Selfbuild Summer 2023

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Builder’s merchants in Ireland and the UK are churning out a steady income. Not from more sales, as those are declining, but from unit prices rising. And after a slight adjustment over the past six months, especially in the cost of timber, it seems they expect retail prices to remain steady for the remainder of 2023.

Yet there’s no more Covid backlog, trade issues are pretty much sorted, energy prices are down. Why haven’t we seen a significant fall in material costs?

Providers say it’s because manufacturers are holding tight: some products are in

such high demand they can charge what they like, others don’t feel a need to budge. Manufacturers might say their input costs are still high. In many ways, no one wants to let go of their margins.

All well and good if suppliers try to sell at the highest price they can, but it means we’re all walking on thin ice. The consensus is that a recession is unlikely, but who knows for sure?

It’s no wonder projects are put on hold.

But building your own home still makes more financial sense than buying new. So go on, find out how much it will cost you to build the dream. Our exclusive 32page guide starts p99.


Calum Lennon

Victoria Hunter



Emma Phillips

Nicola Delacour-Dunne nicola.delacour.dunne@


Karen McLeigh

Leanne Rodgers


Mark Duffin


Astrid Madsen


Myles McCann

Shannon Quinn

Joanna McConvey joanna.mcconvey@

Lisa Killen

Maria Toland


Brian Corry


Clive Corry

99 Selfbuild Guide Your guide to how much it will cost you to build a home in Ireland today. 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. Build Cost Guide COVER PHOTO Paul Lindsay 100 Overview 102 Roadmap 104 Model house example 106 Non build costs 108 Ireland cost survey 110 Tendering 112 Groundwork costs 114 Foundation costs 116 Floor costs 118 External wall costs 120 Roofing costs 122 Windows and doors costs 124 Systems costs 126 Fit out costs 128 Stairs and joinery costs DISTRIBUTION EM News Distribution Ltd




Learn from other self-builders all over the island of Ireland who have built new or


their home.

22 And the Oscar goes to…

Linda and Edward Mulkern exceeded their own expectations building their dream island home in Co Mayo.

32 A healing home

Diagnosed with cancer in 2017, Elaine Douglas decided to reassess her work life balance and with husband David took on a self-build project in Co Down.

42 The first and forever home

Anne and Niall Jordan focused on the fundamentals to convert a tired and dated bungalow in Co Kilkenny into their forever home.

52 Leap of faith

How Catherine and Michael Southall turned a 1960s bungalow into a dream family home.

62 Playing house

Padraig Haughney of Co Kilkenny chats about what it takes to transform a commercial building into a home.

68 The high tech home

Lauren and Alex Speers built a budget friendly yet stylish home in Co Down through hard work and determination.

74 Get PHit

Barry McCarron on upgrading his bungalow into a passive house certified home in Co Monaghan.

80 Finishing out the shell

Louise Quinn explains how she and her husband Daniel fitted out a home they bought with four walls and a roof in Co Armagh.

84 A colourful garden

Adding colour, height and fun to the garden surrounding a two storey self-build in Co Galway.


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.

What to expect from the big event at the Sport Ireland National Indoor Arena.
How to start planning for your self-build project.
Understairs storage How to put what could be a wasted space to best use. 96 Windows everywhere? The downsides to introducing too much glazing in your house design.
87 Selfbuild Live Dublin







NI self-builds refused wastewater connections

Less than two out of three self-builders get their applications for sewage connections approved by NI Water because of a lack of infrastructure, as the utility rolls out a new application portal.

Capacity constraints in the mains water and sewer networks are holding back development in NI, Gerry Curran of Northern Ireland Water (NIW) told delegates at the Belfast Building for Tomorrow conference in March. Curran also highlighted NIW’s new Self Service Portal allowing self-builders to apply online for a new water or wastewater connection.

Much of the supply constraints have to do with a “legacy of prolonged, chronic underinvestment in our wastewater infrastructure”, Curran said. “Development has continued and used up any surplus capacity.” Some water capacity issues also exist, with more developing, especially within Belfast, he added.

Wastewater capacity constraints affect 80 per cent of properties in NI, Curran said, especially in cities and towns. Many wastewater treatment plants also work above their designed capacity, leading to discharges to watercourses and flooding.

There is a capital works programme underway, although Curran said the “NI Executive must secure the funding necessary to deliver the investment in water and wastewater required for NI”.

From July 2021 to December 2022, Curran said that 58 per cent of applications for a wastewater mains connection related to single units. During the six month period

Rural areas hit by supply constraints

All provinces have seen significant depletions in the volume of houses available for sale since the start of 2020.

Supply decreased 37 per cent in Connacht, 36 per cent in both Ulster and Munster and 12 per cent in Leinster, according to Marian Finnegan, Managing Director of estate agents Sherry FitzGerald.

Finnegan highlighted that rural Ireland has been most significantly impacted by falling supply. Roscommon and Kerry showed the largest decreases then Tipperary and Carlow.

“At this juncture we need to be targeting over 52,000 new homes each year, double our current output levels,” she said.

House prices to increase

2,331 (61 per cent) of single unit applications were approved unconditionally, 1,240 were approved with response specific conditions (32 per cent) and there were 280 outright refusals (7 per cent).

An onsite wastewater treatment system (OWWTS) is the alternative to a sewage connection. To install an OWWTS selfbuilders have to apply for a consent to discharge to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.

Applications for consent to discharge are done online and most get approval as long as the treatment system is compliant and reaches high levels of water treatment.

The Q4 2022 MyHome report by Davy predicts house prices to increase 4 per cent in 2023 in ROI.

The report notes that first time buyers, under the First Home scheme and local authority schemes, could push up house prices further by fuelling demand.

The Society of Chartered Surveyors, meanwhile, asked its members to forecast by how much national residential values would rise and the answer was just 2 per cent in 2023 with 1 per cent of that expected in the first quarter.


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Zero VAT on solar panels could reduce costs by €1k

The move will mean a saving of approximately €1,000 to the average solar photovoltaic (PV) installation, bringing the average €9,000 cost for installation down to €8,000, according to the Department of Finance.

The zero VAT rate will apply to the supply and installation of solar panels on homes and public buildings. All homeowners, including private landlords, whose homes were built and occupied

“We have set a target to reach 5GW of solar energy by 2025, increasing this to 8GW by 2030,” said Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan. “Just 1GW is enough to power about 750,000 homes.

“While this move will help consumers, it will also help the environment. Currently over 50,000 homes have solar panels, with 17,000 solar installations connecting to

VAT refunds experience delays

Self-builders who’ve built a new home in NI have been waiting nearly a year to get their VAT refund, even though applications are meant to be processed within six weeks.

One self-builder in NI, who appointed a contractor for his new build project, submitted his application in February 2022. Eight months later, in October 2022, he received the letter confirming the balance would be paid into his account “up to 10 weeks later”.

Self-builders in NI who build a new home are entitled to recover the VAT they paid on materials upon completion of their build. The application must be made to the central tax authority, the HMRC, after signoff from building control. You need to apply in writing within three months of completion of the build.

“We understand the impact waiting for these repayments has on customers,” a spokesperson for the HMRC told Selfbuild. “That’s why we’ve put in extra resource and speeded up our processes. As a result, we should be working new claims within our six-week target in March 2023.”

“The worst I came across was a claim that was submitted in the spring of 2021,” Dave Brown, VAT expert, told Selfbuild. “The HMRC wrote to the client with questions within a couple of months. The client replied and didn’t hear anything else for a year. They eventually got the money in October 2022.”

before 2021 can apply, as determined by the date of the meter installation.

Combined with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) grant amounts of up to €2,400, the total average home solar installation will fall to about €5,600.

The average installation on Irish homes is 4.5kW, or about 14 PV panels.

This is good news for self-builders as new builds do not qualify for the SEAI grants but the zero VAT rate will apply across all installations.

The building regulations for new builds require one renewable component, which can be solar.

The VAT change will reduce the payback period by just under a year, from seven years to 6.2 years.

the grid taking place just last year. This is expected to increase further as prices come down and solar becomes more mainstream,” added Minister Ryan.

The tax rebate comes on the back of an amendments to Annex III of the EU VAT Directive which allows member states to apply a zero rate within category 10c which is for the ‘Supply and installation of solar panels on and adjacent to public and other buildings used for activities in the public interest, housing and private dwellings’.

The Department of Finance has estimated that the measure will cost €19 million annually. The government also plans to put solar panels on all schools by 2025, starting this summer.

“One major problem was that a lot of HMRC staff were moved sideways to deal with Covid, furlough, etc., so when the staff were replaced, the new ones may not have had the same knowledge and experience.”

“It’s not all about the Covid hangover, though, as it has continued beyond. This morning [in February 2022] I received a letter from HMRC about a claim I submitted in October 2022, stating they’ve received it and will be dealing with it in the next six weeks. So, if they’re lucky the client will get it paid within six months from when the claim was made.”

A zero VAT rate will apply to all solar panels installations in ROI as of the 1st of May 2023, for both new builds and existing homes.

Self-builders in ROI more bullish than in NI

2022 recorded a fall in construction activity but early statistics show the trend could be reversing.

Commencements in both NI and ROI were down for one-off houses in 2022 as compared to 2021, but January 2023 figures indicate the trend could be reversing.

In ROI, 4,695 commencement notices were filed in 2022 for one-off houses as compared to 5,301 the year before. That represents an 11 per cent drop in activity, slightly less of a fall than for the residential sector as a whole.

But in January 2023, figures were up as compared to the previous year with a 17 per cent jump in activity from 194 to 224 commencements for one-off houses filed throughout ROI. The increase for the residential sector as a whole was lower, at 13 per cent.

In NI, 3,373 detached homes were added to the housing stock between April 2021 and April 2022. But starts in NI and the Island of Man were down 13 per cent in 2022, as measured by the number of new home registrations for the NHBC ten-year warranty. NI was the only region in all of the UK to witness a decrease in activity.

House prices unaffordable

Kildare and Wicklow are the least affordable areas in ROI, according to the Society of Chartered Surveyors of Ireland. The metric looks at the gap (if any) between the total purchase limit available to average-incomeearning couples, and average new house sales values.

Meanwhile the average residential transaction in Q3 2022 was €370k, or 7.7 times the average ROI income of €48k, according to the Q4 2022 MyHome report by Davy.

The income to house price ratio is similar in the UK – the difference is that in the UK house prices are falling because of high mortgage interest rates which are trending above 6 per cent, said Davy’s Conall MacCoille.

In NI the latest statistics show that the average house price, at £233k for July-

Price increases to ease in ‘23

September 2022, increased nearly 18 per cent as compared to the same period in 2021.

MacCoille said there could be “a degree of froth” in the Irish housing market but he added that the labour market remains strong, which means demand for housing remains. This, despite the effects of the war in Ukraine, inflation, and European Central Bank rate hikes which will increase the cost of taking out a mortgage.

It’s hard to know whether supports will continue to prop up the housing sector, he said. These include the new mortgage rules that make it easier to borrow money, the extension to the Help to Buy scheme and the introduction of the First Home share equity scheme, which is expected to be extended to self-builders – although not in the near future.

After the war in Ukraine pushed up the price of everything from steel to aluminium and brick, consulting firm Mitchell McDermott says material prices “began to moderate in Q3 and encouragingly plateaued in Q4”.

According to the firm, general construction inflation increased by 12 per cent in 2022, and it expects a 5 to 7 per cent increase in 2023. Paul Mitchell, one of the authors of the report, said we may be coming to the end of the current inflationary cycle and that costs are “trending in the right direction”.

Material prices

From one analysis timber, which was hit by the felling licencing delays, and steel have dropped in price but at the moment it looks like prices overall are plateauing. Some energy intensive industries, e.g. those related to quarrying are still dealing with the high cost of energy although it appears those pressures could ease if energy prices continue to drop.

Meanwhile, nearly two thirds of (63 per cent) of builders said inflation continues to pose serious financial concerns and 85 per cent said they expected material costs to continue to rise. That’s according to the Construction Employers’ Federation July to December 2022 survey.

80 per cent said material availability issues were now manageable. 43 per cent of the firms surveyed were looking to consolidate their business over the coming 12 months, with 27 per cent looking to increase profitability.

67 per cent of firms said they were either at full or almost full capacity while only 7 per cent said they currently had capacity for significant levels of new work.

Only 13 per cent of respondents believed there would be more public and private sector opportunities in NI in 2023 with 60 per cent foreseeing a decline in activity.

Although materials are no longer a problem to source, and price increases are expected to ease, builders still see inflation and access to skilled labour as threats to profitability in 2023.
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Poor workmanship rampant across Ireland

I builders were found in breach of good practice on NI building sites for everything from not removing mortar from cavity walls to inadequate prevention of vermin entry, while less than half of contractors inspected by the Sustainability Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) were performing to high standards in 2021, leading the SEAI to ramp up training and supports.

Poor workmanship on NI new builds

Not removing mortar from cavity walls and from wall ties was the most common problem reported on NI new builds, as inspected by warranty provider NHBC.

NHBC inspections show NI was the only region in the UK to do worse in 2022 than in 2021.

According to the inspection statistics presented by the NHBC in March 2023, next on the list of reportable items (RIs) were preparing the bottom prior to concreting strip and trench fill foundations, inadequate strutting between joists on upper floors, joints not fully filled on external masonry walls and unsatisfactory finishings or workmanship on internal trims.

Next on the list of RIs were: inadequate bracing or binders provided to trussed rafters on pitched roofs,

inadequate security provision on windows and doors, as well as inadequate prevention of vermin entry to internal soil and waste systems.

The UK government introduced a New Homes Ombudsman to deal with poor workmanship and protect homeowners in October 2022. “While it’s too soon to assess its impact on the industry, we’re very supportive of its work and look forward to its development,” said an NHBC spokesperson.

“This service will provide a new route of redress for homeowners and ensure that all builders take ownership of resolving consumer issues, leading to continued improvements in the quality of new-build homes. It reinforces what we should all be trying to do – build right first time, which has so many commercial and reputational benefits, aside from what it achieves for homeowners.”

Poor workmanship on ROI energy upgrades

The SEAI administers the home energy upgrade grants for ROI. To be eligible for a grant, homeowners must choose from the roughly 1,500-strong contractor list published on the SEAI website. The number of contractors on the list fluctuates depending on the number of drop offs, new contractors registering

or reregistering, and deregistrations (contractors struck off the register).

Since 2017, the SEAI has been carrying out inspections to check the work of these contractors on site. Performance statistics show that the majority of contractors still aren’t in the Good Performance/Low Risk category.

Since the inspections began, the incidence of poor workmanship seems to have eased but there are still more contractors in the moderate and high risk categories than in low risk.

To tackle the seeming lack of progress, and to ensure there is a strong pool of talent there to deliver the National Residential Retrofit Plan published in February 2022, the SEAI changed tacks. Instead of just evaluating how well contractors were doing, the focus is now on actively helping them upskill.

It’s a “new mechanism for managing contractor quality based on a model of support, partnership and collaboration”, a spokesperson for the SEAI told Selfbuild. The SEAI started working with contractors to improve quality and workmanship since the first quarter of 2022.

There is now a mandatory online induction / onboarding training for all contractors who are either registering with the SEAI for the first time or are returning after a period of absence from the programme.


Deregistrations were low in 2022, which the SEAI says is due to the new approach: “Direct comparisons [of deregistration statistics] are not necessarily valid, simply because we are choosing to work more with contractors, encouraging them to improve their performance, rather than simply deregistering them and hoping they improve if they wish to return.”

At the current deregistration rates, the SEAI contractor register wouldn’t manage to grow. In March 2023 there were roughly 1,400 contractors on the register.

In 2022, 437 additional contractors registered to the scheme, of which 244 were first time registrations. In 2021, 291 contractors were struck off the register. At that rate, the deregistration numbers would negate much of the recruiting effort.

“Currently the biggest risk to achieving the 2025 and 2030 targets is having a sufficient pool of appropriately skilled workers to support contractors in scaling up the delivery of home energy upgrades,” reads the SEAI’s National Retrofit Plan Quarterly Progress Report (Full Year 2022).

“Construction sector inflation and material supply chain constraints are still significant risks to delivery and likely to remain so in the medium term.”

NI was the worst performing region in the UK for workmanship on new builds while in ROI contractors that work with the energy grants continue to underperform, prompting the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) to provide further training and supports.


Celebrity architect Hugh Wallace says ROI needs a zero VAT rate for home improvements, and vacant homes grants need less red tape.

Co Antrim self-build wins Home of the Year 2023

Rob and Janice McConnell have lifted the coveted RTÉ Home of the Year 2023 trophy for their architectural new build in Co Antrim.

The ninth series of Home of the Year saw the three judges Hugh Wallace, Amanda Bone and Sara Cosgrove visit 21 homes across the country, choosing Rob and Janice’s home as the ultimate winner.

The winning house is nestled in rich woodland and has stunning sea views. The coupled wanted their new single storey build to fit in with its surroundings by using as many natural materials as possible.

The resulting modern home has panoramic sea, forest, and mountain views

which can be enjoyed year round from a patio area with overhang.

“What stood out for me this year was the homeowners’ understanding of the importance of good design, of making the most of the orientation and connecting with the outside,” judge Amanda Bone said. She added the winning home was “all about capturing and reinforcing the spirit of the place, its setting, its connection with the landscape, this home lifts you up, it makes you feel good, it’s magical”.

The ROI government “gives with one hand and takes away with the other” on energy grants, said architect and TV personality Hugh Wallace at the Hardware Association Ireland (HAI) conference in Kilkenny in March.

Energy upgrade grants from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, for the One Stop Shop, are capped at €27,500 on a total expenditure of €60,000 to upgrade the building to a B2 building energy rating, yet all amounts include VAT.

Excluding VAT, the grant only amounts to €19,000, said Wallace, arguing for a zero VAT rate on all home improvements carried out by owner occupiers and residential landlords.

One Stop Shop grants are for deep retrofits, meaning the entire home is insulated, made airtight, includes a centralised ventilation system, and a heat pump as the source of heating.

Many properties aren’t suitable for a B2 renovation, cautioned Wallace, meaning they are unlikely to be suitable for a heat pump – yet gas boilers will be phased out by 2030.

Empty homes grants

Supporting the HAI’s Empty Homes Campaign, Wallace said that there were 250,000 vacant buildings available to refurbish in ROI, with at least 50,000 that could be upgraded now. Refurbishing an existing building has a 40 to 50 per cent lower carbon footprint than building new, he added.

The vacant properties grant, known as the Croí Cónaithe Vacant Property Refurbishment Grant, of up to €50,000 to renovate a vacant building anywhere in ROI, “should come with a health warning”, said Wallace.

Because banks won’t lend on derelict properties for first time buyers: “no toilet, no mullah”, he said. Those who aren’t first time buyers need to sell their house and prove it’s stayed in residential use, he added.

should come ‘with a health warning’


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Solar panels to become mandatory for new builds

Why don’t we build with wood?

More homes should be built out of timber, according to the European Parliament’s draft recast EPBD. It sees “the potential to substitute for more carbon intensive materials and to store carbon in the built environment via the use of wood based materials”.

European draft deal paves the way for mandatory solar technology on new builds from 2028 across Europe, and commits financial support for subsidised energy upgrades.

The EU’s Renovation Wave is underway with the European Parliament voting through draft legislation that paves the way for zero emissions new builds from 2028, and a European wide upgrading of the building stock. 75 per cent of EU buildings are still energy inefficient.

The draft measures, as per the European Parliament adopted text of the recast Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), include changing building regulations so that solar panels become mandatory on all new builds by 2028, in line with all new builds becoming zero carbon.

Solar technology will have to be installed “where technically suitable and economically feasible” while residential buildings undergoing major renovation would have until 2032 to install solar panels.

TD Noel Duffy told a conference at TU Dublin in March that when the Green Party did a study three years ago of how much it would cost the ROI government to retrofit Ireland’s building stock, the figure they’d come up with at the time was €100 billion.

Cost neutral renovations

According to the draft legislation, existing buildings will have to achieve, at a minimum, energy performance class E by 2030, and D by 2033 on the energy rating (known as building energy rating or BER in

ROI and energy performance certificate or EPC in NI) scale.

The energy rating scale goes from A to G, with G corresponding to the 15 per cent worst performing buildings in the national stock of a member state. Public and commercial buildings have different timelines. Building of architectural importancewill be exempt.

However, energy performance certificates don’t tend to correlate to actual energy use. A Sunday Times analysis suggests C to G properties tend to consume roughly the same amount of energy a year (140 to 180 kWh/sqm/year) while B rated properties consumed a bit less than A rated ones.

Dr Ciara Ahern of TU Dublin presented findings showing that roughly 55 per cent of Irish homes are in the BER database and that poor data made it difficult for governments to come up with targeted initiatives.

Under the draft recast EPBD, national renovation plans will include support schemes to facilitate access to grants and funding, including free information points. Governments will have to come up with ways to introduce cost neutral renovation schemes.

Targeted grants and subsidies will also be made available to vulnerable households.

Buildings account for 40 per cent of final energy consumption in the EU and 36 per cent of the block’s energy related greenhouse gas emissions. Natural gas plays the largest role in heating of buildings, accounting for around 42 per cent of energy used for space heating in the residential sector.

TD Noel Duffy told a TU Dublin conference in March that timber has the potential to reduce embodied

carbon emissions in Ireland’s building stock. However the uptake remains low in ROI, partly due to Part B of the building regulations relating to fire, which makes the use of cross laminated timber in commercial builds “very difficult”.

He added that we have the resources yet are exporting most of our forestry products to the UK, instead of using them at home.

Research shows that by 2030 embodied carbon (the carbon footprint from materials, manufacture all the way to end of life) will outstrip operational carbon (emissions while the property is in use).


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One stop shop

If you plan on building your own dream home, chances are you know what you want out of it. Energy efficiency and amazing windows are likely to be top of the list, but not everyone is keen to delve into the details of what it takes to actually build that dream.

Enter timber frame manufacturer Kudos, whose partnership with industry leader Zyle Fenster provides a ‘one stop shop’ solution for a low energy home.

Kudos will not only manufacture and

install the frame of your house, it will also supply and install your high spec Zyle Fenster windows and doors, ensuring the entire structure is fully airtight, fully insulated and fully sealed.

Not all window manufacturers have knowledge of how best to install their product in a low energy home, but Kudos has the expertise and desire to ensure your entire home delivers on style, comfort and low energy bills.

Step inside

Navan-based The Door and Floor Company has recently opened a new 3,500 sqft showroom in Bluebell, Dublin 12. On display you will find engineered and laminate flooring, 60 internal doors, bespoke external doors and a full range of ironmongery and mouldings.

Visit the Dublin showroom (Eircode D12 X0V9) or the Navan showroom (Eircode C15 PC83) Monday to Friday 10am to 4pm, Saturday 10am to 2pm, closed Sunday and bank holidays,

Questions answered

Do you have a general question about home building or renovating? Don’t know where to start with your project? Donate to a good cause and you’ll get to sit down with an architect for an hour to discuss your plans.

If you’re in NI, a minimum donation of £40 to Friends of the Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital will get you an hour long consultation with an architect registered with the Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA). Book on

A €98 donation to the Simon Communities will give you an hour long consultation with a Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) registered architect to discuss building, renovating or retrofitting your home. You can book a date between May 8th and May 14th on

Participating architects for both initiatives are giving their time and expertise for free, with all monies raised directly going to the charities.

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SUMMER 2023 / SELFBUILD / 21 Projects 22 And the Oscar goes to… Dream island new build. Leap of faith A 1960s home upgrade. 32 A healing home New build for the ultimate work life balance. 42 The first and forever home Bungalow renovation. 52 See your home featured in Selfbuild magazine by emailing More photos of these projects available on SUMMER 2023 NEW BUILDS RENOVATIONS . EXTENSIONS 68 The high tech home A contemporary new build with stunning interiors. 74 Get PHit A passive house upgrade from a D2 to an A1 building energy rating. 80 Finishing out the shell Four walls and a roof. Then what? 62 Playing house From commercial to residential. 80 A colourful garden Garden design for a two storey self-build.

Oscar And the

goes to…

Words: Heather Campbell

Photography: John Mee

From a glorified camp site to an A2 rated new build home, Linda and Edward Mulkern’s dream island home has exceeded their wildest expectations.


House size: 223sqm

Plot size: 1 acre

Bedrooms: 4

Site cost: €55k

Build cost: €380k

Heating: Air source heat pump

Ventilation: Mechanical

centralised heat recovery

Build method: Blockwork



Achill Island, with its soaring sea cliffs, Blue Flag beaches and raw natural beauty, was brought to Hollywood’s attention this year thanks to the Oscar nominated film The Banshees of Inisherin. But, for Linda and Edward, the island first cast its spell on them 15 years ago, during family holidays to Ireland.

“When my parents-in-law moved back to Galway from the UK in 2003 we began spending our family holidays visiting them,” says Linda. “Achill Island is a day trip away from their home and offered good surfing beaches to take our children to, so it became a place we loved to visit.” As time went on, the Mulkerns started staying in holiday homes on the island.

“Some were great; some were damp and horrible and that’s when we decided to start looking for a property to buy,” says Linda. But with a tiny budget, they had very low expectations. “Our dream was just to find somewhere that we could have a standpipe and pitch a tent for a holiday.”

In 2011, they first set eyes on what was to become their island home. “It was more like a concrete bunker really,” says Linda. “It sat next to the ruins of the original, traditional cottage and had amazing views of Clew Bay and Clare Island – you can see the coastline where they built the pub which featured in the Banshees of Inisherin – but we decided that it was too much of a project for us and we dismissed it.”

Instead, an offer was made on another property, but this fell through. Dejected, they tried to forget about Achill, but a

year later found themselves drawn back to the island. “We realised how much we still loved the place, so we contacted the auctioneer to enquire about the concrete bunker house,” she says. “We were told that it was back on the market following an earlier sale falling through and we decided to just go for it.”

Humble beginnings

“By that stage, our pot of money had become even smaller as we’d had to pay for renovations on our home in England. So, with little money to spend on improving the Achill house we bought it with the view that we would never actually go inside the building, instead we’d just use it as somewhere to pitch our tent.”

“Then my brother-in-law convinced us to at least put in some windows and running water. He is a ‘can do’ sort of person while Edward and I are very cautious and don’t do ‘crazy’ things like that. And so, one snowy day in January 2013, Edward and my brother-in-law set out for Achill with some double


glazed units strapped to the roof of my husband’s car.”

“They installed the windows, cleared out the junk, swept the chimney and put in a sink and toilet, and we ended up camping inside – it was more like a concrete tent than a home. We set up a solar panel with a 12V battery, giving us power. We spent all our holidays there for three years. I think the locals thought we were mad, but we absolutely loved it.”

However, with the windows sealed, heating on and appliances running, the house started getting mouldy inside.

Linda adds, “The flat roof always leaked as did the wall facing the Atlantic. The storms would just drive the rain through it. We contacted architectural designer Aiden Masterson to see if we could do anything to make it more habitable. His verdict was to knock it down and rebuild.”

By this stage, the Mulkerns’ ambitions had changed. “We had sold our house in the UK and relocated to Dublin for Edward’s work. We knew that we wanted the house in Achill to be our main base as opposed to just a holiday home, so

we asked Aidan to design a replacement building.”

They gave him a wish list of features to include in the design, explains Linda. “We’ve got amazing views, so being able to maximise them was a huge deal. Also, we wanted the exterior to fit in with the surroundings and it had to withstand the elements because they are quite monumental. When it’s stormy, it’s really stormy.

