Our Self-Build Journey (Part 2)

In my previous post (see here) I explained how we planned our home and now I would like to share details of how we went about creating it.

We project managed the entire build ourselves and with Feargal being involved in the construction industry as a Building Surveyor, this made the job a lot easier on me!  It took a year to complete and we moved in in August 2006.

It is very traditional in design and based on an Irish Victorian Farmhouse. We feel we have successfully achieved our goal and have also included in the building many modern additions which certainly were not available back in our ancestor’s time when these types of houses were first built.

Front and East Side of House while under construction
View from West Side of House

One of the most important features for us were the windows and doors.  Feargal did a lot of research on old Victorian houses at planning stage so that we got the proportions of ours right.  The other necessary element of the windows was that they must be made from timber and slide up and down using metal weights as traditional sash windows would have done in the Victorian era. We also had a look at doors on old Georgian and Victorian houses so that we could replicate these on our home.  There is definitely more work with timber windows and doors over modern uPVC as they need to be repainted every 4 – 5 years and they are certainly more expensive to buy but we felt that they would give the house the character we were looking to achieve and to date are delighted with our choice.

The proportions of the building itself were also important.  Our ceilings throughout are 9½ feet tall, the roof is covered in natural slate and the external walls are covered in a wet dash finish which we won’t need to paint.  All our internal doors, stairs and mouldings were custom made, again to replicate the Victorian style and plaster cornices and coving has been fitted throughout.

We have a geothermal powered underfloor heating system on both floors (the system comprises of hundreds of metres of pipes buried in a continuous loop in our front field.  These pipes absorb heat from the earth which feeds back to a heat pump in the house which in turn warms pipes under all of the flooring).  The benefit of underfloor heating is that we have no radiators anywhere and so it makes furnishing rooms a lot easier in that you are not trying to position furniture or curtains in such as way as they are preventing heat getting into the room.

Pipework being laid for Geothermal Heating System

We also have a rainwater harvester – this gathers all of the rainwater which falls onto our roof  into a tank under our garden.  The collected water is piped back into the house and supplies all toilets, showers and washing machine.

We have a built in vacuum cleaner so I’m not lugging a hoover around and up and down stairs – a great invention!!

All of these systems were planned before construction started as all necessary pipework had to be provided for in the building before we started to get the inside completed or the garden landscaped.

House Completed
Our Front Door when first painted – before it turned Pink!!

In my opinion, anyone who has a wish to build their own house can do so and all it takes is organisation.  There are various stages to the building process and probably the most difficult part is getting the tradespeople onto site at the right time in order to keep the construction schedule flowing.

Our Home Today (10 years later)

We had a definite vision of how we wanted our house to look and this certainly helped when it came to picking finishes.  I would advise anyone thinking of building their own home to do as much research as possible beforehand. Gather your ideas together before employing your Architect/Designer so that they can create your vision and even when your plans are done and perhaps the planners want you to make changes to it, to stay positive.  Sometimes, what might appear as a setback can eventually work out as a blessing – our first plans were turned down flat as they were possibly a little too decorative which then lead us to the simple style we ended up with.  It was certainly one of the best ‘setbacks’ we’ve ever had!

I would love to hear from anyone else who has gone down the self-build route.  Would you do it again, what part of the build did you find the most stressful/enjoyable, would you do it again, and if so, what advice would you give to someone reading this article who are about to start the self-build journey?

Our house isn’t perfect and there are little things we would change if we were doing it again (they say you have to building three houses before you get it right!).  We don’t ever see ourselves moving from here – we have the house we always wanted, built in the beautiful Irish Countryside with our family close by and the best neighbours anyone could wish for… this is our forever home and we really are ‘living the dream’…

Bernie xx


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