N.P.L.H. Turning the corner - Update No 5

Like watching grass grow or waiting for paint to dry!  This is how it felt waiting for the Irish summer to land.  But when it did, it arrived in all its glory in the form of a HEATWAVE - happy days!  This is how we can best describe the last stage of our self-build journey.  Waiting, waiting and waiting and then finally “lift off” – progress at last! So far this year, our self-build has weathered hurricane Opheila, heavy snow falls, storm Hector and more recently this scorching almighty heatwave.

 Steel spanning the width of our house

Steel spanning the width of our house

Turning the self-build corner

With various design options, we finally got the steel drawings approved and signed off.  This included the steel frame for the courtyard that would carry the flat roof area and the steel structure to bear the load of the top half of the house which will compose of the master bedroom, en suite and walk-in-wardrobe.  While this aspect has been a long time in the making, we feel that it's our last major obstacle (fingers crossed, touch wood and all that)!  

 Scaffolding in place for next stage.

Scaffolding in place for next stage.

Feel the fear and do it anyway (never again)!

The things you do to progress your self-build…….

So, on the eve of confirming our steel measurements to the manufacturer, we followed our usual cautionary process of “measure twice and cut once”.  This is something how the conversation went….

Ivan announced that he needed someone to hold the tape measure so that he could double check the measurements.  I eagerly offered (big mistake).  As we made our way over to the site he said you can go up first.  I was like what do you mean up?  How to you think we are going to measure the roof steels? he replied.  You know I don’t do heights, I responded.  The order MUST go in tomorrow, we need to check these measurements!  I was fighting a loosing battle!  It had to be me or one of the kids (no chance), so off I went up the ladder, one painful rung at a time.  Sheer panic set in when my hand reached out to touch the scaffolding floor plank, every muscle in my body tightened!

Listening to instructions, I made my way onto the scaffolding which had my heart palpitating with every shake and wobble!  I never thought about the fact that no matter how well scaffolding is pieced together - it wobbles, then again why would I think of this – until NOW!  I crawled along at a snail’s pace to where I needed to go only focusing on the planks beneath.  I tried hard not to notice the small gaps between which gave me that dreaded view of the drop below.  Mind over matter, I did what I had to do - rigid with fear thinking no XXXXXXX house is worth this!   

 Eco Joists in place

Eco Joists in place

But the best was to come, it suddenly dawned on me how the hell will I make it back down!  I immediately announced that a crane, teleporter, or cherry picker was needed to come and get me which of course was met with a LOL response.  What had I let myself into!  Eventually, absolutely terrified I crawled backwards aching all over and holding on for dear life as my foot was guided onto the first rung of the ladder!  Don’t look down I was told……. at this point I couldn’t if I wanted to!  The sheer relief of feeling the solid ground beneath even though my legs were shaking like jelly!  Talk about facing your fears, that is one fear I will never be facing again (nightmare).

It was only when I was back on safe ground that Ivan asked “What did you think of the views from our bedroom?  It then dawned on me that I had been so crippled with fear that I never got to look left, right, or even straight ahead as my eyes were peeled to the planks beneath.  It was a disappointing wasted opportunity, but I was compensated by the fact that I was still alive and in one piece!  The next time I will venture up there will be when our stairs is in situ!

 Steel lifted onto blockwork

Steel lifted onto blockwork

Major milestone in the making

Never thought the day would arrive when we were so excited about some massive humongous lumps of steel arriving on the back of a lorry!  Luckily access was not an issue as we needed a crane to lift the various steel beams onto the blockwork.  Within a few hours the fabricators had done trojan work and basically presented us with the green light for the rest of the build YEAAAAAAH!

 Upper level block work

Upper level block work

Light at the end of the tunnel

With the perfect weather conditions to build, we were are ready to rock and roll!  The next stage was to build all the blockwork which was the final blockwork on the house.  When this was completed our next task was to install the last two pieces of steel to carry the rafters for the roof.  Another milestone was achieved when all the window and door opes were in which allowed us to proceed with our glazing measurements.  We are now trilled to report that we are ready for the roof which will be another major milestone in the making.

