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SelfBuild &Improve SPRING 2016 £3.50/€3.75

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ISSN 2049-3630


Clifftop ship-house Eco build guide

High Garden: tech Populating house design your pond

Inside the homes of Irish designers A to Z guide to self-building

Foundations for difficult sites

Building with stone

Property Extensions: gaining DIY: Wood Wastewater Salad days treatment: staging planning approval finishes zero discharge in your garden systems

Guided Booktour: review: home Medicinal of the future plants



Spring 2016 Cover Photo: Paul Lindsay at Christopher Hill Photographic, Editor: Astrid Madsen Managing Editor: Gillian Corry Subscriptions: Patricia Madden Sales Manager: Mark Duffin Advertising Sales: David Corry Nicola Delacour-Dunne Lisa Killen Maria Varela Graphic Designer Myles McCann Printing: WG Baird Distribution: EM News Distribution Ltd

SPRING IS A GREAT TIME to get things started so whether you’re just thinking about a new build or renovation project or have already commenced, congratulate yourself for the effort! It takes a lot of hard work to get the ball rolling and spending a year at it is generally well advised. So for those of you who are at the initial stages and still grappling with ideas, check out our no-nonsense A to Z guide to help you on your way. And if you’re considering your design options don’t miss our coverage of the latest in high tech 3D modelling, (there’s an app for that!), it starts on page 62. Spring is also traditionally the time to tackle the foundations and if you are, make sure to consult our guide to laying them on difficult sites, starting page 74. This is also a popular time to choose stone, so if you plan to go for the timeless material in your finishes, turn to page 70 for some top tips on what to expect. Food for thought comes quite literally from Fiann O Nualláin’s take on ‘Salad Days’ (page 90) as well as new build and renovation case studies, including a glimpse inside some Irish designers’ homes (page 57). We also bring you highlights from the new build and retrofit manual by ‘consensus design’ architect Christopher Day on page 48. The book is a repository of information and in it he shares his vision of widespread community sharing – not

only of heating and hot water systems but also appliances. The convenience of having a washing machine for our own personal use may be hard to forego, but it does make sense if the aim is to maximise resources. More must-read articles include our guide to staging your home for a successful sale – the key is really quite simple: elbow grease! As interior designer Caroline Irvine advises, clean like you’ve never cleaned before… After that a good tip to remember is to tidy all closets and cupboards (we’re all snoops by nature!) and, to make them look especially good, leave about one fifth to a third of the space empty inside. Finally, our Belfast show has moved home… New year, new venue. See pages 13 and 46 for more on how we’ve jumped ship.


For more images of your favourite projects featured in this issue, join us on

Happy building and improving!

Astrid Madsen

Our panel of experts for Spring 2016 GORDON CHISHOLM



Gordon Chisholm MCIAT, MRIAI, certified passive house designer, of Chisholm ARCHITECTS has over 25 years’ experience in low energy design of domestic and commercial projects in Ireland and internationally. He has been teaching at Waterford Institute of Technology for over 10 years and is a founding member of the BIM Collective Research Group (em:

Thomas has 20 years’ experience in the stone industry and is the author of the Insider’s Guide to Stone House Building. He provides a consultancy service which is aimed at guiding project managers on stone house building. Castelfort Consultants, 225 Moyadd Road, Kilkeel, Belfast, BT34 4HL, tel. 95216445,,

Ciaran is a woodwork and construction studies teacher in Moyle Park College, Clondalkin, Dublin. He qualified from the University of Limerick in 2005 with an Honours Degree in Materials and Construction with Concurrent teacher education. He resides in Leixlip, Co Kildare, email




Henry is a Research Consultant in BSRIA’s world Market Intelligence division, specialising in Energy and Smart Technologies. He holds an MA from the University of Oxford and has had a career of more than 25 years in the areas of data, information technology and building technologies, focusing especially on the international aspects. His recent published research has covered such areas as Building Automation, Building Energy Management, trends in Smart Technology, Hydronic controls and District Energy systems.

Structural engineer Les O Donnell, MCIAT, allies structural engineering design solutions to architecture. He is specialised in eco design, where green thinking benefits all clients not just those who specifically want a zero carbon house. Strong interest in research and evolving construction practices. Landmark Designs, 79 Botera Road, Corlea, Omagh, County Tyrone, BT78 5LQ, tel. 8224 1831, mobile 07784 573 222,, Connect on Linkedin or send a tweet @les0donnell

Award winning garden designer, author and broadcaster, Fiann has a background in fine art, sculpture, horticulture, ethnobotany and complementary medicine. He currently is a co-presenter on RTE 1’s Dermot’s Secret Garden programme and is a regular SelfBuild & Improve Your Home writer. Check out Fiann’s blog on or send him a tweet @HolisticG

Published by SelfBuild Ireland Ltd. 119 Cahard Road, Saintfield, Co Down BT24 7LA. Tel: (NI 028 / ROI 048) 9751 0570 Fax: (NI 028 / ROI 048) 9751 0576 E-mail: Directors: Clive, Gillian & Brian Corry 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.




Stop Press


The latest happenings and products of special interest to self-builders and home improvers.

Grounded Case Study


When Dan Runyon emigrated back home he had one goal to achieve: build his own house on the family land.

Architectural and practical Case Study


Mother of seven Rebecca Pendergast knew exactly what she wanted from her brand new home, having recently completed a self-build renovation project in England.


Setting the stage for a successful sale


Selfbuild & Improve Your Home Show Belfast 2016


If you want to sell your house quickly and at a good price, make sure to consult Caroline Irvine’s insider tips.

We will be at the TEC Belfast from the 12-14 February. Gain some facts and figures for your project or just pick up ideas to make your home brighter and better.


Good mood houses


Irish designers’ homes Case Study


A look inside Christopher Day’s new Eco Build guide… did you know, for instance, that we all need to spend an hour a day outdoors? Doesn’t seem like much but for most of us it can be a struggle!

A tour of the homes of ARC Design’s Mark Davies and Barry Fletcher Architects’ Barry Fletcher.

Step into the third dimension 62 High tech design at your fingertips – find out how you can benefit from cutting edge technology to design and manage your build.

Between a rock and a wide open space Case Study

Top five tips on what to expect if you’re considering stone as a building material.



SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

Celebrating 45 years in business

Kitchen, bedroom & bathroom furniture specialists New specialist appliance and furniture lighting centre NOW OPEN

Hannaway Hilltown Ltd 44 Main Street, Hilltown, Newry, Co. Down, BT34 5UJ T: 028 4063 0737


Appointment advisable to avoid disappointment

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Cliff hanger Case Study


Enduring legacy Case Study


A ship’s hull craned atop a cliff – what more can you ask for from a holiday home?

Charlie and Gillian Hutchison reflect on their barn conversion, in memory of architect Julian Leith who passed away late last year.

Revisiting the bungalow Case Study


Polished performance


Eye on Ireland


Advertiser Index


Chiara Poli and Tom Wilmot fell in love with their lakeside bungalow and are taking their time doing it up bit by bit Learn how to give a professional finish to your wood surface, from painting to varnishing.


What’s been happening that’s essential knowledge for anyone building or improving a home.

Get knee deep


How to contact the companies appearing in this issue.

Know your ABCs


Big brother or new best friend? Comment


Salad days


Notice board


Foundation options for difficult sites. Our A to Z guide to building, extending and improving your home in Ireland.

Fiann Ó Nualláin’s guide to sowing the perfect salad ingredients.

Future homes will be automated and mortgageless, says BSRIA’s Henry Lawson. Product and industry news from the world of self-building and home improvement.

98 8 8

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Stop Press

All clear PROTECTION FROM OUR WET and windy Irish weather is essential when it comes to choosing windows and doors, but considering they’re the ‘eyes of the house’ aesthetics matters too. Technological advances in uPVC, composite, aluminium (as cladding to timber or powder coated) and timber windows have led to more long-lasting and lower maintenance products becoming available on the market. However for the MD of Antrim-based window manufacturer Apeer, Asa McGillian, there’s not much excitement around these tried and tested products. “The replacement window market has remained static for many years. It is time for something radically different,” he said. “[A product] that offers an alternative to anything else out there and appeals to consumers looking for the kind of cutting edge design with which they can make a lifestyle statement.” Apeer has developed a way to use its triple glazing’s external pane as a finish, in a structurally bonded system called Lumi, which is also available on bifold, French/ patio and front doors.

In order to get a visual ‘frame’ a ceramic colour is fused to the glass. It is suitable for new builds and renovations/window replacement projects (it may however not suit listed or heritage properties). Lumi is storm-proof with flush proportional glazing (the double rebate is completely hidden), comes with a 10 year guarantee (structural, mechanical

and colour fast), and the windows are available with left and right opening options, fixed panes and top openers. For an award-winning solution to glazing visit, email, tel. 08456 729333 (NI) or 04825632200 (ROI)

Stone as light as feathers

A STONE FINISH IS HIGHLY PRIZED, not only for its unique look but because it’s tactile, hardwearing and generally easy to upkeep. The downside is that it’s heavy and expensive. In comes Slate|Lite from Germany, which is now exclusively distributed in NI

and ROI via Irish Stone. It’s stone that’s paper thin – around 2mm thick – flexible, and lightweight. You can choose from three basic ranges: the sheet can have a fiberglass backing (Traditional), cotton backing which is extremely light weight (Eco-stone), or a translucent one which gives you the possibility of backlighting the sheet for special effect. There is a self-adhesive option for areas that won’t be exposed to water or high humidity. For damp areas one option is Glas, which has a glass coating, the other is to add impregnators,

often used for external cladding. Slate|Lite is applied to any sound surface with a proprietary adhesive. It’s heat resistant, suitable around stoves and fireplaces, and can even be repaired! As long as it’s a scratch or the cut isn’t too deep you can use the Slate|Lite repair kit which contains stone dust. All sealants/impregnators come with a 10 year guarantee, general sheet sizes are 1220mm x 620mm (maximum sheet size is 2400mm x 1200mm). The total cost of ‘supply and fit’ will depend on the design but ‘supply only’ is from £90-£180 per sqm plus adhesive and accessories. And the design service is free! For a lightweight, flexible and costeffective stone finish contact Irish Stone, 26 Harry’s Road, Hillsborough, Co Down, BT26 6HJ, tel. 9268 9587,

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What’s exciting is that the website has added more information to its existing database. You can now browse for nearby schools and NI development plans have been included so you can check on zoning there too. Unfortunately the NI information isn’t as of yet available by searching an address, you have to browse the map instead. Also the flood information isn’t available on a very detailed level but overall is a great place to start if you plan to build your own home – wherever you are in Ireland!

Stop Press

Getting nimble

Other house hunting websites… GETTING THE TYPE of information you want, quickly, can be surprisingly difficult. But there are exceptions; property websites in the United States for instance will routinely give you information about schools in the area, how long the property’s been on the market, the average selling price for similar properties in the area, some even going as far as providing you with crime statistics! We’re not quite there yet in Ireland but

there is a website, the ROI’s Department of Environment, that allows you to check on local development plans. So if you want to build in a particular area you can look up the address and find out if it’s prone to flooding and what the zoning restrictions are. You could look this information up in the downloadable documents available on the local authorities’ websites but this method saves time.

…To know what the neighbours have paid lists all recent sale prices in ROI so you can check how much land and houses nearby have been selling for. …To sell your property online Virtual real estate agents such as now exist to help you buy and sell a house without the intervention of a high street agent; depending on the package you choose they can take photos and carry out the viewings.

All hands on deck SOUND THE TRUMPETS! Ring the bells! The Selfbuild & Improve Your Home Show in Belfast has jumped ship to a brand new venue, the 5,000 sqm Titanic Exhibition Centre in the Titanic Quarter of Belfast. But fear not, the same high quality information and advice is integral to this new production too, running from February 12 to 14 2016. As with all of the SelfBuild shows you’ll get to bring your project to life with FREE advice from resident construction guru John Corless, from garden expert Michael O’Reilly of The Garden Design Shop ( and from the 250 exhibitors specialised in every aspect of new builds and renovations. Plus, Selfbuild has teamed up with Soaks Bathrooms to offer all visitors the chance to win £5,000 towards a NEW bathroom!

Don’t miss out on this exciting event and redeem your FREE tickets on with promo code SPRING.

ST BELFA 12-1416 FEB 20




Research takes the most time and energy, but it’s really necessary if you’re going to take charge of the build.


SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

When Dan Runyon of Co Offaly emigrated two decades ago, he knew it wasn’t forever. What’s more, he also knew that when he did return it would be to build his own home.

case study

Grounded S

pending those years abroad gave Dan time to think about the design, inside and out. And as he knew where he was going to build – his dad offered him land – he could factor in the views and orientation to maximise heat and light from the sun. “I wanted to build something unique and that I really liked; I got inspiration from the United States where I lived for a while and from the surrounding Irish countryside too,” he says. “The site is set in a relaxing, nice and quiet, landscape.”

Research, research, research

When Dan eventually made the journey back home in 2007, he spent another couple of years gathering ideas, information and getting estimates. “I spent more time on the computer than on site,” he points out. “I looked up what building methods and materials to use, got quotes in, and contacted other self-builders to learn from their mistakes. For instance I chose to insulate the walls within the cavity instead of going for insulated plasterboard as it can be difficult to hang frames on it.” After some deliberation he chose an air source heat pump for space heating. “For hot water I’d looked into solar but at the time it would have cost €5,000. It just wasn’t economic as I already had the heat pump which was saving me quite a bit of energy already.” Dan therefore decided to get a heat pump „

More photographs available at


case study The planners objected to the front of the house looking like the angular and highly glazed rear elevation.


that could do both heating and hot water. “My electricity bill is roughly €1,100 a year for two adults, and that includes all of our energy needs. There is no other bill.” That’s less than €100 a

month for cooking, heating, hot water, lights and other electrics. Four years in, Dan admits he hasn’t stopped playing around with the heat pump controls to find the perfect settings. Because it takes time for underfloor heating to bring a room up to temperature, the heat pump measures how cold it is outdoors, on a five hour sliding window, to know when the heat will need to be turned on, and this can be adjusted. “The upper floor is concrete and has underfloor heating, as does downstairs, and it can get too warm up there, even though we have thermostats in every room,” explains Dan. A southerly orientation can lead to overheating. “So I’ve learned to tinker with the settings to have the heat come on downstairs to a lesser temperature, and to get the heat pump to kick in later than the standard settings allow.” He can also open the windows if it gets too warm. Energy efficiency was indeed high on the agenda from the beginning so Dan decided to double the standard 4 inch (100mm) cavity wall width and full-fill with EPS beads. This however meant he found it hard to source wall ties! He went on to make the house as airtight as possible and as a result, he had to source a purpose built ventilation system to ensure good air quality. „ SelfBuild & Improve Your Home


case study

case study Clockwise from top left: cablefree living room, open plan kitchen, stairwell, upstairs view from lounge area, front/main entrance, open plan dining room.



case study

The top landing is used as a lounge/library area

The irregular house shape provided a start for the interior design scheme.

He chose a heat recovery system, which preheats the cold outdoor air with extracted warm air (by transference). “Research takes the most time and energy, but it’s really necessary if you’re going to take charge of the build.” And take charge he did. Armed with his finalised plans he met with the planners early in 2010 with the aim of starting the build in the summer of that year.

Obstacle course

Dan’s original design envisioned angles on all sides, including at the front, and this is what the planners objected to. Rural design guidelines often favour the street-facing view to blend in with the surrounding landscape and roughly match the style of nearby houses. “I got a local architect to help me redesign the front, which actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise,” recounts Dan. “The initial plan of the


house was 3,600 sqft and by squaring off the front, we reduced it to 2,600 sqft. That was a good thing, I really wouldn’t want the house to be any bigger!” The architect came up with the roof design but the changes required the further input of a structural engineer. “We would have had to get a steel schedule drawn up anyway but now that we had angles at the back and none at the front, we basically ended up with no wall plate. The gables were free standing so we had to span the house with steel for cross bracing.” The revised plans were granted planning permission and Dan got started mid-2010 as planned. What he didn’t foresee was that winter being one of the coldest on record. “We had to suspend work for a couple of weeks during the ‘Big Freeze’. It was so cold we couldn’t reasonably keep going,” he says. “Work on the roof couldn’t take place because it was just too dangerous and while we did start „ SelfBuild & Improve Your Home


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with the external plastering, protecting it with a sheet of plastic at night to prevent frost, we realised it made more sense to wait it out and start again when the temperatures came back up.”


The dining room with staircase spine is at the centre of the design

The back of the house, with balcony and angular shape, faces the south facing views. Inside, a double height dining area takes you to the kitchen to the right, the living room to the left and the entrance hall with stairwell access straight ahead. “When I was building the house no one could understand why I chose to have a double height ceiling, I was told I could add a bedroom and was wasting space. But I just love how open it feels upstairs, looking out through the glass to the fields outside is so peaceful. It brings it all together.” Dan went down the direct labour route and did the groundworks himself. “When you hire

someone you hear of someone else through them and that’s how it evolved. Recommendations from previous tradesmen. Ironically most of the people who have worked on my house have since emigrated – my house was probably the last job they did!” Back to the design, it’s clear that the centrepiece of the house is literally and figuratively the staircase with its curved shape, providing views from upstairs and a design feature downstairs. “My only regret is to have chosen patio doors that are straight,” confides Dan. “I would have much preferred a curved shape for that south facing glazing but the difference in cost at the time was too high. I do know that I will eventually replace them, but not just yet!” In fact the windows have had issues with warping, which Dan believes has to do with his choice of colour. “Black absorbs heat and as we’re south facing, there’s a lot of it, especially in the summer.” The fascias and soffits are also black uPVC and these too have suffered from the sun. “It’s fine on the short sections, but the longer 6 or 7 foot (2m) lengths have started to warp. We’ll eventually replace the whole lot with a lighter colour.”

No room to improve

This being his home for life, Dan also made sure it could cater for all of his modern day connectivity needs. “I didn’t want any cables showing in the living room so we’ve put the audio-visual ‘hub’ in the plant room; the satellite box is there along with a hard disc to record movies and the modem to connect to the television via wi-fi.” He also has speakers in every room, that way he can listen to the radio or to music at the touch of his phone. “Having had the time to think about the project over a couple of years made me realise what I really wanted from the house, and I found that this was one important element.” „


SelfBuild & Improve Your Home


case study

right but I won’t be!,” he says. “I’m really happy with the finished product and wouldn’t even contemplate moving anywhere else.” He also points out that it’s an unusual design in that you can’t build an extension. “To be honest, I always had that in mind, I didn’t want it to be changed. The house is plenty big with four bedrooms upstairs, even if we do decide to have children,” he adds. “Although it may not be so quiet anymore if we do!” n Astrid Madsen House size: 2,600 sqft Plot size: ¾ of an acre Build cost: €250,000 BER: B1 (85 kWh/sqm/yr) Airtightness: 1.64 ACH @50Pa

Build spec

The two sides of the house are symmetrical; top: air source heat pump.

For many, building your first house leads to another, but the connection Dan has to the land and the time he put into this project means he has no intention to have another go. “They say you have to do it twice to get it

Construction: 8 inch (200mm) cavity block wall filled with EPS beads; certified breathable spray foam insulation on 7 inch (175mm) rafters with 2 inch (50mm) insulated plasterboard above, floor 6 inch (150mm) PIR board. U-values of walls and floor no more than 0.2 W/sqmK, walls 0.27 W/sqmK. Glazing: external windows and doors triple glazed, argon filled, black uPVC. Upper level internal glazing made of laminated glass.

info The companies listed below provide products & services relating to this article. Heat pump Nibe air source heat pump ACVM270, Heat recovery ventilation Zehnder ComfoAir 350, Spray foam insulation (roof) Icynene,

PIR and EPS bead insulation (floor and walls) Kingspan Insulation, Whole-house sound system Sonos, Photographer James Carney, Navan

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SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

case study

Architectural and practical Having undergone a self-build in England, Rebecca Pendergast knew exactly what she needed from her new home in Co Down.


hen we moved to Northern Ireland with four children in tow, we started to look for a house, but when you’ve lived in a home you’ve done up yourself it can be a struggle to find something that suits,” says Rebecca. “In England we’d built a big extension, and it really delivered. We’d done it so it would suit the comings and goings of our large, busy household. Unfortunately none of the houses we visited here worked, at least not those within our price range!” “Since we were renting at the time we wanted to speed up the process and decided to broaden our scope, to look at properties in need of renovation. We found a bungalow with lovely sea views and decided this would be the one.” That was six years ago.

From the inside out

More photographs available at


The house originally had a very small kitchen and three bedrooms; the playroom was over the garage and only accessible from the outside. Needless to say the layout was not ideal. “We needed a large kitchen, one that was integrated with the playroom so we could keep an „

SelfBuild & Improve Your Home


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SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

case study

eye on the children,” says Rebecca. “I also wanted a separate sitting-room to give us a space to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of daily life.” Luckily, their house-to-be was located around the corner from where they were renting and a friend had recommended an architect. “He came to have a look at the property to let us know if he thought we could get planning permission. By adding an upper floor we’d be able to double the size of the house, which really was necessary. Being able to maximise the space upstairs was the deal clincher. It all seemed fairly straightforward from a planning point of view so we went ahead and bought the house.” Rebecca has fond memories of the initial days. “Architects think in lines and curves, while I was always thinking of the space inside and the practical elements of using it as a home. It was a fun process to combine the two.” “We had experience of what worked for us from our previous home, and since we didn’t like the design of the house we were renting we had „

The big windows supply a lot of light but they also called for a lot of curtains, as Rebecca realised when she got down to sewing them!


case study Ground floor (above) and first floor (right) layout

a list of what not to do. We would also watch a lot of home programmes in the evenings (I notice there are rather fewer on now!) and from that, magazines and shows, we put together a folder of ideas of what we liked, shapes and styles.” The first plans provided four bedrooms, two ensuites and a main bathroom. “I knew we needed five bedrooms so one of the bathrooms had to go.” Only the master bedroom retained its ensuite. Rebecca and her husband were happy with many of the architect’s suggestions, such as positioning their bedroom windows so that they could look out to the sea from their bed. But most impressive to practical Rebecca was the architect’s brilliant idea of adding a linen cupboard to the landing, while the downstairs cloakroom is large with ample space for coats, shoes and even some storage. “We gave him a free hand, up to a point,” she


adds. “We didn’t have a particular look in mind, the main thing from our point of view was to benefit from big windows and lots of light, which we got. Although at the time I didn’t think of how big the curtains would have to be! It’s only when I got down to sewing that I realised how much glass there actually is.”