“We had a pantry in our first home, which I loved, so I was adamant that our new house would have one, along with a utility/boot room. We didn’t want the kitchen to be cluttered up with food storage and appliances.”

With the design agreed with Aiden, he submitted the design to the planning office which approved them within six weeks. “The design was quite modest and in keeping with the existing cottages around us and we were replacing an eyesore with something that would improve the look of the area, so I think it was looked on favourably by the planners.”

Less haste

Despite the quick planning process, there was a two year gap before the build started. “We needed time to get a


Q&A with Linda

What is your favourite design feature?

My favourite thing is just how comfortable the whole house is. It’s easy to keep clean and tidy. It’s just very easy to live in.

Biggest splurge?

Hands down, the staircase.

What would you change or do differently?

Nothing at all. Edward’s homework really paid off. He wanted to take the time to research what build methods and systems would work best for us, and then stick to those decisions. And we pretty much did that.

What surprised you?

I was just amazed by the skills of our tradespeople and the pride they take in their work. I found that really fascinating. I’ve met so many amazing people.

What single piece of advice would you give a friend who’s looking to embark on a project similar to yours?

Remember that your dreams are your dreams. The people working on your project will have their own stories going on in their own lives, and you can’t expect them to know what you want or need without communicating effectively with them. You can’t expect people to do things for you at the drop of a hat. Treat everyone with the utmost respect.

Would you do it again?

I would do it again, if I could have the same team of people with me, the same project manager and all the same tradespeople. Fortunately, we don’t need to do it again, but it was a great if sometimes stressful experience. It was hard work, particularly the financial side of things. We had a mortgage which was hugely stressful, because the bank wasn’t as understanding about Covid as they might have been. We had to submit a written reason for why we had bigger gaps between stages than would normally be expected, and so there wasn’t much leeway during the pandemic. That was really scary, but I would still do it again. In a heartbeat.

“The kitchen is filled with light from the corner window and four others, each taking in the views from different aspects.”

mortgage organised and finances sorted,” says Linda, “and we needed to do our homework to make final decisions on building methods, heating, ventilation systems and so on.”

The Mulkerns invited Aiden to project manage the build. “He led us through the entire thing, sourcing the builder and tradespeople and keeping the build on track. We could not have done this without him.”

The kitchen, boot room and pantry were all designed by the kitchen designer. “We kept the same, simple style in all three rooms, with slight variations in

colours. I like a clean and simple look.”

By extension, the interior decoration is simple and tasteful. “I tried to keep things very plain,” says Linda. “We have two coloured walls in the entire house, everything else is painted white.”

A stove provides a cosy focal point for cooler evenings. “Also, we do have power cuts here, so the stove keeps us warm if the heat pump loses power.” For practical and aesthetic reasons, they chose ceramic wood effect tiles. “We have a dog, and I didn’t want wooden floors in case they got scratched.”

The kitchen is filled with light from


the corner window and four others, each taking in the views from different aspects. “In the daytime, we don’t need to put lights on, even in the winter. It’s so bright.” Two unglazed window openings borrow light from the sitting room to illuminate the rear lobby which houses the utility and pantry room. “That was one of the design things I insisted on. I didn’t want anywhere to be in any way dark or gloomy,” she says.

Another of Linda’s key design interventions was the staircase. “We were advised at the beginning to have a concrete staircase, so our builders could get up safely during the build and to provide access for the heating people to get to the upstairs plant room.

“I didn’t want a modern wooden staircase to box in the concrete staircase, instead I wanted to emulate the staircase from our old house which had a continuous sweeping handrail. I wanted to celebrate how concretey it was, so the stairs have been plastered and painted white, with ash treads and really simple, tapered round spindles up to a continuously flowing ash handrail.”

“I did struggle, initially, for anybody to understand what I wanted; thankfully, our joiner, Eoin who lives on the island, got what I meant. We managed to source the ash and he put it all together using good old fashioned craftsmanship. He took my dream and made it happen.”

It takes a village

“From the outset, we asked our project manager if we could use local craftspeople, and tradespeople. We wanted to keep it as local as possible,

Linda’s tips

Think of storage. We bought an old freight container to house materials on site, which was a godsend. It meant we could buy a lot of materials in advance and have them on site ready to be used. The container can be sold on when you’ve finished.

Hire a project manager. If you’re not actually going to be able to be on site, pretty much all the time, I would recommend hiring someone you trust to manage the project. You can’t get just anyone. You have to completely trust them. Because you’re dealing with all your worldly goods, hopes and aspirations. Without Aiden, we would still have a building site!


to use the talent that’s here. This really worked in our favour during the lockdowns as our workforce was already here. It worked for everybody really.”

“We also have a brilliant hardware store and builders’ merchant on the island, and everyone there was fantastic.”

The biggest challenge – shared by all self-builders at that time – was caused by the pandemic. “Sadly, a critical member of our team was very ill during Covid, so we made the decision to slow the build and wait for him to get better. We were more than happy to do that.”

But they also got a different kind of shock during the build. “I panicked when the family bathroom walls went up,” admits Linda. When the interior walls start to go up on a new build, it’s often the case that some rooms appear smaller than expected.

“It felt like it was going to be tiny, so I ordered a huge mirror to cover one of the walls to help the room appear bigger. As it turns out, I’d overreacted. The finished, fitted out bathroom is a perfectly decent size – and is now filled with light bouncing off the mirror.”

Outside, they added a fence around the garden, levelled the ground and seeded the grass. “We don’t want to spend money on landscaping until we can be there all the time to properly look after it. But we are trialling plants to see which ones can survive the wild conditions here.”

So, has the house lived up to their expectations? “Yes, and more,” says Linda. “We moved on a lot from our initial standpipe dream. But even from the design point of view, it’s far exceeded what we thought could be possible by two people who have never done anything like this before.”

“We’ve had many comments from locals saying that the house looks like it’s always been here, which is what we really wanted. They’ve been happy to see that it’s been local people, mostly, who have worked on the house. The plasterer lives in the village and the painter and the decorator is in the village. It’s all been very local.”


House purchased

August 2017

Planning applied

November 2017

Planning granted

November 2019

Demo and build start

Summer 2022

Build end

November 2021

Move in date


Project info

Find out more about Linda and Edwards’s project in Co Mayo...


Architectural design and Consulting Engineer

Aiden Masterson Design Ltd, Castlebar, Co Mayo

Kitchen, pantry, utility/boot room

Diskins Kitchens, Milltown, Tuam, Co Galway,


Soaks Bathrooms, Belfast,

Windows and external doors

Passive house windows and Ultra Tech doors by Munster Joinery

Stairs, joinery and much more Eoin Gallagher, Keel, Achill Island, mobile 085 230 3554

Balustrade and Mirror

LG Glass and Glazing,

Building materials

Patrick Sweeney and Sons, tel. 098 45211


John Mee,

NI calling ROI drop the first 0 and prefix with 00353


Insulation: 110 mm polyurethane (PUR) rigid board in cavity. Floors: 140 mm polyurethane board. Roof: polyurethane between rafters 150 mm, and 70 mm insulated PIR slabs on roof slopes. All crawl spaces sealed with spray foam.

Windows: RAL 7005 grey, passive frame uPVC triple glazing with argon coating. Special structural glazing for coastal areas/ low e argon filled glazing.

More photographs available at
Living Kitchen Dining Larder Utility Bathroom Bedroom Bedroom Entrance Bedroom Store/HP En-Suite Wardrobe Bedroom Landing


House size: 270sqm

Office size: 93sqm

Plot size: 1.5 acre

Bedrooms: 4

Site cost: £91k

Build cost: £585k

House value: £700k

Heating: Air to water heat pump

Ventilation: Mechanical centralised with heat recovery

Build method: Concrete blockwork

EPC (SAP): B (85)


Words: Heather Campbell

Photography: Paul Lindsay


Windows: The extensive use of glazing maximises the almost 360 degree views.

When Elaine Douglas was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017, she and husband David embarked on a reassessment of their work life balance.

We were very happy living in our previous home on a housing development,” says Elaine.

“We ran a successful business, had great neighbours, great friends and our two kids were happy. But when I got my breast cancer diagnosis, we had a rethink about things.”

“We were driving in opposite directions a lot of the time. I knew my energy levels would be severely depleted from my cancer treatment, so we decided to reduce the stress of travelling by moving both the office and our home not far from our children’s schools.”

Following a fruitless house search in the area, the couple realised that going selfbuild was the only way forward.

“The kitchen was my deal breaker,” says Elaine. “I wanted a sociable kitchen – an

island big enough for friends and family members to congregate around when we entertained. The houses that we viewed would have required substantial building work to achieve that space.”

For a second viewing of one particular property, they brought along a builder friend for advice. On passing a building site en route, he remarked how they’d be better off buying a site and building the house they wanted.

That off-the-cuff observation resonated with Elaine and David. “It was clear to us that the home that answered all our needs wasn’t currently on the market, so we decided to take that step into the unknown and build one that did,” says Elaine.

They tried to buy the site in question but complications arose and it didn’t materialise. Disappointed, they mentioned to their staff that the new offices they had hoped to build alongside their new home wouldn’t be happening.

“We were going to give up,” admits David, “but one of our employees told us about

Garden: The landscaping is 90 per cent complete. “We enlisted the services of a landscape company to provide us with a design,” says David. “But the work has been carried out by us, and the builder.”


great exhibitors - great advice - quality speakers

a hilltop site his father was selling, close to Banbridge. We went to see it and were blown away by the views of the Mournes, the Sperrins and Cave Hill.”

“It was in the country, but on the edge of the town. It was perfect,” adds Elaine.

Friendly designs

Having acquired the site, Elaine invited their good friend and architect Donal to draw up the new house plans. “He stood with us in the middle of the muddy field and asked what we wanted in our

‘dream house’. We’re avid viewers of the Grand Designs TV show and one, really contemporary house project built in Scotland stood out for David. Donal listened to our ideas and a couple of weeks later we had our first concept plan.”

“I don’t believe he thought we would go with the concept. I think he thought we’d say yes that’s really nice, but not for us … how about a three bedroom bungalow? But we loved the design and didn’t stray far from it. There were a few changes through the process following planning etc., but it didn’t change too much from the original design.”

The planning process was not straightforward. “I think one of planning officers just didn’t like it,” says David. “He thought the overall form was too big. We could have appealed the decision but that would have cost us a year, so we asked what aspects did we need to change. It was suggested that we move the garage, which we did, and the plans were passed.”

“The house didn’t move an inch, in fact, it actually got bigger.”

Elaine explains: “Initially, the garage was attached to the house via a carport. The carport ran into a utility room and boot room and then into the kitchen. By moving the garage, these interconnected elements were taken away, so the utility room had to

Kitchen island: The 1.2m x 3.5m island is made from one piece of basalt and has integrated storage.

Q&A with Elaine & David

What is your favourite design feature?

Elaine: The brightness – my mum commented that you could never be depressed in this house because the extensive glazing allows in so much natural light.

What would you change or do differently?

David: We would have preferred not to have built during a pandemic. We were at roof levels when our business closed during the lockdown. It was quite scary.

What surprised you?

Elaine: The length of time it took from submitting the plans to turning the first sod. And the extra financial outlays that you have to pay on top of the building costs: surveyors, building control, planning, electrical and water fees, etc.

David: My brother, John, helped me open up the site with his digger. I bought two loads of stones, two gates and a couple of posts and I said to John “I’ve paid out £33k so far on this build, and this £200 spent on materials is the first bit I can actually touch”. Nobody tells you that when you start out.

What single piece of advice would you give a friend who’s looking to embark on a project similar to yours?

We’d recommend employing a quantity surveyor (QS) to manage the costs with your builder. It makes budgeting easier and a QS can tell you where you can save money. The cost of our QS was £8k, but he definitely saved us money.

Would you do it again?

David: Yes, I would do it again.

Elaine: I would do it again, but we won’t – we love this house.

“I don’t believe he thought we would go with the concept. I think he thought we’d say yes that’s really nice, but not for us …”
Sitting room wall: Elaine designed the gable wall in the sitting room which is clad in walnut.

be moved into the main body of the house. To do this we had to make the bedroom block a bit bigger on the ground floor.”

Building support

Following a visit to the Selfbuild Live event in Belfast, the Douglases decided to employ a quantity surveyor (QS). “This was one of the best things we did,” admits Elaine. “He produced the bill of quantities and organised the tendering process, which went out to several builders. We went with a fixed price contract with a builder from

Omagh who was already building some houses in the Banbridge area, so it suited them to build here.”

The QS produced a cost estimate which surprised Elaine and David. “It was quite a lot more than we had imagined it would be. We poured over it and changed a few things. We took out the polished concrete floor, for example, and made a few other adjustments. We had a budget that we had to stick to – there was no miraculous contingency pot we could dip into.”

The architect and QS continued to work with the builder throughout the build. “The team worked exceptionally well together,”

says Elaine. “None of them had built a house of this style before, so there was some on the job learning regarding things like materials. The key to its success was constant communication between each party.”

“We were also actively involved in all the decision making on the design elements.”

As per Elaine’s wish list, the kitchen was at the heart of the house plans with the rest of the house radiating out from it.

The building is clad in black tin that covers a traditional, concrete block cavity wall filled with EPS insulation. “We initially had thought of using SIPs – structurally engineered panels – but having spoken to

Décor: The interior design is deliberately uniform with some splashes of colour or different textures on feature walls to help differentiate zones.

different builders, we concluded that, with the amount of glass we were putting into the house, we should use concrete blocks which would absorb some of the heat in the summertime.”

The building is made up of two, interconnecting blocks. A two storey bedroom block containing three ground floor ensuite bedrooms. A master suite is on the first floor along with a south facing sitting room that opens onto a roof terrace with views of the Mourne Mountains.

A single storey block contains the living and kitchen area, raised a metre from ground level to make the most of the views.

A separate building currently houses the couple’s home office and gym. It has been future proofed with services that will allow it to be used as separate living accommodations should circumstances change.

The pitched roofs are covered in tin cladding. “We were concerned at first that this would be very noisy on a wet day. Some people thought it might be akin to living in a caravan. But, in reality, there is very little sound, even during a heavy downpour. The roof is half a metre thick, made up of high grade tin with insulated backing to deaden the sound, and keep the heat in.”

Donegal slate complements the cladding. “At first, we did question Donal. Would it look too black and severe? He assured us otherwise, and he was absolutely correct. During the daylight, it never looks totally black. The sun softens it to a gentle grey which seems to disappear into the landscape. It looks far more discrete than the dazzling white rendered bungalows and two storey houses which you see everywhere.”

Elaine ’s tips

Be organised “I was a bit of an organisational freak,” says Elaine. “I bought all our ovens and fridges and had them sitting in the kitchen designer store for over a year. I was worried about Brexit – the manufacturer was German and I thought the prices would go up. The prices did go up, but because of shortages due to Covid lockdowns.”

Don’t sweat the small stuff. People get caught up in details like light switches. Initially, I picked one that cost £23 plus VAT. When our electrician added it all up, it was going to cost £4k for the whole house. He advised us to buy standard switches. We did and saved £3.5K.

Spend your money on the things you can’t change easily, like flooring. Light switches you can change at a later stage.

Ask for advice from your builder and ask him to be straight with you. We initially specified polished concrete throughout the house, but we decided not to go with it due to costs. When we told our builder this, he said that was a good idea because polished concrete has the potential to crack. We saved spending £35k on a floor that ultimately might have really disappointed us.

Master bedroom window. Elaine and David’s bedroom is the perfect spot to sit and enjoy the sunset.


The house is heated by an air to water heat pump with underfloor heating throughout and a mechanical heat recovery system as well as solar PV panels. “It costs the same to heat our new house and offices (360sqm in total) as it did to heat our old 185sqm home,” says David.

Working backwards

Internally, the couple were adamant that there would be no wasted space. “We worked backwards, in that we stipulated at the design stage how we wanted the house to work for us,” says Elaine. “We didn’t want any formal rooms that would only be used on Christmas Day – we wanted to use all of our space, all the time.”

“I involved the kitchen designer right from the concept stage and made sure he had the architect’s contact details. The kitchen designer didn’t have to ring me to find out where the drains were, he could go straight to the architect.”

“I love cooking and we’re very sociable people. I wanted simplicity and straight lines in the kitchen and the kitchen designer got the concept right away.”

A floating wall separates the kitchen from the relaxed living area and includes storage cupboards along with the ovens. “Everybody who comes into our home sits up at the island. We’ve had lots of parties here and everything happens in the kitchen, just as I had envisioned it,” says Elaine.

Six years after her breast cancer diagnosis, Elaine is in remission and the house has fulfilled their expectations and more. “Part of the reason we did this project was to keep me going through some of the darker episodes of treatment,” says Elaine. “It’s been a beacon for us as a


September 2017

Site bought

January 2018

Planning applied

August 2019

Planning granted

August 2019

Build start

December 2020

Build end and moved in

family, something to work towards.”

David adds: “When the pandemic happened and I hadn’t worked in six weeks, I was worried about how we were going to pay the mortgage. It was clear that this project was more than just a house. It was our kids’ dream, our dream – we shared that with them. It was hard to reconcile all of that, so I tried to keep the build at arm’s length, just in case we might be forced to sell it. Now I can really enjoy it.”

“I never thought like that,” says Elaine. “For me, it was a case of ‘we are going to build this house, I am going to have my treatment and we are going to live in this house’. That’s why this is such a precious home.” Beautiful in every way.


Project info

Find out more about Elaine and David’s project in Co Down...





Donal McPhillips Architecture,

Quantity surveyor

Ciarán Tally,


Paul Mason, Interior360, Belfast


AJ Plumbing Ltd, Newry


JJ Rafferty & Sons Ltd


Armatile, Boucher Crescent, Belfast

Outdoor patio and paths

O’Neill Paving

Utility room and other cabinet making

Wesley Beck, Banbridge


Bryan McElroy, Banbridge

Heat pump

Grant Engineering

Design SAP and air test

QEL Air Energy Consultants,


Swish Windows,


Paul Lindsay,


Pitched roof: Black corrugated anti condensation metal cladding, 50x75mm & 50x50mm treated counter batons, 50mm PIR insulation, 220 mineral woold insulation tightly packed between 220x47mm C16 rafters, airtightness/vapour barrier, service cavity, 12.5mm plasterboard with skim coat and painted to selected colour, U-value 0.17 W/sqmK.

Flat roof: Single ply PVC reinforced membrane, 50mm PIR insulation, vapour barrier, 18mm ply screw fixed to timber firring pieces to falls, 147x45mm C16 flat roof joists, airtightness/vapour barrier, service cavity, 12.5mm Gyproc plasterboard with skim coat and painted to selected colour, U-value 0.12 W/sqmK.

Walls: Black corrugated anti condensation metal cladding, 50x75mm treated horizontal timber battens, breathable underlay, 100mm concrete block outer leaf, 200mm cavity with full fill graphite coated EPS beads, wall ties located @ 450mm centres vertically and 750mm centres horizontally and staggered. Variable 100-215mm concrete inner outer leaf with bonding and skim finish painted, U-value 0.15 W/sqmK.

Floor: Selected semisolid timber/ceramic tile finish, on 75mm concrete screed, 150mm PIR insulation, 150mm C30/20 newton concrete subfloor, radon resisting membrane to equivalent of 2,000 gauge continuous polythene DPM lapped and bonded to DPC 150mm min. consolidated and blinded hardcore, U-value 0.117 W/sqmK.

Window and doors: Triple glazed aluminium frame windows in black installed in accordance with manufacturer’s details and spec, U-value 1.1W/sqmK windows and 1W/sqmK doors.

g r o u n d f l o o r p l a n
More photographs available at
Bedroom Bedroom Bedroom Utility Entrance Kitchen/Dining Living Lounge Bedroom Balcony En-suite Robes

first The forever&home


Anne and Niall Jordan focused on the fundamentals to inject some style into a tired and dated bungalow.

Words: Heather Campbell

Photography: Damien Kelly


House size before: 127sqm

House size after: 168sqm

Plot size: 0.2 acres

Bedrooms: 4

BER before: E1

BER after: B1

Heating: Gas fired boiler

Ventilation: Mechanical

centralised with heat recovery

Build method: Blockwork



nne and Niall had a clear idea of what they wanted for their first family home. Six years of apartment living in Australia had instilled a huge appreciation for single level, open plan living brightly illuminated with plenty of glass to welcome the outside in.

A connected location, close to the buzz of a big town was also confirmed following a brief and isolating rental experience deep in the rural Kilkenny countryside.

“We came home in 2016, intending to settle back into Ireland,” says Anne. “At that point, we’d never owned a property. Our daughter had just turned one, and we wanted to buy our family home. Niall is originally from Tipperary and had been to school in Kilkenny, so living here interested us.”

From renting to owning

“At first, we moved into a rental property in a rural part of the county but realised that moving from a metropolitan city to the countryside was not the step we wanted to take, and so that cemented our focus on looking for a house in Kilkenny city. It’s a beautiful place, great for families and within an hour and a half’s drive from Dublin.”

A six month search ensued, eventually concluding in the discovery of a tired and dated bungalow, just a few minutes’ walk from the city’s spectacular castle and sprawling parkland.

“We knew it was for us the first time we saw it,” says Anne, “It fulfilled all the criteria we were looking for. We wanted a bungalow, an affordable doer upper so

we could put our stamp on it and it had to have a south facing aspect for the main living area. The house ticked all the boxes and so we bought it after one viewing.”

The couple picked up the keys in October 2017, with the plan to carry out cosmetic decorative work and rent it out while they carried on renting and working in Dublin.

“We cleaned and painted the house and rented it out until mid 2019, which is when we first moved in here. We’d already engaged an architect in 2018 to design the plans for the house improvements which we finalised and sent in for planning approval in August 2019.”

When deciding which architects to work with, Anne and Niall were in no doubt. “The minute we saw photos of their previous designs we just fell in love with their style. Specifically, their use of external canopies to cover outdoor seating areas and the extensive use of glazing. It reminded us a little of the outdoor living style we’d become familiar with in Australia.”

“A six month search ensued, eventually concluding in the discovery of this bungalow within walking distance from town...”

Grant’s Renewable Heating Technologies are the ideal choice for new build homes

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Barry Gorman, National Renewable Sales Manager, Grant, outlines how the company continues to focus on sustainability to help achieve decarbonisation and advises that an air to water air source heat pump like the Grant Aerona3 R32 air to water air source heat pump, is the recommended option for homeowners to install when building their new home.

“At Grant our core focus is to provide innovative, reliable and cost-effective heating solutions to help combat the problem of rising energy costs and carbon emissions, in the hope of securing a greener future for generations to come. Although we started developing boilers over 45 years ago, for two decades now, our team has been developing highly efficient sustainable heating technologies like the A+++ Aerona3 R32 air to water air source heat pump and Grant’s supporting technologies.

Delivering discreet, high-quality home heating, the Grant Aerona3 R32 air to water air source heat pump has quickly become a popular choice for new builds, especially where the house design is specifically matched to the heat pump. With an ErP rating of A+++, the heat pump range is available in outputs of 6kW, 10kW, 13kW and 17kW.

The Aerona3 has quickly become the heat pump of choice amongst those working on new build projects due to its cleaner, more environmentally friendly performance, and its ability to lower a home’s overall carbon footprint, which will ultimately help self-builders achieve required NZEB building standards in the Republic of Ireland. If building a new home in Northern Ireland, pre June 2022, we would have advised that homeowners could also consider a highly efficient Grant Vortex condensing oil boiler as their main heat source. However, there has since been revisions made to Part F of the NI Building Regulations which now states that new domestic buildings will achieve a 40% reduction in carbon emissions* therefore, a heat pump is now highly recommended.

Barry continued, “In addition to its ability to be completely renewable, the Grant

Aerona R32 air to water air source heat pump is also extremely popular with self-builders due to its great compatibility with our range of supporting technologies.

These include pre-plumbed and integrated hot water cylinders, and a range of heat emitters - the Grant Uflex underfloor heating system and the Grant Afinia aluminium radiators. A modern and sleek heat emitter, the Grant Afinia aluminium radiator range offers a high efficiency option with excellent conductivity, whereas the Uflex underfloor heating option is our ‘invisible’ heat emitter – often used in bigger, open planned rooms. Both heat emitter choices offer great flexibility for new builds, as they are designed to work with both low and high temperature heating systems and can be easily paired with a Grant Aerona3 R32 air to water air source heat pump.

We pride ourselves on working side by side with those building new homes to ensure the most efficient Grant heating technologies are specified for the individual home’s requirements, resulting in a fully integrated heating system that delivers cost – effective, low – carbon and comfortable results for the homeowner.”

*Source: Department of Finance -
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Their design brief centred on their desire to live in a warm home with lots of light and open plan living. “Beyond that, we just asked that they focus on the fundamentals, something we could add to as time went on,” adds Anne.

The plans were granted two months later, but the Jordans had to wait 12 months for the works to start, thanks to the Covid lockdowns. “At that point, we were both working from home so we moved out into rental accommodation

during the renovation programme.”

Space invader

They demolished the existing garage to extend into that freed up space. “There was a small bit of reconfiguration in one bedroom, but other than that, the remaining three bedrooms remained unchanged structurally,” says Anne.

We replaced the suspended wooden floors with insulation, underfloor heating pipes and screed. “We initially wanted to install a heat pump as it is a more environmentally friendly heat source, but it was one of the things we pulled out when the costs came back. We do plan to eventually retrofit a heat pump and install solar panels that generate electricity.”

“The advice we got was to get the breathability of the house right, the things that you can’t change retrospectively. And so that was the guiding principle we used when we were looking at how to reduce costs.”

“We applied and got the SEAI grant to add external wall insulation as that was the best way to insulate and it wouldn’t reduce the internal floor space,” says Anne. “We basically had the house wrapped in insulation to make the core of the structure as energy efficient as


Q&A with Elaine

What is your favourite design feature?

The internal feature brickwork. We sourced a brick far cheaper and far nicer than we ever thought we would get. And we love the external canopy and the seater.

What would you change or do differently?

I would change the location of the thermostats to control the underfloor heating temperature. I think that decision was driven without us knowing what implications it would have. And maybe, in hindsight, we should have tried to get the landscaping done at the same time as the build.

What surprised you?

We spent so long fine tuning the initial design, when we were in the process of doing it we realised it was just a blueprint. Our architects were very patient with us, but we didn’t need to spend as much time as we did at the start. What also crops up is the sheer number of decisions that still need to be made. At times it was decision overload even with an architect, a builder and spec designs.

What single piece of advice would you give a friend who’s looking to embark on a project similar to yours?

Our architect was invaluable. We could not have done it without them. So, for anyone who doesn’t want to be super involved in the process keep your architect engaged during the build stage. We are control freaks; we want to know what’s being built. But at the same time, we want to be able to hand it over and then walk away.

Would you do it again?

No, we wouldn’t, we have no plans to leave this house.

“The Jordans had to wait 12 months for the works to start, thanks to the Covid lockdowns...”


possible, and given we’re south facing, we benefit from the solar gain from the extensive glazing, so it is a very warm home.”

“However we believe we might have been eligible for the grant that would have included windows/doors as we were upgrading our home from an E to a A/B rating,” she says. “But I received so much conflicting information and at the time, there was also negative press on the timelines and problems with this grant and in the end, we did not go for it. So I probably wouldn’t describe the grant process as great.”