 Steel in place

Steel in place

Window woes

We are now in the midst of choosing our windows!  This is a massive decision both in terms of our budget and style so as to best complement our build.  When we received the first quote, let’s just say I needed to sit down and consume “a strong something” but quickly realised, that all I can afford at this point is WATER!

While I would LOVE aesthetics to rule on this one, with the sheer volume and scale of our window specification, there is no doubt that BUDGET will have to play an almighty part in this decision.  Along with the massive slider in the kitchen, we have four extensive windows surrounding the courtyard, numerous large picture windows and two windows in most bedrooms.  All our windows are full height and for good measure we have a few large frameless roof lights.

Window technology has come on leaps and bounds in recent years and the window jargon is likened to learnng a new language.  With our window dimensions and our brief of sleek clean lines, it’s looking like tilt and turn windows (opening in) are our only option. 

In our line of business, we understand that tilt and turn windows can pose a serious dilemma when it comes to choosing final windows finishes.  We are not concerned about curtains as we will run with the "wave system".  However, we need to ensure that we can meet our requirements in terms of privacy and backouts.  Trawling the internet for the perfect window finishes solution, my guess is we will have to look further afield to find just the right blinds. Tilt and turn windows are widely used throughout central Europe especially in Denmark, so I am going to focus my attention here until I come up with the ideal solution.  For our front door, high security is paramount, but it must look ultra-modern and last the test of time! 

 Upper level blockwork complete

Upper level blockwork complete

Very soon, we are going to work on our lighting and electrical plan and ensure that we have taken everything into play!  We are mindful of the benefits of clever outside lighting including  our courtyard which can extend interesting shadows into the main house as well as increasing security. 

From now on I think it will be inevitable that we are going to come up with “DESIGN CHALLENGES”.  Here’s hoping that there won’t be too many! Our design challenge of the moment even thou it's a while away yet is ensuring we can find blinds for our tilt and turn windows (that open in). 

What window finishes options do we have? 

Keeping in mind that our home is not roman blinds style of home and that standard simple roller blinds are just not an option.  We are aware of the perfect fit blind, however, so far, we have not been impressed with these in terms of quality and appearance and some of these have length limitations.  For the record we are not a fan of pleated blinds and while shutters can pack a punch, we place far more value on our natura light and views!  

If you would like to contribute to our DESIGN CHALLENGE, we would really VALUE and APPRECIATE your comments, ideas and suggestions.  Please just enter your comments below, we would LOVE to hear from you.

Looking forward to sharing our next update with you, in the meantime  MAKE THE MOST OF THIS HEATWAVE.

N.P.L.H. Rooms with a view - Update No 4

Glad to report that all is good on the self-build front.  As you can see from the image below, things have really stepped up a gear.

Self build internal walls

FINALLY, we no longer need to visualise the layout of our internal rooms in our new home.   We can simply stroll room by room through door openings and capture the spectacular views through the new window openings within.   

New build internal walls

There is NO DOUBT that I will have to try and contain my excitement until the first floor is in situ – can’t wait for this!  I reckon that one of our master bedroom windows might just frame the cross on top of Bray Head and hoping the other window might offer us a glimpse of the top of small Sugarloaf and if we are extremely lucky we might be bestowed with a sneaky peek of the magnificent large Sugarloaf - but only time will tell!

The only way is up

We are now lining all the ducks in a row for the next stage of our build, which will be of course the upper level and roof.  A significant part of our build will feature a flat roof, so this is straight forward.  The upper floor will house our master bedroom, walk-in wardrobe and ensuite along with a further section providing a large void above our kitchen.

Building made easy

Since the external block work was completed, we moved onto the interior walls getting them up to joist level.  We then had the tedious task of casting a concrete structure over our fabulous opening in our open-plan kitchen/dining/living area.  After setting up the shuttering formwork and inserting a steel structure within, we finally filled it with concrete allowing it to cure for 30 days.  This process will be so worthwhile (easy for me to say, since I didn’t lift as much of finger on it), but the light and views will be priceless.