While the original plan was to convert the existing bungalow into their dream home, once it came to the tender stage it became apparent that it would be more cost-effective to start from scratch. “When the prices came in we realised we were better off with a new build. We stayed within the footprint of the old house, only extending from the sitting room.” Planning permission for conversion and eventually to build a replacement dwelling „ SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

case study The master bedroom was designed to be able to see the views from bed.

went smoothly as the house is in line with the neighbouring properties. “We kept the same initial design we’d submitted to the planners but just built it new,” she adds. “The roof is in line with our neighbours’; there are two different roof heights, one lower than the other, which I think works really well.” The site is on an incline, which lent itself to a split-level configuration. Groundworks were also required to make the site level for access. Inside, the split level meant there would be three steps going up from the hall, which separates it especially well from the main open plan living

area, as Rebecca wanted it. The upstairs is also split-level. “I thought it might cause trouble with the younger children but having three steps is actually quite nice for them: it’s fun to go up and down, especially when they’re learning to walk, and not dangerous as it’s all carpeted.” The architect handled all aspects of the build. “He recommended the builder and liaised with him on site; we were on the phone a lot,” recalls Rebecca. “We would have managed the build if we could have given more time to the project but with work and the children there was no way to work it into our schedule. The house is busy!” And yet it „



SelfBuild & Improve Your Home


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still took up a lot of their time, which she says was actually a welcome distraction. “We’d just had our fifth baby and found when he was born that he has Down’s syndrome. Going around to find things like door handles and skirting boards was actually quite fun.”

Experienced choices

The design process started with the ground floor plans which is where many of the changes were made. Rebecca had a good idea of how the rooms would work out: “I could picture us there,” she says. Case in point is the kitchen, the heart of most families’ home and Rebecca’s is no exception. “I wanted a big island; that was the main thing as we needed the kitchen to be able to cope with many people in it, cooking, doing the washing up and generally moving about. The island serves as a sideboard when we have guests over – we recently had 20 people sitting down to eat and the island was the perfect place to put the plates.” At the time she says it was difficult to source anything but under-counter cupboards. “I only wanted drawers, not cupboards, and I found them difficult to find,” she says, adding that now it’s much easier. “I also wanted drawers with no handles, which I think is a fantastic design feature.” At the front door, she chose tiles for ease of cleaning but the rest of the house is all carpet and wood. “There’s a no-shoe policy in place which helps on the upkeep and also with hygiene (there are a lot of dog-walkers close by, not all of them responsible!), while in the kitchen/dining area the choice of wood was with potential knocks or falling off chairs in mind. Timber has a bit of a bounce compared to some alternatives. I actually had a lot of fun choosing finishes with the help of our architect but he didn’t agree with all of my practical and maintenance-driven choices; for instance I still maintain you’re definitely better off with wall-hung toilets!” Of course cost was also a consideration; for example while they went for underfloor heating on the ground floor, upstairs they installed radiators, solid-concrete upper floors being dearer to install

than timber. “If money had been no issue we would also have put in solar panels for hot water but instead we chose a 300-litre tank to make sure we would never run out of hot water – or so we thought. We hadn’t reckoned on how long teenagers can spend in the shower! In the downstairs bathroom we put in an electric shower just in case the hot water ever does run out. Good job....” Rebecca’s only regret is the size of the utility room. “I would have loved a much bigger space, and more basement space in general,” she laments. The utility is just wide enough for a washingmachine and tumble-dryer side-by-side. “With 10 or 11 people in the house, it can get cramped for

Wall hung toilets were a must-have on Rebecca’s low maintenance list.


case study

The roof line is in keeping with the neighbours’ and planning permission was relatively straightforward to secure.

washing.” Even when you think you’ve got it all covered, there’s always something… n Astrid Madsen Plot size: 685 sqm / 0.17 acres House Floor Area (including basement): 272 sqm / 2,928 sqft Build cost: £246,000 House value: £400,000

Build spec

Build up: walls 100/100/100 Blockwork cavity wall with 100mm full-fill EPS bead insulation; floor 75mm screed on 100mm EPS board on T-Beam & Block; pitched roof standing seam metal roof on ply sarking on rafters with EPS board with graphite: 150mm between rafters and 25mm below, then finished with plasterboard and skim; flat roof proprietary single-ply membrane on PIR board on ply deck on joists with unvented airspace between, then finished with plasterboard and skim. U-Values: walls 0.29W/sqmK, floor and pitched roof 0.19 W/sqmK, flat roof 0.18 W/sqmK Windows: double-glazed low-e hardwood timber, U-value of units 1.8W/sqmK

info The companies listed below provide products & services relating to this article. Architect Ian Crockard BSc (Hons) Arch MCIAT, Crockard Building Design, Downpatrick, Co Down, tel. 4483 1566, Builder Trevor Nelson, T&J Nelson & Sons, Clough, Co Down, tel. 4481 1259 Insulation Walls Springvale EcoBead, floors Springvale Platinum Floorshield, pitched roof Springvale Warmsqueeze and Warmsark,, flat roof Kingspan TR26,

Flat roof membrane Sika-Trocal, Kitchen Grosvenor Kitchens, Belfast, tel. 90 685363, Windows Baskil Windows (Munster Joinery), Crumlin, Co Antrim, tel. 9077488, Photography Paul Lindsay at Christopher Hill Photographic, Clarence Street, Belfast, BT2 8DY, tel. 9024 5038

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SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

Property Staging As with show houses in new developments, a successfully staged property will reflect the desired lifestyle of potential buyers, enabling them to connect with a property and envisage living there.

Setting the stage for a successful sale Presenting your home to its full potential will help you achieve a quick and cost-effective sale. After all, you never get a second chance to make a first impression!


ome staging is a marketing term that describes the presentation of a property for sale using a design style that will appeal to the widest buying audience; empty rooms are filled and dated rooms made fashionable to show a property to its best advantage and answer visual or spatial questions that buyers may have when viewing. In the United States, statistics have shown that a staged property can sell up to 70% faster (RESA, Real Estate Staging Association) and for up to 10% more than its un-staged counterparts (2014 HSR Home Staging Statistics). With proven benefits, home staging is increasing in popularity here too. As with show houses in new developments, a successfully staged property will reflect the desired


lifestyle of potential buyers, enabling them to connect with a property and envisage living there. So, when it comes to selling property, the bottom line is: it pays to stage. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune and you don’t necessarily have to call in the experts. However, structural repairs can be expensive and send prospective buyers running for the hills. It is wise therefore to start by engaging a building surveyor to provide an inspection report that will identify any areas in the house needing attention.


Before presenting your house for sale, it is important to consult your agents about the type of buyer your home is likely to attract: first time buyer, commuter couple, empty nester, or silver divorcĂŠe; SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

Generally, the longer we live in our homes the less we see them so try and pretend to be a stranger in your own house for an afternoon to spot the potential issues. Prospective buyers can be distracted by clutter, cleanliness, colour, lighting, furniture, odours, pet hair, incomplete repairs – the list goes on. The house will be referred to by its distinguishing features when it’s discussed, and you don’t want them to be negative. While vendors can be reluctant to invest in the home they are about to leave, a few simple improvements can make a huge difference. You might be surprised by what some small repairs, a good de-clutter followed by a clean and a lick of paint can achieve!

subtle and sophisticated a front door has a big impact on buyers’ first impressions and if not in good repair it sends out all the wrong signals. A fresh lick of paint can totally transform the look of a home. Pick a colour: cherry red, black, navy, washed out grey, green or blue ensuring that it best suits the style and character of the property. Colour is very much a personal choice and can reveal a lot about your personality, or so the psychologists say. Currently the rage is for muted colours and many paint companies have ‘historic’ collections that will match the original paint colours used on period properties. Be sure to have door furniture gleaming; if it’s worn or dull looking consider replacing it and remember to invest in quality (people will be able to tell by the feel). Choose door knockers and letterboxes in keeping with the style of your property: brass will suit a period home and for a contemporary look opt for chrome or brushed aluminum. House numerals should be well positioned and easy to read. To make a good impression, plants surrounding the door can be almost as important as the door itself. A climbing plant or creeper always adds allure but dead leaves still on the plant must be tended to! Roses and jasmine have universal appeal and clipped box or bay to either side of a front door make for a tidy composition. As for window boxes, these miniature gardens can truly transform a property; they can be planted in any season to add texture, colour, interest and charm. „

Property Staging

their expertise will help sell your house and match buyer demographic with décor. Buyers are keen to purchase the best property their budget allows; ‘best’ meaning one that is suited to their personal requirements. Apart from the obvious factors that will influence the decision, such as location, price and size, buyers are also looking for a lifestyle. A property that is stylishly staged will stand out from otherwise similar ones and will provide attractive photographs for marketing purposes, which is all important when you consider: l A property search starts with the internet and can end there too; potential buyers will not book viewings unless they like the photos online. l The majority of potential purchasers cannot visualise a property’s potential. l Buyers need to be able to imagine themselves in a home before making an offer. l People buy with their emotions and need to ‘connect’ with a property before they will purchase.

A property that is stylishly staged will stand out from otherwise similar ones and will provide attractive photographs for marketing purposes

Kerb appeal

Never underestimate the value of a well-presented exterior. The house with the ‘white picket fence and climbing rose’ comes to mind; this is the house that everybody admires and by which travel directions are given. While clichéd, this example highlights how important property presentation is when you consider that potential buyers (having short listed your property from the internet) will often do a quick drive-by and decide on the spot whether your house is worth viewing or not! In order to maximise kerb appeal it is important that the grass is cut, the flower beds weeded, loose paving is fixed, the door-bell works, the windows are clean, the garden tap doesn’t drip and there are fish in the fish pond! Indeed, the list of repairs and ‘to dos’ can be endless but are essential when you consider it takes buyers no more than eight seconds to decide whether they like a house (NAR, National Association of Realtors) and a few of these are spent waiting at the door.

Front door or portal to a sale?

A defining feature, and one of the first things that potential buyers will see when they arrive at your home is your front door. Bright and beautiful or


Property Staging

The spare room

Make the most of the space you have by using extra rooms wisely. If you have been using the spare bedroom as a dumping ground for redundant computers, broken furniture and old clothes, think again. What type of room would potential buyers like to see: office, gym, bathroom, or nursery and which would add the most value? Turning an extra room into a room with a purpose can reap big returns when it comes to selling.


Storage is something every buyer is looking for and can never get enough of. Walk-in wardrobes should be ‘walk-in-able’; take half the stuff out and neatly organise what’s left. Buyers are curious so be sure to keep all your closets and cabinets clean and tidy; this goes for kitchen cupboards too allowing for at least 20 to 30 percent free space. For those selling to buy another home, either up or downsizing, this is the ideal opportunity to prepare for the move by putting items into storage. Remember that the more open space you create in the house the more space the buyer will feel they are getting and if you are using your attic space for storage make sure it’s clean, tidy and well-lit.


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

When selling, the importance of your home being clean, really clean cannot be over emphasised. Buyers are automatically influenced by their senses and every surface that can be seen and touched, from floors, walls and windows to counters and grout, should be spotless. A good dollop of elbow grease can add more value to your property than almost anything else so once you have de-cluttered you need to clean like you have never cleaned before. Alternatively, if you are stuck for time or your property is too large to handle on your own you can always call in a cleaning service. Unpleasant smells from blocked drains, bins, cigarette smoke, pets and lingering scents of cooking can be off putting to buyers and should be eliminated at source. And, while ‘inviting’ aromas such as freshly baked cookies, bread, coffee and scented candles can encourage potential buyers to make themselves at home, research has shown that simple fragrances such as lemon, basil and pine work best.


Unfinished repairs

Create an outdoor living space

It takes buyers no more than eight seconds to decide whether they like a house.

The Holy Grail to a spacious home and a minimalist lifestyle! Clutter is distracting and prevents potential buyers from picturing the property as their home. In addition, it makes rooms feel smaller and creates the impression there is not enough storage space. Personal paraphernalia such as photographs, memorabilia, children’s drawings, bathroom toiletries, trophies and other extraneous items, from excess furniture to fridge magnets, should be banished during house visits (stashed away in a box, not piled up high in the spare room!).


Every homeowner has a list of odd jobs that need doing, from repairing leaky taps and replacing blown light bulbs to patching chipped plasterwork and replacing broken tiles. Unfinished repairs can reflect badly on the overall maintenance of a property, creating an impression that there is a lot of work to be done. Assuage potential cause for concern and ensure outstanding odd jobs are completed by fixing door handles, stuck drawers and squeaky floorboards before showing your property. „

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Property Staging

Our brains love symmetry and whether we are aware of it or not a ‘balanced’ interior is not only aesthetically pleasing but creates a feeling of harmony in a space

Light and bright

Everyone is attracted to spaces that are light and bright, they have a huge impact not only on how a house looks but on how it feels – more welcoming and somehow larger! A lighter and brighter home can be achieved simply by cleaning the windows till they sparkle, upping your light bulb wattage, putting dimmers on switches, dusting lampshades, removing curtains in rooms that aren’t overlooked and employing some additional tricks of the trade… Decorative mirrors are especially effective at reflecting light and opening up small spaces such as hallways and bathrooms. Placing a mirror across from a window is a great way to reflect light and double the sense of space. Another way is to place a paneled interior door (mirrored perhaps) in an alcove for a ‘trompe-l’œil’ effect that will add dimension to the room. White, in all its shades, is a clever colour that makes the smallest of spaces appear lighter and larger. Suitable for all interior styles; a uniform white will create a modern /minimalist look or when used in multiple shades can be ‘vintage’ or ‘shabby chic’. A white ceiling will always make a space feel bigger. White furniture enhances the sense of calm and in wet rooms white ceramic finishes convey cleanliness. Ambient lighting makes a room; have plenty of lamps in addition to ceiling lights. Hanging lights (pendants and chandeliers) work well at low heights over dining tables but when used elsewhere need to be high enough so people don’t bump their heads. All interior lights should be turned on ahead of a viewing. External lighting is important too; place lights at either side of the front door or a lantern in the entrance porch and always leave a light on in the evenings so the property looks welcoming to potential buyers driving by.


A lick of paint

No single DIY effort can do more for your home or provide a greater return on investment than a new coat of paint. Working equally well in isolation, as with all colours in the spectrum; from the bold and beautiful to the subtle and subdued, whites and neutrals when used on walls provide the perfect canvas against which any potential buyer can imagine their belongings. Because of their versatility and general appeal, neutrals support all interior styles from contemporary to traditional. Suited to floors, furniture and curtains alike, these neutral colours work equally well with the bold and bright or subtle and subdued colours that add personality and character to a space when used in artwork and interior accessories. In the bathroom the minimum recommended paint finish is ‘egg shell’ or ‘satin’; also remember that areas around the bath, shower and wash basin will need to be caulked or sealed with silicone.

When it pays to renovate

The rooms that buyers scrutinise and judge most are kitchens and bathrooms, rooms that are particularly prone to looking dated as anyone coming across an avocado bathroom or almond kitchen will attest to. Bear in mind that while kitchen and bathroom ‘remodels’ are two of the best investments that can be made, all plans for home improvements should be in line with the value of the property and sometimes basic home maintenance can pay greater dividends than a new kitchen or bathroom! When deciding to remodel an existing bathroom, consider first whether your money might be better spent adding another one, e.g. converting the spare room into a family bathroom or en-suite. „


Property Staging

And remember to select design classics in sanitary ware, tiles, paint colours, kitchen appliances, cabinetry etc. It will go a long way towards ensuring that your kitchen and/or bathrooms will appeal to potential buyers both now and in years to come.


The kitchen has always been the heart of the home but even more so now with open plan living and the increasing number of home cooks inspired by the celebrity chef phenomenon. Taking centre stage, a well presented kitchen is a huge advantage when selling a house and it needs to look its best. The key to spending less is spending wisely and often one or two minor improvements can yield a big return on investment: Opt for neutral colours with few patterns when choosing carpets and rugs

Paint the cabinets Re-finishing dated cabinets is the best way to get a new look for less; give them a fresh coat of paint or send them out to a paint shop for a ‘factory finish’. Whatever the paint you choose make sure it can be easily cleaned. Replace cabinet doors A relatively simple process that can be inexpensive as long as the doors you are replacing are in standard sizes. Replace door furniture Sometimes simply changing the cabinet knobs and pulls can transform the look of a kitchen; this works for bedroom wardrobes and built-ins too. Soft-close door and drawer systems Say goodbye to slamming kitchen cupboards!

Replace the splashback Splash backs can add real pizzazz and are a great way to breathe some life into a tired or outdated kitchen. The choice of materials is unlimited: glass, stainless steel, stone or tile; choose a surface that will complement the existing cabinetry. Install a new countertop Replacing scratched and worn kitchen countertops is an excellent way to lift the look of a kitchen but can be expensive when using natural stone or even composite materials. For a more cost effective alternative consider using a laminate that has the look and texture of a natural stone. Select new appliances High end appliances typically elevate buyers’ perception of the entire home. However, when budget is a concern there are ways to make a statement without replacing all of them; have one signature appliance: the hob or oven perhaps? Invest in lighting Brighten your kitchen with a feature ceiling light, some mini pendants or under cabinet lighting and add some dimmer switches to maximise effect and control. Accessorise Add some decorative interest to your now gadget and clutter free countertops with a bowl of fruit, a vase of flowers, a tiered cake stand or some pretty teacups on a tray.


Buyers love the allure of a glamourous bathroom; one that is evocative of a luxury hotel, one where they can picture themselves enjoying the invigorating properties of a power shower or luxuriating in a deep bath after a busy day. However, not everyone has the ‘perfect’ bathroom; renovations can be costly and sometimes it is a better strategy to work with what you have. The transformation of an everyday bathroom into a five star experience with universal appeal starts with a complete de-clutter and clean; all personal toiletries must go and all surfaces must be ‘deep cleaned’ to ‘gleam’. When even an extreme clean doesn’t get rid of unsightly stains it’s time to regrout and re-caulk your bathroom. Plants and flowers will brighten any space; orchids are always a favourite, a single stem of your favourite bloom, a small planter or even a branch with beautiful leaves placed in a vase will look stylish. Add to this some new fluffy white towels, some fresh bars of soap, a scented candle in beautiful packaging and your bathrooms are on their way to becoming truly spa like. Updating light fittings, towel racks and door furniture, meanwhile, is a cost effective way to give your bathroom a new ‘look’. And if you’re going to replace fixtures and fittings consider wall hung wash hand basins and wcs to make small spaces appear bigger.


Our brains love symmetry and whether we are aware of it or not a ‘balanced’ interior is not only aesthetically pleasing but creates a feeling of harmony in a space; two-seater sofas positioned


Property Staging

opposite each other with a coffee table and rug between them is a familiar configuration. All rooms and circulation areas should be easy to navigate and kept obstacle free. Any spare chairs or armchairs should be put into storage, or space permitting used to add seating areas to bedrooms; counterintuitively, a chair in the corner of the room or bench at the end of a bed will give the impression that the room is larger.


As with all surfaces, floors must be spotless. If carpets are in a deep colour or bold pattern consider replacing them with a plain carpet in a neutral colour. Similarly, if wooden floors are in poor shape consider refinishing them and if neither of these options suit your budget then the strategic placement of area rugs can go a long way.


Flowers and plants make any space come alive; be it a single peony, a frothy bunch of hydrangeas, a bed of lavender or profusion of flowers in a window box, there is no easier way to add beauty either in or out of doors. And, when the maintenance of fresh flowers and plants is a concern there is an abundance of artificial alternatives to choose from that look so natural that even experts can be fooled.

Think seasonally

In spring and summer make sure your garden is shipshape to show off the season’s flowers; daffodils, tulips, daisies or geraniums, and make sure that any extra features such as a pool or fire pit are clean and ready to go. In autumn and winter months create a cosy vibe by lighting a fire in the stove with a strategically placed basket of logs on the hearth. Subtle wintery decorations add a homey feel and are inviting; a simple Christmas wreath on the front door, some scented pine cones in a bowl or an arrangement of winter flowers in the hall. Winter flowering pansies, ‘Berried Treasure’ and yellow catkins will add outdoor colour and texture on cold grey days.

Ditch the DIY and call in a specialist

If you don’t know where to start, can’t see the wood for the trees or are short on time when it comes to preparing your home for sale, you could call in the experts. As every house and project is different, property staging services are tailored to individual needs; these can range from a single consultation to a complete makeover, including the supply of all furniture, lighting and artwork required. Costs vary accordingly, and also depend on the condition of your house. However as a rule of thumb you can expect to spend between 1 to 3 per cent of the value of your property to implement the necessary updates for a successful sale. n

Flowers and plants make any space come alive

Caroline Irvine MRIAI Architect, Dun Laoghaire, County Dublin. Mobile: 087 2987401 All images courtesy of Caroline Irvine

info The companies listed below provide products & services relating to this article. Bank of Ireland UK (Mortgages & remortgaging) Nationwide Tel: 9262 5131 Beggs & Partners (Bathrooms, plumbing & heating) Belfast Tel: 9023 5791 County Down Stoves & Flues (N. Ireland’s official stockists of Clearview Stoves with over two decades of experience in the solid fuel industry) Dundrum, Co Down Tel: 4375 1555 Creative Stone and Tile (Designer tiles & surfaces) Omagh, Co Tyrone Tel: 8225 7673

Grange Design (Kitchens) Armagh 07912 678 959 Hannaway Hilltown (Kitchens) Hilltown, Co Down Tel: 4063 0737 Ian A Kernohan Ltd (AGA) Conlig, Co Down Tel: 9127 0233 Philip McElhone Construction Ltd (Residential Refurbishments) Toomebridge, Co Antrim Tel: 7965 0325 Schneider Electric Ireland Ltd (Electrical components) Maynooth, Co Kildare Tel: 01 601 2200

Soaks Bathrooms (Bathrooms) Belfast Tel: 9068 1121 The Tile Shed (Wall & floor tiles) Cookstown, Co Tyrone Tel: 8673 6537 Velux Company Ltd (Balcony windows - rooflights & sun tubes. Blinds and accessories) Fife Tel: 01592 778 225

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Eco build guide

Good mood houses Where you live has a huge impact on your mind, body and soul, and the solution to making your home the refuge it should be doesn’t require expensive or fancy designs.