In fact the external wall insulation was the most challenging part of the build. “Because the airtight membrane was retrofitted, we were joining the old part of the house with the new,” says Niall. “It was a challenge to install the layer above

and below the joists. The attic and the downstairs are wrapped as two separate envelopes so any future work that requires going up into the attic will need to be done extremely sensitively to ensure we don’t undo all that work by breaking the seal.”

“We also had to make very specific decisions on what type of lighting we could have and where the services would run,” says Anne. “So that will add complexity to any future changes we might make.”

The building work was managed by the architect and builder. “There was lots of

communication between them, with the architect visiting the site numerous times to inspect,” says Anne. “But Niall and I made all the decisions on the fixtures and fittings and things like the windows.”

“Our architect recommended that we visited a couple of glazing companies which we did, and ended up choosing triple glazed aluclad windows. Although they were a big outlay, they came in a lot cheaper than we anticipated.”

In the original plans, a flat roof had been included to incorporate the new overhang for the open plan living area and the building extension. “This was


changed to a sloping roof for insurance reasons, but meant it was a super complex roof to build and took a long time to complete,” says Anne.


The Jordans decided to make further savings by installing a second hand kitchen. “We bought the units for €2,000 a year before we started the build,” says Anne. “The kitchen is 20 years old, but was built by a leading German manufacturer, so it’s been superbly handmade. We made that saving choice to be able to invest more in the core structure of the house. The plan was to rip out the kitchen after a year and install a new one once we’d learnt how we wanted to use the house. However, we love it and we’re keeping it. We’ve painted it and I think it’s going to be here for a long time.”

The flooring choice was driven by their two young children. “We were originally considering engineered tiles and engineered wood, but we’ve gone with laminate because it wouldn’t be feasible for us to look after engineered wood with all the wear and tear that it gets from our children.”

They installed the same flooring option throughout the living and bedroom areas. “It unites the house and flows from room to room,” says Anne. The couple were keen to include a second sitting room. “When the children are teenagers, they’ll probably want their own space. With such an open plan living area, you need to have a separate room to retreat to.”

The building contract included a PC sum for lighting. Prime Cost sums are

Anne & Niall’s tips

Take a breath. Don’t jump when you get asked immediately to come on site because the builder makes everything sound urgent. That’s not always the case.

Get the design right for the fundamentals. Spend on the things that can’t be easily changed and make sure you get them right.

Do your research and make sure you get the grants you’re entitled to because I think we missed out on some along the way.

Shop around. To save money when sourcing specific items look further afield than just in Ireland. There can be alternative ways to source the same thing.

Bathroom: “We made sure to invest in our sanitaryware that was a splurge beyond what we originally planned,” says Anne.



ballpark figures of what an element might cost. “We had full control over what we selected,” says Anne. “We went to a lighting designer and purchased all the spotlights for the open plan area. We invested in the kitchen light fitting, but for the bedrooms and other areas where the aesthetic isn’t quite so important, we sourced cheaper pendants or quality secondhand fittings. Again, we decided to choose cheaper options at the start, which we might replace in the future.”

The interior style reflects the couple’s previous life down under. “We shipped all of our furniture over from Australia,” says Niall. “We had lived in unfurnished rental apartments while living there, so we’d already accumulated a lot of items that we love.”

Mature approach

The existing garden with its mature trees and shrubs provided the Jordans with an attractive starting point externally. “We tried to hang on to as many trees as we could, and make sure those were protected during the build,” says Anne. A new patio was installed and hard standing areas for the children to run their scooters, and an external electrical point will facilitate future garden

October 2017

House bought

August 2019

Planning applied

October 2019

Planning granted

October 2020

Build start

November 2021

Build end and moved in


“Having Kilkenny Castle and its grounds on our doorstep is such a great outdoor resource for the children that we haven’t felt the need to develop the garden as a play area,” says Anna.

Looking back, time was the biggest challenge facing the Jordans during their home improvement project. “The impact of Covid on the build meant that what was to be a six month programme was stretched to 13 months,” says Anne. “We were living in rental accommodation with a one year lease, which was running out so there was a lot of stress towards the end.”

The finished house had a lot of expectations to live up to. Is it what they had hoped for?

“I think so,” says Anne. “I think the process of trying to juggle two busy jobs, raise two small children and doing the house was tough, and I didn’t get that warm, fuzzy feeling when we moved back in. But over this year, as we’ve added to and bought things specifically for it, the house now feels like a lovely, warm family home.”

“It is our first and forever family home. We don’t plan on having another.”


Project info


out more about Anne and Niall’s project in Co Kilkenny...


Architect and project manager ROJO Studio Architects,

Builder Richie Reade,


Willie Duggan,

Windows Rationel,


Unilin Hyfloor for floors, CavityTherm for walls,, Rockwool for roofs,

Roof covering Sika Trocal,


Damien Kelly,


Floor: new section 1.25mm (max) floor finish, 2.85mm floor screed with perimeter insulation upstand, separation layer, 150mm PIR insulation board, 150mm concert slab, dampproof membrane/radon barrier, hardcore build up.

Walls: new sections cavity wall with 15mm skim and plaster, 100mm inner concrete block leaf (thermal block in sections), 150mm PIR cavity wall insulation, 100mm outer leaf block, 20mm sand cement render. Old walls 15mm skim and plaster on 215 concrete block leaf on 150mm external wall insulation on 10mm external insulation system render. Finished with 18mm larch timber cladding on 150mm external wall insulation on 100x50mm cross battens on 215mm concrete block leaf finished internally with 15mm skim and plaster. External canopy walls 100 or 215mm concrete block, 25mm timber battens, 18mm ply or larch timber cladding, 2mm zinc standing seam. Internal stud walls 15mm skim plaster, 75mm stud with acoustic insulation, 15mm skim plaster.

Roofs: New flat and pitched roofs proprietary uPVC standing seam finish on 18mm marine grade plywood, min 50mm ventilation void, 400mm mineral wool insulation to be wrapped and continuous with new external wall insulation, 215mm C16 timber joists, airtightness/vapour control barrier, 25mm service cavity, 15mm plasterboard and skim. Existing roof tiles on battens, felt, rafters, vented void, 400mm mineral insulation to be wrapped and continuous with new external wall insulation, airtightness/vapour control barrier, 2c25mm cross battens for service cavity, 15mm plasteboard and skim.

Windows: triple glazed with passive sills.

More photographs available at
Bedroom Bedroom Bedroom Bedroom Kitchen Dining Living Snug Utility

Words: Heather Campbell

Leapfaith of

Photography: Paul Lindsay

Strangers to home improvement, Catherine and Michael Southall put their trust in the experts to turn a 1960s bungalow into a dream family home, minutes from the beach…



Bedrooms: 4

Renovation cost: £65k

Heating system: gas boiler

Ventilation: natural


The story starts with Catherine, who was pregnant at the time, Michael and their one-year-old son moving in with Catherine’s parents to see out the completion time on their new ‘sale agreed’ home. They had just sold their house and were awaiting their new set of keys. However, those plans ended in tatters when the sale fell through. “Instead of the anticipated six week stay, we ended up living with mum and dad for two years,” says Catherine.

The Southalls faced a predicament in finding a suitable replacement home. “We were adamant that we wanted to stay in this location. We both grew up here. My parents are just a 10 minute walk away, as is Ballyholme Beach. The problem was the lack of properties on the market up for sale within our budget.”

Buying a fixer upper

“We never envisaged buying a fixer upper,” admits Michael. “We had no experience of carrying out home

improvements, we just wanted something we could walk into. But, if we wanted to buy in this location, we knew we had to think beyond that.”

“We finally found this house and could see the potential to modernise it and create an open plan space to live in. It had a massive garden, which was a great appeal as we now had two young boys. There were four double bedrooms of decent size and a single bedroom, two reception rooms. There was more than enough space for us.”

Fortunately, Michael’s membership in a business networking group meant that he had formed strong connections with various construction professionals over the years. Experts that they leaned on when making the final decision to buy a renovation project.

“We wouldn’t have had the confidence to do this if it wasn’t for them,” he says. First to be called on was architect Jim Neil. “Jim came out with us to view the property before we bought it. We talked to him about our ideas for the house, and he gave us plenty of reassurance that they would be possible.”

The builder in the group, Stephen Hall, owner of a construction firm, was next to give his opinion. “Again, Stevie reassured us that it was a good house. We talked about the potential to create a large, open plan living space by removing the load bearing gable wall and opening into the garage and also removing the living room wall. We would also need to rewire the house.”

“Restructuring the area within the existing footprint of the property meant

2 1
“We had no experience of carrying out home improvements, we just wanted something we could walk into. But we knew we had to think beyond that.”

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we didn’t need to extend to gain extra space, so we could avoid the need to apply and wait for planning permission. We wanted to have the house ready to move into as soon as possible.”

“Removing the walls meant we needed to put in steel supports. A friend of mine, Chris Irvine, owns an engineering firm

nearby and he helped with sourcing the steels. He worked with the structural engineer to ensure they met building regulations and that they would be capable of holding the load once the walls were removed.”

“A Building Control officer visited at various times during the renovation

process to check everything was done correctly.”

Space maker

“We opened up the garage, living room, kitchen and old boiler house into one square space,” says Catherine. “To do that we had four large steel beams put in, plus a column to support the beams due to the long span. There were lots of discussions around the design of the kitchen island and whether to incorporate the column into it, or not. We decided to keep it separate, and now that it’s here, we don’t notice it.”

“Because the previous kitchen and living room were separate, we were left with two doors going into the new open space when we only needed one. So, we closed up one of the door openings, which in turn gave us more space for kitchen units. It also meant that we clawed space back from the hallway, and by removing the now redundant hot press we were able to make the downstairs bathroom a third bigger. It’s now a proper family sized bathroom with a double walk in shower and separate bath.”

A 1970s dormer conversion had created two large double bedrooms upstairs. “We already had two double


Q&A with Catherine and Michael

What is your favourite design feature?

Catherine: For me, it would be the kitchen. It’s the kitchen I’ve always wanted and I love the marine blue. I wanted a big island for people to sit around and it’s where my friends and I relax when they come around for a coffee. We wanted to get the kitchen right as it was going to have to last us many years, so we were prepared to invest in it.

What was your biggest splurge?

Catherine: The brass coloured boiling water tap in the kitchen. I wanted one that would match the golden colour of the kitchen unit handles. It cost £500 which is a lot, but much cheaper than others on the market. We love it!

Michael: I wasn’t that keen on the idea at first, it just seemed a bit expensive, but now that we have it, I wouldn’t go back to using a kettle again.

What would you change or do differently?

Catherine: We had gas plumbed in with a connection for a stove in the living area, as we couldn’t afford to get the stove installed straight away. But now we have a long list of things that we would like to do, like the garden, replacing the windows and tarmac for the drive etc., so the stove will probably go further down the list. So maybe we should have somehow found the money at the start – at least it would be working now.

Michael: There isn’t anything obvious that we would have done differently. It was all about getting the most functional work done within our budget. When the budget becomes available, we’ll start phase two.

What single piece of advice would you give a renovator?

Find professionals that you can trust by using personal recommendations. The trust part was massive for us. Within the networking group, there was a lot of reassurance that the guys had done jobs for the other guys in the room so it just made it that bit easier for us to know we were in good hands. It gave us the confidence to go ahead.

Catherine and Michael created a large, open plan living space by removing the load bearing gable wall and opening into the garage...
I was picking the kitchen handles, the style I wanted wasn’t available, so I looked online for an alternative,” says Catherine. “The one I found was less than half the price of the original product and because we needed around 28 of them, this really saved money.”

bedrooms and a single bedroom downstairs, so we thought the best use of the upstairs space was to split one of the bedrooms in half to make a bathroom and a dressing room for our master bedroom,” says Catherine.

“Initially we wanted an ensuite,” says Michael, “but when we spoke to our plumber, he explained that wasn’t a straightforward thing to do. Also, we concluded that if we did have guests, we wouldn’t want them to have to come through our bedroom to use the bathroom. So, having a separate bathroom at the top of the stairs would be

beneficial, and that has been the case.”

Light touch

“The existing staircase only had a couple of panels of wood running down the side which wouldn’t pass building regs these days,” says Michael. “The stairwell area is quite dark so the builder suggested we replace the wood panels with a glass balustrade. He rebuilt the staircase from scratch and put in glass to allow more light in the hallway.”

“We also built in storage beneath the stairs, which has been very useful,” adds Catherine.


The downstairs single bedroom had been converted into a wet room by the previous elderly owners. “We removed all the sanitaryware, redecorated and it is now used as a home office. So that’s been a really good use of space.”

When removing the old kitchen, Catherine had intended to keep the old Belfast sink. “But unfortunately it didn’t fit into the new design measurements so we sold it and replaced it with a larger version.” They reused some of the old cupboards in the utility area which is housed in the rear shed.

“Our builder designed and built the kitchen,” says Catherine. “We were renovating during the Covid period, so we couldn’t visit kitchen showrooms. Instead, Stevie gave us a pile of kitchen brochures to browse through. We picked out the style of the cupboards and colour of the granite we wanted for the worktops and island counter and he did the rest.”

“Stevie also coordinated all the various trades and professionals on site, which was a godsend. They are all part of the same networking group and have previously worked together on many projects so when there were inevitable delays with materials supply they would help each other out on other parts of the project.”

Flooring and sanitaryware were also picked from brochures and websites. “We chose laminate flooring from Ceramica, which Stevie laid. He also organised a tiler to tile our bathrooms. We tried to go for something a little bit different in the bathroom upstairs. The tiles are hexagon shaped with three white lines on them. There are a few different ways you can lay


September 2020

Offer accepted

January 2021

House purchased

March 2021

Work started

September 2021

Work ended and moved in

Downstairs family bathroom


them to create different designs, I like the almost Art Deco style we opted for.”

“I sourced all the bathroom sanitaryware online. I chose similar sinks and toilets for both bathrooms but went a little bit differently with the showers. Our upstairs bathroom is a little more grown up in style with black taps, black shower fittings and frame and a black slate effect shower tray upstairs. The white rectangular tiles were laid diagonally with black grout. I like that modern look.”

“The downstairs family bathroom is more functional, but we’ve included a free standing bath, which is complemented by the black free standing bath mixers.”

More of the same

The Southalls wanted to keep the look of the original house externally. “We were able to reuse some of the existing brick, so anyone walking past wouldn’t know there used to be a garage where the living space is now, which is ultimately what we wanted,” says Michael.

“With the budget in mind, I painted the existing uPVC windows to match the new window in the living area,” he adds.

“This prompted a lot of questions from passers-by asking what paint I used. It was a very simple process. I cleaned down the frames with white spirits, used some fine sandpaper to rough up the surface and then applied two coats of multi-surface paint.”

“It’s been a great success, so much so, I’m considering painting the guttering also. It’s a temporary measure – we will eventually replace the windows and guttering, but it has been a very successful cost cutting exercise.”

“This has been the first phase of our renovations, there are other things that we want to do such as developing the garden, so it’s really about making our budget stretch as much as possible at this stage.”

The biggest challenge faced by the project was time, says Catherine. “One of Stevie’s key builders broke his leg and was out for six weeks and Stevie also got Covid during the project. So there were a few delays we had to wait out.”

“Also, because we had two young kids we didn’t want to move into the house and still have to do painting, so mum and dad were very gracious and let us stay while the whole place was decorated. That added on to the project time, but it was well worth the wait.”

Commenting on the finished (phase one) project, Michael says: “Being able to trust the people who worked on it was vital for us. You’re talking about investing a lot of money and making big decisions.”

“We absolutely love our house,” adds Catherine. “It really works for our young family and I think it will work just as well as our children get older.”

“With the budget in mind, I painted the existing uPVC windows to match the new window in the living area...”

Playing house

Who hasn’t dreamed of having their own shop as a child? Gráinne and Padraig

Haughney went one step further and turned one into a home. Padraig shares their story.


House size before: 1,900sqft

House size after: 2,000sqft

Bedrooms: 4

House price: €137k at auction

Renovation cost: €128k

House value: Between €325k and €350k

Heating and hot water: air to water heat pump

62 /
/ SUMMER 2023
Photography: Dylan Vaughan

Tell us about what drove you to buy a shop to live in.

Our previous home was an old stone barn that we converted into a two bedroom open plan space. It was perfect and we loved it when it was the two of us. But with children coming along, we quickly outgrew the space.

When Gráinne’s mam and dad suggested buying what was once the old pharmacy next door, we both laughed. It was always the plan to build on my family’s farm, but this question got us thinking. I’m a construction and woodwork teacher so I’m naturally drawn to self-builds and renovations.

We looked elsewhere but once we had viewed the old medical hall we fell in love with the place (quirks and all) and kept coming back to the idea.

What state was the house in?

The old build had shredded newspapers and sawdust in the roof space for insulation. The old extension had a galvanised roof with no insulation. The bathroom was built on top of the concrete yard with no foundations, so as you can imagine it was cold, damp and not very cosy.

It became obvious early on that the building had been neglected for many years and that it was going to require a huge amount of work. We had woodworm and rot throughout, water coming in old lead pipes, clay sewage pipes that were cracked and spilling sewage out underneath the floors of the old shop. To name just a few issues.

What were the guiding design principles?

The most important thing for us was to preserve the architectural heritage and integrity of the property whilst also making it function as a family home. The front of our property is listed for its artistic value to the streetscape and had to be treated sensitively. It also meant that windows and doors to the front could not

be moved.

Our property was built in the 1820s and has had many uses over the years. It’s been a grain store, a general store, cash supply store, medical hall (and veterinary supplies too), even a butcher shop. We kept the old meat hooks and use them for our flower baskets.

When planning your home, it’s important to spend as much time in the building. Plan from there and get a feel for what works. We had to make a family home work in what was a commercial building.

How did you go about the redesign?

At the start we were fixated on the need to have a hall. But this completely divided the space and made it very small. We decided to scrap the idea and went with a porch which provided privacy and gave us a transition from the street into our home. It still took us three goes to design the entrance hall, which is now a very efficient but small space. After that, everything fell into place.

We spent many hours drawing and re drawing our plans and once we were happy, we then hired an architect to take us through the planning process. We also showed our plans to as many people as we could and made plenty of little changes from their suggestions. This all helped to make the space work as a home.

It took us a year from buying the property to sorting our mortgage and we used that time to ensure we had our plans perfected. Once we had gotten through the planning process, we were able to start on the fun part.

Dec 2016

Viewed the property

May 2017

Bought at auction

Nov 2017

Got the keys

Oct 2021

Moved in

How much DIY did you do?

With a small budget, we rolled up our sleeves and got stuck in. We were perhaps a little naive and hadn’t planned to do as much work as we ended up having to do. We took 230 tonnes of rubble out in a small little dumber through Gráinne’s parents back garden that backs onto our property. We gutted the entire house and started from scratch. When you stepped in the front door, the floors dropped one meter below street level. We underpinned the walls, added a radon barrier, insulation, underfloor heating and concrete floors.

The old walls were then drylined and insulated, and new insulation was added to the roof. In the new extension we added 150mm rigid insulation in the floors, walls and roof. We added airtight membranes sealed with airtight tape throughout the property. We upgraded

Gráinne makes bespoke wedding cakes for a living, and her creative style is felt throughout the house.

all doors and windows but got them all made in a local joinery as we had to ensure they remained identical to what had been there. We reused as much as we could in terms of mouldings, doorknobs, and so forth.

Any downsides to buying an older property in a town?

Every town and village in Ireland has boarded up shops and buildings, and there is amazing value to be had buying one of these. These older buildings are stunning and beautiful. They just need people to give them a new lease of life, and reimagine what can make a home.

There are grants now too that make it really appealing. Just be aware of the difficulties in securing your mortgage. I would love to see banks and local authorities making it easier to do what we did, as it’s a ready-made solution to the housing crisis.

The main thing I would say is to bear in mind that when building in a town you are restricted for space. We were lucky we could access my parents-in-law’s house from our garden. Otherwise, I’d still be there wheelbarrowing material out through the front door.

We had 12 conditions attached to our approved planning permission, but all were reasonable and sensible. One was we were only allowed to work between the hours of 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 8am to 3pm on a Saturday.

Which turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it did force us to stop and take some time away from the build.

Tell us about the mortgage process.

The mortgage. That added a few grey hairs! When buying a commercial property, you will need to apply for planning permission for change of use to change it to residential. This needs to be done before you get your mortgage because you can’t get a mortgage on a commercial property.

We discovered this after we bought the building. Unfortunately, our bank didn’t know this either when we spoke with them and discussed the property we were looking at buying at auction. The bank gave us approval to bid on it.

We were successful at auction and went through the process of drawing down our mortgage and after a couple of months of back and forth between us, the bank, and solicitors, we had our contracts signed and were told we would have our funds within two weeks.

A week later we received a letter from the bank saying they were withdrawing their offer. As you can imagine this created a lot of stress. We were then given four weeks to close the sale, and as our solicitor informed us we would lose our deposit and could be liable to pay the difference between what we paid and what the property sold for over the next year.

Long story short we were lucky we were able to get a loan and we promptly went down the planning process for change of use. This was all very straightforward and once this was sorted, we were able to get our mortgage and repay the loan we had secured.

How did the planning process go?

Our planning permission journey was a little more complicated than the average build due to our property being a listed building. It was also part commercial, part residential.

The first thing we did, and I’d advise anyone on the self-build journey to do, is to arrange a preplanning meeting.

It’s a free service to avail of and will help to point out any potential issues that may arise or ideas that you have that are not a runner. This doesn’t guarantee you will get planning but is a very good indication that what you are proposing will be approved.

We were also advised to meet the planning conservation officer prior to submitting our plans. We had our plans drawn up and met with him, he was able to discuss our application and advise on areas that we needed to change or remove before applying for planning.

When dealing with listed buildings your application will also be sent to the conservation officer so it’s a good idea to have met him or her and discussed your plans, so that s/he’s familiar with the


building prior to your application.

How is the house working out for you?

We love our home. We are in the middle of the town in the heart of everything. I love that every time I step outside our front door, I meet someone or have a chat with one of our many neighbours. There’s a real sense of community here and we feel privileged to be part of the history and to be part of the next chapter of our building’s story.

It’s also great to be able to pop next door to the shops or to the in-laws if we need milk. Our home backs onto granny and grandad’s and we love that the boys can run up and down to their grandparents without ever having to go out onto the street.

They see them every day and it’s a wonderful relationship for them to have. To us family is the most important thing, and our new home has only enhanced this further.

Top Tips

Do as much work as you can yourself whilst knowing your limitations. If a job requires an expert, get them in.

Plan your bathroom early and know what sanitaryware you want. Free standing bath or a wall mounted toilet? Make these decisions before you start. Once the first fix plumbing is completed, theses decision will be made for you and you may not get what you want. Buy good quality tiles for the main bathroom (you can look at more affordable tiles for ensuites), as this really sets the space off. Not all walls have to be tiled, paint can be a great way to add colour.

Kitchen layout needs to be planned in detail. We spent a lot of time working on this. Get your work triangle correct. Plan your presses and drawers. We maximised our storage with floor to ceiling units. We went with drawers in our island for all our tableware. We can unstack our dishwasher from one spot, rather than having to do laps around the island. The kitchen is the heart of the home and you won’t regret the money spent there.

How about the budget?

Our budget changed several times during the renovation. I’m not sure why but I think people always underestimate the cost and time of nearly everything. Like most people we had to empty out the piggy bank. We used all our savings, got loans from parents, bank/credit union.

We didn’t have a big budget, but we were still able to buy a property in the middle of the town that nobody else was interested in. Yes, it needed lots of work and imagination but there’s so much value to be had buying older buildings.

There are many ways to save money without sacrificing on style or quality. When buying appliances and sanitaryware, we saved a lot by shopping around. Shop around for flooring too. We went with herringbone LVT (luxury vinyl tile) for the entire downstairs. It looks stunning and everyone thinks it’s timber. It works great with underfloor heating, is warmer, and very hard wearing but more forgiving when the kids fall, and it costs a

Get a good electrician in to do a detailed socket and lighting plan. Try to envisage where all your appliances will be and what you need where. We went for a coffee dock with coffee machine and kettle in the press. Are you into baking? Where will you plug in your mixer?

Think of mood lighting. We used LED strip lighting under the kitchen presses and around the island and in the skylight. These little touches really set a lovely atmosphere when you’re relaxing in the evenings. We put small spotlights upstairs over the skirting boards on a sensor, so when the kids get up during the night the low level lighting comes on. We put spotlights outside, just under the gutters at our large glass wall. At night time they light up the garden and it feels like you’re sitting outside, creating a wonderful atmosphere. It also takes away the mirror effect that glazing can have otherwise.



Original house: original build 500mm stone walls, added 100mm rigid insulation on all old walls (drylined). Added 150mm in floors. Kept original slate roof, insulated with layers 300/400mm rockwool insulation.

Extension: cavity block walls with 150mm full fill EPS bead insulation. EPDM roof with 150mm rigid board insulation. Airtight membrane throughout, all doors and windows taped and sealed.

Windows: south facing windows slimline double glazed, all other windows triple glazed argon filled.


Professional fees

Architect: €3,500

Engineer: €2,900

Structural work

Site clearance and groundworks (foundations, waste pipes/sewage, concrete/ floors): €15k

Extension (build to roof level): €6,400

New openings: €3,100

Steel: €8,400

Roof material extension (timber, insulation, fitting:) €7,200

EPDM roof (materials and fitting): €9,000

Energy upgrade

PIR Insulation (floors, walls, roof): €12,600

Drylining and stud walls (slabs, studding, OSB, fitting): €9,575

Airtightness: €1,500

Plumbing and electrics

Plumbing (first and second fix): €10,950 including sanitaryware

Air to water heat pump with cylinder, tank, etc.: €8,700

Electrics (first and second fix): €11,400

Carpentry materials for kitchen, utility, doors, windows/glazing (excludes installation): €14,700

Floor and wall coverings

LVT oak floor (supply and fit): €3,700

Carpets (supply and fit): €1,200

Tiles (supply and fit): €3,600

Paint: €1,500

Total: €128K

fraction on the price of wood or tiles.

Gráinne’s dad owns a bespoke joinery, Made by Dunmore, and we were lucky that he was able to help make our Persian blue kitchen along with our front door, windows and stairs. When building it’s a family affair and you need to pull in as many favours as you can.

What systems did you install?

We went with an air to water heating system which we find fantastic. We do believe in order for these to be a success you need to have a super insulated, airtight home, which we invested in.

We also set up our plant room including water tank and cylinder in the garden which we would recommend, as its saves so much space in the house. Everything is then pumped back into the house.

What single tip would you give someone who’s thinking of renovating an old shop?

Sometimes you just need to think outside the box or blocks in our case to create your dream home. We really had a small budget and did a huge amount of the work ourselves. We now have a beautiful family home that we couldn’t have afforded to buy. The trade off was the time it took. Ours was a four year journey. When we started we had one child, when we moved in we had three.

So our advice is, just go for it. If you

have a vision or dream just work hard to create it. Some of our family and friends definitely thought we were mad to buy an old medical hall for a family home but we had a vision for the place. Old buildings are full of character and charm. They also have lots of secrets that you don’t know about until you begin work.

And make sure to take the time to celebrate all the little victories along the way, be it getting your planning permission, getting your doors and windows in. Pop open a bottle of bubbly and mark the wins. There are lots of ups and downs when doing a renovation so it’s important to celebrate those moments. It will help get you over the disappointments.