New build window openings

While waiting for the steel framework to be fabricated for our upper level, we pushed on with some rendering on all exterior blockwork in preparation for our cedar cladding.  We then continued with applying scratch work on all the interior walls.  

Taking centre stage, in the middle of our new home, we are going to have a courtyard (love this feature, designed by our architect).  With this, we ensured that we had our falls to our gully which in turn will remove water beneath the house and onto the soak pit, to avoid a build-up of water.

Our site is still looking immaculate!  After every task, a complete tidy up is undertaken to make sure it is pristine and accessible.  As the saying goes........“a clean site is a safe site"!

Once the steels arrive to support the upper floor elements, we can get motoring again.  Until these arrive on site, we are somewhat in limbo, but we can’t or won’t complain.  To date, everything has been plain sailing - which is a blessing!

Forget about our build - check this out!

Recently, I had the absolute privilege of a self-build house tour of a friends spanking new home.  It was so exciting to step foot into their finished masterpiece.

So, when I entered their bright and spectacular new entrance hallway, I eventually managed to pick my jaw up off the floor……  It was breath taking to enter a new home and to be instantly met with an innovative and appealing unique layout and design.

On removing my boots (on my own accord) and entering, it was such a treat to feel the warmth of the large format tiles beneath (my feet can’t wait for underfloor heating, bring it ON!).  Like that unbeatable new baby fragrance or that new car scent as you drive it out of the forecourt, I could bottle this new house aroma (fresh plaster, paint, and timbers all rolled into one)!

Not only did this new build pack in the WOW FACTOR, you could see that so much thought and effort had gone into curating the perfect family home.

Home with form and function

Clever storage was subtly peppered throughout the entire house - no stone had been left unturned.  The custom fit floor to ceiling contemporary wardrobes in the bedrooms looked amazing.  With oodles of full height storage along the landing and even a laundry shoot directly to the utility room, storage was not going to pose an issue in this house.  It oozed brightness with the natural light flowing through the glass walls but still felt so snug and cosy.

This new build fully embraced open plan living with vigour but at the same time ensured that they had the option to get away from it all in a beautiful snug nestled to the rear of the open plan area and a split-level chill out lounge at the opposite end.

Their kitchen was beautiful on all levels, sleek, contemporary but highly practical at the same time.

On leaving, I was simply drawn to the perfection of the external render and the richness and natural beauty of their timber cladding.  This is what we have planned for our own external finish, but seeing this cladding in the flesh, certainly sealed the deal and reassured me that this is definitely the way to go!

I must hand it to their architect, he really nailed the design and worked smartly around some of the site limitations.  They should be so proud of what they have achieved here, and I have no doubt that they will LOVE and ENJOY living in this space, never wanting to leave it!

Before entering this remarkable and impressive new home a sign outside should read “Enter at your Own Risk - Serious House Envy Guaranteed” This house tour was highly inspirational and made me realise that if we ended up with a house as near as special as this one - we will be doing very well indeed.

Introducing the BOSS of the house!

Seven months young and calling all the shots!  This little guy thinks this is his playground, he heads over most afternoon to the site for a run around and a game of hide a seek (which he always seems to enjoy more than us - when we can’t blinking find him! 

Yorkshire Terrier in the snow

It got me thinking, how we are going to restrict his freedom in such an open plan situation?  Might as well face the fact that he is going to RULE!

Only a few months ago, we had to batten down the hatches for storm Ophelia and below are some photographs just hours before the “Beast from the East” rocked up! 

These guys are loving the snow but there won’t be many home comforts here for a while!  There is a national “bread alert” this afternoon from 4pm (I mean “red alert”) so we didn’t hang around for long.

Dogs running in the snow

 What do you think of our luxury white carpet – it didn’t cost us a cent!