Photograph courtesy of Christopher Day


hristopher Day’s architectural approach is known as ‘consensus building’ – he designs homes based on what the future occupiers come to agree they want, deviating from the current practice of embracing tried-and-tested guidelines, methods and designs suggested by experienced architects. After all, you would normally hire an architect so s/he can tell you what you don’t know. The client is a novice; architects have a wealth of knowledge and experience that must be factored in, what matters is how happy you are in your home. For Day, user-experience is key to the design. To set the tone here’s a passage from his new book The Eco Home Design Guide that deals with context; your home’s social heart, he says, needs to be a “focally warmed space”. In other words, snug living rooms make us feel secure and cosy while a bright uncluttered room allows us to relax. He adds that context also affects ‘the entry experience’: “to leave the outer world behind, is


a front door opening straight into the living room sufficient? Or do you need a gate, front garden, porch and hallway? These are things for the whole family to discuss.”

The future of house building

As recently as 10 years ago, energy efficient builds were often written off as too expensive to achieve, and quite frankly, not worth the effort. Today, they’ve become the norm. When reading Christopher Day’s comprehensive and easy-to-follow house building guide – aimed at home owners and specifiers – it becomes clear that future generations will in the very same manner, not see it as unusual to talk about community-owned facilities. Think of the days when farmers used to share agricultural equipment; despite the obvious advantages this is now a rare occurrence. In the home we each want to have our own washing machine, boiler and solar panels. However it makes much more sense to share these. SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

Morning, noon and afternoon sun and shade

Eco build guide

New builds: Positioning your house

House in the middle of plot: useless space

Garage at the far end of garden: lots of hard surface instead of greenery


House to front and one side: maximum useful space

East or west-facing plot: house along north boundary, no windows in that wall.

Day points out there are ways to keep things clean, tidy and organised but he doesn’t touch upon the convenience aspect; wouldn’t everyone want to use the washing machines at the same time, say, on a good drying day or at the weekends? That said sharing does provide considerable savings: it minimises capital cost, embodied energy, raw material and energy use. You could apparently save 35-40% on your electricity bills if you partook in equipment sharing! House building costs are reduced too – think of the savings associated to not having to build a utility room. And so Day has a section within the Site Choice and Planning chapter dedicated to grouping homes. Ireland is full of residential estates which could be put to use. ‘Eco’ communities such as Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary, exist already, (in this case it relies on district heating, one mega boiler feeding heat to the whole estate), but more can be done.

Striving to be happy

South-facing plot: house set back from the front boundary, hedge dividing semi-public area from wholly private realm.

Day starts off the book with the simple question, why build an eco-house? Nowadays eco has in many circles come to mean energy-efficient due to the easily quantifiable cost savings. But there are many other, at times surprising, aspects to consider, including mental health. A chapter that you won’t find in every house building book is the one about keeping your spirit and soul healthy. It’s common knowledge that daylight makes everyone happier but did you know it’s recommended to spend at least an hour outdoors in the day time? It’s amazing to think most of us can’t achieve it. Day then goes on to delve into the concept of psychological space and sensory nutrition. “Uncluttered spaciousness is about freedom from pressure. It’s calming; it relieves stress,” he says. “However, this isn’t only about generous space to „

Pros and cons of different house positions. Top left: consider where and when you’ll get shade.


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Self-build tips

The Eco-Home Design Guide is structured along the lines of the age-old questions of Why, Where, How, What and When. Did you know that at the same temperature, moist air feels cooler than if it were dry? Of course you do! You live in Ireland… For the uninitiated he goes through the physics of air movement, temperature, how insulation and airtightness work and pretty much anything else you need to know about how your home and the systems you install will perform, ventilation being a critical

Cramp together tongued-andgrooved boards Saw and plane off excess width

Lay ledges over these and screw down the top one

Mark, cut and lay angle-braces; square off points for 75x25mm (3x1”) stops

Glue and srew the stops to restrain braces

Eco build guide

move in, so doesn’t necessarily require expensive floor space. Low windowsills let the soul breathe out [bearing in mind child-safety, e.g. any glass below 32’’/800mm should be toughened].” He argues for a balance between liveliness (traces of chaos that signal life) and calm (minimalist simplicity), stimulus and predictability. A calm expanding space can feel sterile but “clutter clogs up life”. He says it’s this balance between sensory starvation and order that needs to be achieved. In terms of materials, for example: “Tiled floors are no softer than concrete or terrazzo, but, being sized for hands not machines, they look softer [an effect enhanced if the colours are warm].” Or: “Unpainted wood looks, feels and smells life-friendly. Plastic doesn’t.” He also has a clear mistrust of mechanised systems largely due to the potential consequences if there’s a power cut, e.g. for mechanised ventilation systems or indeed for anything that’s automated such as blinds. Tips for warmth include subtly shaving off edges from your exposed beams to give them a more inviting feel and not be afraid to tile a room by eye instead of with a chalk line; while this is not to everyone’s taste Day argues “mechanical ‘perfection’ has nothing to do with life”. It is fortuitous, he adds, that imperfect tiles, bricks and pavers – ‘seconds’ – are cheaper than factory-standard ones.

Fit braces tight to ledges and screw down

factor. For instance he advocates the use of underfloor heating and wall panel heating instead of radiators. The heat expelled, he says, is much more ‘delicious’ – radiant heat from pipes in the walls and floors will only need to reach 19 degC to provide the same temperature effect as radiators’ (dust-laden) convection heat at 22 degC and, he argues, with better comfort. Also consider internal shutters if you have the space to open/slide/fold them; Day says that if they’re draught sealed and insulated they will make a considerable difference on winter nights when closed. Also, a mirror finish will help reflect light when open and reduce heat loss when shut. He’s got a keen eye for DIY too; for instance if you’re removing floorboards try punching the nails through rather than try pulling them out, or if you plan to build your own door go for a boarded type (see drawing). The theme of future proofing is of course „

Day goes into detail on all building elements.

Optimum pitched-roof construction 25 x 50mm slating battens

To vented ridge

Reflector foil on underfelt

Insulation between engineered-timber I-beams, 25 x 50mm battens for reflectionspacers (and diagonal braces)

50 x 50mm counter-battens for unobstructed eave-to-eave airway Multifoil: joints taped to form vapour-check membrane

10-12mm softboard: joints taped to form windproof layer

Insulated plasterboard

25 x 50mm battens for cable void (and diagonal braces)

Seal membranes and softboard into the construction „


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Eco build guide

Photograph courtesy of Peter Saunders

Too much glazing can cause overheating and cold on winter nights.

prevalent, addressing old age and/or the eventuality Some guidance on external wall insulation of becoming incapacitated. For instance, ensure light switches are positioned low enough to be accessed from a wheelchair and if you introduce wall supports have them centrally located over the basin instead of at the sides to keep your centre of gravity aligned when using them. When designing your hallway make sure it’s wide enough to allow for the staircase to be fireproofed to rent upstairs in later years – this requires very little additional floor space to achieve as compared to a standard hallway width. Of course make sure corridors are wide enough for wheel chair access and that there are no steps down to access key rooms such as the kitchen. Overheating is an interesting topic as it’s not something at the forefront of most of our minds but it should be a consideration too. Day says one of the lessons he’s learned over the years is to be careful Over external insulation, climbing plants need frameworks/ wires as with the amount of south facing glazing (e.g. large sucker or rooting tendril species can destroy the insulation’s protective render. expanse of glazing on gable end) you’re introducing as it can get too warm in summer and chilly at night if there are no shutters. North facing walls are another interesting topic which he regularly comes back to; one option is to build a sheltered firewood store against it, another is to mound earth or judiciously plant climbers. In fact landscaping in general is fascinating territory; Day says that planting trees and hedges in your line of sight, on a diagonal axis, will lead you to believe the plot is larger than it is. Above all, maximise the amount of green you can see from the windows, as opposed to hard landscaping. Apparently in hospitals patient recovery times are greatly increased when there are green views available! External insulation carried down to the foundations minimises cold-bridging and partially compensates for inadequate floor insulation. Finally, the last section dealing with ‘Who’ is full „


Eco build guide

Getting airtightness right on site Strips of vapour barrier between rafters and beams.

For airtight vapour/wind barriers, you need firm things between which to sandwich the overlaps.

Tape window frames with wind proof membranes before inserting into the opening.

The Eco-Home Design Guide, Principles and practice for new-build and retrofit, by Christopher Day. Published by Green Books ISBN 9780857843050, 256 pages, with a foreword by the Prince of Wales. Paperback ÂŁ24.99, also available as hardback, ebook and on Kindle. n

Image courtesy of Christopher Day

of helpful information for self-builders in particular, with insights into how builders will and should price the job and how to manage a situation where you build your house with friends.

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Astrid Madsen

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Choice Heating Solutions (Alternative Heating Solutions) Kerrypike, Co Cork Tel: 087 275 4012 Flogas Ireland Ltd (Heating: Calulations, systems & appliances) Drogheda, Co Louth Tel: 041 983 1041 Grant Engineering (Condensing Wood Pellet Boilers) Birr, Co Offaly Tel: 057 912 0089 Homecare Systems Ltd (Mechanical ventilation with heat recovery) Donaghmore, Co Tyrone Tel: 8776 9111

Kingspan Environmental Ltd (wastewater and drainage, renewable energy, environmental fuel storage) Portadown, Co Armagh Tel: 3026 6799 Olympic Lifts Ltd (In home elevation & access solutions) Lisburn, Co Antrim Tel: 9262 2331 Reinco (renewables & insulation consultancy) Cookstown, Co Tyrone Tel: 07729 125002 Windhager UK Ltd (Biomass Boilers) South Gloucestershire Tel: 01225 892211

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Irish designers’ homes

We bring you the homes Irish architects, engineers and other house building designers live in. THIS ISSUE: BARRY FLETCHER RSUA/RIBA + MARK DAVIES MCIAT


Designer houses

Barry Fletcher RSUA/RIBA This house in Co Down was built on the footprint of an old stone cottage set on a sloping site with coastline views. The concept was to combine the ‘old and new’ traditions of local vernacular architecture – sleeping quarters in keeping with the original cottage style, living areas contemporary.

A contemporary new build with a vernacular style

Anything unusual? Building materials, construction methods, design…

The stone from the old cottage was used to re-build the boundary walls. A small paddock and yard were added between the house and the original barns, which have also been repaired and brought back into use. The feature king post trusses are stained walnut to complement the walnut stairs and doors creating a contrast between the white walls and ceilings.

Favourite design feature

This would be the glass gable wall which faces south


and looks directly onto Slieve Donard mountain. This element was key in the concept design from the outset.

Favourite room

My favourite room is the open plan space which contains the kitchen, dining, living (south facing) and den (east and south facing) areas. It is the ‘heart’ of the house where my family and I spend most of our time. The den opens out onto the patio and we are surrounded by our garden which consists of native Damson trees which have been retained as they have been there for generations. SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

Designer houses

As the site is elevated, we are greeted on clear mornings with beautiful sun rises over Newcastle Bay. The sun floods the rooms from breakfast time and moves on the southern axis during the day. The double height / vaulted ceilings and highly glazed walls create a very relaxing space, changed by the sunlight during the day and moonlit at night.


Approx. ÂŁ80/sqft undertaken as a self-build project. FLETCHER ARCHITECTS (N.I.) LTD Room 2, 21 Kinelowen Street, Keady, Co. Armagh, BT60 3ST T: 028 37 539530 E: W:


Designer houses

Mark Davies MCIAT Originally the back garden of a Victorian period house in Dun Laoghaire, accessible via a back lane, Mark’s house replaced a single storey garage. The 140sqm newly built mews is energy efficient (A rating); air to water heat pump provides heating and hot water, heat recovery ventilation fresh air, annual energy bill comes to €1,300 including VAT.

Anything unusual? Building materials, construction methods, design…



A very narrow house footprint of 10mx11m required the addition of a basement, which is used as the living area and part of the ceiling consists of a skylight/garden glass floor. It was designed to be the main hub of the house; it was vital too that it branch off seamlessly into the garden space. We used ICF (insulated concrete formwork) with reinforced

concrete to deal with structural loads. The most stressful stage was digging and forming the basement; access was tight and the crew only had a two hour window to work in per day due to traffic. They hit hard granite rock which required ‘stitch drilling’ and because work was taking place below the water table, a pump had to constantly empty the groundwater whilst digging. The waterproof concrete used includes proprietary ‘crystallisation’ agents. SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

Lots of research went into the stone cladding; we chose random granite stone mix with 60% grey to 40% brown and open joints (don’t see grout between the stone; it’s cemented at rear). Other wall finishes consist of coloured acrylic render.

Favourite design feature

The glass floor from the rear garden that allows natural light to pierce the basement room; it’s also cool to look up to the skyline from the basement living room and likewise to look into the basement from the garden.

Favourite room

The ground floor of course! The open plan layout of the room with kitchen, living and dining area, really

works. I wanted the basement to be a surprise so that when you entered it, you wouldn’t know what to expect. What you get is an inviting cosy space. I also love this room due to the huge amount of natural light that enters it, along with how it opens up to the garden with the sliding and bi-fold door systems. It brings the garden into the ground floor whilst the ground floor space is inviting from the garden.

Designer houses

The basement skylight brings in light to the living room.

The basement is the heart of the house


Approx. €1,780 per sqm incl. VAT ARC DESIGN Willowgrove, Delgany, Co Wicklow, T. 01 2010377, W.


Building information modelling

‘‘ ?????????????

...architects prefer that clients sign off on the design with a full understanding of both 2D and 3D details, to prevent disappointments but also to avoid changing the design during the construction stage...

which can lead to significant additional costs and confusion on site. 62

SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

Do you have trouble imagining what your house or extension will look like? With ‘flat’ 2D plans and drawings it can be hard to get a sense of scale and proportion.


t all too often happens that selfbuilders think they will get one type of a look and end up with quite another due to a misunderstanding of the 2D plans. It takes years to train someone to interpret complex 2D plans, so this is a common problem. Of course there are ways around this, such as visiting similar houses, but the bottom line is you don’t want to be living in your home with a ‘what if ’ frame of mind! With 3D modelling there’s much less guesswork involved as you can see the house from any angle you wish – the model moves as you please. Furthermore the design can be virtually checked, verified and assessed at all stages of the process. You may not even have to pay above the usual design fees to take advantage of this technology as 3D modelling is increasingly becoming integrated into standard architectural services. In fact architects prefer that clients sign off on the design with a full understanding of both 2D and 3D details, to prevent disappointments but also to avoid changing the design during the construction stage, e.g. window or wall placement, which can lead to significant additional costs and confusion on site. It’s important to note that even though all designers are able to do up standalone 3D images (this will come at an extra cost and will only give you a fixed view) not all designers use modelling software. And don’t be put off by the common misconception that 3D modelling is only for very large projects, it’s in fact ideally suited to one-off houses, extensions and refurbishments, and has been used successfully for that purpose for over a decade in Ireland.

New house completed in 2012 in Co Monaghan Cummins & Voortman

Building information modelling

Step into the third dimension

2D workflows

The most common method to record a house design is to first put pen to paper with hand drawn perspective views and sketches, then input the „


Building information modelling

information into Computer Aided Design (CAD) software, the computer version of pen-and-paper drawings. Floor plans, sections and elevations are created independently from one another and therefore any new views have to be created from scratch; if you change a window you will have to edit not only the floor plans but all views in which the window appears. Errors can easily happen if the designer forgets to change one of the views. And you end up with many versions of the same plans; it’s actually not uncommon for various tradesmen to be working to different ones, causing significant problems and/or

‘With BIM you input the design information once, into an initial model, and any new information you wish to add or alter is layered on top of the original....’

BIM render of a house extension in Co Tipperary; the information for the light fittings was downloaded from the manufacture’s website (Osram) which came with pre-set light values. Cummins & Voortman

delays on site. While CAD has brought about efficiencies and scalability to the drawings and dramatically improved the work processes involved, the approach is time consuming and of a fixed view. If you want to see the design from a different angle then you need to start again. For those who want a 3D model, information has to be inputted again into a different software package to throw up the (fixed) three dimensional view which leads to the duplication of information.

3D modelling workflows

In the construction world, full-fledged 3D computer modelling is referred to as Building Information Modelling (BIM), which provides many more design tools than just 3D plans. Data held within the 3D computer model allows for a collaborative process of designing, constructing and managing the project from inception to operation. With BIM you input the design information once, into an initial model, and any new


information you wish to add or alter is layered on top of the original. When editing the 3D model, a change in plan is instantly reflected in section, elevation and perspective views, the software automatically makes the changes so there’s a lot less room for human error. 2D plans, sections and elevations are essentially a by-product, not the starting point, a fundamental difference between the 2D and 3D modelling design approaches. This allows for a much more efficient design, truly tailor made; the designer can play around with the model to decide what the optimal siting or specification should be. Furthermore this data can be accessed throughout the lifecycle of the building for those who want to track how it’s performing – as many self-builders do! BIM’s data-rich model provides a wealth of design information that can readily be used. The basic package you will be offered by your designer will generally be the 3D model along with environmental analysis (for optimal building envelope specification); add-ons are then possible for things like immersive design (a walk through the house with actual finishes), analysis such as ventilation flow rates, solar thermal specifications and the sizing of your heating system including evaluating which type will be more cost effective (gas vs oil vs heat pump vs biomass). Of particular interest is the ability to readily draw up a bill of quantities from the specifications contained in the model, which makes it easy to compare prices from different suppliers and/ or form the basis of a tender package. You can continue to use this facility during the build to keep on top of the budget and readily calculate any overruns if something unexpected happens and a redesign is necessary. Another important advantage from a design point of view is the fact that critical junctures are flagged by the software; these may be overlooked when doing 2D drawings but with 3D, insulation gaps can quickly be highlighted and the ‘tricky junction’ brought to the attention of the builder at an early stage. Indeed, another benefit is that BIM makes it clearer for builders too; as the information is more comprehensive and has gone through extensive clash detection phases there’s less possibility for misunderstanding or costly mistakes to happen on site. Contractors are also becoming more internetsavvy and as such are increasingly using BIM platforms to consult and comment on the model/ plans before the construction begins, as well as during it as an instant messaging platform (to instantly communicate with the project designers and clients).

Appointing your BIM designer(s)

Depending on the designer you choose, the BIM offering will differ. Some add-ons may be included as part of the standard package, others not. Designers will have developed an idea of which add-ons are worth their while and they may for instance prefer the ventilation flow rate be „

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Building information modelling

calculated by the ventilation supplier (if the system wasn’t sized correctly the supplier will then be responsible). The bottom line is to make sure you understand what the standard design fee includes and how much any add-ons might cost. Discuss at an early stage what you may or may not need from the BIM offering with your designer. Due to the large number of different BIM software packages that are available, an open standard known as IFC was created to allow them to interact with one another (see info at end of article); much in the same way you can export a Word document to a Rich Text Format the model retains the essential information (dimensions/ specifications) but loses some of the finer formatting details (such as finishes). This allows you to choose any engineer (or other professional with an input into the design) you’d like to work on your project and not necessarily one that has bought the same BIM software package as your architect. Many of the BIM packages available can readily export the data contained within the model to the passive house package (PHPP) or BREEAM. However there’s still work going on to link export data that’s easy to input into software that’s used for statutory calculations. At Waterford Institute of Technology a project is comparing a BIM authoring tool and the DEAP methodology (ROI’s official method for calculating BER and compliance to building regulations). If all the same backstop values can be entered then BIM could theoretically also generate the energy rating and certify compliance to the building regulations.

Components of a self-build

The initial stages of the project are the same whether undertaken in CAD or BIM: identifying the brief, budget and a site visit. From here the process starts to diverge, yes, the design is sketched on paper but this can then

be quickly developed into a 3D model using a variety of BIM authoring tools. Here’s an example of a house in Co Kilkenny which is now seeking planning permission. The house has beautiful views on one side and sunlight on the other; the balancing act here consists of making the most of both aspects.

Information hub

Prior to meeting the clients we set up a ‘Common Data Environment’, this is a cloud based repository of information that the design team and clients can access. It allows you to comment directly on the dynamic 3D model. This enabled us to review the design with the client along with comments from the initial planning meeting. Some platforms offer the possibility to walk through and explore the house as you would in a video game. (Through Waterford Institute of Technology’s research group this technology is being developed in conjunction with virtual reality headsets.) While working with the 3D model, the client was able to visualise how light enters the space and how each room/area interacts with one other. This was especially important in this house as the north facing aspect is the one with the views. On the basis of the analysis the client decided to change the windows in the living area to allow more light in. Thanks to the walk-through facility, it also gave them a feel for the living and kitchen space which was also altered to allow for a strategically placed rooflight. The design evolved to open the building out to the south west to capture the daylight from morning to evening. From the two daylight studies there is a marked improvement in the lux levels in the living area. “The light analysis data and shadow study movies, which we have for each area of the build have been invaluable in helping us decide what „

Initial Design, Patio View


Cloud Based 3D Model Interaction; Client Comments to Side Initial Design, Daylight Analysis

Second Design, Western Aerial View

Initial Design, Shadow Analysis


Second Design, Daylight Analysis

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Building information modelling

Rendered sitting room

Axonometric floor plans

works and what does not,” said the homeowner. “Also, because the topological data was fed into the model, we can clearly visualise how the new build works with the site and the surrounding area.” A major benefit from the clients’ point of view was to have access to the cloud platform from his smart phone; on his way to work in the train he would play around with the model and communicate with his architect. He quickly got to grips with the functionalities and was able to comment on individual aspects as the design evolved.