Tell us about your experience on RTÉ’s Home of the Year.

It was great fun, and fantastic to get the recognition for all our hard work. To get a score of 10 from design legend Hugh Wallace, it felt like we had won. Hugh really got our story and understood the journey involved in turning a listed building that was essentially the shop on the street into a family home. Our boys had so much fun filming. Our eldest got to skip homework when he was on TV, and our middle boy now declares we are famous!

Follow Gráinne and Padraig’s progress on Instagram @restoration_rethink




Our kitchen, the garden a close second. We put the hob in our island, so when we’re working in the kitchen we can see the kids coming and going. Or chat to whoever’s at the kitchen table.

Biggest splurge?

Insulation, airtight membrane and airtight tape. It’s expensive but you won’t regret it. We had to make a decision very early on in the renovation and we decided we were only getting one chance at it, and we were going to spend as much as we could to get the house super insulated and try to futureproof it as much as possible. Even if that meant we had to cut back on the kitchen or bathrooms. We could redo them again in time whereas the core of the build we were only getting one chance to get right.

Would you do it again?

This question always makes me laugh. During the process it was definitely no but now we are at the other side of it and we see what we achieved I’d say yes.

Anything you wish you had known at the start?

How long it was going to take…but maybe it was a blessing in disguise that we didn’t know.


Thehigh tech


They say you need to self-build three times to get it just right. Adrian Stewart found out his first go wasn’t half bad.


House size: 2,800sqft

Bedrooms: 4

Site size: ½ acre

Build method: cavity wall

Heat and hot water: air to water

heat pump

Ventilation: centralised mechanical

EPC (SAP): A (94)

Project cost: £650k

House value: £750k

Photography: Steven Hanna

What drove the design?

I do feel building is all about individual choice. You can really do anything with a house, it just depends what you like and how much you’re willing to spend.

A smart home system was at the top of my wish list, alongside renewables including a heat pump and solar panels that generate electricity. We wanted plenty of light and a modern finish. I think we achieved both those things with our choice of materials and the companies we went with. A lot of people think we went too modern but that’s what we both like and we’re delighted with it.

How was the project managed?

We started off by searching for a local architect with the same kind of aesthetic as ours. It all happened very quickly and

the process of designing the house was straightforward, we hardly made any changes to what he proposed.

The planning process went smoothly and all managed by our architectural designer. After that our builder Raymond is a good friend of mine, I’ve known him for 35 years, so he managed it all with our architectural designer.

I was on site every day to answer any questions but the build was managed between the builder and our architectural designer. Because it went so well I didn’t have much to do and it went fairly quickly. Whatever was needed we tended to. It was a trusting relationship with the builder.

We also had a first class relationship with building control, they were easy to work with and signed off on the build progress quickly.

CO ANTRIM Timeline
2017 Build start
“A smart home system was at the top of my wish list, alongside renewables including a heat pump and solar panels ”

Tell us about your smart home system.

It’s centrally controlled. There’s a touch screen that controls the whole house or we can control each room individually. The security camera, music, all the tv and even the phone are connected. It’s a great set up and the project was the Belfast Telegraph 2019 Innovative Use of Smart Home Technology Winner.

How did you decide on what renewable systems to install?

Our aim was to design and install an

integrated renewable energy system to minimise how much energy we would use. We hired an energy consultant and he says that if we were to do a payback calculation now, for this size of house and based on current electricity and oil prices the payback of an air source heat pump would be three to four years as the additional capital cost for the heat pump over oil would be £3,500 to £4,000.

We have a solar thermal system that provides most of the hot water requirements from spring through to autumn, so the heat pump has less work



to do. The payback on this would be longer than a typical 4kW solar photovoltaic (PV) array that generates electricity. The energy consultant says that with the price of PV coming down, combined with the fact that many PV systems can also heat water, solar thermal has become less popular than it used to be in Ireland and the UK.


I love the cinema room. Every weekend we watch a film and it’s a real treat. Day to day, we spend most



Architectural design and supervision

Slemish Design Studio Architects,

Builder Raymond Hill


Lumi Windows


Daly Renewables supplied: Hitachi Yutaki

RASM-4VNE air to water heat pump, mechanical with heat recovery ventilation

Aerauliqa QR550, photovoltaic system 14

JA PV panels with 10kW battery and 2 Roth Heliostar solar thermal panels

Central vacuum

Sistemair Techno Vac Machine

Garage doors

Garage Door Systems Durapass & Duratherm


Brian Backus


Coleraine Fireplaces


One Step Insulation


Johanna Montgomery Kitchens


Keys Tiles installed by Victor McAuley



Home automation

Luxavo Home Automation, Dublin


Steven Hanna Photography,

of our time in the living room. The kitchen is another firm favourite – it was designed with care and works exactly as we want it to.

I also love the larch timber cladding at the front of the house. We have to treat it every couple of years with a resin, but it looks fantastic.

Would you do it again?

We plan to build on my wife’s land. We’re both retired now and want to move to this site, closer to her father, who’s not well at the moment. The house we plan to build will be 100 yards from his farmhouse. We’re keen to get building again but I’m really surprised at how expensive everything has gotten. Estimates for the new build are coming in at £800-900k for a very similar specification to what we have now.

What would you change?

We had a lot of bother with the wooden trusses. The company we’d chosen took ages to get back to us with a price and landed us with an astronomical quote of £27k. It was far too expensive so we had to look elsewhere. These are only decorative, not structural. The other company we found came in at £9k. Even though it’s oak, I don’t think it was worth the investment. I also wouldn’t go with a specialist lighting company again. They came out and surveyed the house, specified all of the lights. But looking back I think they were too dear, we could have gotten them from wholesalers for a better price. We won’t go down that route for the next build.

I would keep the smart home setup though, even though my wife isn’t that techy I do think it is useful and makes our lives easier.


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“We have a solar thermal system that provides most of the hot water requirements from spring through to autumn...”



House size before: 125sqm

House size after: 188sqm

Bedrooms: 4

Heating: air to water heat pump

Ventilation: centralised mechanical with heat recovery

Construction: blockwork (cavity wall)

BER before: D2 (energy consumption of 289.86 kWh/ sqm/yr)

Provisional BER after: A1 (23.06 kWh/sqm/yr)

EnerPHit is the passive house way to upgrade the energy efficiency of your home. Barry McCarron shares how he and his wife Aisling went about it for their bungalow.
Barry McCarron Chairperson of the Passive House Association Ireland,

We moved into a 1970s bungalow about 10 years ago off the back of the Celtic Tiger recession. Since then, we got married and had three children. We looked at building on the family farm which is close by, but due to costs and planning challenges we decided to take the plunge and retrofit our bungalow instead.

The problem

We didn’t need an energy assessor to tell us we had a very poor Building Energy Rating (BER). All we had to do is look at our energy bills. The two years before we started the project, we were spending about €4,500 per year for our heating, hot water, and solid fuel.

Coupled with these costs we also had to experience regular discomfort. During the winter, our sitting room with solid stove was at around 30degC and next to it our kitchen, which was formerly a garage, was on average 18degC with regular dips to below 16degC.

We also had some poor results with indoor air quality (IAQ). All three rooms that I monitored had an average CO2 concentration above 1,000ppm and highs more than 2,500ppm. A safe threshold is 700ppm.

The solution

So, we started to look at our house with a deep retrofit in mind. We worked with

our architect under the brief of having a family home which was modest but that would have some elements which would surprise people for a bungalow.

Once we got to a developed design, we modelled it in the passive house software (PHPP) which was excellent as it highlighted some design elements that were hurting performance. Namely the corner window, floor to ceiling glass, and our building form (the surface area to volume ratio).

The PHPP results influenced the design and now I can see why so many in the passive house community say that it’s a design tool above all else.

The secret sauce

The Passive House Institute in Germany, the same people behind the passive house standard for new builds, developed EnerPHit or Quality Approved Energy Retrofit with Passive House Components for the renovations market. The aim is to save between 75 and 90 per cent in energy use.

EnerPHit has a requirement to achieve an energy consumption of 25kWh per sqm of floor area per year and an airtightness result of one air change per hour (ACH).

For reference, a new home built in ROI to the current nearly zero energy building regulations consumes about 45kWh/ sqm/yr and must achieve an airtightness result of three air changes.

Top tips for a passive house retrofit

Get a quantity surveyor to price project before speaking to a builder. Assume €1,800 to €2,000 per sqm.

Spend a lot of time on the plans and use the passive house software, PHPP, to model your energy use. Do this as early as possible. It really is a design tool.

Get a general drawing done for the interior design. Knowing the furniture arrangements in advance will help with all aspects of the design, down to socket placement.

Pick a builder who’s keen to work to passive house standards. We are delighted with how our builder approached our build, but not everyone will be happy to take on a project like this.

Avoid corner windows and floor to ceiling glass unless your views really demand it. Our experience of window costs was €400 to €800 per sqm so reducing unnecessary window area will save on both running costs and build costs.

Invest in the building fabric above everything else as it will pay off in the long term. Building fabric meaning the build up of your floor, walls, and roof.

Enjoy. Yes, it’s stressful, it’s expensive and there are unknowns. But it’s a real privilege to have the opportunity to undertake a self-build project. And if you’re doing it, you may as well enjoy the process and get as much from the experience as you can.


The way to get to the EnerPHit standard is by implementing the five passive house principles which are:

� High insulation levels

� Limiting thermal bridging

� Installing tripled glazed windows

� Paying attention to airtightness

� Installing centralised mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR)

These five principles taken together make up the secret sauce. That is how you will deliver on actual performance. The reason why so many projects do not achieve the results they hoped for is because there was a weak link in one of these five aspects. They work together, you can’t pick and choose.

Once the five elements are done, you’re on a roll. This is where introducing renewables such as a heat pump and perhaps photovoltaic (solar panels that generate electricity), starts to make sense. The secret sauce is how you’ll get the best performance from these add ons, as the heat demand of the house will be so low.

Our heating system will be an air to water heat pump to underfloor heating

in a 100mm sand cement floor screed. This should help performance in that it will hold heat longer than a lighter or thinner screed.

We also optimised the system further with a larger hot water storage tank which is 500 litres. This is then paired with a 6kW photovoltaic system. These technologies complement each other as the energy input for heat pumps is electricity.


On our project we ended up only keeping 25 per cent of the overall structure but this included 65 per cent of the existing 100mm cavity external walls. We matched the new 35 per cent with the same build up.

The finished build up consisted of a 100mm cavity pumped with bead insulation and then a 200mm EPS External Wall Insulation (EWI) system. Our existing floors had been dug out, so we rebuilt from a new sub floor with a 180mm PIR insulation layer and a 100mm sand cement floor screed.

Our roof was a new premanufactured

Week 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 Internal Demo, Fixture Removal Summer holidays Structure Demo Foundations Sub Structure / Floor Sturctural Blockwork Roof Truss Fit Felt Batten Tile Windows Electrical 1st Fix Pump Cavity External Wall Insulation External Wall Finish Plumbing 1st Fix Airtightness Internal Boarding Internal Wall Finish Underfloor Heating Insulation Floor Finish Tiling Kitchen Finish Joinery Painting Second Fix Electric Second Fix Plumbing External Ground Works

Heat Loss Indicator (HLI)

The HLI is the total heat loss per sqm of dwelling floor area, i.e. the total fabric and ventilation loss for the dwelling divided by the total floor area.

The HLI is calculated using DEAP, the software used to prove compliance to the building regulations and the one that calculates your Building Energy Rating (BER).

If your home gets a HLI score of between 2 and 2.3, retrofitting your home won’t necessarily lead to savings in running costs. Your technical advisor will have the details about your specific property.

Note that to get a grant to install a heat pump in your pre-2011 home in ROI, you will need your technical advisor to show that your home has an HLI of 2 or less.

In Barry’s case, pre works his HLI was 2.69 and post works it’s estimated to be 0.71.

CO MONAGHAN SUMMER 2023 / SELFBUILD / 77 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 Christmas holidays

truss roof which had a build-up of 50mm sheep’s wool insulation, 220mm cellulose insulation and a layer of 35mm wood fibre to the outside of the roof before felt and batten to support concrete roof tiles.

Thermal bridging

On the thermal bridge elements, our 35 per cent new external walls, coupled with all the internal wall, had a course of aerated concrete thermal blocks used to match the floor insulation layer.

Much of the rest of the common thermal bridging was dealt with by the external wall insulation (EWI) system. EWI is a complete consistent layer of insulation that uniformly wraps around the building. This is one of the benefits of paying to get EWI.

The other area with respect to thermal bridging was our window installation. In effect, we installed the windows within the EPS insulation layer which dramatically reduced thermal bridging around these opening. The windows are now flush with the outside of the existing/new wall.


The windows had an eye watering price tag of €24,000 and €11,000 for the rooflights, or €800 per sqm overall. We looked at entry level options but, in the end, we decided to go with the highest performing passive house certified windows we could find.

And now that we have them installed, we are just delighted with them. The five roof lights are passive house certified and they really are a highlight of our build in that they are quintuple glazed (five layers of glass).


Because the target level is to get below 1 ACH, I chose to go with an expert from the passive house community here in Ireland. We used airtightness membrane and tapes in the roof which also then held our cellulose layer in the roof build up. The masonry element of the project was made airtight with a sand cement scratch coat and before that, we used airtightness paint where the subfloor

and wall meet and where we had walls chased for electrics.


Our MVHR unit has a heat recovery efficiency of 84 per cent which means we will only be losing 16 per cent of the heat from the home. There is a unit in the attic which extracts stale air and preheats fresh incoming air with the latent heat from the extract.

In our kitchen and bathrooms, the air used to be extracted directly outside. When the standalone fans weren’t on, the holes in the wall for natural ventilation led to further uncontrolled heat loss. What we are really looking forward to here is good Indoor Air Quality (IAQ).

Final costs and thoughts

Overall, we are delighted to have decided to go on this journey. It will be great to monitor performance in terms of IAQ and energy costs over the next few years. We love our vaulted kitchen living space and our master bedroom. The external appearance is

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still that of a humble bungalow but inside it’s a complete transformation. It is so unexpected.

It does show what can be done with a bungalow in Ireland today. In ROI, 300,000 bungalows like ours exist dotted around the country and 80 per cent of these have a BER of D or worse. It’s true that the project has been expensive, and that was mostly because in many respects it was a rebuild. But, at less than €2,000 per sqm, it came in on budget.

We expect we will only be paying around €500 per year for all our energy needs. That will accumulate to over €100,000 in savings over the lifetime of our mortgage. The extra cost to reach the passive house standard for the project was seven per cent which is equivalent to a five year payback. That is not bad for a bespoke design.

See for more about the passive house standard and follow Barry’s project on Instagram @bungalow_retrofit

Bedroom Plant Ensuite Ensuite Bedroom Living room Entrance hall Living Dining Kitchen Utility Larder Bathroom Bedroom Bedroom Gallery landing


Daniel and Louise Quinn bought their dream home in February 2021. Louise chats through how they went through second fix and how they’re currently doing their house up room by room.



House size: 2,800sqft

Bedrooms: 4

Heating and hot water: oil boiler

Ventilation: natural

Finishing the shell 80
Plot size: ½ acre

Tell us about how you came to buy this house.

We’d always wanted to build our own home. But even though we tried to buy a few sites over the years, deals fell through, babies came along and building just didn’t happen for us.

We purchased our first home as a semi detached house and enjoyed small interior projects, then we purchased a larger detached home. When lockdown hit we decided we wanted a bigger site so we went house hunting again. When we saw this house, which was basically walls, windows, a roof and floor, we were hooked and we knew this was the one for us.

Every other property we had viewed needed a whole house renovation. This one was the perfect blank slate for us. The only hitch was our timing – the Covid lockdown.

We put our house on the market in August 2020 and it sold quickly, but because conveyancing took so long we only had to move out in January. That worked in our favour as we were only ready to move into our new home the following month.

How did you get started with the fit out?

Having previous experience with our first homes, we knew what we wanted. We researched a lot and knew the exact finish we were after, the kitchen especially. The main bathroom was our other priority, which we both needed completed for moving in.

We had a shell of a kitchen to work with and there was no flooring. For the main bathroom we wanted a monochrome style, I’d gotten the idea of a wall mounted dark vanity unit and basin from a showroom. Then the kitchen a grey/white/ classic look.

My advice here is to shop around, chat to others going through a similar project, and go on social media. Instagram is a great place to pick and choose styles and ideas of what works for your house.

How did you manage the project?

Daniel and I work very well as a team. I tend to focus on the aesthetics of certain things, and he is able to help with the practicalities of it all. Thankfully he has experience in certain aspects of construction and he knew a lot of people he could hire to help, including plumbers and tilers.

So it made sense for Daniel to coordinate the entire project, dealing with the day to day on site. We got local


companies for everything. Daniel would go in mornings or evenings to check on things. Or he’d show up when he’d get a calls from the site and he’d need to go take a look at this or that.

Some days we’d be delayed by one person not showing up, yet the next person would be on schedule. That was the most demanding aspect. The other challenge was that everything had to be done at the same time – it was a real juggling act. Everything needed done yesterday.

The good thing is we were familiar with showrooms and how the process works, as we’d thought of self-building before. But it still came as a surprise how busy it all was.

How did you keep on top of the budget?

Budgeting was all about spending what we had in savings. If we couldn’t afford it, we waited to get it. Internally, we still have rooms to both start and finish, the list is growing by the day. Outside we still have the stone drive, as we’ve left the tarmac for later.

And we still have an endless list of jobs to do inside. Next up is the living room, and I can’t wait to get started. I have so many ideas from stove choices to flooring, sofas as well as wall colour. It’s going to be very exciting.

What was the biggest splurge?

The kitchen was the most expensive,

and within that, the worktops as they’re quartz. I wanted to have matching splashbacks, upsills, and windowsills. The quartz was as expensive as the rest of the kitchen. But I think it was worth it.

The island is the hub of the house and it’s where the boys do their homework, we chat while I cook and it’s where we entertain too. We love our kitchen and get lots of compliments on it.

How did you go about the kitchen design?

To help with the design, we used a local kitchen company, the same company that did our kitchen in our last house and they were super. They listened to our needs as a family and made our dream kitchen a reality. They also recommended a local quartz supplier who helped us in choosing the perfect worktops.

There is nothing we would change about our kitchen design, although maybe if the budget allows, I would like add a boiling water tap or a wine fridge.

What are your favourite parts of the house?

Mine is the kitchen, I just love how bright it is and the great space we have.



The island is my favourite feature and is the hub of the home. For Daniel the lawn and the outdoor space are his pride and joy. He has a great interest in landscaping and completed all of it himself. He has lots of plans for outside including planting, kerbing, patio and eventually finishing the driveway.

Would you do it again?

We love this house and area, so not anytime soon. Plus we’re not done with this project, we’re always thinking of improving. But, who knows, we might start all over again. I’m not ready to give up on visiting showrooms, that’s for sure.

For more about the project follow Louise on Instagram


A colourfulgarden

The site is flat. Very flat and extensive, with lawn stretching away in every direction. Beyond the young hedging, fields of golden barley wave in the sea breeze. An imposing two storey home reflects the gold with its granite facing.

Although space is plentiful, most of it is to the front of the house facing a small but busy road. My brief is to bring the outdoor space to the next level. To anchor the house in a colourful garden, with features the entire family can enjoy.

First steps

First on the agenda is to bring in height, to balance the large two storey house with the level surroundings.

Introducing trees of different heights adds interest at different levels. A curved double row of silver birch, with another of Sorbus ‘Joseph Rock’, brings seasonal interest and sweeping curves too – something the owners particularly wanted.

A rustic but classic feel is what the owners want, reflecting the natural materials used for the house itself and for the interior.

Because the house is street facing, screening was necessary for the family to enjoy the garden in privacy. I suggested panels of woven willow as a solution. The flexible willow wands are woven onto pressure treated timber frame, providing a semi permeable screen which allows wind to filter through but slows it down considerably, making the area inside feel much more sheltered.

The natural material makes a particularly attractive backdrop for plants, so planted areas can be used on

Home to busy parents with a young family, this garden design was all about adding colour and fun.
Nepta ‘Walkers’ Low’ Red ground cover ‘Flower Carpet’ rose


Break up a flat space with a combination of features, such as arches or a pergola, and add trees to make it more interesting.

Make sure wind barriers are semi permeable – the wind needs to filter through rather than tumble over, or it will cause turbulence and possibly knock the barrier down in stormy weather.

Make sure garden materials sit well with the interior and exterior of the house for a seamless flow.

both sides of a row of screens to divide the garden into different zones.

The family wanted a roofed seating area for the front garden, so an oak framed gazebo was included in the design with a paved floor, extending to a path on two sides. This linked to a timber pergola – contributing to the muchneeded height in this space – flanked on either side by planted borders.

Fun touches

A stepping stone path laid into the lawn leads under the pergola to a driftwood sculpture, with the double rows of trees beyond helping to slow the westerly winds and provide a more sheltered space to stroll around and enjoy. Planted borders also follow the curved driveway, enhancing the approach to the house and parking area.

A turf maze provides fun for children (including grown up ones) on the opposite side of the lawn. Easier to install than a traditional hedge labyrinth, a turf maze can be as simple as a combination of grass turf and self binding gravel, encouraging little ones to burn off some of that endless energy outdoors.

They’re a great way of adding something interesting to a large expanse of lawn and can easily be removed further down the line if desired.

Planting for this garden included a combination of shrubs, flowering perennials and grasses to echo the movement of the swaying crops in the fields beyond. Relaxed, easy care perennials such as Nepeta ‘Walkers’ Low’ and hardy geraniums, bring waves of summer colour. As do ‘Flower Carpet’ roses, which flower for months on end and don’t mind exposure near the seashore.

Woven willow screening Cistus also known as rock rose or sun rose is bushy and spreads well in coastal areas Example of an oak framed gazebo
Paved path (detail shown) Water bowl on plinth Oak frame roofed gazebo Stove / Fire Paving / Lounge Seating
- Sorbus ‘Joseph Rock’ Sculpture / sundial on plinth Oak pergola Planted borders either side Grass path / stepping stones Shelter panels - oak or woven willowsemipermeable Gate Mixed planting either side Grass path (mower access)
Willow Garden Buildings
Curved double row of small trees
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Meet the experts

Selfbuild Live Dublin 2023 has a brand new venue, an exciting line up of theatre talks and hundreds of experts on hand to chat through all aspects of your new build, extension or renovation project.

Meet the experts who will turn your project into reality at Selfbuild Live Dublin from Friday May 5th to Sunday May 7th 2023, open 10AM to 6PM all three days. It’s a must-attend event if you’re building new, extending or simply renovating. The show focuses on home building and renovating only, so there will be no distractions. Apart from the café!


For the first time, Selfbuild Live will take place at the Sport Ireland National Indoor Arena in Blanchardstown, Eircode D15 EPN4. It’s a state of the art, wheelchair accessible facility.

The venue is accessible off the M50, and from town by taking the Navan Road

towards Blanchardstown. There’s also a bus service available from Dublin city centre. Car parking will be available over the three days.


Selfbuild Live has teamed up with charity

partner Habitat which brings people together from across the community to serve the most vulnerable. It also raises funds to support long term partner programmes in some of the world’s poorest communities. Habitat for Humanity

ReStore will be at the show all weekend. Visit them at their stand and find out more at


Meet the exhibitors

Find out more about who will be at the event.

Prepare for your visit, and plan who you’re going to chat to, by going to There you will find the list of the 120+ exhibitors who will be at the event, from insulation suppliers to kitchens and bathrooms. When you attend, you will get the floor plan in your show guide to locate those on your shortlist.

Every day you’ll get to chat to new faces, with industry leaders sharing insights from decades of experience. We have every aspect of home building and home improving covered, from ventilation to interiors.

The three day event will also feature dozens of talks from experts in their fields, including how to install your windows and doors, everything you need to know about heat pumps, and a guide to screeds.

The talks will run across two stages, the Daikin Theatre and the Unilin Theatre.

For more and to book FREE tickets log on to

Homely Natural Solutions’ focus is to expand the way their clients and their families experience their homes.

They offer cheaper alternatives for more living space and enable their clients to create the atmosphere they always hoped for with elegant, modern and custom Aluminium Canopies.

Grant is Ireland’s leading manufacturer of heating technologies and has been providing efficient and reliable heating solutions for over 45 years. With value for money and quality underpinning its research, design and manufacturing process, Grant is the number one choice for self-builders throughout Ireland. Grant’s diverse product portfolio includes the highly efficient Grant Aerona³ R32 air to water air source heat pumps, HVO biofuel compatible Grant Vortex condensing boilers, Grant solar thermal, Grant integrated hot water cylinders and modern heat emitters –including underfloor heating.

Little Lodges was born out of a belief that bold design has no boundaries. We design and build beautiful boutique glamping lodges, larger 2 bedroom and 3 bedroom lodges and contemporary barn style houses all in modular steel frame construction.

Why not contact us at for further information.

Permanent TSB has a long banking history in Irish communities, with roots that stretch back over 200 years. Throughout this time, its focus has been on delivering exceptional customer service and connecting with local communities, providing mortgages and community banking services.

Permanent TSB has a presence in 98 locations nationwide and is a leading provider of Retail and SME banking in the Irish Market, serving over 1 million customers.

Pipelife is Ireland’s leading designer and supplier of thousands of Home Heating Solutions each year.

Choosing the heating system for your home can seem quite daunting if, like most people, you do not have an in-depth knowledge of modern heating solutions. At Pipelife ECO we strive to talk to you, our valued customer, in language that you understand, and give you the comfort of knowing that we will take full responsibility for providing you with a design that fully meets your requirements and expectations.

Get acquainted with some of the exhibitors who will be at Selfbuild Live Dublin…

The build schedule

Where to start if you plan to manage your own building project and hire all the trades yourself.

Project management costs run around 10 to 15 per cent of the total build cost and sometimes maybe more, not only because it involves such a lot of time and work but also because it requires a considerable breadth of experience and knowledge.

These are savings you could make by managing the project yourself, but they are by no means guaranteed. If you take control of building your own home, you become a project manager and you will have to start thinking like one. In addition to being the employer, you will assume the role of the principal contractor with all the responsibilities that these functions entail.

Some people thrive on the self-build challenge, others swear that they will never tackle it again. The first group are most likely to be those who set aside adequate time to learn and prepare, the second group probably did not.

Find out if it’s for you

It is virtually impossible to manage something effectively if the process is a completely new experience, so you should therefore have a good working knowledge of how a house is built before you start.

Take time to sit back and try to envisage the process in your mind, from start to finish, of a typical house building project. If you identify any gaps in your knowledge, perhaps try to get some time on site on another building project, or enrol on one of the many construction related courses that are available.

Try to get your hands on a really well detailed set of construction phase drawings, schedules and specifications

from another project to give you most of the background information you need. It should go without saying that all of this should be taken care of well before the planned commencement date of your building work.

One simple rule of thumb suggests that, unless you have previous experience, you should spend as much time planning the build as it takes to build it.

If all this preparation and learning sounds too much, consider enlisting an experienced builder or site foreman who can coordinate the work for you, at least until the main trades have completed their activities.

You might be able to then step in for the finishing off phases once the structural work is done. This hybrid approach to the self-build process, or some similar arrangement, is perhaps the most commonly adopted approach today.

Just bear in mind that you will not make the same financial savings that you could have achieved by fully project managing the build on your own.

Get acquainted with the new normal

Building cost overruns are often seen as to be expected but they really shouldn’t be. The construction industry has all the skills, knowledge and technology to manage building projects with a high degree of accuracy. The trick is to know where to look for these assets.

That said, I have yet to meet a self-builder whose project came in on time and under budget, so it is always prudent to allow a 10 per cent contingency sum in your total price for unforeseen costs.

And of course, we’re now all too

familiar with issues around building supplies. War, the pandemic and big cargo ships stuck in the Suez Canal, are all held to blame. Ruling out these and other types of unpredictable events beyond human control, a well executed programme will otherwise allow you to source and place supplies, labour, plant and equipment on site and on time.

Just as you don’t want products and materials arriving on site late, you also do not want them to arrive too early so that they have to be safely stored and secured until they are needed. This just-in-time approach can also help keep costs down by avoiding paying interest on staged payment loans before you need them. But do balance this with any opportunities that you might find for making purchases before their prices rise.

Remember too that building a house is a much more complex project than it ever was. The building regulations are frequently amended and updated, new products are continually being developed and introduced to the market and new or improved methods of building are being introduced all the time. With all of this comes an increase in the probability for errors, omissions and potential failures to occur over the duration of the build.

How to stay on track

As any builder who has had to shift a toilet or even just a door that was in the ‘wrong’ place will tell you, change is costly. Or to be more accurate, changes during the construction phase are costly whereas changes during the design phases are much less so.

This is why I always remind clients that it is far easier and cheaper to change things on paper than on site. So get your construction phase drawings,



blockwork complete, all flashings, damp proof courses, aprons & cavity trays pre-installed, roof structure and support work complete with all structural fixing components.

17 18

External plastering. Driveways, parking spaces, kerbs, paths, patios, fences, gates, access ramps, handrails or guardrails and steps,

Completion Stage:

• Soft landscaping, including tree and hedge planting schemes – especially where required under the planning permission. Do note that it is usually more economical to plant trees during their dormant season (i.e. winter) so this may become a post-construction task. Complete all groundworks.

• Finishes complete in accordance with the specifications and schedules.

• Remedial Works complete including all those on the Building Control final snag list.

• Certificates received from manufacturers, contractors, installers and suppliers where required.

• All outstanding written guarantees or warranties should be obtained.

• House ready for occupation and Final Certificates issued.

8 16


schedules and specifications issued with all of the information required in good time before work is due to commence. Then get them reviewed by the construction teams, update them if necessary, and then stick to them.

When you get your builders and subcontractors to sign their contracts (as you should, even though it’s not common practice on all self-build sites yet) they are committing themselves to carrying out the work in accordance with the drawings, specifications and schedules which formed part of the contract documentation.

They could then be held in breach of contract if they make unauthorised changes on site. If they suggest any changes, get written confirmation of the details, the benefits to you, and the costs before you make any decisions.

Remember that your designer will have worked out the design to suit your specific needs so don’t water down your design objectives by accepting a lower spec just because it benefits a construction team. Preconstruction meetings should have these problems ironed out before they crop up on site and all documentation should be updated to reflect any changes.

When you have drawn up a construction programme, it should also become part of the contract. You will find that the programme will change over time, but more on that later. Certain contract documents such as the New Engineering and Construction Contract (NEC) or the NEC Short Contract, will define Activity Schedules as being related to a programme where each activity has a separate price and interim payments are released when each activity is completed.

For all these reasons and more, but especially when combined with a solid design and preconstruction phase, a programme is an essential part of your self-build toolkit.

Build schedule: steps involved

Thinking about the steps involved in the building processes on site should help to ensure that all tasks are included. This is a suggested list and yours is likely to be different. Some items may be rearranged and some may be tackled at the same time.

Annotate your list with a list of who is to be involved during each step. Some subcontractors can take on more than one role, so this is where you need to know your team’s abilities.

Split the list into sublists to obtain a more complete picture of each stage.

For example, I have taken item 1 ‘Site Preparation’ which will include Siteworks Preliminaries below. Parts of this in turn will intermingle with items 2 and 3. The order of work is up to you, but always evaluate safety first.

Do remember that if trespassers or other unwanted visitors, even those bent on criminal activity, are injured on site; you (as the landowner) would still have to show that you took all reasonable precautions for everyone’s safety at any given stage of the works. It might be necessary to have signs written in more than one language.

Example: Siteworks Preliminaries

Before the actual building works are due to commence and where they apply to your site, you will need to get the following organised. Ask your designer for help if there are any terms of which you are unsure.

• Erect any fences, hoarding, gates or barriers required for site security and public safety.

• Erect any signs that are needed, including site boards and all warning measures.

• Arrange for the connection (or disconnection) of services.

• Set up temporary sources of power and water.

• Pay any mandatory bonds required by local authorities.

• Check that you have permission to discharge effluent or to connect to a public sewer.

• Arrange for demolition and taking away if you have to remove any existing structures.

• Find out if you need an asbestos or other hazardous materials survey.

• Provide storage for any materials which have been salvaged.

• Arrange for temporary heat required for the site operatives and the building works.

• Set up fire safety measures and update as necessary as work progresses.

• Ensure that environmental protection measures are achieved as per the ecologists report.

• Arrange for the provision of temporary works. This will also apply to later activities.

• Record any locations where works will affect adjoining public or private property.

• If not already done, ensure that these works are adequately covered in the schedules.

• Arrange for temporary lighting and any other security measures if required.

• Check what protective measures you might need for fresh concrete in adverse weather.

• For your workers, get a toilet on site and a hut for tea breaks and viewing drawings.

• Plan for the unexpected, such as having a pump on standby in case foundations flood.

• Inform building control of your planned start date. Where space is restricted, some of these items may be better left until after the site has been cleared and foundations excavated.

In the next edition, Les will look at how to produce your build schedule.


Understairs storage

There are many creative and functional understairs storage solutions that can help organise and declutter your home. Victoria Hunter looks at your options.

No matter what your needs or design preferences are, there is an understairs storage solution for you. You can either use the space for long term storage or have it fit into your daily life. Because it’s so centrally located, the understairs area is often converted into a downstairs wc. But it can be even more practical as a storage solution, especially if you’re tight on space. Pull

Mini closet

out drawers and shelves are the most common but cupboards work really well too.

In many cases, you’ll need a custom solution that fits the unique shape and size of your understairs area. But you can buy kits and do a lot of it yourself. With a little creativity and inspiration, you can turn that often overlooked space into an organised, functional, and stylish part of your home.

A mini closet is ideal for storing coats, shoes, bags, and other accessories you’ll need on your way out the door. You can do this by installing shelves, drawers, and even hanging rods. To make it more practical and easier to access, you could also include pull out shelves or built in racks.

Built in bookshelf

If you are a book fanatic, a built in bookshelf is a great way to make use of an often wasted space, while also creating a cosy reading nook. The shelves can be customised to fit the exact dimensions of the space and can be painted to match the surrounding décor.

Household supplies

Using the space to store tools, cleaning supplies, and other household items is a great way to keep non foodstuffs separated from the edibles. This can be done by creating a built in cabinet or installing shelves that are adjustable to accommodate different sized items. Drawers work equally well.


Utility space

You could go one step further and turn your understairs space into a small utility area for your household supplies and laundry items such as your washing machine and tumble drier. This creates more space in your kitchen and can be designed to be hidden from view to maintain the aesthetic of the home and give a more organised look.

Wine cellar

For wine enthusiasts, a wine cellar is a stylish and functional understairs storage solution. This can be achieved by installing a temperature controlled unit and adding in racks for your wine bottles. You can make space to store bulky soft drinks and other unopened bottles here too.

Play area

You could convert your understairs storage into a play area for kids. You can do this by creating a built in bench and adding some storage compartments underneath for toys and games. The bench can be used for seating and the storage keeps the play area organised and tidy.

Office space

With working from home becoming the new norm, you could convert your understairs space into a dedicated work area. Customise it with lighting, storage, and appliances to make the most of the space.


If the space under the stairs is near the kitchen, as it often is, it can be an ideal spot for a pantry. With the right planning and design, you can turn it into the ideal area for your tinned and other goods, making meal prep more convenient. This will work best if you have a smaller kitchen with a lack of storage space.


Windows everywhere?

Over recent decades, selfbuilders have increased the wall to glazing ratio of their homes by quite a lot. The upsides are obvious, from architectural fantasy to more natural light. There’s nothing more satisfying than feeling warm and cosy yet still being in touch with the great outdoors. Even, or especially, when it’s lashing rain.

But there are some downsides too. Overheating. Many people claim they want their windows to be south facing but then regret it because of solar gain. Openable doors, roof vents, blinds, and thermally efficient glazing units with anti glare, reflective or even tinted glass are all effective but add to the cost considerably. Many self-builders have shading devices over south facing windows to control overheating during the summer, but many others have had to also add cooling systems (some heat pumps can do this). Make sure to include roof lights or other openable windows in the design to cross ventilate at these times of year.

Lower energy rating. Because windows, even the highest spec ones, are a lot less efficient at keeping the heat in than walls, your energy rating (and your energy bills) will suffer from having a lot of glazing. For this reason the passive house standard limits the amount of glazing in a home. In the near future building regulations will make large areas of glazing more difficult to design into your house too.

Cost. High spec windows cost a lot, and the more windows you have the more high spec they need to be to reach energy efficiency targets. Reducing their size and number will help keep the budget under control. Furniture fading. The sun is

Although conservatories, sunrooms, and rooms with more glass than wall, can all add value to our homes, whether as part of a self-build or as a retrofit, they are not without their drawbacks.

excellent at bleaching fabrics, and this is amplified by glass. Furniture and fittings will therefore degrade in ultraviolet (UV) light, an effect that can be limited with tinted glass. Floor finishes can fade too, and even warp if exposed to high heat.

Limited furniture placement options. More glass means fewer walls, which in turn means there’s less space to site furniture (or radiators). Think of an arrangement or two you’d be happy with and consider whether you might need some floor sockets to make them work.

Window dressing. For bedrooms and even the TV room, you may want to be able to close the blinds or curtains. That big sheet of glass may feel like you’re a bit too exposed when the owls are hooting. Budget for your window dressing at this stage, to avoid nasty surprises later. It could even help you design the actual window itself, as most windows are bespoke.

Overshadowing. Think carefully about orientation. There’s no point having a large picture window if the shadowing effect of local trees and bushes block out the light. Also consider how neighbours’ structures overlook you. You won’t want them staring into your glass room.

Robbing light. If you’re building a glass extension, remember that even the best designed structure will have a negative effect on light levels in the adjoining room, especially if the roof doesn’t have many roof lights. And there are temperature control issues too between the old part of the house and the new. Consider how you will heat the new space and whether you’ll need to upgrade the entire house. In both ROI and NI you will have to upgrade the insulation throughout your home if you are carrying out a major renovation project.


Whether you build an all glass conservatory or something more like an orangery with some solid walls, there are things to consider before you invest in a glass living space. First off, it can take a lot of thought and careful design to ensure your glass room adds to, rather than detracts from, that elevation of your home. It’s easy to get it wrong. Furthermore, studies show that the biggest regret conservatory owners have is that it is too small. This said, such additional living space reduces the size of your garden. It’s a

trade off.

Here are five other pitfalls: Expensive to do really well. Cheap uPVC conservatories abound and can, indeed, be a cost effective way of adding floor space. Unfortunately, though, uPVC itself is not always environmentally friendly nor recyclable. It also becomes brittle with time. Building in aluminium or hardwood is pricey but it looks better from Day One and ages better. Using high quality specialist, possibly self cleaning glass also adds considerably to the cost.

Can look dated. The available designs haven’t changed much in 40 years. The uPVC can soon become dull and dirty (especially in towns). Strangely, the structure can actually obstruct garden views rather than enhance them as the many frames for doors and windows get in the way.

Cold in winter. especially if they face North or East. Insulated masonry walls and a solid roof can get round this. Condensation is also a common issue, and it’s vital to install vents and openable windows so ventilation is effective in both hot and cold weather. Effectively heating your room is also vital, but has a cost implication.

Hard to keep the roof clean. One the real joys of a conservatory or orangery is

being able to see the sky, but the downside is that the glass needs to be kept clean and free from debris. If you are thinking of creating a living space like this it’s worth considering neighbouring trees and other sources of dirt. Polycarbonate roofing is near impossible to clean once it becomes stained and even the best glass roofs may need a professional who is used to working at height and on tricky surfaces.

Not suitable for a country where it rains a lot. Conservatories tend to be noisy when it rains. This can be avoided by having a solid, tiled, roof, perhaps with a roof light or lantern. Then there’s the fact that any mainly glazed structure is liable to leak as there are so many interfaces where water can get in, especially in high winds. Meticulous design, assembly and construction can avoid this but most largely glass buildings suffer from this potential weakness.


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BUILD COST GUIDE HOW TO COST YOUR BUILD 102 Windows and doors costs 122 SUMMER 2023 / SELFBUILD / 99 Guide Selfbuild 100 OVERVIEW / 104 Model house example / 106 Non build costs 108 Ireland cost survey / 110 Tendering / 116 Floor costs 118 External wall costs / 120 ROOFING costs / 124 Systems costs 126 Fit out costs / 128 Stairs and joinery costs Foundation costs 114 Groundwork costs 112

How to cost your build

Find out how much it will cost to build your house in Ireland today, with details of construction and non build costs plus what to watch out for and how to save.

Image by storyset

It’s possible to build a modest home on a modest budget. But few want only that, even if they start with that intention. Most of the time, the budget explodes because of design choices. Every bit more you spend on one element of a project will add up. In most cases, it is the sum of these types of differences that cause budgets to overrun.

As self-builders build their dream, they seek to only do it once and their decision making can on occasion be more from the heart than the head. Seeking to achieve the best quality often comes at the sacrifice of budget control.

Here we will focus on how projects are actually costed to help you estimate your build costs with a better level of accuracy than is the norm today.

And so I will outline how material selection, shape, and slope of the site, as well as the specification will all affect the bottom line.

If you look at the way our grandparents built, in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s in Ireland, most dwellings were designed around simple rectangular shapes. Properties were generally built as a single level bungalow structure or standard two storey property.

These were, and continue to be, the most economical to build. A simple square or rectangle on plan, with few or no recesses or box outs, external walls without internal angles (Ls or Ts), few


breaks in the roof, concrete roof tiles and simple brickwork facings to external walls, will be the most cost effective.

That’s not to say you should be building a box. You have a unique opportunity to build, and live in, something special. So if there’s one thing to remember it’s that investing in good design and accurate costings are what will limit stress and ensure you get an end product you’re happy with.

About the Build Cost Guide author: Keith Kelliher is a chartered quantity surveyor with over 25 years’ experience operating in the Irish domestic housing market. Through his company Kelliher and Associates, Keith has assisted hundreds of clients with their new home builds, and many more with extensions and refurbishments. Keith also acts as a mediator, conciliator, adjudicator and arbitrator in construction disputes, giving him an insider view of the many pitfalls people fall into. Keith is also an expert in construction contracts and brings that expertise to assist clients in staying out of disputes while also benefiting from the positive aspects of a contract.

In the days when our grandparents were building their homes, they kept things simple and bar a few exceptions these methods continue to cost less to this day. This stands across all aspects, from shape to material selection to manner of construction. Keith Kelliher has the details.
Keith Kelliher Image by Tierra Mallorca

How to budget your build

Throughout this guide I’ll be comparing two properties measuring 139sqm or roughly 1,500sqft. One is a bungalow, the other is two storey. The costings I present are in euro amounts; the point is that these figures are approximate.

The market dictates the cost of products and services. At the end of the day, you will have to pay not a notional figure but what it actually costs to buy them.

The site may sink much more than you might expect (see p112), for example, or you might have to pay extortionate local authority development fees (see p106). Or a product you need might be currently retailing sky high.

The variables are too wide ranging to account for them all without knuckling down and costing your specific project.

Costs roadmap

Direct Costs

In Ireland, projects are often and usually organised in

accordance with the National Standard Building Elements and Design Cost Control Procedures (ERU, 1993). The purpose of this document is to provide a matrix for those involved in the construction industry to break down a building project into a clear set of elements to facilitate cost control.

The figure below is the matrix of elements taken from the ERU document. By breaking a project down into elements, it allows for cost control within each element as a job progresses from an initial design through construction to completion.

Bill of quantities vs take-offs

Quantity surveyors specialise in pricing projects. They will produce a bill of quantities, which is a fully detailed shopping list of what you will need to build your house based on your planning drawings or, for greater accuracy, on your

It’s often said that you can only get two out of three of the following: speed of build, quality and low cost. Here we look at where to start when costing your new build, extension or renovation project.
126 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2023 Substructure Structure Structure Completions Finishes Services (Mainly Piped and Ducted) Services (Mainly Electrical) Fittings and Furniture (1-) Substructure Generally (2-) Structure Generally (3-) Structure Completions Generally (4-) Finishes Generally (5-) Services (mainly Piped and Ducted) Generally (6-) Services (Mainly Electrical) Generally (7-) Fittings and Furniture Generally (11) Ground, Earth Shapes (12) Reserved (13) Floors in Substructure (14) Reserved (15) Reserved (16) Foundations and Rising Walls (17) Piled Foundations (18) Reserved (21) External Walls (22) Internal Walls, Partitions (23) Floors, Galleries (24) Stairs, Ramps (25) Reserved (26) Reserved (27) Roofs (28) Frames (31) External Walls: Completions within Openings (32) Internal Walls, Partitions: Completions within Openings (33) Floors, Galleries: Completions (34) Stairs, Ramps: Completions (35) Suspended Ceilings (36) Reserved (37) Roof: Completions (38) Reserved (41) Wall Finishes Externally (42) Wall Finishes Internally (43) Floor Finishes (44) Stairs, Ramps: Finishes (45) Ceiling Finishes (46) Reserved (47) Roof Finishes (48) Reserved (51) Heating Centre (52) Drainage and Refuse Disposal (53) Water Distribution (54) Gases Distribution (55) Space Cooling (56) Space Heating (57) Ventilation and Air Conditioning (58) Other Services (Mainly Piped and Ducted) (61) Electrical Supply and Main Distribution (62) Power (63) Lighting (64) Communications (65) Security and Protection (66) Transport (67) Reserved (68) Other Services (Mainly Electrical) (71) Display, Circulation Fittings (72) Work, Rest, Play Fittings (73) Culinary Fittings (74) Sanitary, Hygiene Fittings (75) Cleaning, Maintenance Fittings (76) Storage, Screening Fittings (77) Reserved (78) Reserved (19) Summary: Building Substructure (29) Summary: Building Structure (39) Summary: Building Structure Completions (49) Summary: Building Finishes (59) Summary: Building Services (Mainly Piped and Ducted) (69) Summary: Building Services (Mainly Electrical) (79) Summary: Building Fittings and Furniture (-0) Site Generally (10) Prepared Site (20) Site Structures (30) Site Enclosures (40) Roads, Paths, Pavings (50) Site Services (Mainly Piped and Ducted) (60) Site Services (Mainly Electrical) (70) Site Fittings (80) Landscape, Play Areas (90) Summary: Site
Building Site

construction drawings. Down to the number of nails.

Alternatively, you can get an estimate of what materials you will need to build your house straight from your builder’s merchant in what’s known as a take-off. This is a good option if you’re building a simple shape of house, to standard lengths. Or you could take your plans and try to work it out yourself but that’s not as straightforward as it seems.

When estimating quantities, there will be an allocation for wastage. See p110 for more about how much the project will actually cost when you go to tender.

Average costs

Perhaps the most important thing to say about costing your project is how illogical it is to average out costs. Yes, wthey are prevalent across the construction industry. And they may be useful when discussing things in general but rarely does anyone actually hit that average figure. Budgeting this way is more about luck than accuracy.

This approach has resulted in many in the self-building community finding themselves with a dream design on a dream site with a full grant of planning permission only to find out the cost of building that dream is either above their reach or above the value they are willing to commit to the project.

As a quantity surveyor I am often asked by clients to give them a steer in respect to the average cost for their extension or new build project. In response I usually ask for a definition of average, and if they deem their own dreams to be average.

The reality is that no house building or extension project is average and few are similar in design, layout and use.

Builder’s merchants

If you plan to go direct labour, as in not hire the one builder to manage the project for you, opening a self-build account at your builder’s provider is essential. Check if there are delivery charges, what the payment terms are, and get to know your rep as s/he will be able to advise and give trade discounts and help organise any returns if you have some materials left over.

Agree to a unit price for the most commonly used materials in advance, so you’ll know what you’ll get charged every time you place an order.

Costing an extension

In many ways, an extension is a new build. And overall, an extension should cost roughly the same as a new build. But there is the cost of connecting to an existing structure, also foundations can be costly including taking precautions to protect adjoining buildings. Service pipes buried in the garden can be a headache too.

Then there’s the fact that in many cases, when faced with a building that is brand new, with new walls, new paint and ceilings, a mind can easily be swayed to disregard the budget constraint and replace the old internal doors to match the new ones in the extension. At the very least, flooring is usually replaced so that the new and old blend in together.


Irrespective of how any budget buster issue arises, be it because of bad luck, poor risk assessment or simply not accounting for an item, it is important that you allow for this eventuality so you are not left carrying the stress and pressure of seeking additional funding for monies that may already have been spent.

On a new build 10 to 15 per cent of the build cost is usually

set aside for unforeseens. On a renovation project you should consider doubling that, especially if you’re doing up an old house.

Price variations

The cost of a self-build, extension or renovation will vary wildly not only because of your choice of products/finishes and services/ expertise but due to location too. While many items such as timber should cost roughly the same throughout Ireland, for most materials there can be as much as 10 to 20 per cent in the difference.

Labour prices also vary widely, and between it and material costs you can end up spending nearly 50 per cent more in one area as compared to another (see below).

Labour costs

In ROI a rate increase kicked in as of February 2023, rising to €21.09 per hour for a craftsman. Add to this employer’s fees and you’re looking at adding in the region of an additional €7.21 per hour to the base cost. This is before any profit or overhead and is based on the minimum that a craftsperson must be paid, not what they may seek or what an employer might have to pay to keep good staff. It is not unusual in the current marketplace to see craftspeople earning in excess of €1,500 per week. Some carpenters in Dublin ask for nearly €2,000 per week.

In NI rates for skilled workers on general construction projects are currently being priced on average at between £22 to £25 per hour, which is £880 to £1,000 for a 40 hour week. A general basic or unskilled labourer would expect to be paid around £500 to £600 per week. Not all skilled labour is rated equal, for example an experienced block layer will currently receive £1.20 per block and should lay 200 blocks per day (depending on the complexity of the job). This equates to £1,200

per week.

Cost engineering

Cost engineering is a fancy way to say cost cutting. The key is to do it at the design stage, when you can adjust the plans and determine what ramifications those decisions will have on every aspect of construction. The changes will unavoidably have a knock on effect.

Because they’re expensive, avoid conservatories and limit the number of windows you have (also, more windows mean more heat loss/gain). No stove or chimney.

These changes are often done when you’re at the tender stage, negotiating with the builder you plan to hire. Common cost engineering moves include simplifying the roof design, reducing house size by reducing circulation spaces and making the house overall more compact. But these are likely to require resubmitting for planning permission.

Builders tend to be good at cost cutting but you also need your architectural designer there to make sure those decisions don’t compromise on the aesthetics, quality of finish, or specification. Internal changes shouldn’t require resubmitting for planning permission. Some cost savers there include straight stairs and minimum circulation areas, no fancy kitchen or bathroom, and standard off the shelf solutions which will probably look like what they are.

Take the time to do your research, bargains can be found for things like sanitaryware and kitchens. Consider off the shelf windows and doors, simple lighting and avoid expensive finishes. Shop around and don’t be afraid to haggle, you’ve nothing to lose.

SUMMER 2023 / SELFBUILD / 103 Guide Selfbuild


How to treble your costs

For small developers, the cost of building a house will often only represent half of their financial outlay. They’ll have to secure a plot, which is about a third of the cost or more, then they’ll have to spend on design and preliminaries (3 per cent on each).

Financing the project often represents 7 per cent of the total cost, an element selfbuilders rarely factor into their calculations. The developer’s profit would fall in somewhere around that 7 per cent mark but can be much less.

Even though developers can build a four bedroom 120sqm house for £200k, if you visit one of their show homes you’ll quickly figure out that the fourth bedroom is the size of a tea towel. Plus, you might not want a house that’s the same as dozens of others on the same estate.

A developer has two advantages over a self-builder: a team of trades to call on, and a clear simple plan to work to.

For a self-builder, estimating how much their project is going to cost, without professional help, is a big headache. Getting prices out of builders and subcontractors is often much easier said than done. Chances are, most self-builders will commit themselves to a building project before they have a clear idea of the actual costs.

Often people realise at a comparatively late stage that they can’t afford the scheme they have embarked on and desperately look for ways of reducing the costs. The root of the problem is that they had inflated expectations of what they could achieve with the money at their disposal.

Model house

I put together costs for a model house in the UK, based on prices researched in the early months

of 2021. In an exclusive sneak peek to the book’s 15th edition, I’ve put together provisional costs for early 2023 which are listed here too.

This basic, 160sqm simple model house would have cost a self-builder in the UK £240k to build or £1,500/sqm in 2021 and 270k or £1,700/sqm in 2023. There’s nothing fancy about it. No LED lighting, no quartz worktops, no stove. You can, if you are lucky, build it for less than that. But you can also build it for much more.

The bottom table looks at three variations of that same 160sqm house. The Tricky Site shows what can go wrong with a project through difficulties encountered on site. Luxury is what you could easily spend if you decide to upscale to a contemporary style, architect designed, home with lots of interesting materials and glazing.

Turns out most self-builders want 160sqm (our model house) or very often 200sqm (comfortable five bedroom jobbie) or even more. And if they want a half decent kitchen, underfloor heating, timber floors, glass balustrade and a big glass sliding door at the end of the living room, then lo and behold suddenly £2,500/sqm begins to look light.

All of a sudden you are looking at quotes of £750k for this fancy new house. And you’d thought maybe £400k would have done it? So what now? Cut down the size of the house? Maybe, but you’ve already got planning. Cut back on the materials used? Possibly, but now you’ve set your heart on it, it could turn out to be a huge disappointment if you make just like the show house.

How about throw the builders by the wayside and take on the project management yourself? It should in theory save you money, but you are committing yourself

A danger of budgeting based on averages is that you will invariably pick the cheapest one you can find. Here’s how costs can quickly mount and how to guard against them.
Words: Mark Brinkley Adapted from extracts of the House Builder’s Bible 14th Edition published by Ovolo Books

to maybe 1,000 hours work (which you may not have time to do) and you don’t know anything when it comes to building so you risk making mistakes and paying over the odds for tradesmen and materials.

You can get a caravan, Iive on site, and undertake as much of the work as possible. Fine if you know your way around a building site and are a very practical sort, and you have a few years to complete this edifice. But life in a caravan is no holiday.

Where to start

Whilst not skimping on the basics, don’t be obsessed with fitting all the latest gear. And don’t be greedy about size – most selfbuilders build too much house for what they actually need. It often gets wasted in needless circulation space. Which is a fancy way of saying don’t skimp on good design.

