Building a New House
This page is all about
building a new home. But, if you're a DIY type of person, or you've got your
eye on a run down old cottage, check out the Remodeling
page for do's, don'ts and costs.
It is a common complaint that the new homes
are just being "thrown up." People in the trade privately concede
that the quality of work is way down and shoddy construction is common. The
most important person on a site is the painter/decorator whose job it is to
cover up deficiencies.
If you're building your own place, be on site
daily during contruction. If you're contemplating buying a new home in a development
you'll want to take a close look at houses in the process of construction.
Whatever they look like when completed with their fancy cornices and sunken
living rooms - crap is crap. You want to be looking at things like how joins
are made from roof rafters to the house walls. Is a single nail holding the
whole lot together or are metal strips reinforcing key stress points? It's
those kind of details that ultimately prevent major cracks appearing as a
The problem was that the demand for houses was
sometimes so intense that many new developments were pre-sold. Other than the
model home, there might have been nothing up. Heck, in many a case, houses and particularly
apartments are sold from plans.
These dog sheds are being dumped back on the market now. Owners cannot reconcile themselves to the fact that they bought crap that isn't worth half or a third what they paid. So prices remain high - for now.
As always, the standard rule applies: Buyer Beware.
Choosing a Builder
If you decide to build your own house, be sure
to check with several locals for the names of recommended builders. Go meet
at least 3 different builders, before you make a decision.Take a look at examples
of their houses and talk to people who have already dealt with the builders.
We did and were delighted by our choice of builder, until he went totally
bankrupt just days after completing our house.
O well, even the best laid
One of the greatest problems in Ireland right
now is simply to find a builder who isn't already over-committed to projects.
It is absolutely standard building practice to start a project in order to
get the contract, and after a few walls go up to disappear to another project
for awhile. One week, two weeks... there's no one at your site while another
screaming home-owner's project gets advanced. This gives your house "time
to settle," you'll be told. So, if you're building, be sure to have good
reserves of patience. And money, of course.
Before you can start building, you'll need planning permission. This page also discusses septic systems.
Expect loads of them.
The very day after the land cleared all legal
hurdles and finally passed into our hands, my builder had a crew on site staking
out the place. One more day and the digger began to dig. And dig. And dig.
Hills of dirt. Mountains of dirt. Entire ranges of dirt. The dirt piled up
beside our tunnel of a driveway till it threatened to bury a 40 foot high
tree. Till we couldn't see the sun behind the towering dirt. The Gaelic for
huge cliff is Slieve (pronounced shleev). As in Slieve Grand Canyon.
We were expecting a mausoleum's worth of dirt.
We got the Great Pyramid of Cheops.
One of the things the Irish insist upon is
that it's Who You Know that's important to getting things done in this country.
When, in desperation, we turned to our neighbors for suggestions, the adage
Patsie is a golfer, and sure, didn't the Captain of the new Golf
Course tell him just last week that they were having a hard time finding rocky
fill for the swampy 11th tee. A phone call later and the deal was done. We'd
pay for the digger to load the dirt, and the golf course would pay for the
trucks to haul it away. Fifty truck loads they took. One thousand tons! That's
two million fist sized stones to give some approximation of the scale. They
didn't take everything, but it was enough. Where we had a dangerous and unstable
drive, there is now a gently rounded and contoured hill. Whew!
Next. The stone mason arrived ready to begin
putting his beautiful stone on the outside of our cement block walls. "Where
are the special stone foundations," he asked. Huh? Turns out he needed
another layer of blocks as a foundation for his stones, and expected the builder
to provide them. A call to the builder. He expected the stone mason to provide
his own foundations.
Well, you get the drift. We spent many whole
days on site, and visited at least once a day during the entire building process,
effectively acting as a backup foremen, and keeping constant tabs on all matters.
The builder was good, the workmen topnotch, but we had to be vigilant.
Filthy Building Sites
Irish building sites are generally filthy places.
Garbage is strewn about and no one takes the least concern for keeping the
place clean. Outside downtown work areas not even portable toilets are available.
Only when final cleanup takes place is any attention paid to the festering
piles of garbage, left over lunch scraps, bits of PVC, broken blocks, scraps
of wood, nails, you name it.
A "skip", that is, a large metal
trash bin, is brought onsite during the final few weeks of building and all
this junk is piled inside. A lot gets burned.
You will want this "skip" a bit away from the house, if that's possible, since it will attract vermin.
Our front patio did not get poured until three
weeks after we moved in. During most of that time a huge skip sat right outside
our newly built front patio. Unbeknownst to us, a hole was open under the
door giving access to the house. And the day before the cement closed that
hole a visitor discovered it.
They say here that you can tell if it's a mouse
because it sounds like a rat, and a rat sounds like a cat. We had a leopard
Such a racket, running back and forth along the floorboards and
plasterboard between our downstairs and upstairs. We lived in terror of it
gnawing into plastic water lines or electric lines.
And tried everything. Two types of poison.
Three different traps. This guy (or gal) sprung all the traps, ignored all
the poison. We couldn't figure out what it was eating, and kept hoping it
would starve to death. For a full week and two days! We'd tell ourselves it
must be slowing down from starvation. Then it would start thundering over
our heads at 2 A.M.
One night it reached a crescendo of gnawing and biting.
O No! It'll come through the ceiling!
It was gnawing, gnawing, at one of the traps.
Which closed with a thunderous clap, snap, flip, a flop, then stillness.
Next morning I disposed of the body. Starvation?
This thing was as sleek as a cheetah, as well fed as a lazy lion.
In the end,
no harm was done, no lines bitten through, and the hole is now plugged by
many inches of cement. There is a moral to this tale: Listen to Murphy! His
Law is truth.
Building Materials & Methods
There are two basic methods of building modern
houses in Ireland. These are the standard method with cement blocks and the ever more popular wood houses.
For more information, order the Full
There are a ton of things
you'll want to know about before building. A simple example is that there
is no tradition of cold water tap on the right versus the left. It's not unusual
to step into Irish homes where every tap is different - and often mislabeled!
The Full Site provides some helpful advice on everything from closets to hot water heaters.