Mapping out the site

For a one-off house a topographical survey is recommended; this provides 3D information on the site levels, boundaries and importantly the road alignment if we are dealing with access / egress sightlines, something the planners are always interested in! This information is CAD based and imported to the BIM authoring tool and a 3D topographical surface is created. The 3D software will ask you to locate the house and with this information, it will automatically check the nearest weather station for data so it can run the various analyses and simulations required to design the house. This particular site has beautiful panoramic views from South West to North West, so it was important to capture these whilst maintaining a good level of daylight into the rooms. The initial design model was created and within the 3D software, an environmental analysis was run.

Environmental analysis

The environmental analysis provides energy consumption data, solar study, shadow study, and daylighting analysis to determine the amount of light (calculated in lux) that will reach occupants inside the house, at 750mm above floor level. This is used to establish whether suitable lighting levels are achieved for specific tasks. As windows are much less efficient at retaining heat than walls are, we use a combination of daylight analysis and thermal envelope analysis to optimise the external build up. Shadow analysis movies are also created for

Rendered view of northeast elevation

each of the four key seasonal dates: winter and summer solstices, spring and autumnal equinoxes. n Gordon Chisholm & Astrid Madsen Gordon Chisholm MCIAT, MRIAI, BIM Collective Research Group, Waterford Institute of Technology and of ChisholmARCHITECTS, Crail House, Ennisnag, Stoneyford, Kilkenny, tel. 056 772 7095, Additional information: Bernard Voortman MRIAI Dip Arch. (BE) M(Sc) Urban Design, Director & Senior Architect/urban designer at Cummins & Voortman Ltd., Dublin Office 01 2966507, Tipperary & Kilkenny Office: 056 7755745, More on the open BIM standard:

More photographs available at

info The companies listed below provide products & services relating to this article. ATS Trusses Ltd (Roof Trusses, Glulam, Joists, Windows & Doors) Craigavon, Co Armagh Tel: 3833 3626 DK Windows (Gaulhofer Windows, doors & structural glazing) Dublin 12 Tel: 01 424 2067 DL Windows (uPVC windows & doors) Garristown, Co Dublin Tel: 01 835 4066

GMS Intelligent Systems (AV Equipment) Lurgan, Co Armagh Tel: 0800 298 5009 Waterford Institute of Technology (Advice and training) Waterford Tel: 051 302 000

ROI calling NI: prefix with 048 NI calling ROI: prefix with 00353(0)


Building with stone The exact stone measurements will be factored into the foundation’s specification. McMonagle Stone

Between a rock and a wide open space If you want to build a stone house make sure you familiarise yourself with some basic concepts before you get started.


any people who decide to build a stone house have been inspired by the look of a property they know or have seen somewhere. However, in my experience you should not choose the stone for your project based on looks alone! Consider for instance whether you want to clad your home or actually build it out of stone. If stone is still your preferred choice here are some basic tips to take into account.

Tip 1: Draw up a bill of quantities

One of the main reasons why people decide to manage their building project is to control cost.


Among the first essential steps is to have a Bill of Quantities (BOQ) drawn up. A BOQ is a document that lists all the relevant quantities and types of materials and labour required to complete a specific project from start to finish. The reason for creating a BOQ is so that you can approach various suppliers of materials and/or services and compare them on a like for like basis. So, when you have a BOQ completed and the cost received from the various suppliers, you can then figure out how much you can realistically allocate to your stonework. With building stone materials varying in price from £20/€25 to £100/€120 conservatively per square metre, it is essential that you chose a stone SelfBuild & Improve Your Home


Tip 2: Choose the correct stone before the foundations are in

Once you have the budget set start shopping around for your stone, making sure the stone you’re looking at complies with the building regulations (ask the supplier for a certificate). You will need to do this before the foundations are dug – the main reason for this is that depending on the type, stone depth from back to front (known as ‘bed width’) can vary greatly. For example some stone comes with a bed width of 100mm, while other stone is only available in 300mm bed widths. When setting your foundations, having these measurements is essential so that correct calculations can be made. If you can, it’s wise to choose your window cills and door surrounds early too as this adds a lot to the aesthetics. If this is planned early in the project it speeds up construction – if you leave it too late to pick out your preferred option, you could hold up the schedule as materials can take time to arrive on site. 

Building with stone

that you can afford. Also, stone merchants generally offer keener prices when presented with a BOQ as opposed to just being asked to price from a set of plans. Having a BOQ generally indicates you are on top of your game and that you will be getting quotes from various competitors, this process generally makes suppliers sharpen their pencils!


Tip 3: Discolouration can happen, so be prepared

I have come across some beautiful yellow-coloured stone that has turned almost completely black after just a couple of years. This is extremely disheartening for the homeowner who is left mystified as to why this happened. One thing to bear in mind is that freshly quarried/guillotined stone will not have been exposed to the natural weathering process, and could change colour within a few years. This colour change can really affect the aesthetics of your new home and the emerging shades may not complement the colour scheme you have used for your windows, doors, and roof and in some cases rendered areas. To avoid these problems, you should ask your potential supplier if the stone tends to change colour after it has been built. Find out if there are any buildings that have been built for a number of years, then go visit these properties and view the stone and see how it has changed over time due to weathering and general exposure to the atmosphere. If possible, view a small range of homes that vary in age, just to see what effect time has had on the colour of the stone. Remember also that you should try to ensure the same stone mason has worked on the houses you visit as workmanship has an impact on the finished product too. Although this is not always the case, as a general rule, the harder the stone is, the less likely it is to discolour. Generally, too, softer stone absorbs more

water therefore will stain and discolour over much shorter periods of time. Hard stone does not tend to do this as much. That said, in some cases, stone can be more aesthetically pleasing as time and exposure to the elements gradually change the original colour. Discolouration often occurs because some types of stone contain ‘leaky ore’. Even when iron ore is not part of its composition, some stone can turn brown or black with exposure to oxygen, water, snow and frost.

In this example, the stone weathered in just six months. Castlefort Consultants

Tip 4: Specify the right mortar

Choosing the correct mortar for your project is as important as choosing the right stone. You may assume that your builder or designer (architect, structural engineer) is qualified to select this for you however this is not always the case. In fact many professionals still specify the less desirable cement mortar, which can often lead to problems. Ideally the mortar used for your masonry walls should, when fully set, be softer than the stone, and the same type and strength of mortar used to build the stone should also be used for all masonry walls throughout your build (including block and /or brickwork) except your foundations. These will most likely require a stronger mortar „


Castelfort Consultants

McMonagle Stone

Building with stone

Right: DPC needs to be correctly fitted in order to avoid issues with damp and mould growth.

to accommodate any ground movement that may occur due to an alteration in the water table, or freeze-thaw action in soil. It is important to note that using different mortar strengths throughout a building generally can cause the masonry walls to crack and potentially cause structural problems, as the various strengths of mortar tend to settle and shift at different rates. This is because they have different expansion and settling traits and tolerances. A softer bonding mortar such as Natural Hydraulic Lime (NHL) mortar is generally better suited to stone than standard cement because it’s able to ‘breathe’: it can absorb water and allow it to evaporate freely, drawing moisture away from the masonry units (e.g. from wind driven rain). This means the stone can dry out quickly and not be continually saturated with water, helping prevent damage caused by water getting trapped, freezing then thawing and causing damage in the

info The companies listed below provide products & services relating to this article. Elite Lighting (Lighting) Ballymena, Co Antrim Tel: 2564 4600 Federation of Master Builders (Building Industry Trade Association) Co Antrim Tel: 9446 0416 Irish Stone (Stonemasons) Hillsborough, Co Down Tel: 9268 9587 JP Duddy & Sons Ltd (Passive House Windows) Omagh, Co Tyrone Tel: 8224 3191 Lagan Building Solutions (Natural Slate & Stone Roofing Products) Lisburn, Co Antrim Tel: 9264 8691

McMullan & O Donnell Ltd (Window & Door Specialists) Dungannon, Co Tyrone Tel: 3754 8791 New World Developments Ltd (Doors & Windows) Ballymena, Co Antrim Tel: 2563 2200 Roofblock (Masonry roof overhang) Newtownards, Co Down Tel: 9181 8285 Steel Lintels Ireland (Catnic lintel sales) Banbridge, Co Down Tel: 4062 3996 Tapco Europe Limited (Roofing Products) Beverley Tel: 01482 880 478

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process. In general mortar should be viewed as part of a much broader system, which is as much about keeping masonry units apart and acting as a drainage system, as it is about bonding them together. Buildings built on this principle tend to have much greater longevity.

Tip 5: Think DPC

Damp is often a problem with stone buildings, even newly constructed ones. The most common reason is the incorrect installation of the Damp Proof Coursing (DPC) around doors, windows and chimneys. The DPC cannot be applied on stone as it would on a standard block or brick finished house. Oftentimes poorly detailed drawings do not inform the block layer where exactly and how the DPC should be fitted, leading to problems down the line. This is specialist work and requires careful detailing. n Thomas Fitzpatrick Author of The Insider’s Guide to Stone House Building, a set of guidelines aimed at those who want to project manage their house building project or simply want to make more informed and confident decisions when employing professionals. There are a total of 10 guidelines, and the first is offered free of charge on with the option of purchasing the remaining 9 in PDF Downloadable format for $25. The guidelines are also available for purchase on Amazon (£2.55 per guide, full set $25, print version £49). Additional Information Michael McMonagle of McMonagle Stone, Co Donegal and Co Dublin, tel. 074 9735061/ 01 8079079,


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Alternative foundation types 74

Get knee deep Alternative foundation options for difficult sites


oundation solutions today are not so very different from those which the earliest house-builders had to work out. The big change nowadays is that all foundations are designed with an adequate ‘factor of safety’ to allow for unforeseen circumstances. The main considerations are simply that: The foundations must safely transfer all anticipated building loads or ‘actions’ onto soil which possesses an adequate load-bearing capacity. Account must also be taken of the potential for settlement, including differential settlement where soil under one part of the building may differ from that under another, for example gravel alongside solid rock. Where the soil type changes over a relatively small area, it can sometimes be feasible to bridge across an obstruction or weak point. Foundations must be appropriate to the building type, in other words, a large building will need larger and deeper foundations than a small light structure. Unusual situations are those where the soil load-bearing capacity does not fall within the parameters of the local building control guidance for ‘standard’ strip foundations. These instances will require the services of a structural engineer to design the foundation and he or she can engage a geotechnical engineer to ascertain the soil characteristics. The big questions when faced with tricky soil conditions are how to design the foundations, drainage and any retaining walls. This is frequently left unplanned until construction begins. A lazy approach would be to just show standard strip foundations on the working drawings with the proviso that they may be ‘subject to alteration’ when works commence, but this leaves you with an unknown element in your building budget, in addition to the potential delay in getting a proper foundation design into the local building control offices. The cost difference between simple continuous strip foundations on ‘good soil’ and deep piled foundations on ‘bad soil’ can be significant, so a good conscientious designer will get a structural engineer to carry out preliminary site investigations at the earliest possible stage.

Types Of Foundation

Many foundation types can be encountered depending on the site and its environment, but the following brief descriptions are limited to the most common types of foundations for domestic-scale buildings in the UK and Ireland. The last three are seldom used, but should be considered as viable ‘green’ alternatives.


As with strip foundations (see below), pads (sometimes described as ‘bases’) will not usually be taken down to depths of much more than 3m for reasons of economy, and together with rafts, are described as ‘shallow’ foundations. Pad foundations are typically used to support columns or standalone structures; for example, a blockwork chimney stack in a timber frame house. Where the load-bearing soil is too far below the floor level, column bases are usually carried on reinforced concrete pile caps which are cast on top of a pile or group of piles. Foundation depths to prevent damage from frost and trees must be correctly specified and pads may be reinforced concrete or unreinforced ‘mass concrete’, depending on loads and soil composition.


Typically in the UK and Ireland, the most common type of foundations for domestic-scale structures

Alternative foundation types

are concrete strip foundations which consist of exactly what the name implies, i.e. a strip of concrete laid in a shallow trench forms a stable base for each wall element. Strip foundations are suited to ‘low-rise’ buildings and can be used for both lightweight and heavyweight buildings where the soil is uniformly firm and deep, but can also be used for lightweight buildings on soils which have a firm layer over a soft layer. The width of strip foundations must be designed so that the subsoil adequately carries the weight of the building and also that the foundation does not shear under the load. Their depth will depend on ground conditions but the minimum in NI for example is 450mm, required to avoid the adverse effects of frost; but other regional requirements may specify deeper levels as will the presence of trees or deep, soft soil. While there is no reference to a minimum depth in ROI’s Building Regulations (TGD A) 600mm depth is commonly adopted as ‘standard’ both in NI and ROI. A light structure on good solid ground could use strip foundations which are just equal in width to the thickness of the wall, whereas a heavier structure on softer soil will require wide strip foundations. For standard houses, the general rule of thumb is that the width of strip foundations is three times

the wall thickness. While this provides an estimate for preliminary design purposes, it can lead to unnecessarily wide* (or in some cases, too narrow) foundations. That’s why it’s important to accurately design the foundations at an early stage according to the ground conditions and the anticipated loads imposed by the proposed structure. Although strip foundations are typically formed at shallow depths, they can also be ‘trench filled’ whereby a deep trench excavated down to loadbearing soil is filled with a lean mix concrete and the strip foundation created closer to ground level. This also avoids the creation of unnecessary hazards such as trenches collapsing or the lifting of concrete blocks down to bricklayers working in a deep trench. Strip foundations can be stepped to allow for small variations in level.


A floating or buoyant raft is designed to float on a soft base and a surface raft relies on adequate soil bearing capacity for support. Raft foundations are unusual in many parts of our countryside, but they do have their uses where the ground conditions are suitable. For example, you would consider using ‘surface’ or ‘floating’ rafts where the soil type is uniform across the site and consists of either deep, soft soil or filled soil which is holding water. Floating rafts „

600mm is commonly adopted as ‘standard’ foundation depth in both NI and ROI

* Nowadays external walls are often designed with wide cavities, so for example a cavity wall with 100mm inner and outer leaves and a cavity of 200mm would require, under the rule of thumb, a foundation width of 1200mm (and a minimum thickness – if unreinforced – of 400mm).


Alternative foundation types

(not to be confused with simple surface rafts) are used where the building needs to be buoyed up by the weight of the earth displaced in creating the foundation – so they are also considered appropriate where the soil consists of a firm layer over a soft layer. Where very wide strip foundations would be required, it can sometimes be more economical to use a raft instead.


These have been around longer than you might think. Herodotus recorded in the 4th Century BC how the Paeonians lived in dwellings on piles driven into a lake bed; and the Campanile Tower in Venice was rebuilt in 1902 on timber piles which were still in excellent condition, even after supporting the original structure for 1,000 years. Nowadays, piled foundations are described as deep foundations and can vary enormously in dimension, from 5m to 100m in length and 75mm to 2,000mm in diameter. Small piles will usually be bored or drilled and the concrete poured into the hole, medium piles are usually made of reinforced pre-cast concrete whilst larger piles are typically steel. Medium and large piles are usually rammed into the ground. There is a bewildering variety of types of pile foundations, but the main principles are that they rely for their stability either by bearing directly onto or into the underlying soil (bearing piles) or by the degree of friction between the pile and the surrounding soil (friction piles). Where dwellings are concerned, piles will be typically used in ground where the load-bearing subsoil is too deep for strip foundations to be economical. For a typical dwelling, a general rule of thumb is that this cut-off depth is around the 2.5 to 3 metre mark. Most (but not all) piles are essentially posts or poles in the ground and can be made of timber, steel, concrete, composite or chemical materials. They can be driven or screwed directly into the soil or formed inside drilled holes. Screwpiles are a type of steel pile (early 19th century ones were iron) with helical fins which are screwed into the ground. In a similar way to driven piles, these have the advantage that the piling machine can easily monitor the degree of resistance experienced during the process and so the vertical load which each pile will safely carry can be determined with good accuracy. As well as carrying vertical loads from above, piles can be designed to resist potential uplift. Vibrated stone columns are a type of ‘speciality’ pile which are used to improve the load-bearing capacity or the drainage „


Alternative foundation types Example of steel reinforcement in place for wide concrete strip foundations on a deep gravelfilled site Landmark Designs

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characteristics of the soil. Pier foundations are a form of pile which are built up or poured into prepared holes and can be used on most building types where the soil is a soft layer over firm soil or rock. It would be appropriate to consider friction piles where the building is lightweight and the soil is uniformly soft and deep. They may also be used for heavier structures on firm soil over soft soil layers. Bearing piles will be used where there is a top layer of deep, soft soil above firm soil.

While this solution is not commonly used in Ireland today, it’s what our old stone-walled houses are built on. Some flex was acceptable with vernacular stonework as a certain amount of cracking could be safely accommodated (and pass unnoticed) in the lime mortar joints - but with ‘cut-stone’ or ashlar walls, settling would cause troublesome cracks. The use of rubble trenches therefore faded into obscurity when brick and block construction became widespread. The construction was usually of a shallow trench, filled with rubble which may or may not have been cemented with a basic mortar such as a clay and lime mix. More sophisticated foundations would use a rubble fill between built stone facings, similar to a dry-stone wall, but in a trench. Nowadays, these types of foundations are increasingly being used where a light eco-structure is to be built, such as rammed earth walls or straw bale and timber walls. Rubble trench was also popularised by architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright. The rubble trenches can also be drained out to a soakaway to improve the site drainage and also maintain a dry void under suspended floors. Since the rubble is essentially flexible to some degree, some care must be taken to ensure that either the structure can absorb a bit of movement or that the foundation is suitably compacted and loadtested for the avoidance of differential settlement. The technique is generally regarded as unsuitable for bearing on soft or expansive soils. „



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Alternative foundation types


Architect Nader Khalilie originally considered earthbag construction as a solution for NASA to build habitats on the moon and Mars. It is becoming more popular in the US, where Cal Earth (California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture, Hesperia, California) projects are constantly developing the technique. This isn’t an option you’d commonly find in Ireland as it’s of particular value in countries where concrete is too expensive to transport to remote areas, but where spare fill material is plentiful. This method involves a trench with bags or tubes which are filled with compacted soil. Often, barbed wire is used between layers to help anchor them together.

‘It is usually recommended that where trees are likely to significantly affect buildings (or vice-versa), the advice of a qualified arboricultural professional should be obtained at an early stage to provide accurate information...’ If there is a scarcity of materials for building more traditional types of walls and roof, the layers can be brought up into a dome shape to form the walls and roof of the structure. The bags are then plastered to keep out the weather. If the soil is not free-draining, the bottom layers can consist of gravel-filled bags and incorporate a drain out to a soakaway.



This is perhaps the simplest and most environmentally-friendly of all foundation types. A similar form of foundation is the ‘staddle-stone’ (also known by various other names), often similar in appearance to a mushroom - as it consists of a dome top stone resting on a columnar one, which were typically used to carry the building above ground to prevent vermin infestation of foodstores. These types of surface-level foundation or variations on the theme, will easily allow structures to be deconstructed at the end of their designed lifetime.

Trial Pits And Trenches

Any qualms about the site conditions must be answered at the earliest possible stage, ideally even before the site is purchased. Even greenfield sites can conceal underlying pockets of deep peat, so preliminary inspection trenches or trial pits near the intended foundation positions should be dug out to determine what lies below the surface. This is something that engineers develop a feel for over many years so you’ll need to rely on their expertise regarding the position and depth of the test excavations, most of which will need to be carried out using a mechanical excavator. Before deciding on an appropriate form of site investigation, the engineer will have established the position of the building and the foundation loads. If it is deemed apt to begin with trial excavations, they must be taken down to the proper depth. For shallow foundations, the correct depth is at least 1.5 times the width of the loaded area. The loaded area is taken to mean either the width of a footing, the width of a raft or the width of the building if the foundation spacing is less than three times its width. On most sites for the average dwelling, the simple rule is to keep digging until a suitable base is found, and if this isn’t achieved within the reach limit of the excavator from existing ground level or if still digging at a depth of much more than 3 metres, then a piled or raft foundation must be considered. When greater depths are needed, simple poured concrete strip or trench foundations will become uneconomic compared to piles. If the soil conditions are found to be very unusual, a geotechnical engineer can be called in to run tests to provide data on the load-bearing capacity of the soil which can then be used to ‘prove’ the adequacy of the structural engineer’s foundation design. These tests can require the use of boreholes, driving pegs or test piles, and additional trial pits. Apart from the soil itself, other factors which play an important part in foundation design include: l The water table, which is defined as the level below which the ground is saturated with water. This level may be seasonal and can be affected by existing or proposed drainage, land use within or outside the site and tree growth or tree removal. l The presence of adjacent structures. l The growth of trees or the removal of trees, particularly species such as oak, elm, willow and poplar.