It may seem like good design costs a lot, but if it gets you a better house for less footprint, it’s actually a bargain. If you skimp on design fees, there are invariably other costs which appear elsewhere, as builders have to scratch their heads to work out how to solve unforeseen problems. And the overall value of the build is likely to be less because the design isn’t very imaginative.

If you are a self-builder or a rookie builder, instead of trying to work out quantities yourself or ask a builder’s merchant to do it, I’d strongly advise you use a quantity surveyor to price up your project at an early stage, preferably before planning permission goes in.

Simply because it’s a lot cheaper and quicker to make changes on paper (if you need to) before you have full planning permission. If the project is unusual the QS bill is likely to be in four figures, but I still think this is worth it.

Summary of Building Costs

Changing the specification


SUMMER 2023 / SELFBUILD / 105 Guide Selfbuild
2021 Basic Tricky site Luxury Professionals £11k £25k £70k Prelims £13k £26k £20k Project management £12k £30k £40k Groundworks £34k £50k £50k Internal structure £23k £25k £50k External cladding £17k £18k £40k Insulation £5k £5k £20k Joinery £12k £12k £50k Roof cover* £11K £11K £30K Plumbing & Heating £7k £7k £15k Electrics £9k £9k £30k Finishes £59k £59k £80k Kitchen £13k £13k £40k Bathrooms £9k £9k £20k Garage - - £20k Landscaping - £5k £40k Renewables - - £20k Total £240k £304k £635k Per sqm £1,500 £1,900 £4,000 *Includes rainwater goods
Estimates Basic Tricky site Luxury Professionals £11k £25k £75k Prelims £14k £30k £40k Project management £14k £35k £50k Groundworks £41k £60k £60k Internal structure £27k £27k £50k External cladding £19k £19k £50k Insulation £6k £8k £20k Joinery £15k £15k £60k Roof cover* £15K £15K £40K Plumbing & Heating £8k £8k £20k Electrics £9k £9k £30k Finishes £72k £72k £90k Kitchen £14k £14k £40k Bathrooms £9.3k £9.3k £25k Garage - - £25k Landscaping - £9k £50k Renewables - - £25k Total £270k £335k £750k Per sqm £1,700 £2,200 £4,700
2021 Materials Labour Plant Fees Sub Totals Summary Totals Professionals & Design fees £11,000 £11,000 Groundworks £34,000 Groundworks £850 £6,900 £5,400 £20,000 Drains & Services £4,600 £2,900 £8,000 Service Connections £5,600 £6,000 Super Structure £70,000 Inner Skin £2,900 £3,300 £6,000 Steels & Lintels £1,600 £200 £1,800 External Cladding £10,000 £7,000 £1,700 Insulation £3,800 £1,500 £5,000 Joinery £10,000 £2,000 £12,000 Internal Floor £4,000 £2,500 £7,000 Internal Walls £1,800 £1,800 £4,000 Steels & Lintels £1,600 £200 £2,000 Roof Carpentry £2,500 £1,500 £4,000 Roof Cover £6,200 £3,200 £9,000 Rainwater/Fascia £600 £1,300 £2,000 Water, heat £4,300 £3,100 £7,000 Electrics £3,000 £6,000 £9,000 Finishes £59,000 Plastering/Screeding £4,300 £10,300 £15,000 Wall/Floor Finishes £10,900 £5,400 £16,000 2nd Fix Carpentry £3,700 £5,500 £9,000 Painting/Decorating £700 £6,200 £7,000 Externals £6,000 £6,000 £12,000 Room by Room £23,000 Kitchen £11,300 £2,400 £14,000 Bathrooms £4,200 £4,400 £9,000 Wardrobes/Storage not costed Garage not costed Prelims and site costs £3,000 £11,000 £13,000 Project Management £12,000 £12,000 Rounded Totals £107,000 £99,000 £15,000 £17,000 £240,000 Floor Area 160m2 Cost per m2 £1,500 1,722 ft2 Cost per ft2 £140 2023 Estimates Materials Labour Plant Fees Sub Totals Summary Totals Professionals & Design fees £11,000 £11,000 Groundworks £42,000 Groundworks £12,000 £7,500 £5,800 £25,000 Drains & Services £6,100 £3,700 £10,000 Service Connections £6,800 £7,000 Super Structure £85,000 Inner Skin £3,700 £3,600 £7,000 Steels & Lintels £2,600 £200 £2,800 External Cladding £11,000 £8,000 £19,000 Insulation £4,000 £2,000 £6,000 Joinery £12,000 £3,000 £15,000 Internal Floor £4,900 £3,200 £8,000 Internal Walls £2,300 £1,900 £4,000 Steels & Lintels £2,600 £200 £3,000 Roof Carpentry £3,500 £1,900 £5,000 Roof Cover £8,300 £4,000 £12,000 Rainwater/Fascia £1,000 £1,700 £3,000 Water, heat £4,700 £3,100 £8,000 Electrics £3,000 £6,000 £9,000 Finishes £73,000 Plastering/Screeding £5,390 £13,300 £19,000 Wall/Floor Finishes £11,800 £6,900 £19,000 2nd Fix Carpentry £4,600 £6,800 £11,000 Painting/Decorating £900 £7,900 £9,000 Externals £7,000 £8,000 £15,000 Room by Room £23,000 Kitchen £11,300 £2,600 £14,000 Bathrooms £4,900 £4,400 £9,300 Wardrobes/Storage not costed Garage not costed Prelims and site costs £3,000 £11,000 £14,000 Project Management £14,000 £14,000 Rounded Totals £128,000 £117,000 £17,000 £18,000 £280,000 Floor Area 160m2 Cost per m2 £1,750 1,722 ft2 Cost per ft2 £160

Non build costs

The site

If you don’t have one already, it’s easy to spend a third or more of your entire budget on the site, including attendant legal and registration fees. If the land might be contaminated you will have to get soil samples analysed.

And where no sewage mains connection is possible, in ROI you will in many cases have to carry out a percolation test to see if the land is suitable for an onsite system. If it is not, you’re unlikely to get planning permission.

Design and certification fees

To get through the planning stage and start on site, you will need to hire various construction professionals. At the design stage, you will need a qualified architectural

designer to make sure the building is fit for purpose and meets the building regulations. You could do this yourself but only if you are qualified to do so. At this early stage there will be the architectural fees for planning application (design process, planning drawings), the architectural/engineering fees for construction drawings/ specifications, for tendering (to hire a main contractor), for construction supervision (required for mortgage stage payments) and for certification (sign off at the end that building complies to both building regulations and planning stipulations).

For all three design services, ballpark around 10 per cent of total build cost but it can be a fixed rate. The cost will depend on the level of service: how many site visits, level of build complexity.

A quantity surveyor will cost the project at the various stages and the fees are often fixed. If you opt in of assigning an assigned certifier in ROI, costs can be substantially more. Most self-builders opt out because of cost.

You will also incur energy assessment fees (mandatory at start and end of the build), pay for the airtightness test (mandatory at end but often done mid build) and the ventilation test (ROI only, at the end of the build).

In both NI and ROI there are also Health and Safety requirements. You are required by law to produce both a design and construction stage report. You also need to appoint a design supervisor and a construction supervisor responsible for the health and safety aspects of the project. It can be yourself but you need to be qualified. At design stage you can negotiate this element with the architectural

There’s more to the budget than the cost of building the house and furnishing it. Here’s what else you need to take into account.
Words: Articles by Andrew Stanway and Keith Kelliher, edited by Astrid Madsen Photo by micheile henderson
“Potentially costliest of all are the development levies due to your local authority...

designer, on site the builder could take on the construction role but this needs to be clarified in the contract. There will costs associated to complying with risk assessment reports on site, e.g. for fire or to provide facilities to workers on site.

Other fees

Design fees may be incurred if you choose to get plans drawn up for a pre planning meeting. The zoning maps and guides (County Development Plan, PPS21) should give you a good idea of whether or not you will be able to build.

In the case of a sensitive site, additional costs may come in the form of the local authority requiring you hire a conservation architect if the building is listed or availing of the services of a professional if a tree protection order is in place. Planning conditions can also require to pay for other specialist professional fees, even an archaeologist, depending on the site.

In addition to professional fees, fees will be due to your lender (interest rate repayments, mortgage application, and ancillary fees), accountant (if using), and solicitor which can run in the thousands with stamp duty, house valuations, land registry mapping.

Local authority fees will be due for planning, building control, discharge water in NI, road opening license with associated bond costs (a bond requires a significant upfront payment, paid back when works complete minus bond fees).

Potentially costliest of all are the development levies due to your local authority. The Development Contributions Scheme (ROI) or Developer

Contribution Framework (NI) are essentially an infrastructure tax, and can run in the tens of thousands so it is something to check before you start your project. Each local authority should be able to let you know how much they will charge your project.

How the build is managed

There are three major ways to manage the build. The first consists of getting a main contractor to do it and it’s reasonable to expect him to make a profit of at least 15 per cent. Some will have more overheads than others, which they will pass on to you.

The second route is to hire a project manager. The fee is usually 10 per cent, but there are many different levels of service on offer, ranging from appointing a builder and subcontractors, and pricing, through to a turnkey finish requiring a permanent presence on site.

The cheapest route upfront is to manage it yourself, potentially saving 25 per cent of the build cost but very few people can afford to take a long time off work and deal with the stress. A well managed build will save you a lot of money; the project manager will make sure everything goes smoothly, which is a tall ordering considering the number of things that can go wrong.


There is no doubt that material costs, from steel to timber, have gone through the roof. And while this is a serious issue for anyone who wants to start building now, although less

so than it was a year ago, price increases are always a risk. A risk that should be controlled through a clause in a contract. On that basis, material costs will be absorbed by the builder over the lifetime of that contract.

If there is no contract and you are hiring trades directly, price volatility is one of the key risks you take on by deciding to project manage the build yourself. This means being able to manage cash flow to pay trades on time, and where required, order items in advance to secure an acceptable price.

Site access and equipment hire

Access during construction must also be factored in –building additional routes and/or hiring specialist equipment may be required if the site is hard to get to. If you hire a main contractor they should have all the equipment they need (but do check).

However if you are hiring trades individually you are likely to need to hire equipment and be responsible for the health and safety requirements, from scaffolding to power tools. You may require wc and site offices.

Utility connections

This is usually taken into account in the build costs but site conditions will have a big impact on the cost of groundwork. Utility connections tend to be fixed although you will pay for anything outside what’s considered a regular connection, e.g. if the house is far from the road. A level site with easy access to services (water,

drainage, electricity, roadway, gas, telephone, cable) will also cost less to get connected. Wastewater connection can be done through the mains. In ROI you may also have the option of connection to a local group water scheme. For onsite wastewater treatment there is the cost of the tests, and the tank installation plus secondary/ tertiary treatment in the form of a polishing filter or raised bed. There will be certification fees attached to this too.

Sinking a well can incur significant costs; watchpoints here are using correct installation with concrete casing and keeping on top of the water quality.

Other costs

Insurance and warranties will be site dependent and well worth shopping around for both. At the very minimum you will need to get site insurance. If a trespasser gets hurt on your site, you are liable. You might need personal cover for loss of earnings or other insurance products too –your mortgage provider is likely to have a say in this.

Depending on your circumstances buying the site and bridging for rent and/or the build until you can move in, will also cost you money. Then there may be things like the removal and storage of furniture, and buying new items you might not consider build related.

You’re also likely to build a garage, which can come in handy for storage when expensive stuff like sanitaryware gets delivered. It may be built first but requires the same level of foundations, block laying etc. so would often happen in parallel to the house build.


2023 cost surveys

It’s true that relying on average costs to figure out what a selfbuild will cost you will only lead to confusion and disappointment. But we still thought we’d share what other self-builders have been paying to build their dream homes, to give you an indication of how much it takes to build today.

The results include all fees and internal finishing costs but exclude site purchase costs, furniture and external finishes such as the driveway, paving, landscaping, etc.

Tender survey

Selfbuild asked architectural designers what costs their tenders were coming in at, and to what specification.

The vast majority of projects were specified to a better than building regulations finish and used blockwork cavity wall construction as the build method.

2021 Survey (homes built between 2012 and 2020)

Construction drawings were the basis for the tenders and only two thirds said a contract was put in place upon choosing the successful builder. The rest said the agreement was verbal.

On average, architectural designers went to tender to three builders. Overall, two storey, single storey and extensions all came in on average at roughly 2,000 per sqm, in euros/pounds. Kitchens on average cost around the 20k mark and were PC Sums. At the lower end of the scale, kitchen costs were 5k to 12k and at the higher end 30k to 40k.

Most builds were either single storey or two storey. Much less common were storey and a half (up to £3,500 in Belfast/North Down to a better than building regs spec down to around £1,200 per sqm in the rest of NI for a standard spec) and three storey (coming in on average around the €2,500/sqm mark in ROI).

2023 Survey (from 2017 with most homes built in 2021 or 2022)

How much self-builders are paying to build a house in Ireland today.
Average cost/ sqm Average sqm Average total cost Cost/sqm increase Average cost/sqm Average sqm Average total cost Connacht, Donegal, Cavan, Monaghan 980 260 254,800 41% 1,380 240 331,200 Single storey (bungalow) 1,420 190 269,800 31% 1,860 190 353,400 Storey and a half (dormer) 810 280 226,800 42% 1,150 250 287,500 Two storey 1,190 250 297,500 16% 1,380 240 331,200 Dublin (city and country) 1,600 130 208,000 Single storey (bungalow) 1,530 170 260,100 Storey and a half (dormer) 1,670 90 150,300 Leinster (outside Dublin) 1,220 230 280,600 11% 1,350 250 337,500 Single storey (bungalow) 1,230 190 233,700 2% 1,260 300 378,000 Storey and a half (dormer) 1,060 250 265,000 23% 1,300 220 286,000 Two storey 1,320 250 330,000 12% 1,480 250 370,000 Munster 1,320 240 316,800 5% 1,380 240 331,220 Storey and a half (dormer) 950 190 180,500 31% 1,240 240 297,600 Two storey 1,290 280 361,200 14% 1,470 240 352,800 NI - Belfast or North Down 1,310 240 314,400 Single storey (bungalow) 900 200 180,000 Storey and a half (dormer) 1,040 280 291,200 Two storey 1,250 250 312,500 17% 1,460 230 335,800 Rest of NI 900 260 234,000 7% 960 240 230,400 Storey and a half (dormer) 820 260 213,200 7% 880 250 220,000 Two storey 860 280 240,800 29% 1,110 250 277,500 Total average 1,110 250 277,500 23% 1,360 270 367,200 ROI Single storey €1,325 - €3,199 Two storey £1,080£1,950 £1,920£2,280 €1,920€3,140 Tender costs per sqm

Self-builder survey

On average, the self-builders surveyed said it took them one to two years to complete their project. We sent out this survey in 2021 and in 2023, with 85 per cent of those surveyed in both data sets either building to a specification better than the building regulations or to an even better specification.

In 2023, self-builders reported the noticeable increase in material and labour costs. Some reported how lucky they were to lock in a fixed price contract before the start of costs rising in 2021. One entry said that if they had started in 2023, their costs would have been 10 to 15 per cent more for materials. Another said their final bill with their contractor was 40 per cent higher than their original estimates.

Third party surveys

The Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland’s house rebuilding survey dated September 2022, published for insurance purposes, estimates that it would cost from €2,842

Build Method

per sqm in Dublin to €2,153 per sqm in the North West to rebuild a detached house (for a bungalow their figures are €2,445/sqm and €1,926/sqm respectively). A single attached garage has a price tag of around €20k and a double attached €35k.

A few years back, in 2019, the Royal Institute of Architects published a cost guide stating a single or two storey one-off house would cost €2,500 to €2,800 per sqm for a traditional build with a “reasonable level” of finishes and fittings. However, where the construction method is non-traditional and/or the level of finishes and/or fittings is high, the RIAI listed a cost in the order of €2,800 to €3,500 per sqm.

For an extension their cost estimate is from €1,900 to €3,400 per sqm. The range in itself outlines the difficulty in accurately budgeting based on an average cost.

Dooley Cummins Architects & Engineers published the figures they got back from the tenders they put out for their clients building a one-off detached

Then and now

Back when our grandparents built, many houses had a single main entrance door with a similar rear or side door. Windows were of a fairly standard size, manufactured in a locally sourced material. Inside, the only reason to have a staircase was to get from one floor to another. This generally resulted in hiding the staircase away from view, sandwiched between two walls.

Since then, the staircase has moved from that utilitarian position to the main entrance hallway, taking pride of place and also increasing cost. Architectural designs are now specifying an ever increasing amount of glazing which, combined with advances in technology, have resulted in windows and doors taking up a significant proportion of a self-build’s overall build budget.

The other big ticket item is likely to be your heating and ventilation system. Here remember that while a well built (insulated, airtight) home should require very little heating, all homes need adequate ventilation.

house in the countryside (third quarter 2022 figures). They don’t specify complexity of build or size of house but share an average €2,350/sqm figure including VAT for a contractor led build and for a turnkey finish (ready to move into).

However their figure does exclude site purchase costs, development levies (€2,000 to €20,000 depending on the floor area and county council),

Project Management

professional fees (5 to 15 per cent of the build cost) and inflation.

The website tradesmen. ie, meanwhile, did a survey in November 2022 asking builders how much it would cost excluding VAT to build a 150sqm house ready to furnish. Answers ranged from €1,500 to €2,500 per square meter for a builder’s finish with an extension costed at up to €3,000 per sqm.

Budget Management

Other 4% Builder quote/contract 32% Quantity surveyor 16% Spreadsheet 48%
Mostly DIY 9% Timber frame 9% Traditional (block/brick) 75%
Insulating Concrete Formwork (ICF) has overtaken timber frame since the 2021 survey. In both surveys, the vast majority of building work was done with blockwork.
ICF 18% Builder/Contractor 47% Direct labour 44%
In the 2021 survey the split was even more pronounced than in 2023 with direct labour and contractor taking about 35 per cent each. Very similar breakdown as in the 2021 survey, with comments showing quite a few went with multiple methods. Some said they started with a spreadsheet but ended up without any method to keep track of costs.

Real time costs

To get a price for your construction drawings with exact specifications (including lighting schedule, heating system, ventilation, etc.) you could get professional help in the form of a Chartered Quantity Surveyor, or estimate how much each of the items will cost yourself, but this will be time consuming and not necessarily accurate. You could also ask builders to give you a quote on the basis of your plans (direct approach or via tender); they’re likely to give you a price that includes both labour and materials although you could ask them to separate the two. The estimate will either be given with a ‘trade breakdown’ (each trade, e.g. plumber, listed and tasks detailed)

Drawings and Specification

Pricing Schedule

or an ‘elemental breakdown’ (every part of the building is itemised, e.g. foundations, walls, etc.). Specialist elements that will see the supplier install the product, like ventilation or heating, will be most accurately costed by the supplier once you send them your drawings.

PC Sums

In reality, few people will have everything chosen at this early stage and it’s true that the price of your skirting boards won’t have a huge impact on the overall budget. However if you leave too many items in the ‘to be determined’ column you can’t expect to get an accurate figure. To get around this, PC (prime cost) sums are often used. It’s a price allocated to items

Bill of Quantites

Example of a drawings and specification tender versus a remeasurable or bill of quantities tender for the electrical costs. Not that over the past couple of years electrical costs haven’t suffered as much from material price increases as other areas of building.

To go to tender, or tendering, is the most common selection process to find a main building contractor, although there are other ways to get cost estimates that reflect the market price.
Electrical 1.00 Item €28,000 €28,000
Lighting 1.00 Item €12,000 €12,000 Power distribution 1.00 Item €8,000 €8,000 Heating controls 1.00 Item €3,000 €3,000 Fire and alarm systems 1.00 Item €5,000 €5,000
Lighting Pendant lighting 30.00 Nr €65 €1,950 Down lighters 60.00 Nr €85 €5,100 Bathroom downlighters 10.00 Nr €95 €950 External lighting PIR points 10.00 Nr €120 €1,200 Two way switching 10.00 Nr €25 €250 Wall lights 15.00 Nr €120 €1,800 Over mirror lights 10.00 Nr €75 €750 Power distribution Single sockets 10.00 Nr €75 €750 Double sockets 60.00 Nr €85 €5,100 USB sockets 10.00 Nr €110 €1,100 5 amp sockets 10.00 Nr €75 €750 Cooker switches 2.00 Nr €150 €300 Heating controls Thermostats 1.00 Item €950 €950 Power to pumps 10.00 Nr €125 €1,250 Heat pump wiring 1.00 Item €800 €800 Fire and alarm systems Smoke alarms 12.00 Nr €125 €1,500 Carbon monoxide alarms 10.00 Nr €134 €1,340 Intruder alarm panel 1.00 Item €650 €650 Window contacts 30.00 Nr €30 €900 Door contacts 5.00 Nr €50 €250 Internal PIR 3.00 Nr €120 €360

in the ‘to be determined’ column, which often consists of things like the kitchen.

This estimate can be given to you by your architect or quantity surveyor or may even be priced by your builder but make sure they’re clear about the quality of finish you have in mind. PC sums are not always accurate and you will have to pay for the difference.

You must also be clear about what you really need and what would be nice to have. The ‘wish list’ should be priced separately and only looked at when everything else has come on, or under, budget.

Going to tender

Most self-builders who choose to hire a main contractor to oversee all the work on their self-build project will go to tender, unless they are sure of who they will be hiring. A standard tender process consists of:

� Putting together the tender documentation

� Selecting the list of builders you are going to ask to submit a price

� Tender analysis

Post tender negotiation

� Final selection and contractor appointment with contract

The key to a successful tender is the amount and detail of documentation that you can supply. These are referred to as the tender, or the tender documents which will depend on the type of contact you choose.

Tendering should always be very much geared towards having a clear and concise system where everyone prices the same way (comparing apples with apples) so the outcome is unambiguous and everyone is on a level playing field.

Pricing the build

In NI and ROI the most common two methods of contract are known as the drawings and specification contract and the remeasurable contract.

Drawings and specification alone will leave you with less data to analyse. A remeasurable contract with bill of quantities ensures that nothing is missing, identifies when a contractor has overpriced or more importantly, under priced an item which in many instances could become an issue on site at a later stage.

For a drawings and specification contract, the onus is on the tendering contractor to ensure that the price submitted includes fully for all items necessary. For many therefore, this tender process involves nothing more than issuing drawings to contractors for pricing. This can work perfectly well when the drawings are fully detailed, the items required are fully specified and there is no interpretation possible in respect to what is required.

The difficulty arises when, due to a lack of clarity, two different contractors can see an item in different ways leading to two different interpretations and subsequent prices. This is akin to the old saying of comparing apples with oranges.

A further issue can arise from the fact that contractors revert with tender prices in different ways. One contractor may simply supply a single cost to complete all of the work noted on the drawings (I will build your house for x). Another contractor may provide breakdowns for the cost of various high level trades (electrics, plumbing, walls etc) and another contractor may give a greater level of detail.

In a drawings and specification contract, the responsibility for accuracy of any quantities will be a contractor risk item and something they need to check and clarify. If a bill of quantities is supplied by the client in a tender, it is still down to the contractor to check the quantities to ensure they are correct.

When going to tender with a

remeasurable contract, you will have both a pricing schedule (or bill of quantities) and the drawings and specification.

A pricing schedule can be a simple list of the various tasks required for the project (foundation, external wall, and so forth) against which tendering contractors insert a price, or it can take the shape of a fully detailed bill of quantities where every single item required is individually measured (concrete to foundation, mesh to foundation, etc.) and listed for the contractor to insert a price.

The benefit of a pricing schedule is that it allows for comparison of prices across a number of headings or items across all of the contractors which will highlight price anomalies that can subsequently be discussed in later negotiating stages.

On a remeasurable contract, the bill of quantities will be a compulsory requirement for the tender, as the bill itself (as opposed to the drawings and specification) will form the basis of the contract between the parties and each item when completed will be remeasured based on the quantities used on site and the rate that was tendered for that item will be used to calculate the end value.

Choosing a builder

A common route to the tender list is to find the names of contractors on site hoardings in the locality. Others will use recommendations, from their designer (or wider design team), friends or family. Or they’ll find the names of builders from magazines, publications, social media or similar advertisements that contractors engage with.

It is standard practice to send your tender to at least five contractors in the local marketplace for a competitive result. It usually takes contractors

two to three weeks to put together the tender; make sure the cut off point for receipt of tenders is clear. Depending on your criteria, you’re likely to end up with a shortlist of two or at most three contractors.

Ensure these have references that you can check (never be afraid to knock on the door of a reference by yourself and chat to their previous clients about their experience), ensure they are fully insured and that they are fully tax compliant.

It’s then time to meet the builders to clarify any elements of their tender, ask if they foresee any issues on the project or in the design, ask how long it will take them to complete the project (which can often help in the selection process) and to simply meet the person to see if you can work with them.

Knowing that this will be a relatively long term relationship, for at least a number of months, it is very important that you can see yourself working with the selected contractor. Personality clashes can easily lead to conflicts on site.

Once these meetings take place, and contractors have updated their best and final positions based on any issues raised at the meetings, a contractor is deemed as the preferred contractor. The decision can be based solely on price, it can be based on quality of previous works, it can be based on the duration the contractor is proposing to complete the works or it can be a mixture of these items.

Then the contract is drafted and signed before the parties proceed in their partnership to complete the works, starting with notification to building control.

For more detailed articles about costing and tendering, go to

SUMMER 2023 / SELFBUILD / 111 Guide Selfbuild


Groundwork and landscaping

Groundwork is the term given to the preparation of land for future work. This includes all of the site preparations, including those relating to digging for foundations. Your foundations could cost a lot more than anticipated or you may require an elaborate drainage scheme; this will all depend on what lies beneath, which you won’t know until you start digging.

Landscaping is the finishing, modifying, moulding or altering of the land. In self-building terms these items generally refer to the formation and building of driveways, paths, paved areas, kerbing, drainage, planter beds, planting, gardens and any other garden features like ponds, ornaments, rockeries and the like.

Changes in anticipated

ground conditions, existing wall makeups, existing foundations and the like can often erode contingencies. This will bring the budget under pressure from the outset.

There are many more cost elements to the garden than the ones listed below, including the need for retaining walls for a sloped site. What is important is to identify the present and future needs of your specific project, and have a plan and the funds in place to complete them.

Driveways and paved areas

It is very common nowadays for a driveway to be finished in a coloured pebble which may be compacted into a fill substrate or even installed in a plastic stabilising product, also known as a geo grid. The cost of these systems very much depends on the size and type of stone, but is by far the most economical choice at less than €40 or £35 per sqm.

Then for tarmac, depending on thickness and makeup you’re looking at around €60-90 or £70 per sqm. Paving will generally start at around €50 or £45 per sqm and work up from there depending again on the type of material as well as its size and thickness. Imprinted concrete is another popular option but it can only be used in areas where permeability is not mandated.

For paved areas there is a wide range of materials available from coloured stone (<€40/£35 per sqm) to cobble lock (€5085/£45-£70 per sqm) to granite paving (>€120/£100 per sqm) to simpler tarmac (<€40/£35 per sqm) or concrete (<€30/£25 per sqm).

It is not unusual to have a mixture of materials with more economical ones used

In general, the highest risk for a budget when it comes to construction relates to those works that occur under ground or in respect to steelwork and structure. Here we look at what lies beneath.

in footpaths and the more expensive options in the main patio or terrace areas.


Any location where paving or a driveway meets a grassed area, or where a grassed area meets a plant bed or similar, some method of division is required. Often a forgotten item, it can be surprising how quickly the cost of something as simple as kerbing can be when hundreds of meters of driveway are accounted for.

It may be possible to have a simple grass edge between a plant bed and a grass area, but many gardens will commonly have a kerb stone in this location or indeed, a metal or treated timber edging, costing from a few euro per linear meter to granite kerbstone costing as much as €50-60/£50 per linear meter with the other options falling in between.

In a coloured stone driveway, it will be impossible to keep the stones in the driveway with cars traversing the surface without the assistance of a permanent edging. The same goes for paved areas and footpaths.

Wastewater drainage

The drainage system for most houses, particularly self-builds, can be extensive and involve many metres of pipework. The location of the property and available connections will dictate a lot of the available options.

If your property can connect into a public or local town wastewater system then the connection point will dictate the level and layout of the pipework from the house.

When you take that installing a pipe, including digging, laying, backfilling in stone and

sometimes concrete, will cost in the region of €50/£45 per linear meter of pipe, the cost can quickly add up. The cost of manholes, Armstrong Junctions, gullies and so forth must also be accounted for.

If a connection to a public system is not available, then a site specific treatment system will need to be designed, specified and installed. There are many regulations in respect to these systems including distance away from the house, distance from neighbouring houses and boundaries, distance away from water courses and the likes, that will all need to be taken into account.

The cost of an onsite wastewater treatment system can vary greatly depending on manufacturer and design, from €5k/£4k to well over €25k/£20k. If a percolation area is required, it will add to the cost.

In areas where there is paving, it is recommended that recessed covers are used on any of these items so the paving is not disrupted with an ugly manhole or AJ cover lid in an otherwise perfect finish.

Rainwater drainage

Pipework will be similar in

cost to the wastewater pipe (often referred to as the foul pipe), but in addition there are requirements for gullies at each downpipe location from the roof, gullies from patios, driveways and the like, as well as channel drainage connections and similar installations.

This water is then discharged to the public mains, with a licence to a watercourse, or to a soakaway located somewhere on the site. A soakaway is a gravel or plastic crate construction, located underground which allows for the water to seep back into the ground at a controlled rate, thereby preventing the need for clean natural water to be transferred by pipes to treatment systems to be cleaned and redistributed when it was not contaminated to start with.

A soakaway is designed and sized depending on the amount of roof space of the dwelling but it is likely to cost €1,500/£1,200 to €2,000/£1,800 at a minimum to build. In addition, there is the cost of manholes, Armstrong Junctions, gullies, etc.


Planting is another area where costs can quickly mount. In some instances, it may even come as a

requirement within your grant of planning permission, which means it will have to be done at a time when you will also be faced with house building costs.

This can take the form of replanting a boundary hedge in a native species or replanting a certain amount of tress in a particular season or to simply provide for a certain area of flowers beds around the property.

It is not unusual for fully landscaped design to run into the tens of thousands just for the plants, as individual mature trees will individually cost hundreds of euros/pounds.

In recent years the popularity of artificial surfaces has grown steadily and often areas of a garden will be set aside for fake grass for play areas. This installation requires a stone substrate that is perfectly flat and drained onto which the grass, which is similar to a carpet, is laid.

Costs depend on the height of the grass (the pile) and quality of the product, but you can expect to pay between €30/£25 to €60/£55 per sqm for an installed product.

SUMMER 2023 / SELFBUILD / 113 Guide Selfbuild
“Often a forgotten item, it can be surprising how quickly the cost of something as simple as kerbing can be when hundreds of meters of driveway are accounted for...”


Substructure costs refer to everything that’s below the finished floor level but excludes items like footpaths, paving or drainage.

The cost of the substructure is influenced by various factors, including the type of soil (this determines if you need the simplest, cheapest foundation or a more expensive option), level of the water table (if too high might reconsider where to build or invest in an expensive system to divert the water away from the building) and proximity to rivers, lakes or wells, proximity to vegetation (issues with root systems), slope or site level (levelling adds cost), and the design of the house (bigger means heavier and need for more support).

It is important to work with a structural engineer to design a foundation that meets the needs of the unique structure and site. This specification can then be costed out including the level of groundworks required, getting concrete on site, how much of it, etc.

The most common type of foundation in Ireland is the strip foundation. A digger excavates a trench to a depth of approximately 1m below ground level, and the bottom of the trench is filled with concrete and reinforcement. The trench

is generally 900mm in width for an external wall, but this can vary depending on the design of the house. On average, the first 700mm height of blockwork is located from the top of the foundation to the finished floor level.

Used in areas where the ground conditions are not as firm, raft foundations are more expensive as they require a substantial amount of additional concrete, formwork and steel reinforcement. The raft covers the entire area of the ground floor slab. This means the foundations spread the load of the building over a larger area. Piled foundations are used where ground conditions are extremely poor. Piling involves driving a column of concrete into the ground until a firm level is reached, and the weight of the property is spread across the piles. Piling is an expensive addition to any project and the costs can only be calculated after a detailed design has been completed.

Cost components

The costs include stripping of existing site vegetation, trees,

114 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2023 Element Qty Rate Element Total Group Element Total Qty Rate Element Total Group Element Total Bungalow Two Storey Substructure €9,364.26 €9,364.26 €6,803.73 €6,803.73 Excavation to reduce level 34.75 18.50 €642.88 17.38 18.50 €321.44 Excavation foundations external walls 42.44 42.00 €1,782.65 32.02 42.00 €1,344.92 Disposal 77.19 28.00 €2,161.43 49.40 28.00 €1,383.12 Concrete to foundations 12.73 175.00 €2,228.31 9.61 175.00 €1,681.16 Mesh in foundations 42.44 11.50 €488.11 32.02 11.50 €368.25 Deadwork/Rising Walls 29.71 65.00 €1,931.20 22.42 65.00 €1,457.00 DPC 47.16 2.75 €129.69 35.58 2.75 €97.85 Bungalow and two storey comparison, both 139sqm in size.

and topsoil. In some cases, a site may require little if any work. For others, it could be a big operation.

Once the site is clear, the digger comes to level the entire footprint of the building to the point where the underside of the stone filling for the floor will be.

It is from this level that you will excavate the foundation trenches. Once the reinforcements and concrete have been poured, it’s time for the blockwork rising walls (known as dead-work due to their location below the ground).

Once the blockwork is completed, the underside of the floor level is filled with certified stone backfill materials compacted into place. Then comes the sand, also compacted and levelled.

Then generally a 150mm concrete slab is installed across the floor to act as the main structural floor for the property. A damp proof membrane is laid across the floor and turned up to meet the top level of the blockwork where it will meet a damp proof course (DPC) in the blockwork.

To prevent heat loss through the blocks laid on the foundations, you can specify materials that prevent thermal bridging at an added cost.

Floor insulation to the required thickness as specified by the designer is then laid onto the membrane with an upstand of insulation turned up to meet the external wall around the perimeter.

A second concrete floor, generally referred to as the screed, is then installed on the insulation and this provides the ground floor of the property. In the case of underfloor heating, the pipes for that system will generally be laid on the insulation before the screed is poured. Oftentimes the insulation and

screed aren’t installed until the roofing stage – this is to prevent damaging the floor.

Blockwork to a raft foundation will generally only be 300-400mm in height above the foundation. Once the blockwork is in place and on the basis that the raft slab itself provides the main ground floor structure, the damp proof membrane is installed directly to the raft slab followed by the insulation and screed as outlined for the strip foundation above.

In all cases, drainage within the floor, radon sumps and pipework and any ducting or similar items can be designed and installed within the relevant structures.

Typical example

The properties are 139sqm and the two storey has a ground floor of roughly 70sqm. Specifications and day rates are the same on both properties. Rates included are for information purposes only – you can never rely on costs from other properties for your own, yours will need to be individually costed.

Compared to the same analysis done four years ago, foundations costs have increased 20 to 30 per cent.

As with the previous analysis, you will find the difference between the two options is small. Remember that it is merely for one element of a project and in most cases it is the sum of these types of differences that cause projects to run over budget.

The figures also exclude VAT and relate to the labour, plant and material costs required to complete these works on a specific project. Again, every project is unique and it does not follow that the same rates apply to carry out the same work on different project sites. Location also tends to have a significant bearing on cost.

Comparison of traditional strip versus raft foundation on the same property.

SUMMER 2023 / SELFBUILD / 115 Guide Selfbuild
Element Qty Rate Element Total Group Element Total Strip Foundation Substructure €29,398.83 €29,398.83 Excavation to reduce level 34.75 18.50 €642.88 Excavation foundations external walls 31.83 42.00 €1,336.99 Disposal 66.58 28.00 €1,864.32 Concrete to foundations 9.55 175.00 €1,671.23 Mesh in foundations 31.83 11.50 €366.08 Sand screed 31.83 3.50 €111.42 Concrete floor 20.85 180.00 €3,753.00 Powerfloating 139.00 5.00 €695.00 Fill to underside of floor 34.75 38.00 €1,320.50 Sand screed 139.00 5.00 €695.00 Insulation to underside of floor 139.00 42.00 €5,838.00 Reinforcement mesh in floor slab 139.00 11.50 €1,598.50 Deadwork/Rising walls 22.28 65.00 €1,448.40 DPC 35.37 2.75 €97.27 DPM/Radon 139.00 9.75 €1,355.25 Accessories - Sump, Pipwork 1.00 350.00 €350.00 Floor screed for underfloor pipes 139.00 45.00 €6,255.00 Raft Foundation Substructure €32,297.53 €32,297.53 Excavation to reduce level 55.60 18.50 €1,028.60 Excavation foundations external walls 11.32 42.00 €475.37 Disposal 66.92 28.00 €1,873.72 Concrete to floor/raft foundation 41.00 175.00 €7,175.84 Powerfloating 167.30 5.00 €836.48 Fill to underside of floor 25.09 38.00 €953.59 Sand screed 139.00 5.00 €695.00 Insulation to underside of floor 139.00 42.00 €5,838.00 Reinforcement mesh in floor slab 334.59 11.50 €3,847.81 Deadwork/Rising walls 11.79 65.00 €766.35 DPC 47.16 2.75 €129.69 DPM/Radon 139.00 9.75 €1,355.25 Accessories - sump, pipework 1.00 350.00 €350.00 Formwork to side of foundation 18.86 38.00 €716.83 Floor screed for underfloor heating pipes 139.00 45.00 €6,255.00

How much will your floors cost?

How much your upper storey structural flooring will cost.

The cost of your structural floors is determined by several factors, including the material choice, sound insulation, thermal insulation, fire resistance, structural stability, and transfer of services. It is crucial to have a qualified engineer review the loadings for the specific structure and design the size, depth, and makeup of the supports to meet the building regulations. The main factor impacting the cost of flooring in a domestic property is the material used in the structure. In rising order of cost are:

Timber was traditionally the material of choice, and kiln-dried softwood joists spanning between structural walls or steel beams were used. However, the timber joists had a tendency to shrink and cause squeaking issues over time. To reduce sound transfer, products such as rubber membranes or thick underlays can be installed. Underfloor heating piping is possible with quick drying screeds. The cost of traditional timber floors has jumped 26 per cent since we did

the same analysis three years ago. Note that if you are building your house through a timber frame company, the manufacturer will cost their proprietary systems as a whole.

Factory made timber joists. I Joists are strong, lightweight, and can span over six meters without the need for internal wall or beam support. They are also not prone to shrinkage. Another option is open web joists which have a wavy metal web centre that facilitates the running of services and can achieve unsupported spans of 7.5 meters across a range of depths from 195mm to over 300mm. Their cost has increased roughly 12 to 14 per cent since our last analysis three years ago. 12 to 14 per cent since our last analysis three years ago.

Precast concrete floors are very popular with self-builders. Precast hollow core flooring is made of precast concrete slabs with a hollow core, providing an efficient and cost-effective flooring solution. Voids running along the length of each slab reduce the weight. The slabs come in various thicknesses and spans from 100mm to 300mm. A structural screed and reinforcement mesh is likely to be installed to the top of the slabs to tie the floor together. The screed will incorporate the underfloor heating pipework if using. The cost of precast floors has increased roughly 12 per cent since our last analysist three

Hollowcore floor being lifted into place I joists

years ago.

Suspended concrete flooring, where a reinforced concrete slab is suspended between steel beams or blocks, provides a durable, fire-resistant flooring.

Cost notes

The cost examples show the notional costs of the two storey 139sqm property with a 67.5

sqm first floor area. As the bungalow does not have any intermediate floor the cost of the two storey property would be double as it would have to factor in an attic floor. For comparative purposes all costs include standard 12.5mm plasterboard to finish the ceiling below and a tiled floor finish on the floor above, with an

allowance of €50/sqm for the purchase of the floor tiles (excludes installation cost). Also excludes openings and accessories, additional structural steel, upgrade in load bearing wall makeups, etc. that any particular design or system may require for a particular house.

Timber floors

Factory made timber joists


Hollowcore floors

Element Qty Unit Rate Element Total Group Element Total 225 x 50 C16 joists at 300mm c/c 237 M €16.88 €3,999.38 225 x 50mm bridging @ 1200mm c/c 81 M €16.88 €1,366.88 metalwork and accessories 63 Nr €3.75 €236.25 Insulation to void 67.5 M2 €18.50 €1,248.75 18mm Plywood screw fixed to joists 67.5 M2 €33.00 €2,227.50 Tiled Floor Finish to plywood 67.5 M2 €109.00 €7,357.50 Plasterbard to underside of joists 67.5 M2 €14.50 €978.75 €17,415.00 Element Qty Unit Rate Element Total Group Element Total I joists I Joist 400mm spacing 237 M €11.10 €2,630.70 metalwork and accessories 1 Item Item €368.30 Insulation to void 67.5 M2 €18.50 €1,248.75 18mm Plywood screw fixed to joists 67.5 M2 €33.00 €2,227.50 Tiled Floor Finish to plywood 67.5 M2 €109.00 €7,357.50 Plasterbard to underside of joists 67.5 M2 €14.50 €978.75 €14,811.50 Open web joists WS250 400mm spacing 237 M €11.00 €2,607.00 metalwork and accessories 1 Item Item €364.98 Insulation to void 67.5 M2 €18.50 €1,248.75 18mm Plywood screw fixed to joists 67.5 M2 €33.00 €2,227.50 Tiled Floor Finish to plywood 67.5 M2 €109.00 €7,357.50 Plasterbard to underside of joists 67.5 M2 €14.50 €978.75 €14,784.48 Element Qty Unit Rate Element Total Group Element Total Hollowcore 150mm 67.5 M2 €41.00 €2,767.50 Mesh A142 67.5 M2 €9.25 €624.38 Concrete Screed 67.5 M2 €29.00 €1,957.50 Tiled Floor Finish to plywood 67.5 M2 €109.00 €7,357.50 Batten to underside of slab 100 x 75 67.5 M2 €23.63 €1,594.69 Plasterbard to underside of joists 67.5 M2 €14.50 €978.75 €15,280.31
SUMMER 2023 / SELFBUILD / 117 Guide
Open web joists


How much will your walls cost?

For cost purposes, external walls refer to the structure of the main external envelope of the property. In most cases it’s the main structural element and also the area that’s most visible and, along with the roof, lends character to the build.

The external wall will start at the internal ground floor level of the property (the DPC level at which the substructure element stopped) and extend to the wall plate level of the roof construction.

The cost of external walls is down to three main factors: height, makeup, and finish. The height of the walls will depend on factors such as the number of floors and floor to ceiling height, with the cost increasing with the height.

The makeup of the walls is an important aspect of the calculation of the U-Value of a property, which must meet the new building regulations requiring a U-Value greater than 0.7 W/sqmK. The better the U-value the more insulation there is.

The most common method of external wall construction remains traditional cavity wall construction, while timber frame has also seen a revival, especially in large scale housing developments. Insulating Concrete Formwork is picking up speed in ROI too.

Cost notes: rates have been left the same for the same works and it is assumed specifications are the same; costs exclude accessories or scaffold.

Cavity wall construction costs have increased 19 to 41 per cent since our analysis four years ago, on average 36 per cent. In order to comply with building regulations the current cavity wall makeup will generally include an outer leaf, a cavity with at least 125mm of insulation, an inner leaf and a drylining or insulated plasterboard finish.

The thickness of the internal insulated plasterboard will be dependent on the overall U-value requirement of the wall. The final cost of this item will depend on that selected thickness but on average the material cost of the plasterboard will increase by 10 to 12 per cent for every 10mm of insulation thickness.

The inner leaf of blockwork will generally be either 100mm or 215mm in width. Where the inner leaf is not carrying the load of a precast floor slab construction it will generally be 100mm wide but 215mm will be required where precast or similar floor construction is required to be carried by the wall.

This change alone will double the quantity of blocks in the inner leaf of a cavity wall as outlined below. A 100mm wide blockwork wall has 9.88 blocks per sqm but a 215mm blockwork wall has 20.22 blocks per sqm.

The cavity is then generally either a fully filled or partially filled with 100-150mm thick insulation (either board or pumped-in beads). The brand and thickness of insulation will vary in cost but on average costs will increase with every 10mm of insulation thickness by circa 10 per cent.

The blocks themselves can be standard concrete, insulative concrete up to insulative clay and costs will vary according to this.

Timber frame and Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS)

construction The inner leaf will be the timber frame structure which will be specifically designed by a selected manufacturer. The cost will vary depending on the design, member sizes and required U-value and differs greatly from company to company.

Timber frame companies will cost their proprietary systems as a whole; the insulation is integrated in the wall construction makeup and this cost is included in the designed

The impact your choice of building method will have on the bottom line.
118 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2023 Element Qty Rate Element Total Bungalow External Walls (at 2.7m lift) €5,425.30 Inner leaf only at 100mm thickness 127.33 42.61 €5,425.30 Inner leaf only at 100mm thickness 0.00 42.61 €External Walls (at 2.7m lift) €11,103.19 Inner leaf only at 215mm thickness 127.33 87.20 €11,103.19 Inner leaf only at 215mm thickness 0.00 87.20 €Two Storey External Walls (at 2.7m lift) €8,168.26 Inner leaf only at 100mm thickness 96.07 42.61 €4,093.13 Inner leaf only at 100mm thickness 96.07 42.61 €4,093.13 External Walls (at 2.7m lift) €16,753.67 Inner leaf only at 215mm thickness 96.07 87.20 €8,376.84 Inner leaf only at 215mm thickness 96.07 87.20 €8,376.84

system. In standard timber frame you will get an option of different types of insulation, SIPS generally consists of OSB bonded with board insulation.

External wall insulation systems the inner leaf of blockwork is generally the only leaf and as such it is usually 215mm wide as it will form the loadbearing structure on which any floors and roof will rest. The wall is then externally insulated.

How the wall is finished

The outer leaf of a cavity wall is the main rainscreen element of the structure. It will generally not form part of any loadbearing

Floor to ceiling height

To identify the impact of floor to ceiling height on costs we analyse both property shapes for three different floor to ceiling heights. The costs are based on a standard cavity wall construction with a 100mm outer leaf and a 100mm inner leaf of blockwork. The comparison below is based solely on the cost of the blockwork and takes no account of any openings, which in general block layers will measure through when calculating their costs.

aspects of the design and it can be finished in a number of ways. The outer leaf is most commonly a 100mm thick concrete block or a selected brick finish. Where a stone finish is required this will

generally be installed to the front of a blockwork outer leaf.

(an outer skin of blockwork will require an additional finish, most commonly plaster) in itself, the cost of brickwork is expensive simply due to the quantity of bricks generally required.

In a timber frame system the outer leaf will be installed in exactly the same manner as that of a cavity wall system but the blockwork will need to be tied in to the timber frame for structural stability.

Following completion of the timber frame kit erection, scaffold will be installed to the perimeter of the building and a selected outer skin of blockwork or brickwork will then be installed as outlined above. It is also possible to install a rainscreen on a timber frame kit using a cement board fixed directly to the timber frame finished in a plastered finish but at present this is not a vastly commonly used approach unless you want to finish the house with cladding.

Element Qty Rate Element Total Group Element Total Qty Rate Element Total Group Element Total Bungalow Two Storey External Walls (at 2.7m lift) €25,707.69 €25,707.69 €38,790.49 €38,790.49 Inner leaf of insulated plasterboard 127.33 42.18 €5,370.86 192.13 42.18 €8,104.13 100mm inner and outer leaf blockwork GF 127.33 85.22 €10,850.60 96.07 85.22 €8,186.26 100mm inner and outer leaf blockwork FF 0.00 85.22 € - 96.07 85.22 €8,186.26 Cavity insulation 127.33 22.50 €2,864.97 192.13 22.50 €4,322.97 Acrylic plastered finish to blockwork 127.33 52.00 €6,621.26 192.13 52.00 €9,990.86 External Walls (at 2.7m lift) €31,921.97 €31,921.97 €48,167.25 €48,167.25 Standard plasterboard to inner leaf 127.33 18.50 €2,355.64 192.13 18.50 €3,554.44 215mm inner leaf blockwork GF 127.33 87.20 €11,103.19 96.07 87.20 €8,376.84 215mm inner leaf blockwork FF 0.00 87.20 € - 96.07 87.20 €8,376.84 External Insulation System 127.33 145.00 €18,463.14 192.13 145.00 €27,859.14

Other cost components

External walls have openings for windows, doors and the like. It is common for block layers to charge for their works “through openings”. In calculating the

quantity of blocks to charge for on a project, block layers generally measure a building as if no openings exist.

The selection of the materials will have a direct impact on costs for a project. Traditionally

concrete was used for sills but over time imported granite and stone alternatives have become commonplace. These generally come at a higher cost.

Due to concerns in relating to airtightness and thermal

bridging, insulated products are becoming increasingly popular and have the advantage of being more lightweight and easier to deal with in terms of health and safety.

Element Qty Rate Element Total Qty Rate Element Total Bungalow Two Storey External Walls (at 2.7m lift) €10,850.60 €16,372.53 Blockwork - Ground Floor 127.33 85.22 €10,850.60 96.07 85.22 €8,186.26 Blockwork - First Floor 0.00 85.22 € - 96.07 85.22 €8,186.26 External Walls (at 3m lift) €12,056.22 €18,191.70 Blockwork - Ground Floor 141.48 85.22 €12,056.22 106.74 85.22 €9,095.85 Blockwork - First Floor 0.00 85.22 € - 106.74 85.22 €9,095.85 External Walls (at 3.9m lift) €15,673 €20,920.45 Blockwork - Ground Floor 183.92 85.22 €15,673 138.76 85.22 €11,824.60 Blockwork - First Floor 0.00 85.22 € - 106.74 85.22 €9,095.85
The difference between the cost of an outer leaf of blockwork and brickwork will be substantial. Although a finished product Element Qty Rate Element Total Group Element Total Qty Rate Element Total Group Element Total Bungalow Two Storey External Walls (at 2.7m lift) €12,046.56 €12,046.56 €18,177.13 €18,177.13 Outer leaf only at 100mm thickness 127.33 42.61 €5,425.30 96.07 42.61 €4,093.13 Outer leaf only at 100mm thickness 0.00 42.61 € - 96.07 42.61 €4,093.13 Acrylic plastered finish to blockwork 127.33 52.00 €6,621.26 192.13 52.00 €9,990.86 External Walls (at 2.7m lift) €24,161.25 €24,161.25 €36,457.05 €36,457.05 Outer leaf brickwork 127.33 189.75 €24,161.25 96.07 189.75 €18,228.52 Outer leaf brickwork 0.00 189.75 € - 96.07 189.75 €18,228.52
In an external wall insulation system the outer leaf will in effect be the external insulation system. Costs on these systems vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer and it is advisable to shop around.


Roofing costs

Four factors influence the type of roof structure selected for a project: size and shape of the building, ridge height, appearance, and installation and maintenance requirements. All of these will have an impact on cost.

Pitched roofs have a slope greater than 10 degrees, although the minimum slope for a pitched roof is usually not less than 15 degrees. The minimum roof slope for concrete tiles is 40 degrees, clay tiles 22 degrees, and slates from 20 to 30 degrees.

Traditionally, pitched roofs were described as cut roofs as they were built by a carpenter on site from bales of timber. Nowadays, most modern houses are built using prefabricated trussed rafters, which are produced off site and craned into position in a day. A detailed design by an engineer will be required to specify the layout of rafters, size of each rafter, bracing requirements, distance between each set of rafters, connection details, and fixings. The variance in these items from roof to roof can have a substantial impact on cost.

Flat Roofs are defined as roofs with a slope of less than 10 degrees and are more common now than ever due to advances in flat roof finishing products. They are a more economical option than a pitched roof, particularly for large roof areas or complicated shapes. Flat roofs are usually built from timber joists and plywood or, in some cases, concrete. They are generally installed on-site in a similar manner to traditional cut roofs. There are three types of flat roof construction: cold roof deck, warm roof deck, and inverted warm roof deck. The warm roof deck system, where insulation is placed immediately below the waterproof covering and on top of the decking and vapor barrier, is the most common in Ireland.

Cold vs warm roofs

There are generally three different types of flat roof construction known as a cold roof deck, a warm

roof deck or an inverted warm roof deck. The latter is uncommon in Ireland. A cold roof deck is where the insulation for the roof is installed below the level of the roof deck usually in the ceiling which keeps the roof deck and covering at a low temperature.

A warm roof deck places the insulation immediately below the waterproof covering and on top of the decking and vapour barrier. The deck is therefore kept at a warmer temperature during winter months. The warm roof deck system would be most common as it better controls the dew point.

The general downside to a flat roof structure is that it is generally the case that insurance companies rate a flat roof at a higher risk than a pitched roof. Care should be taken to review this issue with your current or future insurers to have full knowledge of the ongoing cost impact of this type of construction.

Cost comparison

The cost difference between pitched roof structures is minimal, but the speed of installation of prefabricated trusses makes them more popular. Flat roofs are more economical than pitched roofs for large roof areas or complicated shapes.

Note that there has been a 20 to 30 per cent increase across roofing costs since our last analysis three years ago.

Roof finishes

Most roof finishes will require additional layers of plywood, a vapour barrier or breather membrane, battens with or without counter battens, ventilation requirements, etc. The actual final cost of any particular makeup will be determined when the full design is individually reviewed and costed.

Flat roofs used to be covered with a mastic asphalt but it’s prone to leaking and now only really used on sheds, costing up to €30 to €40 per sqm.

Taking into account both roof structure and finishes.

The more common flat roof systems are uPVC or bitumen based. Layers include plywood, vapour barriers, insulation and the waterproofing layers. They are more controlled in temperature and can be easily worked around upstands, outlets and the likes, costing from €100 to €150 per sqm taking into account all aspects.

Fibreglass is a more recent addition to the roof finishes

Flat vs pitched

options and one that has become very popular. Costing from €70 to €85 per sqm for the all-in system, it’s economical and quickly installed. Again it is easy to work around upstands and openings.

The selection of a roof finish requires a view on cost per unit and working out the number of each unit required. As slates, tiles and other finishes all vary in size, as does the manner in which they overlap, in order to

work out the cost of any finish it will be necessary to identify the number of units per sqm. By way of example a slate size of 500 x 250mm slate will on average require 21 slates per sqm whereas a 600 x 300mm slate will only require 13 slates per sqm on average.

As a result of the increase in the cost of natural slate, fibre cement slates and concrete tiles have become the more common

Cost difference on our sample 139sqm bungalow with all other elements left the same.

Bungalow vs two storey

Cost difference on sample 139sqm properties with concrete tile and pitched roof. The cost difference between the two properties where all rates are left the same, is over €10/sqft of floor area. This further shows the dangers of costing a property based on average costing.

choice for pitched roofs in the recent past.

Natural slate Quality varies greatly. Traditionally the most renowned was the Welsh blue Bangor slate but due to issues with availability this product can now cost over €16 per slate (over €190 per sqm), with the majority of people now having to source it from salvage yards. The most common natural slate on the Irish market is of Spanish origin, from €30 to €40 per sqm, but Portugal and Brazil do supply similar or lower cost alternatives.

Fibre cement slates used to contain asbestos but these were phased out in the 1980s. Fibre cement slates come in a range of colours and as they are man made they are uniform in shape. Less durable than their natural cousins, they are relatively cheap and can be bought for less than €2 per slate (€24 per sqm on average).

Concrete Tiles are available from a range of suppliers, in a range of colours and designs. These products are man made and will generally be available for less than €2 per tile. The number of tiles per sqm varies greatly depending on how easy they are to install and can vary from as low as 8 per sqm to over 16 per sqm.

Other less common methods of coverings a pitched roof include wood shingles, thatch and sheet coverings (lead, zinc, copper or various forms of aluminium). As non-standard products they can be expensive, involve a lot of detailing and design. Metal based roof coverings are more common on flat roofs for visual appeal. They involve a great deal with detailing and joint work and will generally (depending on quantity, cutting and design) run to circa €250 per sqm all

in. Element Qty Rate Element Total Group Element Total Qty Rate Element Total Group Element Total Pitched Flat Roof structure €25,609.45 €25,609.45 €18,187.03 €18,187.03 Roof to GF main extension Roof joists at 400c/c 175x44 502.57 14.25 €7,159.14 358.98 14.25 €5,113.67 Bridging at 1200c/c 175x44 301.54 14.25 €4,295.48 215.39 14.25 €3,068.20 Ceiling joists at 400c/c 174x44 358.98 14.25 €5,113.67 0.00 14.25 €Bridging at 1200c/c 175x44 215.39 14.25 €3,068.20 0.00 14.25 €Wall plate 100x75 47.16 13.50 €636.66 47.16 13.50 €636.66 EO for straps 40.30 10.00 €403.00 40.30 10.00 €403.00 Plywood 0.00 32.00 €- 139.00 32.00 €4,448.00 Insulation 139.00 32.50 €4,517.50 139.00 32.50 €4,517.50 Ridge collars and the likes 36.00 11.55 €415.80 0.00 11.55 €-
Element Qty Rate Element Total Group Element Total Qty Rate Element Total Group Element Total Bungalow Two Storey Roof structure €21,091.95 €21,091.95 €14,704.10 €14,704.10 Roof to GF main extension Roof joists at 400c/c 175x44 502.57 14.25 €7,159.14 344.40 14.25 €4,905.98 Bridging at 1200c/c 175x44 301.54 14.25 €4,295.48 206.64 14.25 €2,943.59 Ceiling joists at 400c/c 174x44 358.98 14.25 €5,113.67 246.00 14.25 €3,504.27 Bridging at 1200c/c 175x44 215.39 14.25 €3,068.20 147.60 14.25 €2,102.56 Wall plate 100x75 47.16 13.50 €636.66 35.40 13.50 €477.90 EO for straps 40.30 10.00 €403.00 35.40 10.00 €354.00 Plywood 0.00 32.00 €- 0.00 32.00 €Insulation 32.50 €- 0.00 32.50 €Ridge collars and the likes 36.00 11.55 €415.80 36.00 11.55 €415.80 Roof finishes €18,345.50 €18,345.50 €9,505.44 €9,505.44 Tile on batten on felt 194.54 82.00 €15,952.61 100.80 82.00 €8,265.60 acessories vents etc 1.00 2392.89 €2,392.89 1.00 1239.84 €1,239.84 Section total €39,437.45 €39,437.45 €24,209.54 €24,209.54 cost per ft2 €26.36 €16.18 diff per ft2 €10.18


How much will your windows and doors cost?

Budgeting for windows and doors can be tricky. If your estimate is not based on an actual quotation, the budget is likely to come under strain. Window costs have increased roughly 8 to 20 per cent depending on the type, as compared to our analysis three years ago.

Choice of framing material

The specification of the actual frame makeup will impact on cost, from composite to timber to now frameless designs. Much of the cost impact will come from what basic material you choose for the frame. There are four main options:

1. Unplasticised polyvinyl chloride, more commonly known as uPVC, is a commonly used plastic widely available across the country. The material provides a high level of thermal comfort, is durable and long lasting. It is usually found to be more

cost effective than alternative materials, although high end uPVC products do exist which are more durable and recyclable, and is generally found to cost in the region of €300-350 per sqm.

2. Timber window and door products vary greatly across timber types and styles. At the high end of the scale, sliding sash type windows can cost into the thousands per window depending on the size of the unit and hardwood type units can also extend to over €1,200 per sqm. More widely available are softwood, finger jointed type units in a standard casement opening which generally run at about €600750 per sqm. It should always be kept in mind that the cost of ongoing future maintenance on timber windows should also be factored into the overall selection and costing process.

3. Aluclad units are a mixture of an aluminium exterior with the warmth and natural look of a timber finish internally. Once only available in the higher end of the market, aluclad is now a widely available and competitive option. Costing in the region of €600 to €800 per sqm, they are generally maintenance free and offer the best of both worlds in term of a timber finish without the need for future maintenance. Units that have an aluminium exterior and a uPVC interior are less expensive than those with a timber interior.

4. Aluminium is a lightweight metal that is highly malleable and offers great strength to a window system. The material of choice for large scale window systems including shopfronts and curtain walling, aluminium offers the ability to achieve architecturally clean lines and large unobstructed glazed sections. Aluminium will generally run at a cost in excess of €850 per sqm and is less widely

The work involved in completing the external wall structure of a building is mostly influenced by the cost of your windows and doors, but screens and other elements are included in this category too.


The frame orientation must also be taken into account, i.e. inward opening or outward opening. Outward opening units are most common in Ireland, whereas inward opening is more common in Europe and, with tilt and turn, is seen as a good option for being able to naturally ventilate from the top (without opening the entire window) and for cleaning.

Also consider the selection of ironmongery, i.e. handles, childproof mechanisms, etc. Taken together these elements may all impact on the end cost of the units – unless you go for the standard option offered by the manufacturer.

Size and design

Material selection can on occasion be purely dependant on the design size. Traditionally all windows and doors came at a standard maximum height of 2250mm which meant a number of rows of blockwork remaining between the top of the unit and the underside of a ceiling in a standard 2400mm floor to ceiling property.

In recent years, partly driven by the upsurge in the use of architects on domestic properties, the height of these glazed units is very regularly

the full floor-to-ceiling height of 2400mm or even 2700mm+.

Many manufacturers are not in a position to produce units of this height due to their manufacturing processes or due to the weight of the glass. It is therefore not unusual to see units combined to achieve the same effect, with for example a window panel installed directly above a door.

But as this can result in visibly thick frame makeups, many architects and designers choose aluminium type solutions which can achieve single unobstructed glazed panels as they are best able to withstand the weight of large glass panels.

In addition to height, the width of the units can similarly provide difficulty to many materials like uPVC and timber. Sliding door systems and large glazed screen panels for example are limited in width with materials like uPVC and timber, whereas aluminium again provides greater options for wider spans.

Window design and operation has not changed much over the years. The style and manner in which windows operate is still very much in line with the traditional sash, sliding sash and casement designs with the only exception possibly of the notable addition of the tilt and turn option.

Doors by comparison have developed greatly. From the traditional single door system, to a door and screen, to a double door system (french doors), to a sliding door system, to bi folding and concertina arrangements, the selection here will greatly impact on the end cost, from less than a thousand for a single uPVC door to large five figure sums for bi fold, concertina and large aluminium sliding screens. Therefore make sure you factor in these high costs at the early design stage: the budget must match your design intent.

We have outlined the dangers of budgeting for your domestic build with reference to average costs per sqm or sqft, and this is especially the case for windows and doors considering the number of units required for a new home and the vast range of specifications available.

How much more does triple glazing cost?

Double glazed glass units are still the most commonly specified at present but triple glazing is catching up quickly. The cost difference between the two varies greatly across manufacturers; at most triple glazing could add up to 30 per cent of the glazing costs.

It is also currently common to have triple glazed units specified on certain elevations (most notably north facing) and double glazing on others south facing although the lower spec will reduce your protection from overheating).



Plumbing and electrics

In recent times, heating and plumbing has become an area where it can be difficult to stick to the budget. As a design develops in a property, the requirements to meet the regulations on energy and insulation can also change along with the desire for more economically driven sources of heating.

With changes in any design come changes in cost and plumbing and heating changes can be expensive. In projects where the time is spent before tender stage to fully detail and understand the requirements of the property, the budget is well protected, but where a standard system is specified in a provisional manner, it is often the case that the cost will skyrocket when the specific system for the specific house is designed. Given the material choices available and the array of companies that manufacture the

products, the price differential from company to company can be substantial and therefore on any item where the setting of a budget has not occurred based on an actual cost, it can be difficult to meet that budget need. Remember that every car has an engine, wheels, seats, controls, electrics, values, pumps, and the likes, but no two cars are the same. Plumbing and electrics can be exactly the same.

Heat pumps

Heat pumps are currently more expensive than the liquid or gaseous fuelled systems we have been used to, but do not be tempted to save on capital costs by undersizing the system as it may either struggle to heat the house or end up costing more than you expect – or both.

The cost of installing a heat pump can vary widely. Although it can depend on the manufacturer but most of the cost has to do with sizing (the bigger the house the bigger the size of the heat pump) and how much hot water storage you need. How difficult the installation is will also impact on cost. Get at least three quotes to compare specification and cost, choosing reputable installers.

This will be a prerequisite for grant aiding which are only available for existing buildings, see for full details.

In ROI, supplier quotes found online range from €8.5k-€14.5k bracket to €12k-€18k bracket for homes up to 200sqm. And between €15k-€23k for homes up to 500sqm. In NI, the Energy Savings Trust reckons a heat pump installation costs £7k to £13k – presumably for the smaller sized homes.


Without doubt one of the most unexpected budget busters in any build is the electrical

Systems that run the house, from keeping your home supplied with fresh air to those that you use to heat both hot and cold water and the spaces you live in, from heating to ventilation, are likely to represent a significant outlay.

work. Identifying the number of sockets, spotlights, wall lights and external lights or even the numbers of switches in a property before starting can be difficult. And so the electrical package often does not get the level of interrogation it deserves.

By way of a typical example, it is often the case that by default a builder or designer will allow for three double sockets in a bedroom. However, when met with the marked up locations onsite, a client will usually seek to add at least two more on average to each room.

If you take a bedroom, it is now common to have a socket on each side of the bed and one in each corner at the opposite side with a further socket at high level for a tv. This therefore requires five instead of the standard three. In a four bedroom house this change alone has added circa €/£800 to the cost.

Add to these changes the number of sockets required in the kitchen, the utility room, the tv or living rooms and the electrics budget can very quickly change as other aspects of the house design change.

The type and quantity of switches, the colours of faceplates (chrome instead of white) and the introduction of in-joinery lighting (in cabinets, bookcases, shelving, etc.) are other ‘extras’ often found in the final account.

Added to the above is the ever growing desire for smart technology. So you can talk to the oven, sound system, lighting and even TV. Care should be taken to really think these systems out as they can often be replicated with plug and play options at a fraction of the cost. You could spend 10k on a lighting system or just buy a smart home system with a few smart sockets and plugin lamps for less than 1k.

SUMMER 2023 / SELFBUILD / 125 Guide Selfbuild
“One of the most unexpected budget busters in any build is the electrical work. Identifying the number of sockets, spotlights, wall lights and external lights or even the numbers of switches in a property before starting can be difficult. ...”
Image by Michal Jarmoluk


Kitchens, bathrooms and all the rest

Kitchens and bathrooms

When it comes to the final bill for your kitchen and bathroom, every choice you make will have a big impact on the budget. So plan early so you can draw up a realistic budget, based on current market prices.

The selection and completion of designs in items like kitchens are fertile ground for cost overruns. When all the drawers are customised, the handles selected and the inevitable lure of the stone countertops succumbed to, the kitchen budget is commonly found wanting.

A basic kitchen might come in at 3k but when the cost of fitting and electrical appliances is added, it could increase to 8k or 10k and well beyond depending on your choice of materials. Things like solid timber doors or granite worktops will obviously inflate the figure. The average total budget tends to be 20k.

Furthermore, appliance costs are often not accurate, sometimes because budgets are set with a view that an existing appliance item can be reused. However, these may not necessarily fit the requirements of the new glossy kitchen.

As for the bathrooms, they could each set you back a couple of grand up to €/£25k on a designer bathroom. A lot of bespoke ensuites are as big as a family bathroom so costs would be similar.

At a high level, a bathroom requires a wall finish, a floor finish, maybe a bath, a wc, a basin and possibly a shower with a shower enclosure. In addition, you will need taps, mirrors, a heating source, ventilation and an array of accessories.

Once the sanitaryware is selected, the plumber will then mark, position, and connect it into a drainage run as part of the overall house construction. It all sounds straightforward, which might be why bathroom design is often left to the end. But remember that once the bathroom has been fitted out, it’s not easily changeable like other rooms.

The brand of the sanitaryware (and if there is a separate bath and free standing shower), and the specification and quantity of tiles (all floor to ceiling or just three sides of shower, etc.) will all have an impact.

The shower unit is the most costly single item you’re likely to invest in. But then again, you could splash out on a bath or vanity or anything else for that matter. Then there are the labour costs, higher than normal at the moment, for the many trades you will need to hire.

Tiling and other coverings

The old adage that paper does not refuse ink springs to mind when it comes to budget setting on items like tiles, timber floors and the likes. At the outset of a project, getting the bottom line to the correct figure for the mind (or possibly the bank) is often the holy grail but it often comes irrespective of the accuracy, or even the intent to actually comply with the figures included.

When setting a budget for tiling at say €/£50 per sqm, this should be seen as a maximum value and it must also allow for the waste of materials (the additional quantity of materials that need to be purchased for pattern, angles, cutting and so forth) that need to

This is where costs start varying so much that they have absorbed any material price increases we’ve seen over the past three years. The key to rein these costs in is to be clear about what your maximum budget is, and stick to it.

be purchased to complete the project.

When selecting the tile, you should be armed with your budget when entering a showroom as to do otherwise is simply to shop with one’s eyes, the bane of any budget. A budget after all is the maximum figure allowable and not one that you seek to beat. This same issue often occurs in the selection of timber flooring, internal doors, and items like wallpaper.

Then of course there are things which were simply not included in the budget, and which have to wriggle their way back in. Landscaping, paving, driveways, boundary treatments, covings and timber panelling are the most common items to be excluded.

Many of these items will clearly always be required, for any project. Proper budgeting for them is therefore essential.

Others are included into the budget at the last minute so as to complete the works and prevent the need to return at a later stage. Some of these additions arise from design changes, but no matter how they arrive, they arrive with substantial unbudgeted cost implications that for some can cause serious stress late in a project, which will have a negative impact on buying late items like sanitaryware.

Architraves, frames, liners and skirting boards

The most traditional method of frame and architrave selection used to be to select a standard pine material (red deal being stronger than white deal) which was subsequently painted in white or similar colour.

This was the standard approach as it was able to complement any finish, but nowadays pine is less used because of the work and cost associated to sealing knots (to

prevent knots showing through the paint) and the extra coats of paint required. Primed MDF is now the preferred option as it avoids these issues.

It is now also just as common to have frames and architraves matching the material selection of the door itself. An oak door is commonly dressed with an oak frame and architrave and in many instances this will also match the skirtings and staircases. The cost of pine skirting boards can run at less than €1/90p per m whereas oak or similar will cost in excess of €6/£5 per m depending on moulding, size and shape, with MDF costing somewhere in between.

Similar to architraves and frames, liners can be either painted or made of a material to match the door. A liner is required to complete a wall where the frame does not fully fit the width of the wall. Frames are generally available in widths from 115mm to 150mm.

It is therefore necessary to install a liner to complete a frame that is installed into a wall that is wider than these sizes. An internal structural wall for example, made up of 215mm blockwork will generally be finished with a liner at each door opening. This is an item that can often be missed in budgeting for a project.

Skirting boards are the most common finish at the junction between a wall and a floor. Similar but generally wider than architraves, they come in a variety of materials and finishes. The moulding design on the skirting will also impact on the cost as this will indicate the level of

routing and production on the timber.

As outlined for frames and architraves above, it’s not uncommon to have pine or MDF skirting boards painted in white or other colour. It’s also not uncommon to have skirting boards that match the door, frame and architrave. These products are most likely veneered finishes but it is also possible to purchase solid material like oak, ash and mahogany. Similar to architraves, skirtings can run from less than €1 or 90p per m for pine or MDF to over €10 or £9 per m for solid timber skirtings.


Often the go to feature for many interior designers, wall panelling is one type of joinery that brings a wall to life. The most common method of panelling is going a third high, generally about 900mm up from the floor. It often consists of MDF panelling with routed designs and inlay panels. Full moulded MDF panelling can run to in excess of €200/£180 per m depending on design and detail.

It is not unusual to have this

specification replaced with beading to remove the quantity of timberwork. Instead of being formed from MDF sheets, this method uses beading installed directly onto the wall then the wall, mouldings, and skirting board are all painted in the same colour to give the effect that the whole wall is panelled. Plant on panelling runs closer to €100/£90 per m.

Picture framing panelling where walls are broken up into sections replicating picture frames, also use plant on beading. The cost of this type of panelling will very much depend on the quantity of the works done but will run at up to €20/£18 per m of bead depending again on the bead type, size and mould.

Other options of panelling include full wall cladding with solid timbers, hardwoods (cedars, irokos etc), V sheeting, shiplap and mores. All of these are generally expensive with costs running in excess of €50/£40 per sqm and well into the hundreds for some materials.


Internal joinery

Staircase structure

The size, shape, position and layout of staircases, which taken with material choices, will lead to a variety of cost outcomes. The combined effect can result in a finished staircase costing less than €2,000/£1,800 to a piece of bespoke furniture costing in excess of 100,000 euros or pounds.

There are two cost components to the structure, material selection and the layout or shape. The most common choice of material has always been timber, with MDF at the lower end, pine in the midrange and up to solid oak, walnut or mahogany at the higher end.

On a simple standard straight flight of stairs, the cost difference

between an MDF staircase and a solid staircase would go into the thousands of euros or pounds. A standard MDF staircase structure will cost less than €500/£450 for a straight single flight whereas a hardwood standard structure will cost over three times that.

The selection of which timber material you choose will directly have an impact on the cost of the staircase structure and will also dictate many of the costs that follow.

It is generally the case that the lower down the order of materials you select, the more likely it will be that a carpet or similar finish will dress the structure. This is generally always the case when it comes to MDF and often with pine or deal, but it is not unusual to see a solid pine staircase left exposed with a varnish.

A carpet finish on a standard straight run can be achieved for less than €1,000/£900 including the landing. For the more expensive exposed timber staircases it’s not unusual to have a varnished finish throughout or a mixture of varnish and the addition of a carpet runner to the centre of the stairs.

It is also now relatively common for the top of each step (thread) to be a different material like a walnut or oak and the remainder of the staircase pine or similar type material which is painted in a light colour.

Another common option for the structure is concrete which can be precast (fabricated off site and delivered and lifted into position) or cast in-situ (on location) where it is formed and poured onsite. The main benefit of a concrete staircase is longevity and the fact that it will not creak or move over time.

A concrete staircase will cost substantially more than timber with costs starting from over €1,500/£1,400 for a straight flight, working up from there depending on the design.

As a statement piece of furniture, the staircase can become one of the most expensive items to budget for, but so can doors and inbuilt furniture.

Staircase finishes

Apart from the cost of the structure itself, a further financial downside to a concrete staircase is the additional cost of each step generally requiring a further element of finishing works. Oftentimes each step is clad in a carpet, timber or tile and the cost of these finishes can work into the thousands depending on material, size and shape of the staircase.

Not as common as timber and concrete, metal staircases are another option, for external use or an industrial style. The cost for the structure only would generally be less than concrete but more than timber.

Probably the most important cost component of the structure is its layout or shape. Placing the staircase between two walls negates the need to dress the sides and remains the most cost effective method.

With more emphasis on maximising space, it is not unusual to now find staircases with half flights and intermediate landings. While this type of design may reduce the staircase’s footprint, it doubles the cost because instead of a single flight structure there are now two with an additional landing. This results in an increase in the number of parts as well as additional labour.

Arguably the most popular design today is to have a staircase structure that is visually exposed on one of both sides, again adding to the cost because these areas need to be finished with a decorative string detail. This will also add additional cost to the staircase in terms of balustrades and handrails.

The most expensive type of staircase layout is the curved staircase. The cost of the structure coupled with the material selection can be over 10 times the cost of a straight

flight of stairs but this often results in a far more impactful design.

Balustrades, handrails and newel posts

A staircase built between two walls has no requirement for balustrades or newel posts and will most likely only require a handrail to be installed directly onto the wall, reducing costs.

Depending on the material selected for the handrail this can cost from a few hundred euros or pounds to less than a thousand for a finished hardwood. As before, material selection is all important with options generally including stud partitions, timber, glass and metal.

Depending on the material, the design, size and number of spindles, costs of completing a staircase in timber can range from less than €1,000/£900 for standard pine to over €5,000/£4,500 for more decorative hardwoods.

In recent years glass balustrades have grown in popularity but this comes at a price. With glass comes the necessity for fixings which are generally stainless steel. For safety reason the glass must be laminated and it’s not unusual for the glass balustrade to cost upwards of €1,000/£900 per metre run of railing.

Metalwork although less popular than the other options, is an expensive finish which usually involves high levels of detailing which generally requires site welding and finishing. It can come in a painted standard mild steel up to a high end finish like stainless steel.

Again depending on detail,

shape and overall design, it’s likely that metalwork will work out as expensive as glass. It is also regularly found combined with glass, particularly stainless steel. A stainless steel and glass balustrade will be in excess of €1,500/£1,400 per metre run.

Door setup and finishes

Internal doors in domestic properties come in very many materials, shapes, sizes, colours and textures. In the main the cost of a door will include the frame, the architrave and the ironmongery which fixes the parts together.

It’s important to first understand that irrespective of the finish, the manner in which a door is supplied will impact on the labour cost of fitting. In general doors will come in one of two ways: pre-hung on a prefabricated frame ready to be directly installed into an opening, or more common on self-builds

it will be supplied unassembled and the on site installation will include routing for hinges, locks and cutting and forming the frame to the required size.

The cost of a door can vary greatly depending on a number of factors but €150/£130 is a common starting point for doors assembled by a joiner on site, working up from that point depending on selections. A door on its own will cost far less but you need to factor in frame, ironmongery and labour.

Should a solid door be selected, this will most likely be made in a bespoke fashion by a joiner and the costs will rise to in excess of €650/£600 for a door and frame.

Sliding doors will be about as expensive as unassembled doors due to the need to install guide rails and other specialist fixings. Then it’s pro rata for double and multiple doors.

The finish of a door will generally be at its cheapest for


a primed or standard white door and it will increase for prefinished oak, walnut or similar. As the majority of doors now available in the marketplace are engineered doors, the door finish is a veneer on a timber frame with a filled core.

Ironmongery includes the hinges, handles, locks, door closers, door stops and similar items necessary to complete a door. Like many other aspects of finishes, it is a difficult task to choose among what is a wide range of options, from stainless steel to chrome to brass to black to different locking mechanisms. The cost of ironmongery can vary from less than €50/£40 per door to well in excess of €100/£90 per door depending on the brand and finish.

A fire door will generally cost more than a standard door of similar size but in many instances it is now possible to get primed white fire doors at entry level prices.

Increasingly, large screen type windows are replacing walls to allow light to flow through a building whilst maintaining room separation. Screens can be hardwood or softwood, and they come with a range of fire rated and non rated glazing possibilities. The cost of a screen will very much depend on its function and finish but will likely cost in excess of €550600/£550 per sqm.

Inbuilt units

Wardrobes, TV Units, side boards, dressers, understair storage units. The costs of these units will vary depending on material, finish, amount of or existence of glazing and the functionality of the unit itself. Often made from similar carcasses to kitchen units it’s

common to see units made from chipboard, MDF and solid timber. Costs will increase as you move up this scale.

On items like wardrobes, the selection of door types (solid or glass), the addition of drawers, the inclusion of mirrors, and the variety of accessories from shoe holders to tie racks and the likes will all work to detail the end cost of the unit. In budgeting terms it is not unusual to have wardrobes costs averaging at around €1,000/£900 per m of wardrobe.

Window boards, window framing (similar to liners and architraves), window shutters, radiator cabinets and other smaller items are all joinery elements that may find their way into your build. Like all of the joinery items outlined above, the costs are very much down to material selection and finish and these items should be properly budgeted from the outset.

Cost notes: Since our overview three years ago, cost ranges are approximately the same but get at least three quotes for comparisons.

C l e a n I n d o o r A i r
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Articles inside

Internal joinery

pages 128-131

COST GUIDE / FINISHES Kitchens, bathrooms and all the rest

pages 126-127

COST GUIDE / SYSTEMS Plumbing and electrics

pages 124-125

COST GUIDE / WINDOWS AND DOORS How much will your windows and doors cost?

pages 122-123

COST GUIDE / ROOFING Roofing costs

pages 120-121

COST GUIDE / EXTERNAL WALLS How much will your walls cost?

pages 118-119

How much will your floors cost?

pages 116-117


pages 114-115

COST GUIDE / GROUNDWORK Groundwork and landscaping

pages 112-113

Real time costs

pages 110-111

2023 cost surveys

pages 108-109

Non build costs

pages 106-107


pages 104-105

How to budget your build

pages 102-103


page 101

How to cost your build

pages 100-101

Windows everywhere?

pages 96-99

Understairs storage

pages 94-95


pages 92-93

The build schedule

pages 90-91

Meet the exhibitors

pages 88-89

lowdown Meet the experts

page 87

A colourfulgarden

pages 84-86


pages 80-83

Top tips for a passive house retrofit

pages 75-79


pages 74-75

Thehigh tech home

pages 68-73

Top Tips

pages 65-67

Playing house

pages 62-65

The smart solution for o -grid home energy

pages 55-61

Leapfaith of

pages 52-54

Project info

pages 51-52

Anne & Niall’s tips

pages 49-50


pages 48-49

Q&A with Elaine

page 47

Grant’s Renewable Heating Technologies are the ideal choice for new build homes

pages 45-46

first The forever&home

pages 42-44


page 40

Q&A with Elaine & David

pages 37-40


pages 33-36

Oscar And the goes to…

pages 22-30

Questions answered

pages 19-21

One stop shop

page 19

Are you building a new home?

page 18

Solar panels to become mandatory for new builds

page 17

Co Antrim self-build wins Home of the Year 2023

page 15

Poor workmanship rampant across Ireland

pages 13-14

Price increases to ease in ‘23

pages 11-12

Self-builders in ROI more bullish than in NI

page 11

VAT refunds experience delays

page 9

Zero VAT on solar panels could reduce costs by €1k

page 9

NI self-builds refused wastewater connections

page 7


pages 5-6
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