New build flooring covered in snow

Looking forward to our next update already, which I hope to share with you SOONER, RATHER THAN LATER.....

N.P.L.H. Onwards and upwards - Update No 3


Happy New Year!

Welcome to our third update on our self-build journey.  In our last blog, we promised vital signs of a new build and we are delighted to report that we CAN deliver on this promise.  Our new build got off to a flying start in 2017 and is well and truly on track for 2018! 

Breaking ground

It was really exciting watching the heavy plant arrive early one morning to commence the ground works and get this baby moving.  The heavens opened that morning with rain pelting down, so being the wimp that I am, the best I could muster was to take a photo from a distance (inside, nice and cosy).


Not long later the gazillion piles of hardcore arrived and was neatly spread into place.  The new driveway was carefully carved into the landscape and the entire site took on a new form.  All the preparation for the services and piping were put into play.

It’s amazing how much work and money simply disappears into the ground works well before you even get a glimpse of a sub-floor.

Over the coming days the footprint of our house and garage were evident with the strip foundation trenches.  Soon after the concrete was poured and ready for the strip footings.


Room by room

With the footings steadily rising from the ground, it felt great to be able to finally do a walk through, room by room.  Up until this point, all we could do was try and visualise these very rooms from our plans.  It’s funny how you often hear that once the footings go in that the footprint can appear much smaller than the finished result.  When I took my first step inside to inspect, I immediately DID get that sense of panic, that some areas were on the small side.  Weeks on, I can safely report that I was wrong – so panic over!

Filled with hardcore and compacted, the damp proof course and radon barrier were carefully laid covering the entire footprint of the house.


Sub, floor poured.

On a glorious bright day, I watched the line up of concrete lorries arrive one by one to pour the sub-floor - which was pretty cool.  


Block by block

To date, we are really enjoying the self-build process and finding it relatively stress free! (Yes, this is what I just said and I mean it)!  In saying this, I am not the one outside during this baltic cold snap laying ice cold rough blocks!!  My husband (the builder) has battled all weathers and I have to give credit where credit is due, he is doing an amazing job!  

When the block work commenced with the external walls, the harsh weather hit us hard.  Blustery gusts did their best to undo the amazing blockwork and on one faithful day the elements did succeed in taking down a small section of wall!

But they fought back by carefully propping all and just like the three little pigs story, the winds (not the wolf) huffed, and puffed but did not manage to blow our house down!   Then the temperature plumeted creating our very own ice rink on the slab for the best part of a week.

When you think of a building site you think of a big mess of broken eggs that hopefully will eventually come together to form a beautiful omelette!  Not this site.  In the photo below, this is how messy as it gets.  The site is immaculate tidy with not an empty crisp bag in sight (nor a crisp for that matter), thanks to our loyal site FOREDOG!


The area surrounding the build and garage have been immaculately sculptured and groomed in advance of future landscaping.  This will be of great benefit when the house is ready as hopefully it will appear as if the house has always been nestled here – that’s the plan anyhow!

With this steady and speedy progress, I can’t help but get that butterfly feeling when I think of the finishes decisions that are imminently approaching.  We do need to start thinking of certain aspects, for example our staircase.  As this will be clearly evident from our open plan living space, we hope to be a bit playful making it a statement feature.  We have something a little bit different in store for the centre of our home, which is also on full view from our open plan area.  We will really need to get those creative juices flowing soon if we are to magic this into something special – more on this later!


When in comes to windows, let’s just say we will have plenty of cleaning!  Light has always been a top priority for us and we have incorporated at least two windows in most bedrooms. In our main living space we have gone all out in true Dermot Bannon style with a selection of larger and smaller full height picture windows and some roof lights for good measure.     

From the photo above you can see that the external walls are well on the way.  Next on the building agenda is the internal walls - CAN'T WAIT FOR THESE!  With the internal walls insitu, there is no doubt it will give us a real sense of scale and we will witness the views from every window.  Most of our of new home will be at ground level, however our the main master bedroom, ensuite and wardrobe will tower above our open plan living and dining space.  

Following on, the next crucial stage is to get the upper level completed and then focus on getting it sealed with the roof in place.  Once we get to this stage, we will feel like we are on the final straight as all the other work associated with our build is pretty much what we do and love everyday when working on our Placelift projects.

Looking forward to the next stages of the build in 2018, will be in touch with an update soon.  If you have any questions or comments please just get in touch on 012548070

N.P.L.H. The self-build rollercoaster - Update No 2


Following on from my last update on my self-build journey, I am delighted to report on some slow (but steady) progress!  I had previously mentioned the hope of the good weather holding out but little did I know that a hurricane was about to sweep our nation!

We may not have a house just YET but we do have a pump house!  The day after the pump house was built, we had to batten down the hatches for hurricane Ophelia!  The photo below shows the sky line over the pump house at 12 noon, just before it hit - luckily, all remained intact!


That said, we had a lovely calm day for the drilling of our well.  Being one of the first outlays, this was a bit nerve wracking!  You basically have no clue what the final cost of this aspect is going to be as it all depends on how deep the contractors go to reach sufficient water!  When the contractor said he would give me a call when he was satisfied they had reached an ample water supply, the little voice inside my head screamed – “PLEASE CALL ME REAL SOON”.


So needless to say, the thoughts of having our budget blown to shreds before we get the show on the road was daunting!  Luckily, they struck gold, (I mean water) and a few hours so we could relax (for another while)! 

Taking no chances!

When we heard media reports that insulation was in short supply and facing certain delays in Ireland due to a fire in some German chemical factory.  Apparently, this chemical is a component of the insulation supplied here in Ireland.  Taking no chances, we took immediate action and got our order in straight away! 


It’s funny how you can look at something repeatedly and not notice the obvious!  Recently, when pondering over our house plans, it just dawned on me “hey where is the shower in the main bathroom”? 

Bathroom fit-out dilemma

From the get go, on my long-winded dreamy wish list I had noted a freestanding bath on a raised platform with a feature wall and window behind.  Fast forward to reality and the realisation that from a practical perspective, we definitely needed another shower placed in this bathroom!

When I aired my dilemma, it was quickly suggested that I could simply run with a standard bath and shower with a glass shower screen!  The alarm bells immediate rang and rang LOUDLY........... suddenly I found myself on a mission. 

So here I was faced with the first hurdle of this build project - was I going to falter?  My thinking was, if I were to give up so easily and so early on this high priority wish list item - what the hell would become of my remaining wish list items.  My wish list would remain just that - A WISH LIST!

With this issue, I needed to act quickly.  The bathroom layout needs to be carefully planned and executed and is by no means a piecemeal process.  Bathrooms are very much fixed in terms of connecting to the servicing infrastructure – so mistakes can be costly and time is of the essence in order avoid delays!

With let’s just say not a massive bathroom expanse to work with, in solving this problem, I needed to firstly find inspiration and then crunch the numbers in terms of dimensions to try and make it work.

Inspirational mind field

Initially, I trailed through my entire home magazine stock pile.  Then I swiped at every possible bathroom combo image online via Houzz and Pinterest that featured a freestanding bath and wet-room style shower.  Finally, I found "THE ONE" on the cover (photo below) of one of our bathroom products magazines!  Would you believe this very magazine is one I keep on my desk and reference regularly for our Placelift renovation projects!  This photo manages to capture the exact layout required and choosing the tiles and finishes will be another days work (or weeks works)!! 


At one point, I must admit I felt a bit defeated with the amount of time and energy I was putting into this one aspect.  However, it was both rewarding and a relief to nail this bathroom issue.  In saying this, I really hope that I am not faced with many of these missions (but no doubt, I will).

Crunching those numbers

With any self-build there is always that dread of making the wrong decision (and oh boy are there many decisions to make)!  But let’s face it you are bound to mess up somewhere along the way.  We have all witnessed various types of self-build blunders on the likes of T.V.’s Room to Improve and Grand Designs to name a few.  Any self-builder that I have questioned “If you were to do it all again, would they do anything differently?  All have freely admitted to minor and in some case major flaws that given the second chance they would have certainly approached differently.

With a project of this scale the dreaded budget and contingency are paramount.   While I would much rather focus on the dreamy “wish list”, the harsh reality is that if you are not mindful from the outset, you could end up in deep water.  While we are comfortable working with our own figures, if you are not, we would highly recommend you work with a professional quantity surveyor. 

Size Matters? 

When originally designing our house, we were pushing the boundaries in terms of scale in the thinking that large expanses of open space were an essential ingredient to creating a great home.

Luckily for us, our talented Architect challenged us and took the upper hand in making us realise that in order to achieve a great house that suits our specific needs - that size is not the be all and end all!  He enlighted us of the importance and benefits of clever use of space and also from the outset to strive towards achieving the best possible finishes. 


Looking back now, if we had of pushed the limits in terms of square footage, we could have easily ended up with a large home but with an insufficient budget to give it the finish it truly deserved.  Our house design is by no means lean but a great emphasise has been placed on overall flow, storage, natural light and more importantly - what exactly will work for our family’s specific needs.  Above is a photo of the site marked out and ready to rumble!

In my next update, I hope to bring to you some vital signs of a new build!!

If you are self-building and would like to comment, we would love to hear from you.

N.P.L.H. Making a dream a reality - Update No 1


Building the dream

After 20 years of planning our self-build dream home, September 2017 marks the official commencement of our exciting new build.  Struggling through the planning process, was reminiscent of my dreaded leaving certificate, but enough said - we are finally there!  


Delighted to share some of the highs and lows (here's hoping not to many) of this journey with you via regular blog updates on our new blog page titled "NO PLACE LIKE HOME".

Might be well before your time but as the lyrics of Paul Young's song goes "wherever I lay my hat, that's my home".  Home can be many things to many people.  Whether it's a bedsit, townhouse, apartment, country cottage, semi-detached, detached, it's YOUR retreat.  Your home is a safe haven for you, your family and pets, a private place to relax, be yourself and live.

Feeling so blessed and grateful to have this opportunity to create our home exactly as we want it!  Having spent my childhood in a self-build, somehow seemed to fuel my desire/ambition to go down this very road.   Growing up surrounded by nature, with a large garden to run free, pets galore and fruit and vegetables growing aplenty certainly planted the seed!


Needless to say, we have had years to plan our new home - which in hindsight wasn't a bad thing!  Initially, (a few years back) we were opting for a fairly traditional design mainly because we felt this is what we had to do.  However, along this journey, we were fortunate enough to engage with some great individuals (more on them later) who made us realise what we truly desired - a modern contemporary design.  We know our design is definitely not for everyone - but we absolutely LOVE IT!   

Nature's gold

Our site is a blank canvas, a green field surrounded by nature.  We planted the perimeter with a lush hedgerow some years back and this has matured beautifully.  Other than that, we have some thriving fruit trees and a small berry plantation to the rear (which tasted delish this year)! Below is a photo of the natural meadow site, which we hope to maintain in places and introduce a wild and herb garden when landscaping.


We have all heard that saying "putting the cart before the horse", but how about "the pillows before the foundations"!!  Picked up some fab "feels like down" plump pillows from Julian Charles recently for our new home!  Very tempted to put some of these into use as sound sleep will be a must over the months and year ahead!

Okay so back to the build - need to concentrate on the mammoth task in hand!  All going well, we hope to soon turn the sod and start making this dream a reality.  Fingers crossed this pleasant calm weather holds out and gives a bit of breathing space.  Will be in touch soon, with hopefully some real ground breaking progress (excuse the pun)!!

If you are self-building, we would love to hear from you!  Lets get a self-build conversation started!  Or perhaps you know somebody who starting or in the midst of a self-build whom you could share this blog.