This is a complex subject, but very briefly trees can adversely affect foundations or substructures: Directly - through invasive root or trunk growth which can ‘push’ solid objects or shear the soil around them, although it is frequently the case that the tree roots or trunk will simply distort around the obstruction to find the easiest route for growth. Heavier structures will be less affected than lighter ones, by direct contact with tree trunks or roots, but it should be borne in mind that the trunk of a growing broadleaf tree (e.g. oak, ash, beech, sycamore, etc) will increase in girth on average by about 1.5 to 2.0 cm per year. Indirectly - when the water uptake of a tree can seasonally or progressively affect the water table. Approximately 99% of the water taken up by a tree is discharged through its leaves and a large oak can take up 230 litres of water a day or more (some sources put it at as much as 1,400 litres per day). This is a particular problem on clay soils, where summer growth removes water from the clay, causing it to shrink and in winter the soil rehydrates and swells or ‘heaves’ again. Both effects can cause foundations to move. The annual growth of a tree can cause an accumulative effect on clay soils and proposed new tree planting must also be taken into account. Likewise, tree removal, especially of mature trees will cause clay soils to gradually swell and this effect can continue for a long time. Another side-effect of tree roots is that they can enter drainage pipes and grow to the extent of breaking the drains. The resultant blockage can affect the level of the water table in localised areas – which in turn can cause soil to expand. The presence of existing leaks in drainage pipes will also encourage more vigorous root growth in the first place. This is one good reason why perforated drainage pipes should not be used near trees. Strip foundations on deep narrow trenchfill bases are a possible option but they must not cut through the tree roots and should be deep enough to avoid soil which may be susceptible to shrinkage or heave. Another answer is to use mini or micro piles which if inserted with care, can avoid damage to the trees and surrounding soil. Care must of course be taken during all construction phases to avoid damaging trees and the soil around them, not only to preserve the amenity value of the tree but also its predicted growing behaviour. A single pass of a heavy vehicle or machine, spillage of chemicals including concrete mixer washings, or the placing of relatively small levels of soil or materials over a root system; can be enough to kick-start the slow death of a mature tree. It is usually recommended that where trees are likely to significantly affect buildings (or viceversa), the advice of a qualified arboricultural professional should be obtained at an early stage to provide accurate information in order to inform the preliminary planning and structural design processes. Refer also to the clay soils section below. „

Insider tips

Alternative foundation types

Foundations Near Trees

All self-builders can avoid the many mistakes which others have made. Here are some of the lessons learned from many years in the construction industry: l Never assume that you know what lies under the surface of a site. l Foundation design must be done as early as possible and based upon a site investigation by a suitably qualified professional. l If they are unavoidable, the costs of more expensive foundation types are more easily budgeted for when they are decided upon at an early stage. l Don’t be afraid to explore non-standard solutions. While this will in all likelihood require that your structural engineer carry out detailed calculations based on a geotechnical analysis, it could be worth your while. l On poor ground, lighter structures can help to reduce foundation costs. l All foundation types will require careful consideration of how thermal insulation can be incorporated. l A cheap site on poor ground might not turn out to be any less expensive than one on good ground when cost differences in groundworks are calculated. l Trees are not the enemy and with proper consideration, can often be easily integrated into a site. l Don’t forget that it is not just your dwelling or extension that requires foundations; on softer soils especially, you might need to have foundations designed for drainage, fuel storage tanks, pillars, paths, walls, fences and driveways. l You will always require a proper structural design for any retaining walls. l Plan ahead for future additions to the structure as it will usually be much cheaper to provide the foundation and footings now for that sun lounge which you intend to build, as opposed to getting machinery and materials into your site in five years’ time after you have everything else built. l And finally, enjoy the experience of your building project!


Alternative foundation types Example of a beach-side cottage on rubble trench foundations - before and after renovation Landmark Designs

Foundations Near Other Buildings

More commonly a problem on urban sites, the proximity of nearby structures can create particular issues with the installation of foundations for the new building. One common problem is when the new foundations have been specified as strip or pad foundations, but after excavations commence, it is found that the proposed foundations are going to need to be too wide to be properly centred under the walls or columns as they should be. This usually

calls for the design of ‘balanced’ foundations which are offset to avoid the adjacent buildings and the structural engineer’s calculations must prove that an effective counterbalance will exist against the overturning effects of the weight being placed towards the outside edge of the new foundation. Another example would be where the new foundation excavations are taken down to a suitable load-bearing stratum which is found to be well below the level of the bottom of the adjacent foundations. This calls for propping the adjacent walls and underpinning the old foundations in alternating sections - a process which requires careful, skilled workmanship. In both of the above cases, a diligent site investigation should highlight potential problems well before works commence.

Foundations On Clay Soils

Foundation design solutions where building is to be carried out on clay soils will require a prediction of the likely amount of movement, based upon expert knowledge of the potential ‘shrinkability’ of the soil, the ability of nearby trees to dry the soil, drainage (existing and proposed) and weather patterns. Raft or other shallow foundations should only be used where the superstructure can absorb movement (thereby ruling out most forms of brick or block construction). The answer is generally to take foundation depth down to a level where little or no soil movement is anticipated and the depth will depend on the soil characteristics, drainage and tree species involved. Useful foundation types might


Foundations On Rocky Soil

Most rocky soil is fine to build on and can reduce the amount of excavation and concrete needed if it lies close to the intended subfloor level. On the other hand, a site where the footprint of the dwelling covers both rock and softer soils poses a challenge to the foundation designer. This is because the different soils will carry dissimilar loads, but concrete strip foundations and the brick or blockwork walls they commonly carry are inflexible and will crack in areas where there is a sudden change in soil quality, thus leading to the problems associated with subsidence. If rocks or boulders are found when digging out a site which consists otherwise of clay, the best thing to do is to remove the boulders. If voids are discovered they should be left to be filled with a weak mix concrete as opposed to filling with loose gravel; in the event of rainwater filling it up, hire a pump to get it out before pouring concrete. In a situation where only part of your house foundations rest on solid rock and the rock drops steeply away under soft soil in other parts, the foundations will need to be designed so that there will be no differential movement. Another possible design choice would be to deliberately introduce a break in the building where movement can safely occur between two sections. It is interesting to note that we actually have a diverse range of rock types throughout our countryside, with Karst regions probably presenting the toughest challenges to construction. These regions of limestone, dolomite or chalk can contain sink-holes, (some of which may well be filled with peat or silt), underground voids and caves, cracks, crevasses and important aquifers. They are therefore sensitive to pollution and will require detailed geotechnical surveys before building. Underground sloping rock can be found during foundation excavations, where the foundation base drops away sharply and a decision has to be quickly made as to whether it is a good idea to keep digging down the slope (thus needing a lot of concrete and blockwork) or to consider another solution. Thinly stratified rock (where rock is layered over softer soil) can also lead to nasty surprises if it is not discovered in time, but a thorough site survey will

ensure that trial pits are taken down far enough to identify these situations. Disclaimer The descriptions of soil and foundation types are given here for general information and should under no circumstances be used to design foundations. Always use a professional structural engineer and adhere to official health and safety guidance. n Leslie O’Donnell Chartered Architectural Technologist and Structural Engineer, Landmark Designs, 79 Botera Road, Corlea, Omagh, Co Tyrone, tel. 8224 1831, mobile 07784 573 222,, Additional information Damien McKay BEng.,CEng.,MIEI,Dip.LA.of HD McKay Consulting Engineers, Unit 5 The Starlite Business Centre, Derry Road, Letterkenny, Co Donegal, tel. 074 9129243, Ian Bogie of Hamilton Bogie The Mini Pilling Company, offices in Co Antrim and Co Meath,

Alternative foundation types

therefore involve the construction of basements or the use of piles, deep bases or pads which support slabs or beams.

Further reading Walter Segal Architect 1907-1985: BS 5837: BSI Trees In relation to Construction. BS 8004: BSI Code Of Practice For Foundations. BS 8103-1: BSI Structural Design Of Low-Rise Buildings: Code Of Practice For Stability, Site Investigations, Foundations and Ground Floor Slabs For Housing. Health and Safety Measures: (ROI) (NI). Institute of Chartered Foresters: Arboricultural Association: BRE Digests 240, 241 & 242: Best Practice Guides on Foundation Design and Construction on Shrinkable Soils.

info The companies listed below provide products & services relating to this article. A.S Ballantine (Insulating Concrete Wall Systems ) Strabane, Co Tyrone Tel: 7139 8276 AMVIC Ireland (Insulating Concrete Formwork) Naas, Co Kildare Tel: 045 889 276

CES Quarry Products Ltd (Floor Screed) Saintfield, Co Down Tel: 4176 2707 Fast Floor Screed Ltd (Floor Screed) Enfield, Co Kildare Tel: 087 066 5239

Kilbroney Timber Frame Ltd (Timber Frame) Newry, Co Down Tel: 4173 9077 Kudos (Timberframe house construction) Newtownabbey, Co Antrim Tel: 9083 8951

ROI calling NI: prefix with 048 NI calling ROI: prefix with 00353(0)


A to Z guide to self-building

Know your ABCs

Your A to Z guide to self-building, extending, renovating and home improving in Ireland…. A: Architecture

Sounds grandiose, but the external appearance of the house, its connection to the landscape and how it works inside are the most important factors to consider. It’s worth spending the time on the design phase to avoid any regrets or costly mistakes later down the line! Remember, all of the building regulations have to be abided by, including those relating to access. Get your plans drawn up by a qualified designer, usually an architect, technologist or engineer.

B: Budget

You need to know how much you have before you get started but you also need to be able to draw up accurate costings to know what that will buy you. Having a clear design with detailed specifications is the only way to get it right. A quantity surveyor will be able to assist you in drawing up accurate plans according to what you can afford and help you evaluate builders’ proposals. Some quantity surveyors are also building surveyors and provide additional services in this capacity.

C: Cradle to grave

Throughout the lifecycle of your house, it will be hard to avoid CO2 emissions and energy consumption, from the building materials used to the amount of energy required on a daily basis to inhabit the space. When designing the house bear in mind how your choices will impact on this. How adaptable the house is will contribute to it lasting longer and making it a more enjoyable space. Construction waste is a related issue on small building sites (think of the offcuts) and a plan to reduce it should be in place.

D: Design, interior

Interior design may be why you’re building your house in the first place! There’s a lot of fun to be had here, but headaches too as it isn’t easy to get right. One tip when it comes to choosing colours is to start with the furniture you already have and buy sample pots of colours you think might go with it and try them out. If interiors are important to you and you want to make sure you nail it, then shop around for an interior designer – the fee may be less than what you might expect.

E: Energy efficiency

Self-builders have been building their homes to high energy standards, some even going carbon neutral (carbon dioxide is emitted by most forms of energy, e.g. gas fired power plants generate electricity and CO2, among other emissions) or energy positive (usually by producing electricity on site). Building Energy Ratings (BER) or Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) will tell you how well your house is preforming in terms of energy use. Insulation and airtightness (sealing up the house with proprietary membranes, paying particular attention around openings) are key factors but remember the need to ventilate right if the house is airtight! See also Orientation and Ventilation.

F: Finance

Securing a mortgage or loan to build or renovate can seem like a mountain to climb; getting in touch early with your bank and other financial providers will give you a clear picture of what your true budget is. Remember to factor in a minimum of 10% contingency on top of your estimated build cost.


SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

A to Z guide to self-building

G: Groundworks

Lots of muck! Laying the foundations, the pipes for drainage and generally landscaping your site to turn it into a garden, including hard finishes if desired, will have to be accurately budgeted for. Foundations can add thousands if not standard (due to difficult soil conditions); the garden can quickly sap resources too, so again, make sure to plan ahead.

H: Heating, plumbing and electrics

Apart from plumbing, these professions have become increasingly regulated and in most instances, you will have to get a certified installer to carry out the works. Consider rainwater harvesting, low water consumption fixtures and fittings and if you live in an area with lime, a softener.

I: Insurance

A must-have, legally but also to secure a mortgage and for peace of mind. Self-build insurance products include all of the essential covers you will require (public and employer’s liability at the minimum).

J: Journal

Keeping a diary is probably the best way to stay on top of the build; record details of relevant conversations, including agreements on price and delivery times, and chronicle daily events. Also take photographs of works in progress. If anything goes wrong or you need to refresh your memory you won’t have to go very far to get the answer!

K: Kleptomania

Stealing ideas from other houses, websites, books, magazines, etc. will get the ball rolling on your project. Getting information from suppliers and independent third parties such as the Energy Savings Trust or the SEAI is the next step. After that consult with a qualified designer, see Architecture, to get the plans drawn up and move towards the planning permission and construction stages. Kleptomania also applies to burglaries – unfortunately it can easily happen on construction sites so make sure you keep materials and tools secure and locked up.

L: Lighting

Artificial lighting needs to complement what you get form the sun and other sources such as a live fire. Strongly consider getting a lighting schedule drawn up – there are specialist lighting designers you could employ, alternatively ask your building or interior designer to help. Moving around fixtures and fittings wont’ really be an option once the walls are plastered over.

M: Materials

Research is the key to a successful build, one element being the materials. Concrete, steel, timber, there’s the structure but also finishes, lead and copper cladding for instance may look the part but will have cost implications. Also factor in lifecycle issues and performance, including thermal mass (material’s ability to store heat and release it slowly).

N: Negotiation

Contracts will be drawn up with all parties; make sure the elements are clear. Your first contract is likely to be with your building designer and this should be carefully looked at and understood. They will then be able to advise you on further negotiations, e.g. with your main contractor.

O: Orientation

Views will in large part determine where you put the house, but how you angle it will have a considerable impact on how you avail of the sun’s energy. Solar gains refer to the heat transmitted through your windows – south facing elevations get the most of it. Too many south facing windows can however lead to overheating.


This is a low carbon home with an external wall U-Value of 0.13, built in Newcastle, Co. Down. The external facade has been finished in Cedar Cladding.

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

Kilbroney Timberframe, Valley Business Park, 48 Newtown Road, Rostrevor, Co. Down, N. Ireland. BT34 3DA T: (028) 4173 9077 F: (028) 4173 9933 E:

A to Z guide to self-building

P: Planners

If building new or extending more than 40 sqm (ROI) / extending with a structure that protrudes too much from the existing house (NI) you will have to get planning permission. You can schedule an informal meeting with the planners to get an idea of what you may be able to build on your specific site; or simply call them to clarify any questions you may have. Beforehand, make sure to consult your local area’s strategic plan which will provide important information such as zoning restrictions.

Q: Quality

Getting the best quality possible is the aim, so make sure you’re covered. Check that the products you buy have BBA or NSAI certification, and for things like boilers and appliances also check warranties are in place. Having a competent team on site is also essential so choose wisely. For instance most new builds nowadays are built to be airtight but not every builder is familiar with how this can be achieved successfully.

R: Regulations

Building regulations are in place to ensure the house is built to an acceptable standard; building control checks that it’s being done on site. In NI the building control officer will conduct regular visits and you will have to advise them when you reach certain stages. In ROI while local authorities have a building control section, the officers only carry out inspections and these are only carried out for a small percentage of the construction sites. According to new building control regulations, at the beginning of your project you will need to register with building control and let them know whether you opt in or opt out of statutory certification – if you opt in you must appoint an Assigned Certifier that will undertake the inspections required (they will draw up a schedule tailored to your build). See for articles on the topic.

S: Safety and health

Wearing protective gear (PPE), having personnel who are certified with the health authority (e.g.

Safe Pass), and using common sense to avoid accidents are all basic precautions to take. You are also obliged to get a health and safety plan drawn up and appoint supervisors for the design and construction stages.

T: Turbines

Renewable energy refers to generating heat or electricity from the elements, in other words resources that can’t be depleted. Photovoltaic panels generate electricity from the sun, thermal solar panels heat; wind and water (hydro) turbines generate electricity while biomass is often used as an energy source for heat. Due to the demanding energy requirements of current building regulations many selfbuilds install thermal solar panels.

U: U-values

Lambda values measure conductivity or the rate at which heat passes through a material; the lower the number the better (most commonly used to compare thermal effectiveness of insulation products). The U-value is an overall figure that takes into account all fabric elements, from insulation to plaster. Again, the lower the number the better (used to evaluate thermal performance of the build up of windows, walls, floors, roofs).


A to Z guide to self-building

V: Ventilation

Y:  diY

W: Windows and doors

Z: Zen

Current building regulations require that you insulate well and ventilate right – you must factor in how the house will be getting fresh air otherwise mould growth and indoor air quality problems will arise. In well insulated and airtight houses proprietary systems are put in place, usually mechanical ventilation and oftentimes with heat recovery (warmth from extracted stale air used to preheat cold incoming fresh air). This is because holes/vents in the walls or windows will generate a draught/too much unregulated cold air getting in. Triple glazed windows have come down significantly in price and provide better insulation; the key however with this element of the design is to get the installation right – special attention must be given around all openings of the house to make sure there are no draughts. Alu-clad refers to an aluminium finish on the outside and timber on the inside.

X: First and second fiX

First fix refers to all of the work required up to plastering – everything that is hidden from view. Second fix involves putting in the sockets, skirting boards and all other finishes.

You may decide to project manage your selfbuild but be warned that this option will require excellent time management – both yours and other people’s. The work of a project manager is a full time job and won’t be enjoyable (and may be unsuccessful) if you don’t have enough experience in the building trade and in budgeting/ management. Carrying out bits of DIY are also possible; in Ireland groundworks are often carried out by self-builders who have equipment and people they know who are familiar with this type of work. Keeping a cool head will help you enjoy the experience and make the right decisions. A lot of pressure will be put on you to decide on the build elements, especially on the finishes. You may find yourself in a mad rush to the shops if you haven’t chosen, say, your tiles in advance. As the saying goes, if you don’t prepare you’re preparing to fail! But no matter how well thought out the design and build processes are, the experience is likely to be more akin to a roller coaster ride than a walk in the park… n Astrid Madsen Additional information Mark Stephens, chartered and registered architect, certified Passivhaus designer in UK & Ireland, Bridge Street, Swinford, Co Mayo, mobile 085 159 4084, em,

info The companies listed below provide products & services relating to this article. Calor Gas (Suppliers of LPG outside of the National Gas Grid) c/o Calor Teoranta Longmile Road Tel: 01 450 5000 Emmet Cashin Heating and Plumbing (Plumber) Freemount Road Tel: 087 258 9534 GMS Insulation Ltd (Spray Foam Insulation) Legga Tel: 049 433 5057 Gyproc (Wallboard) Unit 4 Kilcarbery Business Park Nangor road Tel: 01 629 8400

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Salad Days Image courtesy of Michael Jones

It is seed sowing season so why not start with some simple salad plants? You can have salad greens all year round and they’re full of health enhancing phytochemicals.


Lamb’s lettuce is sweet and nutty


love the term salad days. Although once poetically used to denote youthful inexperience, in more modern usage the term has become associated with the easy carefree days of youth and also of that time in later life when material and social pressures ease – thus leaving one the time to indulge in life’s pleasures and pursuits. The term strikes a warm note, a golden time in youth or any time of your life where being alive is connecting with nature and ease. How better to connect with nature than to grow some sustenance? You could go the whole hog and experiment with all aspects of selfsufficiency, growing your own herbs, raising your own

chickens, getting a vegetable allotment and making jam from the blackberry thicket at the end of your street. Or you could just sow some lettuce and edible flower seeds on a window sill, in a window box or hanging basket from which you will harvest delicious treats within weeks. Gardening, and especially productive gardening, shouldn’t have to be a pressured or fretful experience; it should be as enjoyable as a salad day. There are three simple rules to follow:

1. Aspect

When it comes to aspect most leafy vegetables like a good dose of sun throughout the day to embolden them to growth and to keep those cutand-come-again leaves constantly replenished. That said lettuce won’t bolt (rush to go to seed) if planted in the shade and many growers like myself find it sweeter when protected from harsh sun. Similarly other potentially bolting salad crops such as beetroot can also tolerate and even thrive in shelter and less hours of sun. So aspect is not a barrier, it may even be an opportunity. Harvested before June from my shady borders, young hosta foliage is a delicacy in Japan and in my kitchen. The calendula petal and lemon balm dressing that I favour to flavour my salads however originates from the terracotta pots I have in the hottest and brightest section of my garden. „ SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

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Salad Days

2. Soil T O P T I P wing As with any plant, soil is important. Some salads like alkaline soil So Succwethseswihoolenpacket inagoanine gino!a and others may need it to be

Don’t so ow, then more acidic. The great thing weeks w a little n Instead so and then again a few gers about salad crops is they lend ag few weeks on. This method st ns you themselves to raised bed a so e d t and m later an lu g a s I id t cultivation and container o a v ,a y th the harvest ns of harvest too – b f beets planting where you can control o o s ti have op icro leave ing at the type of soil that fills it. If n can have m mean you oot globes all happe many planting in the garden, you don’t and beetr e. There are just so ! m ay have to only grow to the pH of the same ti es to doing it this w your existing soil, you can amend it advantag

to suit your crop of choice. I say soil rather than growing media because I personally prefer to grow in something more substantial than the dust from a bog or the sweepings from the floor of pine forest – as is often the offer in handy bags in your local garden centre or DIY chain. All well and good if you mix it with some homemade compost, a little sand and a shovel or two of garden soil to beef it up. A beefed up soil is more of an ecosystem for the roots of the plants and it is less likely to be subject to being waterlogged on rainy days and bone dry on hot sunny days. Soil is important as the nutrients will make their way into your plants and eventually into you. Organic gardeners say feed the soil not the plant – dig in manure before you plant rather than throw fertilizer at a growing plant that’s struggling (and that method does promote better health of the plant and keeps the soil alive too). I say feed the soil to feed yourself.

3. What you want to eat.

Lettuces are generally up to 90 percent water and because they have quite shallow roots you should factor in a regular watering regime


Don’t grow asparagus peas if you don’t like the taste or aren’t prepared to have them every second day if this year yields a glut. If you love tomatoes with everything then grow a few varieties, different sizes, colours and flavours that fruit at different times of the year. There is a tomato variety available from the Irish seed savers catalogue and other sustainable seed suppliers called auroua – which originally comes from Siberia so you know that’s going to germinate quickly in cold conditions and fruit early too. You won’t be draping green vines over the kitchen window in October to get this variety into the red. Once you make a list of what you want to eat then you can match that to what will grow best in your situation (aspect, soil type, and we can add to that patience level). There is a low fuss, no bolt, disease resistant, easy care version of every food plant you might want to dress your plate with. Salad days can be close to carefree.


The cultivated lettuces are commonly divided into four groups: the cabbage or head lettuce (Lactuca sativa var. capitate) which includes icebergs and butterheads; the cos or Romaine lettuces (Lactuca sativa var. longifolia) which retain a crisp texture even in a sandwich; the leaf or curled lettuce (Lactuca sativa var. crispa) varieties such as oakleaf and others that that do not form hearts, often sold as baby leaf; and finally the stem lettuces (Lactuca sativa var. asparagine) or Asian stalks such as celtuce which are perhaps better stir fried than diced for the salad bowl. That said many of the Asian greens can be used in salads and in coleslaw too. Lettuces are generally up to 90 percent water and because they have quite shallow roots you should factor in a regular watering regime – every second or third day if it hasn’t rained. Lettuces can be prone to attack by slugs and aphids both of which hate the taste and smell of garlic so after I hose the lettuce down I spray with a blitzed garlic bulb diluted in a little water. The sulphur in the garlic strengthens the flavour molecules in the plants too. Sow lettuce seed thinly – no more than 13mm (1/2in) deep, best in rows for ease of thinning and weeding, at a spacing of approximately 30cm (12in) apart. When it comes to harvesting, loose-leaf lettuces are best harvested regularly, (take a few leaves at a time), to keep the plant productive. Cut-and-come again varieties are given a haircut harvest when they grow to around 5cm (2in) high and allowed to regenerate for a second harvest a few weeks later. You can also let them grow to SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

Salad Days

around 15cm into a full head and cut it off the formed stalk – by leaving a 3cm (1in) stump fresh foliage will sprout in a matter of days and will be ready to harvest in a few weeks. Both pak choi and tatsoi are essentially Chinese cultivars of flat cabbage (Brassica oleracea) and the raw leaf of both is both crunchy and succulent with a light mustard flavour. Grow as you would any cabbage – well firmed in if purchased in plugs. Mizuna (Brassica rapa var. Japonica) is another cabbage that suits as a salad leaf; I find it is best sown in situ, it rather looks like and tastes like rocket but is much more bolt resistant. Rocket (Eruca vesicaria) or if you have an American or Italian cookbook, arugula, has a strong peppery flavour and edible flowers. It does rocket from seed to harvestable foliage and is so easy to grow. It self seeds too so I let it do its thing in amongst my ornamental borders as well as sowing fresh each year in the veg patch. These four can be harvested as you go, when you require. You might want to try your hand at some curly or frisee endive (Cichorium endiva) which is a variety of chicory (from the daisy family). It has a firm, grainy texture and is on the mildly bitter scale but makes a delicious addition to a mixed salad. It can take 90 days to reach maturity and will reward you with vitamins A, B, and C. I blanch it for less bitterness – just as you would to sweeten up rhubarb – with an upturned pot to deprive it of sunlight for a few weeks before harvest. Salad is synonymous with lettuce but we have many other leafy options. I am a big fan of beetroot leaves and young spinach as salad crops but I am also fond of Lamb’s lettuce (Valerianella locusta), it’s sweet and nutty and really

complements any tangy or bitter flavours in a salad. Lamb’s lettuce is sometimes known as corn salad – it tolerates dry soil and is great for calcareous and sandy clay soils too – so fixes a problem for some. Summer sown it takes about 6-8 weeks to mature. It is of the cut-and-come-again variety and the florets can be cut several times. When it comes to unusual foliage for a salad the garden is your oyster. Nasturtium foliage yields a peppery addition and if picked young also strike a note of onion. That garlic spray will see of any blackfly. The flower is also edible. The flowering border Amaranth is gaining popularity as a grain substitute - similar to quinoa - but I adore its tangy young foliage (tear in as you would basil) and the nutty stems bring crunch and a hint of earthy squash.

Pak choi, one of the Asian greens eaten raw is crunchy and has a light mustard flavour

Not so leafy

But salads are not all about the leaf. Many roots and bulbs make the ingredient list – from carrots to beetroot to onions. Scallions, also known as Spring onions (Allium fistulosum) are salad essentials and now is a great time to sow some. There are heritage varieties that are no fuss but most garden centres will stock a variety called White Lisbon which is quick to germinate, maintenance free (thinning optional) and will usually crop within 60 days. It „


Salad Days Consider adding more than lettuce to your salad, including beetroot (Beta vulgaris)

has a good taste with a firm bite, fine white stems and nice shade of green on top. Perfect in the ground or in containers. Grown next to carrots their aroma confuses the carrot root fly. Chives are great too, oniony enough and a perennial cut-and-come-again over many seasons. I grow garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) because I like the garlic kick but also because they have really pretty white flowers (great for garnishing), I use both chive types as edging plants and just take scissors to them when I need some flavouring. Many gardeners make the mistake of thinking chives will thrive in dry gardens like other ornamental alliums – they do ok, but regular watering really adds to leaf production. Beetroot (Beta vulgaris) roasted and cooled or boiled and sliced adds to any salad a whole gamut of healthy phytochemicals that are so worth the pink fingers! While cabbage likes firm soil, beetroot likes to start off in loose, fertile soil; digging in some well-rotted organic matter will see to both those needs. Well-rotted is vital, still decomposing compost or fresh manure can distort root shape. Beetroot seeds are little wonders; they’re actually not a single seed but a cluster of seeds – each cluster unit will produce three or four separate seedlings. Sow into a drill 2 cm (1in) deep every 10 cm (4in) and keep the rows spaced 30 cm (12in) apart. You will need to thin the new seedlings later. But that’s as hard as it gets. Carrots (Daucus carota subsp. sativus) are not just good for the eyes a recent 10-year study from the Netherlands equated carrot intake with reduced risk of

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cardiovascular disease. Carrot varieties are generally spoken of in two categories; quickmaturing varieties for early (and also late sowing) and main crop that take longer to develop but also grow larger. They like a similar soil to beetroot. Sow into drills at 2 cm (1in) depth, sow thinly as to save finicky thinning later. Germination will take about 17 days. Later you can thin them to single plants at around 2 -3cm (1 ½in) intervals.

Garnishes to bejewel your plate

Those pigments that push berries and certain fruits onto the superfoods lists are also the pigments that make many of the edible flowers so attractive to look at and delicious to eat. Not every flower is edible, some are toxic and some unpalatable but those that are safe to munch are simply wonderful. Think rose, calendula, borage, fennel, fuchsia, dianthus, daylily, chives, nasturtiums, rocket, rosemary and even the petals from tulips. There is of course a handy Petal picking protocol to abide by. First, make sure it is edible. Preferably pick early in the morning when the plant’s water content is at its highest and the petals at their juiciest. Apart from allergies, pollen can detract from the flavour of the flower so remove the stamens and styles. Store in the fridge to optimise freshness and add coolness to the dish. Salads are versatile and quick to prepare - they fit so well into our busy modern lifestyles but for me, their best quality is their health conferring attributes. Yes, they will contribute to your five a day but beyond that they’re a great way to introduce cholesterol lowering fibre. The fibre of the leaves and the nutrition in the added ingredients can make one feel fuller as well as improving gut health. Research has shown that beginning a meal with a salad enhances the perception of satiety (the feeling of fullness) and so ultimately reduces the total number of calories eaten during the meal that follows. A note of caution on some store bought dressings – they could be loaded with hidden sugar and salt. Instead drizzle a little olive oil infused with some lemon juice, black pepper and garlic to add an appetizing punch, stimulate digestive juices and maximise the nutrient value of what you’re eating. The lemon’s vitamin C will help absorb iron, for example. Olive or nut based oils, meanwhile, deliver good monounsaturated fats that help extract vitamin D from bell peppers, vitamin E from any added nuts and vitamin A from carrots in the dish. If you add some avocado to the mix you will absorb around 13 times more beta-carotene from anything orange on the plate – carrot, mango, calendula petals. The chlorophyll and the phytochemicals in your greens and salad vegetables help protect the body from free radical damage and any added berries will supply more antioxidants to keep you in your prime. Food is more than fuel, and it is more than medicine too. It is a dose of comfort or joy. Growing your own or brought in from the grocer, salad days can add a lot of positivity into your life. n Fiann Ó Nualláin SelfBuild & Improve Your Home



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Benson Ford The front (above) and back (below right) of the cargo ship that was converted into a house

Cliffhanger Take a look inside the 90-year-old cargo ship that was converted into a holiday home…


n its heyday the Benson Ford not only carried iron ore and related materials for the Ford Motor Company, it also hosted illustrious characters such as Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, who used the ship for business trips and apparently designed the passenger lounge himself. Now situated on a cliff edge overlooking Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes of North America, standing at the helm of the boat will still make you feel like you’re out on the open water! Built in 1923, and named after Ford’s grandson, Benson, the cargo ship was decommissioned in 1986. It was initially going to be reused as a barge but the new owner, Frank J Sullivan of Sullivan Marine decided it wouldn’t be cost effective. He eventually scrapped the back of the ship and perched the forward superstructure onto a clifftop to convert into a holiday home! A few years later Frank made some upgrades, including the addition of a garage. In 1992 he applied for permission to run it as bed and


SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

breakfast accommodation, but this was refused so he decided to sell. Jerry and Bryan Kasper of Kasper Auto Group took ownership in 1999 and upgraded the plumbing and electrics, added a satellite dish and air conditioning, a modern kitchen, bar and pool table room. They also built a patio, recarpeted the house, blacktopped the driveway, plasterboarded the garage and painted the exterior. No wonder there are rumours the house is to be converted into a hotel/B&B! However the owners tell SelfBuild it continues to be a private residence to this day. Despite these upgrades, the Benson Ford remains largely unchanged. It has four floors with a decked exterior and all the original features are still visible in the pilot house, captain’s office and a number of cabins. Elements that were preserved include the now obsolete steering equipment and walnut panelled living quarters. “Everyone who sees it is intrigued to look inside and I think they are amazed at the quality and extent of the woodwork,” current owner Bryan Kaspar said. “I love the deck on the fourth floor – it’s a great place to enjoy a cocktail overlooking the lake and the nearby cliffs and watching the sunset is amazing from there.” n

Benson Ford

‘Everyone who sees it is intrigued to look inside and I think they are amazed at the quality and extent of the woodwork...”

Despite the upgrades, the interior finishes were left largely untouched.

Astrid Madsen and Natasha Salmon Caters News Agency. Additional information and additional photographs: More photographs available at



SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

case study

Enduring legacy Charlie and Gillian Hutchison reflect on the sudden passing of a close friend, who also happened to be their architect.


he Co Down couple first met Julian Leith after some wrangling with the planners. “We bought an old farmhouse 20 years ago, with four old stone sheds in the garden,” says Charlie. “With the house came a cabinet maker and a litter of six kittens! The cabinet maker was using one of the sheds (which eventually became our dining room) as his workshop, he’s since moved on although we do keep in touch. The kittens also found homes.” The coupled eventually secured outline planning permission for a change of use of vernacular buildings, allowing them to turn the old dilapidated barns into houses. Charlie jests the plan was to convert the outhouses to make a fortune. “While we didn’t make a fortune we did serial self-build on our property and we needed some expert guidance. That’s how Julian came in the picture.” The farmhouse, Bailies Farm, was in good condition so they moved straight in and lived in it for nine years. In 2001 they tackled the first two barn conversion projects, Julian’s brain children, the year in which Charlie set up his own Health & Safety consultancy. „

More photographs available at


case study Above and right: Thanks to Julian’s designer touch, the old coach house entrance was converted into a focal point of the converted barn.


“Julian designed and supervised the building works, we had little involvement because I was really busy at the time and we knew we wouldn’t be living in the houses,” confides Charlie. “Julian insisted in using the old fashioned restoration techniques such as lime plaster inside and lime mortar for external joints in the stone walls.” The planning requirements stipulated that the renovations could not add more than 15% to the original size of each of the buildings, and thanks to Julian’s clever design the first house feels like it’s twice as big as it originally was. The second conversion was easier because the barn was already large to begin with. Both barns sold quickly in the mid-2000s, which is

when Charlie and Gillian tackled the third barn conversion. This was to be their new home and they moved in 2006.

Home run

“While we did not get too involved with the build process for the first two conversions, we had much more of an input in the design of this house,” says Charlie. “This time around it was different as we were going to be living in it!” “For instance, Julian wanted the kitchen to be upstairs, so we would make use of the external sandstone stairs. Gillian put her foot down on that one! There was no way she was going to have to go up a set of stairs to get to the kitchen.” Julian also wanted to give the large window, which was the original entrance to the barn, his signature chessboard look - lots of cross bars and panes of glass. “Gillian and I both felt one single sheet of glazing would suit the building better so we eventually persuaded Julian to redesign and he came up with what we have now.” The wing of the L-shaped house is brand new, but was clad in the same stone as the original barn. “I think the house works especially well because there’s very little dead space. It’s a bit unusual in that we have a bedroom downstairs but in this day and age it’s what you’d call futureproofing.” Gillian chose most of the finishes. “We had to get stonemasons to lay the kitchen floor as it’s made of large slabs of stone, which came from the roof ventilation system of a very old prison,” he says. They also had to figure out how to support the roof, which was going to place a lot of weight „ SelfBuild & Improve Your Home


case study 102

SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

case study

on the old stone walls. “We had to get that right so we poured a reinforced concrete ring beam on top of the existing walls which took the load of the heavily insulated roof. We didn’t know whether to hide that or leave it, eventually we decided to let it show, which we think works well.” The decision to leave the beams exposed to give it the vaulted look was the builder’s idea. “I knew the builder having worked with him on other jobs, he had carried out several restoration projects so I asked him if he would do our barn conversion, we worked closely together.”

Different strokes

Julian had a passion for old buildings but Charlie and Gillian had a much more contemporary approach and chose to put in more modern materials than the architect would have specified. Yet the couple was still swayed by Julian’s choice of natural roof slates, of the Bangor Blue type, and stone cladding in line with the existing barn. “These are the kinds of things you can’t

compromise on!” says Gillian. “Julian was a real character, passionate about old vernacular buildings and he knew how to convince us when it mattered. We regularly had differences of opinion but it always ended well. We became close friends.” As Charlie and Gillian are currently selling the original farmhouse they lived in, Bailies Farm, with its 180 year old staircase, original cornicing and floor tiles, Charlie ponders whether the traditional style has much appeal to the modern day house purchaser. “The farmhouse lay idle for a year and a half despite other modern houses locally selling well,” says Charlie. “Bailies Farm is a 2,800 sqft five bedroom house, it is 180 years old and has amazing character, it is on the market at £230,000, while three-bed bungalows with straight walls and uPVC windows are selling for £180,000.” At the time of the build Charlie and Gillian had four children, three of them have since left the coop. “Our eldest son’s bedroom, which was next to the mezzanine, was reclaimed to make „

The stone for the kitchen floor was reclaimed from an old ventilation shaft.


case study

that open space upstairs much larger, we turned it into a games room.” “Within four months of him leaving we had the partition wall removed; he left in September and at Christmas he had quite a shock, but he was quick to forgive us,” says the dad. “He likes the settee for lounging around and the pool table and darts board! The upstairs living room acts as a sun room in the day time and is very cosy at night.” The house was kitted out with an oil boiler, which was the norm at the time, says Charlie. “15 years ago everyone had an oil boiler. We moved into the Barn in 2006, and a year later we found out we could get a grant for a wood pellet burning boiler and within four years it paid for itself.” The upkeep is easy, he says, you give the pellet feeder a shake once a week and empty the ash can once a month. The hopper holds four tons of wood pellets and does require space, adds Charlie. “We did run out of pellets once which lead to Gillian and my youngest son having to get into the hopper and hoover out all the fine dust which clogged up the screw – but that was my fault as Gillian frequently reminds me!”

Lived in

As is so often the case Charlie and Gillian realise they spend most of their time in the kitchen, something you might expect would have changed now that most of the children have moved on. “We have a lovely sunroom with a beautiful aspect which we never use and we only use the dining room area on special occasions like „


case study

Christmas when all the kids are back,” muses Charlie. “We just always end up in the kitchen no matter what.” Charlie is very proud of his choice of one radiator downstairs, in the kitchen, as the ground floor has underfloor heating. “How else are you meant to dry tea towels?” he asks. “I was ridiculed at first but I was right to stick to my guns, it’s brilliant.” The upper floor is fitted with radiators. He also installed photovoltaic solar panels two years ago. “It was sheer luck that the one roof that was well positioned to take advantage of the sun, was the one that couldn’t be seen. I just don’t like the look of the panels but no one knows we have them which is great!” He says it’s much better value to use the electricity the panels generate. “The scheme pays us to generate electricity at 16p/kWh which we can then use instead of buying electricity from NIE and any surplus we sell it back at 5p/kWh. It’s reduced our electricity bill by around £100 per month which is a lot but that includes the offices as well.” Charlie says he has many fond memories of the discussions he and Gillian had with Julian, regarding the use of lime putty, the choice of slates and Julian’s signature wooden staircases to name but a few. “He always encouraged us to make up our own minds even though he may have had a different point of view,” says Charlie. “Julian was a unique character with a gift of being able to make you feel very much part of his projects, I never thought of Julian as the architect who designed our houses, which of course he was. I think of Julian as a good friend who was always there to advise, guide and help us build our dream home, with a designer touch!” n Astrid Madsen House size: 3,420 sqft Land cost: £50,000 Build cost: £220,000 The next issue, Summer 2016, will be looking at another one of Julian Leith’s designs.

info The companies listed below provide products & services relating to this article. Builder D Murphy & Sons Construction Ltd, Newry, Co Down, tel. 30838911 Plumbing and Underfloor Heating Kane Group Building Services, Castlewellan, Co Down, tel. 020 3191 8257 Electrics Adair Building Services, Banbridge, Co Down, tel. 97 533 433 Spiral Staircase & Balustrades Ballinliss Forge Works, Newry, Co Down, tel. 30848694 Photograper Paul Lindsay at Christopher Hill, 17 Clarence Street, Belfast, BT2 8DY, TEL: 9024 5038 ROI calling NI: prefix with 048 NI calling ROI: prefix with 00353(0)


SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

case study

Reinventing the bungalow A Co Donegal house originally built as a fishing lodge has evolved into the perfect hideout for Chiara Poli and Tom Wilmot.


More photographs available at


hree sets of self-builders have been looking after this 1990s bungalow since it was built. Originally designed as a fisherman’s retreat, it was then passed on to a couple who turned it into a home by adding a conservatory and selectively placing windows to further open up the views to the lake and through the forestry. Most of the trees were retained to provide protection from the wind and to allow the house to visually stay embedded in the landscape. Five years ago, it was Tom and Chiara’s turn to become the guardians of this idyllically placed home, and what better way to usher in this new era than with a party? “Our lifestyle is full of visitors,” explains Chiara. “We don’t have any children so we didn’t need a big house but we needed a large living space, and that’s what was missing from the house from our point of view. The kitchen also needed an overhaul.”

At the party they met their neighbour who happened to be a house designer and planning consultant. But they were in no hurry to tackle the issue, as Chiara believes in taking your time with houses. “The best piece of advice I can give is to wait before you renovate!,” she says. “Live in it for some time before you change anything. Make it yours first. Your needs on the first day will be different in six to eight months’ time.” “In our house we did the jobs one at a time and I think it paid dividends, we got exactly what we wanted. The downside is that the builders had to be here more than once, I don’t mind that but some people would.” While Tom has a passing interest in design, Chiara is always thinking about the house, playing around with ideas and reorganising the furniture every six months. Her passion dates back to her childhood. “My family has owned many houses, most of SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

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them works in progress, and I’ve always enjoyed looking at building elements and imagining what could be,” says Chiara. “I’m from Italy but also have a strong Austrian heritage so don’t be surprised if you see a bit of tartan mixed up with clear white Mediterranean colours!” Chiara and Tom started the upgrading of their home with an en suite to the guest bedroom, what Chiara refers to as a warm-up exercise. Then the time eventually came to tackle the issue of space.

Contemporary addition

“We went to see our neighbour and he came up with the idea of turning the third bedroom into a studio, which was a stroke of genius,” enthuses Chiara. This guest bedroom was extended 16sqm to align it with the existing living room. As the previous owners had secured planning permission for the conservatory, this small addition didn’t require approval from the planners. “What we wanted was something a bit different, a modern extension that was able to retain its connection to the landscape. The texture of the environment was important to me, and with the cedar cladding I think we achieved that balance.” However with timber there is upkeep, especially for a house situated next to a lake, in a country with a wet and humid climate! “We built the studio five years ago and it is showing some signs of age already,” says Chiara. “We

deliberately left the cedar untreated as we like the  silvery effect that time produces.” The gutters do need to be cleared, a job on Tom’s to-do list! The extension is, not surprisingly, timber frame, which Chiara had her heart set on. “I’m from the Northern part of Italy where there’s a „

The house had previously been renovated to open up the views through the forestry.


case study The open shelved Mediterranean style kitchen was a challenge to build.


lot of building innovation and that’s how they build their homes there,” she says. “It also seems like the most natural thing to do, to build with wood in the woods.” The studio was opened up to the living room by knocking down part of the wall to the right of the fireplace, below the existing alcove. “We decided to leave it open; we could have put a door there but the flow is so much nicer this way, it allowed us to double our living room. There’s so much more useable space now, it’s more practical,” explains Chiara. “While it’s not open plan, it has that energy, and provides the contemporary feel I was aiming for. The open symmetry of the alcoves on each side is wonderful.” Having been built to current energy standards, and facing south, she says the studio is the warmest room in the house. Heat from the fireplace in the living room is drawn to the conservatory and studio, which had a radiator feeding from the existing oil boiler installed. “There was a back boiler in the fireplace but it never worked properly so we took it out,” says Chiara adding that Tom has been advocating for a stove since they moved in. “I always wanted an open fire so we agreed that six or seven years down the line we’d get a stove. An open fire has a beautiful and lovely feel but stoves really are more efficient.”

On site

Chiara counts her lucky stars to have found the right team. “We were very fortunate, when you move to a new country it’s not always easy to meet people, let alone find good builders! After we finalised the design with our neighbour we met several builders; we really liked the person we asked to work on our house, he has a capacity to see things differently, and has design ideas too. Since then he’s done every job for me, including my fashion shop in town.” Most challenging was the kitchen, which Chiara wanted in a Mediterranean style. “It was a labour of love, I knew precisely what I wanted because we cook a lot,” says Chiara. “Tom used to be a chef and I enjoy it too. In this kitchen everything is to hand.” She says the open shelving and units were especially tricky to achieve. “Our builder had never done this before but was happy to give it a go. He built a stud wall with wire mesh and plastered over with a sand cement finish, which was painted with a washable emulsion. And despite what you might think it’s very easy upkeep. In fact the only tiles we have are recessed behind the cooker.” The countertops are Indian sandstone, which is riven. “The surface is completely uneven and it’s actually fantastic to work on and so easy to „ SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

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SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

case study

keep clean. It was the only question mark I had and I’m now delighted we chose it.” On site the builders initially assumed they should go to Tom with any questions, but they quickly realised they were better off consulting with Chiara. “I had to learn all the building words to communicate with them in English but it was a very pleasant experience,” adds Chiara. “I got a builder’s update every day, part of the reason why we didn’t move out during the works was so we were there keeping an eye on things.” Tom says that as long as he’s got room for his fishing gear and book collection (5,000 strong), he’s happy. “Just don’t touch my bookshelves!” he jokes. “The living room is the core of the house, by nature it’s very dark and we maintained that – even though the walls are a light colour there’s a warm dark feel depending on the light that hits it. In winter it’s great with the telly and fireplace.”

Chiara chose not to add a door connecting the living room (above) to the newly extended studio (bottom) 3D plans helped Chiara and Tom visualise the design and also made it clearer for builders on site. Top left: Ensuite bathroom serving the new studio.

A 3D build

The designer, who is a chartered engineer, „


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acted as project manager throughout the build, supervising the various stages, including checking foundations. He says the builders were very good at asking questions instead of going ahead and doing something they weren’t sure of and covering it up, which used to be common practice. “The communication between designer and builder has gotten a lot better over the years,” adds Martin. “Getting it right the first time is the aim, as a team, no matter how big or small the project with better cooperation everybody wins.” “We didn’t want to spend a fortune so we kept an eye on the budget, but were also open to suggestions,” says Chiara. “When we were installing the windows in the studio, at the back of the house, Martin suggested decking the area to give us an additional view of the lake; while the weather doesn’t always allow us to be there, it provides another angle and immerses us in the outside, even when we’re indoors.” The plans were drawn up in 3D which made it clear for Chiara and Tom but also for the builders; the extra design time spent putting them together bore fruit, argues Martin. “With 3D sections it made it easier to have everyone on board,” he says. “If you don’t have clear plans you suffer when you go to site, with 3D there’s less room for misunderstandings because the images are so clear


in their dimensions, and specifications.” An example of the benefit of using 3D was the rearrangement of the master bedroom. Seeing it on the screen proved a simple knocking of partition walls would allow Chiara to get a walk-in wardrobe, which was an added bonus. Indeed, as the corridor that led to the converted guest bedroom originally also provided access to the master bedroom, it became clear that with the studio now connected to the living room, this precious hallway space could be reclaimed to make the master bedroom slightly bigger and to help carve out the new walk-in wardrobe.

Constantly evolving

“The aim was always to keep the integrity of the house,” says Chiara. “It’s a bungalow. It’s never going to be a mansion or a modernist sculpture!” “In terms of the decoration we were caught by the original features and finishes, you can’t get totally away from these but you can make some tweaks. All the doors were changed, for example, that’s something that sets the tone immediately. Then there’s the kitchen, of course. We simply transformed the feel as opposed to changing the nature of the house. ” The connection to the outside is paramount, and Chiara and Tom have been busy there too. “I spend every penny buying plants! With „ SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

The house had previously been extended; Chiara and Tom redecorated to make it theirs.

case study

the forestry it was already landscaped, and the previous owners had planted quite a bit, for instance I love the rhododendrons even though they’re considered weeds here – a burst of purple in June! And the bluebells in the woods are magnificent.” “But we did add more plants to the garden, we now have five vegetable beds. Unfortunately Italian crops fail to grow here. On the plus side, potatoes are always successful!” “I wanted to add things that belong to Ireland, hydrangeas, gorse,” continues Chiara. “When I went to the local garden centre I was told to go dig up the gorse, it’s so commonly available they simply don’t sell it! I’d also like to add a fuchsia hedge too, I’ve never had a garden before so it is a learning curve.” Tom teaches English to Italian students, providing them with room and board. “They’re teenagers here to learn English and the house isn’t all that big so I would like to do an attic conversion, with an open plan bathroom and an even bigger walk in wardrobe than I have now, upstairs,” muses Chiara. The dream doesn’t end there. “I’m thinking we could also attach the garage to the house with a glass corridor,” she says. “I’m always full of ideas, half the fun is thinking of what could be, not necessarily seeing it through. I think I have a bit of an architectural calling!” n The house takes full advantage of its lakeside location.


Astrid Madsen

House size: 160 sqm Plot size: ½ acre plus forestry Extension and renovation cost: total with fitout €30,000 (incl. kitchen at €6,000)

Build spec (extension)

Construction: timber frame, 6 inch stud walls filled with PIR insulation, 2 inch PIR insulated plasterboard above. Flat roof 4 inches PIR insulation between joists, 2 inch PIR insulated plasterboard on the underside, proprietary PVC finish. U-values: no more than 0.2W/sqmK for roof, floors/walls 0.21W/sqmK.

info The companies listed below provide products & services relating to this article. Planning Consultant / Chartered Engineer October House Designs, Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, mobile 0862217173, Builder Donal Corrigan, Derrygonnelly, Co Fermanagh, mobile 07767 816848 Flat roof Sika Trocal,, Insulation Xtratherm, Photograper John Hogan, Letterkenny ROI calling NI: prefix with 048 NI calling ROI: prefix with 00353(0)

SelfBuild & Improve Your Home


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DIY: Polished performance Sandpaper is graded: the higher the number the smoother it is; it’s common to finish preparing your wood with 400 grit

Polished performance Applying a finish to wood can protect, enhance and prevent decay. The key to success is in preparing the timber, choosing the right finish and applying it correctly. This article will help you get the best results. Timber preparation

Right: A dent can be removed with the help of a lint free cloth and iron, but only if the timber hasn’t been damaged (fibres haven’t been severed).


The first job before applying any finish is to prepare the surface by removing any defects such as knots, scratches, scrapes, pencil marks, dents or even grime! Indeed, if the wood is repurposed or second hand it may be dirty so clean it first. Using a nail brush, remove dirt and grime with (sugar) soap and water. Be careful not to soak the boards too much as this can distort them. Allow to dry in a sheltered area but not beside a radiator or hot press. If the boards dry too quickly, they will warp, twist and cup. For stubborn stains steel wool and turpentine can also be used. Dents in timber can be caused from dropping blunt objects onto the surface. These should be removed before applying a clear finish such as SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

DIY: Polished performance

varnishes or oils. When the light shines upon the finished surface, the dents will be magnified and clearly visible. A dent can only be removed if the fibres of the timber have not been severed, and it can be done with an iron and damp cotton or other lint-free cloth. The heat of the iron on the damp cloth forces steam into the dent which allows the fibres to swell back to their original position. This works wonders on table tops, countertops and even electric guitar bodies. Scratches and scrapes can be removed from surfaces with the use of abrasive paper such as sandpaper. Sandpaper is graded, the lower the number on the back of the sheet the rougher it will be, so 40 grit is very rough, 240 grit smooth. The grade at which you start will depend on the type of wood you have, the coarser it is the rougher the sandpaper. Then work up to the finer grades; it’s common to finish on a high grade such as 400 grit for a super smooth finish. Steel wool (wire wool) may also be used; in terms of grading, the more zeros you have the finer the fibres are (0 is fine while 0000 is super fine). Sandpaper can be used by hand but make sure you wrap it around a flat block to prevent finger marks from digging in. The block can be as simple as a scrap piece of timber or as fancy as a store-bought rubber sanding block; the thing to remember is that the sanding block must be made of a softer material than the work piece to prevent damage. Cork blocks are therefore a popular choice. An electric sander, e.g. orbital or belt sander, will speed up the process. Move across the piece evenly and never dwell too long on the one spot as this is likely to cause the machine to dig in and create divots. Whether by hand or machine, always sand with the grain, never across it, i.e. in the direction of the stripes in the wood. An orbital sander, due to the circular motion, will create scratches so it’s imperative you work down to the finest grit sandpaper to remove all but the finest scratches (which won’t be visible to the naked eye). This will prevent scratching the surface which will later show up on your chosen finish. Sand across the piece carefully and keep feeling the surface with your free hand to make sure you’re getting an evenly smooth result. It would be best practice to sand down to the finest grade sandpaper with the orbital sander for speed and convenience and then finish by hand using fine paper such as 400 grit for a super smooth finish. Knots in timber can add great character to a piece such as in a door, floor or table top. However they can release resin over time which can bleed out causing stains to come through the finish. This can be very unsightly and is very common on skirting boards, architraves and pine doors. It can be prevented by coating the knots with a shellac or a proprietary produced product such as ‘knotting’. This comes in a small jar with a brush attached to the lid. Each knot must be coated with this knotting solution before the application of the finish. When you are happy with your surface and it

is defect free and smooth, it is time to remove any dust left behind from the sanding process. This can be done first by brush, then wipe the surface down with a cloth dampened in turpentine (white spirit) to remove the finer dust. As turpentine evaporates much more quickly than water, it’s the preferred cleaner. Using water on bare timber will do two things that white spirit won’t. The first is that water will raise the grain of the wood which will ruin your previously sanded and smooth surface. The second is that water will cause timber to distort if too much is applied. Now that your timber is ready, it’s time to choose the right finish and find out how to apply it so it doesn’t cause you trouble later down the line.

A trick to remove dents from any type of timber, including electric guitar bodies


Paint has evolved so much in recent times the quality, variety and ease of application has come on in leaps and bounds. Paint can be applied with a brush, a smooth roller or a sprayer. Flat surfaces such as kitchen doors, table tops and even architraves can be painted with a roller. A roller leaves a smoother surface and you won’t get any brush strokes. Once prepared as outlined above, the surfaces to be painted must be primed before you apply your chosen colour. There are a number of reasons for using a primer. The first is to seal the wood (to prevent any absorption of moisture into the timber). The second is to provide a base for the finish coat so you don’t get uneven drying into the timber and to ensure the paint adheres correctly. Without the primer the paint could eventually start peeling off. To apply the paint with the use of a roller, pour a small amount into a paint tray. Dip the roller into the paint trough and roll the excess off in the drip tray. Roll the surface of the timber in the direction „

Rubber sanding block


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of the grain. You will soon get a feel for how much paint to have on the roller and how much the paint will spread. Remember, less is more! Several thin coats are always better than one thick coat. With a brush, also make sure you apply the paint in the direction of the grain. Only dip the first 25mm of the bristles into the paint – soaking the brush will cause splatter and can lead to messy work. One coat of primer and two coats of the paint finish will suffice but feel free to apply more if needed. Sand lightly between all coats to provide a smooth surface, using 240 grit or higher sandpaper.

When applying varnish, the first coat will act as a primer and should ideally be thinned by 10 per cent white spirits if oil based, or 10 per cent water if water based. When this is dry, rub down with a very fine abrasive (240 grit or higher). Remove dust with a cloth dampened in white spirit or water depending on the base, then apply the first undiluted coat using a brush and light strokes. Allow it to dry as per the manufacturer’s instructions and sand down lightly before applying the second coat with 400 grit sandpaper or 0000 steel wool. Add a third coat if required in the same manner.


Wood finishing oil

Varnish is a clear finish that allows the grain to be still visible. It is available in gloss (shiny), satin (reduced shine) and matt (dull, little reflection). It can be water or oil based. An oil based varnish will turn the timber that bit yellower and takes a lot longer to dry, brushes also have to be cleaned with thinners or white spirit. The opposite is true for water based varnishes. While oil based varnishes are slightly tougher, penetrating the timber more deeply than water based varnishes, there is very little difference between the two. Ease of use (less brush strokes are visible, cleaning equipment is easier, faster drying time, etc.), and smell conspire to make me think water based is the best choice for a DIYer. Varnish is best applied with a brush although a roller is often used for large projects such as a wooden floor. It is a very tough finish and can deal with a lot of hardship. It is best suited to surfaces that need to withstand punishment as it is water resistant and deals easily with spillages. Outdoor projects can be finished with exterior varnish and this will protect the timber from moisture and UV rays.

Applying finishing oil is probably the most „

DIY: Polished performance

Remember, less is more! Several thin coats of paint are always better than one thick coat.

Varnished wooden toy


DIY: Polished performance

Nest of tables with oil finish

straightforward option. There are many different types, all of which will provide a clear gloss finish: linseed oil, tung oil, danish and teak oil and even vegetable oil. The oil is obtained by pressing the seeds of trees such as the tung tree for tung oil and flax seed to produce linseed oil. The difference between varnish and oil is that oil soaks into the timber and takes a lot more coats to build up a shine while varnish is layered on top of the timber, providing a top coat separate from the timber. Oil is much easier to apply, to repair (scratches and marks) and will not crack or blister as it moves with the timber (varnish can crack). As seen above varnish provides a tougher and more durable finish and is therefore used on floors, handrails and furniture that needs to withstand impact, e.g. coffee tables. Oil on the other hand is mostly used on worktops as moisture can get under varnish finishes, which in turn can lead to mould growth. Danish oil would be the most resilient of the oils for a worktop as it has resins added to improve toughness as well as additives to improve drying times. Linseed oil is a good choice as well but takes longer to dry and wouldn’t be as tough. Food safe oils, usually vegetable based, are often used for things like fruit or salads bowls. To apply the oil, coat the timber liberally with a wide brush to ensure the surface is completely soaked. Before it dries, wipe the surface with a soft, lint free cloth to distribute and absorb the excess oil. When dry, lightly rub with very fine (0000) wire


wool; if it isn’t available, 400 grit sandpaper will produce a similar result. Apply up to four coats for a silky smooth finish. Be very careful to dispose of these old cloths carefully, in your recycling centre. If the cloth isn’t left to air out, there is a risk of spontaneous combustion.

Wax polish

Wax polish can be applied on top of oiled, previously waxed, stained and painted surfaces. It can also be applied over a lacquered finish which a lot of pre-made solid wood kitchen cabinet doors are made from. It’s essentially a top coat that adds a nice sheen to most surfaces and reinvigorates dull or old timber surfaces. It wouldn’t suit for high traffic areas or surfaces that need that bit more protection as it is not very hardwearing. It is prone to damage from heat such as hot mugs and is therefore used on ornamental furniture, display cabinets and to enhance the appearance of previously finished surfaces such as kitchen cabinet, doors, etc. It is easy to put on, gives a natural and attractive finish and protects the wood. One benefit is that constant handling and rubbing will improve the finish and lustre. Wax comes in various guises such as liquid wax, beeswax, paste polish or in stick form. To apply with a cloth, wipe it across the wax to pick up a generous amount. Rub the wax into the grain with a bit of elbow grease to force it into the pores. Use overlapping circular strokes to cover the surface SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

Wood stain

There are numerous stains on the market that mimic the colour and tone of different timber species including oak, ebony, antique pine, etc. It can make a cheap timber look more expensive and also be used to blend different coloured timbers. These are therefore ideal for improving the appearance of an otherwise bland piece of timber. Examples of where this is used would be staining a pine wooden floor with a dark oak stain or staining the balusters and handrail of a staircase. Wood stain needs to be put onto raw wood, so make sure you strip it down first and prepare it as outlined above. Then apply a generous amount to the piece with a brush. Spread the stain along the grain making sure you don’t let ‘wet edges’ dry as you go. Then use a cloth to spread the stain out and blend it into areas that need more stain. Sometimes when you apply stain, one area might absorb more stain and appear darker so a cloth helps to even this out and spread it into paler areas. When the stain is dry, finish with a varnish, wax or anything else that will protect the surface. There are other finishes that are beyond the scope of this article. For instance it requires a lot of skill to produce the high sheen associated with a

French polish. I hope you have fun experimenting with the various finishes on the market at present. Just remember to prepare the surface as best you can, be patient and above all be safe. Make sure you’re working in a well ventilated environment, keep away from naked flames and dispose of products responsibly. n

DIY: Polished performance

evenly. Finish this stage by rubbing with the grain. Allow the wax to harden and then buff it off. Repeat this process for at least four or five coats. Build up the finish gradually. For the final stage, buff with a clean cloth until the wax shines to a final lustrous finish.

Ciaran Hegarty All images courtesy of Ciaran Hegarty.

info The companies listed below provide products & services relating to this article. Contech (Suppliers of Tec7 products) Maynooth, Co Kildare Tel: 01 629 2963 Farrell Brothers Joinery (Staircases, Doors & other joinery products) Markethill, Co Armagh Tel: 3755 1910 Haldane Fisher Ltd (Complete builders’ providers) Newry, Co. Down Tel: 3026 3201 Northstone N.I. Ltd (Building Materials) Belfast Tel: 7032 1111

ROI calling NI: prefix with 048 NI calling ROI: prefix with 00353(0)

Bottom left: Applying a wood stain with a cloth.


eye on ireland

Eye on Ireland A

* Spending more than 10% of household income on fuel to maintain an adequate standard of warmth (defined as 21 degC in the living room and 18 degC in other occupied rooms)


s the dust settles on the climate talks in Paris, the UK Committee on Climate Change has published a report on the ‘appropriateness’ of an NI Climate Change Act. Interesting information about the residential sector emerged, namely that an important reason why the per capita emissions are much higher in NI than in the UK is because oil remains the most popular heating fuel. “The majority (68%, compared to 4% in the UK as a whole) of households are largely reliant on oil, especially in rural areas, as the main fuel source for heating,” stated the report available on “This is a factor in the extreme levels of fuel poverty* in Northern Ireland (42% compared to 12% in UK).” And while there are plans underway to connect over 4% of households in the west to the natural gas network, the authors hinted that district heating (connecting households to a ‘plug and play’ heat network, connection being made as easily as for electricity, i.e. negates need for boiler in each house) may be a more beneficial mechanism. In terms of insulation, the report pointed to plans to introduce a retrofit programme called the Household Energy and Thermal Efficiency (HEaT) initiative “although it has not been decided yet if the project will proceed”. In ROI, meanwhile, the Minister of Energy Alex White published his action plan (White Paper on Energy available on for all energy-related matters in which he stated it cost on average €20,000 to upgrade a house from a Building Energy Rating of D to at least a B. The department assures SelfBuild that “flexible and affordable” financing mechanisms for energy upgrades are (still) being looked but that the study into ‘Better Energy Finance’ was still being evaluated. Watch this space… Housing statistics have also been yielding

interesting information; did you know that in ROI self-built homes were consistently at least a third bigger than developer-built ones? Not surprising perhaps, although it seems self-builders were starting to build smaller homes in the first three quarters of 2015, perhaps for energy efficiency reasons. Also interesting is the fact that one-off houses have literally been propping up the new build sector during the recession.

Planning permission granted for new houses in ROI (excludes apartments)

News also comes from the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists that a new educational standard for architectural technologists is being developed in ROI, bringing the profession one step closer to becoming admitted to the ‘club’ of Assigned Designers and Assigned Certifiers. Currently only those on statutory Engineers, Architects or Building Surveyors registers are allowed to carry out these building control functions. See for more. Moving on to interiors, you’re probably already aware of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds, often emitted by plastics) but have you ever heard of POPs? Persistent Organic Pollutants are “organic compounds that become widely distributed throughout the environment

Number and type of planning permissions granted in ROI for dwellings, incl. apartments

In NI new dwelling starts (includes social housing) at roughly 6,000 were on the rise in the 2014-2015 period as compared to 2013-2014 (+13%) but this represented a fall as compared to 2010-2011 (-24%), which mirrors the ROI data. In both NI and ROI most of the activity was taking place in renovations (almost twice as much as new build). NI residential planning approvals

SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

(Left) POP star: some furniture fire retardants used in the past were proven to be toxic.

eye on ireland ????????????????

and remain intact for long periods of time, accumulate in the fatty tissue of living organisms and are found at higher concentrations at higher trophic levels, and are toxic to humans and wildlife.” POPs have been the focus of research in upholstery by the Furniture Industry Research Association (FIRA), and more specifically in flame retardants. The most common means to prevent furniture from catching fire is by adding chemicals and many of the ones used in the past have been classified as POPs by international bodies. The furniture industry has as a result moved away from proven POPs and currently use a chemical called EBP in most textiles. While EBP is not under investigation as a POP, it is part of the chemical family that has produced many documented POPs (brominates).

Non-chemical alternatives seem to be the obvious answer and there are two commercially available options: Multiple Laser Surface Enhancement (MLSE) technology and Carbon Nanotubes. However both are expensive and therefore not yet widely used. Chemical flame retardants are also believed to cause problems at the end of their lifetime as there exist no sorting facilities for hazardous furniture waste at present. FIRA is urging manufacturers to start labelling and classifying products voluntarily: “Self regulation is often less painful than enforced legislation and industries will need to begin to investigate practical solutions to the traceability, monitoring and management of their products and potentially hazardous chemicals such as flame retardants,” read one of the reports, which added that: “More knowledge of how all flame retardants degrade and leach into the environment would help identify the most important starting points for trying to improve how waste is managed and what challenges need to be overcome by new reuse and recycling technologies.” A work in progress…To finish on a lighter note and to continue on from our coverage of setting the stage for a successful property sale (see Caroline Irivine’s tips on page 38 and Stop Press on page 13), the NI property and site hunting website is now available as an Android app (already was available on iPhone). Whether you’re buying or selling, it’s a great tool to add to your arsenal. n Astrid Madsen

Flooded septic tank?

The ROI Department of Environment has issued guidelines on what to do if your tank has flooded. Rest assured, most systems will withstand the effects and will be usable after the event but if electrical components are involved make sure you get the system professionally assessed and repaired if necessary. First point is not to enter flood waters as manholes may have been dislodged and the flood water will be contaminated, posing a risk to health. If possible, the system should not be used until flooding subsides below the level of the tank, but this is more to prevent water backing up into a property than any other reason. What to do after flooding 1. Due to the potential for toxic gases in all septic systems, any servicing, cleaning, repairs, internal damage assessments and emptying/ pumping must be carried out by trained and experienced specialists. 2. After the flooding subsides, replace any dislodged manhole covers and check the system for any external signs of damage such as settlement, ponding of waste water, overflowing, blocked drains or not accepting water from the house. 3. If you suspect damage, or if your system relies on electrical components such as pumps, have the entire system assessed by a professional service engineer. 4. Ensure that any nearby private wells are checked and disinfected prior to use by following the EPA advice (available on for private well owners on what to do after flooding.


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advertiser index A


A.S Ballantine............................................................................. Pg 25 Aughafed Quarry Domemana, Strabane, Co Tyrone, BT82 0SB Tel: 028 7139 8276 Web:

DK Windows & Doors Ltd............................................................. Pg 3 Unit C Westland Business Park Willow Road (Off Nangor Road), Dublin 12, Co Dublin, Tel: 01 424 2067 Web:

Alternative Heating & Cooling Ltd............................................ Pg 127 Unit 3 IDA Industrial Estate Baltimore Road, Skibbereen, Co Cork, Tel: 028 23 701 Web: AMVIC Ireland............................................................................ Pg 76 Unit 7 Naas Industrial Estate, Naas, Co Kildare, Tel: 045 889 276 Web: Apeer.......................................................................................... Pg 23 Woodside Industrial Estate Woodside Road, Ballymena, Co Antrim, BT42 4QJ Tel: NI: 084 56 729 333 | ROI: 048 2563 2200 Web: ATS Trusses Ltd........................................................................... Pg 65 2 Breagh Drive Carn Industrial Estate, Craigavon, Co Armagh, BT63 5XA Tel: 028 3833 3626 Web: B Bank of Ireland........................................................................... Pg 37 8th Floor 1 Donegall Square South, Belfast, Co Antrim, BT1 5LR Tel: 0800 169 0082 Web: Beam Vacuum & Ventilation..................................................... Pg 132 Opus Business Park, 35 Aughrim Road, Magherafelt, Co Londonderry, BT45 6BB Tel: 028 7963 2424 Web: Beggs & Partners........................................................................ Pg 25 60-82 Great Patrick Street, Belfast, Co Antrim, BT1 2NX Tel: 028 9023 5791 Web: BIM / Waterford Institute of Technology.................................. Pg 73 Department of Architecture Main Campus Cork Road, Waterford, Co Waterford, Web: Biorock Effluent Treatment Systems........................................... Pg 91 Suite 3506, Fitzwilliam Business Centre, 11 - 13 Dyer Street, Drogheda, Co Louth, Tel: 041 980 6932 Web: C C & C Renewables..................................................................... Pg 117 14 Killeenan Road, Cookstown, Co Tyrone, BT80 9JA Tel: 07810 547413 Web: Calor Gas.................................................................................... Pg 91 c/o Calor Teoranta Longmile Road, Dublin, Co Dublin, D12 XP79 Tel: 01 450 5000 Web: CED Ltd Ireland......................................................................... Pg 123 1B Connaghty Road Off Rash Road, Omagh, Co Tyrone, BT78 5NN Tel: 028 8225 8457 Web: CES Quarry Products Ltd............................................................... Pg 9 Doran’s Rock 124 Crossgar Road, Saintfield, Co Down, BT24 7JQ Tel: 028 9751 9494 Web: Choice Heating Solutions.......................................................... Pg 117 Coolymurraghue, Kerrypike, Co Cork, Tel: 087 275 4012 Web: Contech...................................................................................... Pg 55 Unit F12 Maynooth Business Campus, Maynooth, Co Kildare, Tel: 01 629 2963 Web:


Homecare Systems Ltd............................................................... Pg 95 The Beam Centre Unit 3 TVI Business Park, Donaghmore, Co Tyrone, BT70 2UD Tel: 028 8776 9111 Web: I

DL Windows............................................................................. Pg 120 Clonalvy, Garristown, Co Dublin, Tel: 01 835 4066 Web:

Irish Stone.................................................................................. Pg 86 26 Harrys Road, Hillsborough, Co Down, BT26 6HJ Tel: 028 9268 9587 Web:



Elite Lighting............................................................................... Pg 41 8-16 Broughshane Street, Ballymena, Co Antrim, BT43 6EB Tel: 028 2564 4600 Web:

JP Duddy & Sons Ltd................................................................... Pg 79 7 Killybrack Road, Omagh, Co Tyrone, BT79 7DG Tel: 028 8224 3191 Web:

Emmet Cashin Heating and Plumbing........................................ Pg 73 Freemount Road, Kanturk, Co Cork, Tel: 087 258 9534 Web: F Farrell Brothers Specialist Joinery............................................ Pg 117 100 Mowhan Road Markethill, Armagh, Co Armagh, BT60 1RQ Tel: 028 3755 1910 Web: Fast Floor Screed Ltd ................................................................. Pg 50 Cappagh, Enfield, Co Kildare, Tel: 087 066 5239 Web: Federation of Master Builders.................................................. Pg 120 Unit 10, Plasketts Business Centre Kilbegs Road, Antrim, Co Antrim, BT41 4LY Tel: 028 9446 0416 Web: Flogas Ireland Ltd......................................................................... Pg 2 Knockbrack House Matthews Lane Donore Road, Drogheda, Co Louth, A92 T803 Tel: 041 9831 041 Web: G Garage Door Systems................................................................. Pg 68 Unit G3 Wakehurst Industrial Estate, Ballymena, Co Antrim, BT42 3AZ Tel: 028 2565 5555 Web: GMS Insulations Ltd.................................................................... Pg 76 Legga, Moyne, Co Longford, Tel: 087 239 4962 Web:

K Kilbroney Timber Frame Ltd....................................................... Pg 86 Valley Business Park 48 Newtown Road Rostrevor, Newry, Co Down, BT34 3BZ Tel: 028 4173 9077 Web: Kingspan Environmental............................................................. Pg 68 180 Gilford Road, Portadown, Co Armagh, BT63 5LF Tel: 208 3026 6799 Web: Kingspan Insulation Ltd.............................................................. Pg 10 Bree Industrial Estate, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, Tel: 042 979 5000 Web: Kudos........................................................................................ Pg 111 Beechvale 10 Brown’s Road, Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, BT36 4RN Tel: 028 9083 8951 Web: L L M Group................................................................................... Pg 43 G8 Maynooth Business Campus, Maynooth, Co Kildare, Tel: 01 902 2524 Web: Lagan Building Solutions Ltd....................................................... Pg 56 11b Sheepwalk Road, Lisburn, Co Antrim, BT28 3RD Tel: 028 9264 8691 Web: M

GMS Intelligent Systems............................................................. Pg 52 11 The Oaks, Lurgan, Co Armagh, BT66 6NY Tel: 0800 298 5009 Web:

McMullan & O Donnell Ltd......................................................... Pg 41 101 Drumflugh Road Benburb, Dungannon, Co Tyrone, BT71 7LF Tel: 028 3754 8791 Web:

Graf............................................................................................. Pg 25 2nd Floor 13 Upper Baggot Street, Dublin, Co Dublin, D4 Tel: 086 130 2915 Web:

Moy Isover Ltd............................................................................ Pg 33 Unit 4 Kilcarbery Business Park Nangor road, Dublin 22, Co Dublin, Tel: ROI: 01 629 8400 / NI: 1 800 744 480 Web:

Grange Design............................................................................ Pg 56 Unit 1 Tullygoonigan Industrial Estate Moy Road, Armagh, Co Armagh, BT61 8DR Tel: 07912 678 959 Web: Grant Engineering.................................................................... Pg 107 Unit 117, 21 Botanic Avenue, Belfast, Co Antrim, BT7 1JJ Tel: 0800 279 4796 Web:

N Northstone (NI) Ltd.................................................................... Pg 12 Shinny Road, Coleraine, Co Londonderry, BT51 4PS Tel: 028 7032 1100 Web: O

Gyproc.......................................................................................... Pg 4 Unit 4 Kilcarbery Business Park Nangor road, Dublin 22, Co Dublin, Tel: 01 629 8400 Web:

Olympic Lifts Ltd......................................................................... Pg 65 Olympic House Lissue Road, Lisburn, Co Antrim, BT28 2SU Tel: 028 9262 2331 Web:



County Down Stoves & Flues...................................................... Pg 65 8 Main Street Dundrum, Newcastle, Co Down, BT33 0LU Tel: 028 4375 1555 Web:

Haldane Fisher Ltd...................................................................... Pg 86 Shepherds Way Carnbane Industrial Estate, Newry, Co Down, BT35 6QQ Tel: 028 3026 3201 Web:

Perfect Water Systems Ltd........................................................ Pg 127 Ballysally Business Park Railway Road, Charleville, Co Cork, Tel: 063 89290 Web:

Creative Stone and Tile............................................................. Pg 131 43 Market Street, Omagh, Co Tyrone, BT78 1EE Tel: 028 8225 7673 Web:

Hannaway Hilltown...................................................................... Pg 7 44 Main Street, Hilltown, Co Down, BT34 5UJ Tel: 028 4063 0737 Web:

Philip McElhone Construction Ltd.............................................. Pg 50 44 Gallagh Road, Toomebridge, Co Antrim, BT41 3QU Tel: 07989 589 075 Web:

SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

R Rearo.......................................................................................... Pg 67 Distributor: Ian A Kernohan Ltd, Fir Trees Greenway Industrial Estate, Conlig, Co Down, BT23 7SU Tel: 028 9127 0233 Web: Reinco......................................................................................... Pg 55 11 Westland Road, Cookstown, Co Tyrone, BT80 8BX Tel: 07729 125 002 Web: Roofblock.................................................................................... Pg 65 5 Bramble Wood Old Shore Road, Newtownards, Co Down, BT23 8WZ Tel: 028 9181 8285 Web: RTU Limited................................................................................ Pg 21 Cloughfern Avenue, Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, BT37 OUZ Tel: 028 9085 1441 Web:

Soaks Bathrooms........................................................................ Pg 31 5-7 Apollo Road off Boucher Road, Belfast, Co Antrim, BT12 6HP Tel: 028 9068 1121 Web: Sortsy (Allsop Consulting)........................................................... Pg 73 4A Heron Wharf Heron Road, Belfast, Co Antrim, BT3 9LE Tel: 028 9018 3251 Web: Steel Lintels Ireland.................................................................. Pg 117 144D Huntly Road, Banbridge, Co Down, BT32 3UA Tel: 028 4062 3996 Web: Stira Folding Attic Stairs Ltd........................................................ Pg 55 Baunogues, Dunmore, Co Galway, Tel: 093 38055 / 1850 639 639 Web: T


Tapco Europe Limited................................................................. Pg 50 Unit 32 Tokenspire Business Park Hull Road Woodmansey, Beverley, , HU17 0TB Tel: NI 1 8000 936 552/ ROI 0044 1482 88 0478 Web:

S & N Granite.............................................................................. Pg 79 Camolin, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, Tel: 053 938 3992 Web:

The Aga Shop.............................................................................. Pg 67 247 Castlereagh Road, Belfast, Co Antrim, BT5 5FL Tel: 028 9045 0103 Web:

Schneider Electric Ireland Ltd..................................................... Pg 17 Block A Maynooth Business Campus, Maynooth, Co Kildare, Tel: 01 601 2200 Web:

The Tile Shed.............................................................................. Pg 41 35b Drumaney Road Coagh, Cookstown, Co Tyrone, BT80 0BY Tel: 028 8673 6537 Web:

Alternative Heating & Cooling Ltd.

Tobermore.................................................................................. Pg 77 2 Lisnamuck Road Tobermore, Londonderry, Co Londonderry, BT45 5QF Tel: 028 7964 2411 Web: Turkington Engineering Ltd......................................................... Pg 79 14 Tullylagan Road Sandholes, Cookstown, Co Tyrone, BT80 9AZ Tel: 028 8676 3372 Web: V Velux Company Ltd..................................................................... Pg 34 Woodside Way Glenrothes, Kircaldy, Fife, KY7 4ND Tel: 01592 778 225 Web: Viltra........................................................................................... Pg 37 56 Damolly Road, Newry, Co Down, BT34 1QR Tel: 028 3083 5533 Web: W Windhager UK Ltd ..................................................................... Pg 56 Tormarton Road, Marshfield, South Gloucestershire, SN14 8SR Tel: 01225 892211 Web:

Perfect Water Systems

Heatpump and Underfloor Heating Systems

Unit 3 IDA Industrial Estate Baltimore Road Skibbereen, Co. Cork T: 028 23701 E:

Tilt A Dor.................................................................................... Pg 67 Jubilee Road, Newtownards, Co Down, BT23 4YH Tel: 028 9181 5337 Web:

product selectors

Plan and Prosper........................................................................ Pg 89 52 Albertbridge Road, Belfast, Co Antrim, BT5 4GS Tel: 07508 417 986 Web:

Our ground source/geothermal/Air source range of heat pumps are market leaders in the renewable energy field. • “Waterfurnace” Water/Water ranging from 6 to 145kw, • “Euronom” and “Panasonic” Air/water from 7 to 72kw. We offer heating and cooling design solutions for both the Domestic and Commercial markets, ranging from 100sqm apartments to sports complexes, libraries, nursing home and innovative systems for the fish farming industry. New build, renovate or waste heat recovery, we offer a nationwide service,with sub-dealers operating in various locations throughout the 32 counties.

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

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

Find out more today; Perfect Water 063-89290 Laois | Aqua Treatment 087-2580318 Galway | Arqtech Laboratories 087-6688769 Dublin | Perfect Water 1890 989098

Next issue

l Roof repairs and re-roofing l Wallpapering l Woodturning and woodcarving l Pet-friendly gardening l Space saving furniture solutions l The making of home l Electricity from the sun: Photovoltaics l Swimming pools and hot tubs l Tree houses


On Sale 26 April 2016 127


SelfBuild &Improve AUTUMN 2015 £3.50/€3.75

Basement construction Building a home for life Converting your garage

Interior design for your roof space

ISSN 2049-3630

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Home cinema on a budget

Garden: Populating your pond

Extensions: gaining planning approval

Adding a new window or door Wastewater treatment: zero discharge systems

Book review: Medicinal plants

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Big brother or new best friend?

Find out what your home will be like in this sales pitch from the future…


emember the bad old days when mum and dad had to scrape and save to “buy” a house, and then spend the next 25 years struggling to pay it off? Or worse still, paying rent every month for a small box where you weren’t allowed to change the colour of the walls without a “landlord’s” permission? Now, with a LiveULike home, every day can be an experience that you will relish. You don’t just live in one of our homes, you live with it. It becomes your friend; in fact 50 per cent of our customers say that their home understands them better than their husband or wife. 60 per cent insisted that their house is better company than a dog or cat. And whatever your needs or your budget, we have a plan for you. From the minute you sign up to one of our homes it will be quietly working out how it can satisfy your needs. And no, this doesn’t just mean working out what temperatures work best for you; systems have been doing that since the twenty-teens after all! Consider a day in one of our homes: your smart watch will tell our light, sound and heating system how well you have slept, and will set the right conditions for you to wake up to. While you were sleeping your smart home system will have chosen the time when power prices were lowest to charge up your car, to run your laundry and to vacuum clean your living room. Any software upgrades or patches will have been downloaded and installed while you were in the land of dreams. Over a coffee, automatically prepared just as you like it, you can log in to your Home Control Portal, to get the latest reports on your home’s costs, energy and net CO2 performance, and see how this compares with the neighbours. You can also review your energy sources and decide, for example, if you want to increase your use of renewables. Every LiveULike home is connected to a range of biomass, solar, wind, and ground and air based heat pumps depending on the development scheme. While you are at work, your home system will be taking those tough decisions for you about whether energy from the solar panels should be used to run services

“...your smart watch will tell our light, sound and heating system how well you have slept, and will set the right conditions for you to wake up to.” in the home, stored in our patented battery system, or exported to the grid. Meanwhile our surveillance system will be monitoring for any movements close to the house, and identifying them as people, animals or other objects. There is also the option of our Scarecrow Occupancy Emulator which will create realistic sounds and sights to suggest that the place is occupied, including the option of you and your partner appearing to argue about a randomly selected story from the day’s news, using language that reflects your typical usage as recorded in the home. When you get back from work, the temperature, the lighting and music will be set to reflect your mood, as picked up from your watch, and the home management system will offer you a graded selection of entertainments, both on the home system

and at local cinemas and theatres. If you haven’t met your exercise quota for the day then the home gym will offer a package combining just the right amount of effort with a suitably graded reward in the form of that rom com you’ve been wanting to see for months. There is even an option to remind you which friends you have not seen for a while, and if you do decide to meet up with them, your watch will tell you whether the meeting was good for your health or not, and advise when to repeat it. It will even learn to recommend different friends for different days, depending on your state of body and mind. And having been monitoring your stats not just today but every day, the lighting, sound and heating will set the ideal, personalised conditions for you to be ready for just the right amount of each. And perhaps the best news is that you don’t have to fork out an arm or a leg for this. In fact you don’t have to “buy” anything. LiveULike homes are available as a range of attractive packages tailored to your budget and your needs. You can start with a basic package, and upgrade, as you wish. The ultimate luxury plan even gives you access to real flesh and blood help, whether it’s a visit from our personal trainer, or from one of our human energy consultants, or giving your home the VIP valeting that beats even the smartest robot. So remember. You’re never alone with a LiveULike home! Sound far-fetched? This vision of the home of the future Generation Z might be closer than you think! While theoretical, the above scenario draws on recent BSRIA workshops held with senior thought leaders including BSRIA’s “Smart Evolution” market briefing which tracks market trends and presents the probable steps to the smart buildings and cities of the future. n Henry Lawson, Market Research Consultant with BSRIA (Building Services Research and Information Association)


notice board

Top deck WHILE WOODEN FLOORING inside is blissfully warm to the touch, it all too often turns into a mess when you put it outside and use it as decking. Moss, cracks, splinters; timber doesn’t fare well in our wet climate. A solution comes from an American company that is believed to be the first manufacturer of wood/plastic composite (WPC) decking, having filed its first patent in 1995. With a weather and fade-resistant coating, the WPC is soft underfoot (splinter free), easy to keep clean (all you need is hot soapy water and a deck brush) and free from stains; this timber decking solution also does not split, warp, fade or rot!

The boards are securely connected together thanks to a hidden fastener, which evenly spaces them making installation simple and easy on the eye.

TREX is the name of the product that has recently been launched in Ireland (NI and

Taking it to the next level

AS THE SELF-BUILD MARKET RECOVERS, companies that have weathered the storm are well positioned to take advantage of the upswing. Some are even looking at expanding their operations. Such is the case of Co Antrim’s Advanced Timber Craft, a family business that has been designing and building low energy bespoke timber frame homes in NI for 14 years. Having recently rebranded to Kudos, the company not only plans to expand its geographical reach to ROI, mainland UK and mainland Europe, but also aims to remain at the forefront of innovation in the timber frame sector. Kudos has two main


product offerings – their unique precision engineered timber frame core suitable for any project type such as bespoke selfbuilds, home extensions and commercial developments, and also a full build solution (available in NI only), which is a collaborative, hassle free process where Kudos project manages the complete build. The latter can be from design and planning right through to delivery of the completed project at whatever level of finish that suits you. Kudos also designs and builds timber frame outdoor rooms. Raise your expectations of comfortable living to another level, give your project Kudos, call NI number 9083 8951, email,

ROI calling NI: prefix with 048 NI calling ROI: prefix with 00353(0)

ROI) by its exclusive distributor LM Group. TREX has environmental credentials too; it’s made up of 95% recycled materials in the form of wood dust (waste from furniture makers and/or waste pellets) and recycled plastic. TREX comes in multiple colours, doesn’t need sanding, staining or painting, and is installed with a 25 year residential warranty. Plus you can add integrated lighting. To find out more about how to get your hardwood floor look outside without the drawbacks contact LM Group, G8 Maynooth Business Campus, Straffan Road, Maynooth, Co Kildare, tel. 01 902 2524,

Sealed & approved

WHEN IT COMES TO CHOOSING the right insulation product, you need to consider not only what its properties are but if it’s fit for purpose and certified. Insulation standards evolve and it’s important that products abide to the current best practice specifications. Keeping up to speed is what Icynene Spray Foam insulation has been doing as it’s recently been granted certification for a standard that specifically deals with sprayed rigid PUR foam products (EN 14315-1). The British Board of Agrément (BBA) has issued the certificate for floor, roof and wall applications, and has certified the insulation to be compliant with NI building regulations (building standards are very similar in ROI). This enhanced certification for roofs covers direct applications to the underside of breathable and non-breathable roof membranes and felts with a single tiling/ slating batten in addition to direct application to flat roof decks. So for peace of mind and comprehensive certification, check out Icynene’s products from GMS Insulations Ltd, Legga, Moyne, Co Longford, tel. 049 4335057, installers nationwide: see the full list on SelfBuild & Improve Your Home


43 Market Street, Omagh, Co. Tyrone BT78 1EE

+44 (0)28 8225 7673


Profile for Selfbuild Ireland Ltd.

Self build & Improve Your Home - Spring 2016  

An All-Ireland Magazine for Self Builders & Home Improvers

Self build & Improve Your Home - Spring 2016  

An All-Ireland Magazine for Self Builders & Home Improvers