stoves

35 years experience in Bespoke fitted furniture in both domestic and commercial market. We have been awarded for our design of kitchens and laboratories in Ireland and abroad. You can arrange a consultation with one of our designers to start the process of ordering your dream kitchen.


sales@energysuperstore.ie 057 93 24062 www.energysuperstore.ie


READER QUESTION Q. With regards to damp, what is the process of tying in a timber frame extension to a rendered old stone wall without a cavity (talking at least 1.5 foot thick). Obviously can’t use a tray there, but the external stone wall is still becoming an internal wall; would you slide flashing in as far as you could, then ensure the rendering above is painted in waterproof paint? A. Your detail would be fine in those “pre-

superinsulation days” But now you have external damp ingress to deal with as well as potentially severe cold bridging from the old stone wall. Your suggested detail would potentially reduce damp ingress to a minimum. But the potential for cold bridging/ condensation settlement at this junction might represent an even greater threat. One possible solution (if it’s permissible) might be to provide a level of external insulation to the segment of old stone wall exposed which then might eliminate the potential for cold bridging and additionally provide greater protection against damp ingress. However if this is not possible, which I suspect as with most externally exposed stone walls, it is not, then a more sustainable/holistic approach may be needed. In other words this wall should be finished with materials that will allow it to moisten, dry out, change temperature and breathe and all without adversely affecting the functionality of the building fabric at this location. This is an area where specialist advice should be sought specific to the case at hand. It may involve details such as a lime wash external shelter coating on the stone wall to minimise damp ingress and allow damp egress. A suitably specified internal natural insulation material like as sheep’s wool, hemp, flax or other hygroscopic material that allows moisture movement without affecting its thermal qualities. The detail here is very important and avoidance of some unintended consequences that can result from retrofitting old buildings. Paul O’Reilly of ors.ie

For more advice join the SelfBuilders & Home Improvers Ireland Facebook group, facebook.com/selfbuild/groups

1 2 8 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

Q. What’s the difference between an A-rated window and one with a really good U-value? A. The energy rating system

for windows is similar to the colour coded rating on your electrical appliances graded from A to G, with A being the best. It includes the U-value, but in addition also considers the heat gain (solar factor or g-value) and air leakage (L-factor). The U-value measures the heat retention through a window or a door. It is a complex calculation as it takes into account the material and construction of the frame, the glazing bars, the glass and the seals. The result is the Uw value, measured in watts per square metre Kelvin. A lower U-value means more heat is kept inside a house on a cold day. When you receive your quote, make sure the U-value you are given is the Uw and not the U-value for the glass only (referred to as Ug) which will outperform the unit as a whole. Also know that factory produced windows can get an A energy rating and a good

U-value, but any changes to the standard window shapes and sizes that were certified will void the calculations. Bespoke windows must be individually assessed. The solar factor measures the transmittance of sunlight through the window. Sunlight is split into the visible and non-visible spectrums. In the non-visible spectrum UV light entering causes fabrics to fade while infra-red light is the heat energy. The visible light is what we can see. Glazing technology is so advanced that there are special coatings that allow less UV and IR light in, yet do not impede the visible light from entering. Low-e glass, or low emissivity, lets the sun in but reduces how much escapes. This is called solar gain. Air leakage measures the tightness of the seals. A well-made window will have little or no air leakage. Again here, the lower the number is an indicator of better performance. So if you have a window that has not been assembled to be really well sealed, it will have the same U-value but the energy rating will have decreased due to the poor L-factor and resulting draughts.

In all cases, beware, as the energy rating or U-value of a window or door means nothing if it is not correctly fitted. Ensure that you hire a reputable joiner to fit them correctly to avoid any issues in the future. Most companies that manufacture their own windows also have a team that can install them to the highest standards of quality. All that said, bear in mind that insulating the walls and roof will be necessary for real changes to your energy bills as only about 10 per cent of energy lost through a house is from the windows. You can also improve the energy efficiency of your home by closing the shutters and curtains, insulating the hot water tank and draughtproofing your windows (the seal around the windows is an important factor that should be checked and advice taken). Further information about window energy ratings see the British Fenestration Registration Council and the National Standards Authority Ireland. Barry Callaghan of timelessashwindows.ie

Perfect Water Systems Transform your life with a Kinetico water softener - the best kept secret in every home

Jump into a crystal clear, limescale-free shower... ...then snuggle into softer, cleaner, brighter towels.

Find out more today; Perfect Water 063-89290 Laois | Aqua Treatment 087-2580318 Cork | Perfect Water Systems 063-89290 Dublin | Perfect Water 01-2955867 Mobile | 085-7366006



Advances in technology are integrating scents into the home

Aromatherapy The smart home fragrance diffuser that spritzes rosemary, lavender, peppermint or honey and cherry blossom depending on your mood and time of day. pium.co

Scented mirror A collection of handwoven organic linens infused with plant powder that release scents when wearing or touching the textiles. The first iteration is of a scarf but cushions or other ‘homewares’ could follow suit. Inspired by a 19th century holistic health cure for stress that uses therapeutic plants and water to balance body and mind. alexandrastueck.com

When activated, the Lenticularis mirror perfumes the air through a water particle cloud “to dress the body in scent and enhance the interior smell landscape”. Like an open fire, it is mesmerising and hypnotic. softbaroque.com

Fleshy seats Pheromones are impregnated into these leather and silicone seats by Gigi Barker to really experience what it’s like sitting on human flesh. The dress is made of the same material. 9191.co.uk

1 3 0 / S E L F B U I L D / AU T U M N 2 0 1 8

Flat packed IKEA is also apparently researching how to integrate scents in their collection with a fragrance player and scent tapes for picture frames. ikea.today


Herbal fabrics

Profile for Selfbuild Ireland Ltd.

Selfbuild Autumn 2018  

Selfbuild Autumn 2018  

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded