a half built home with a woman and child looking on

What’s the one self build feature you should always consider?

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Once there was a cottage in Wexford…

The original cottage part of our house is approximately 80-100 yrs old, nobody seems to know the exact age, and is what’s known locally as a 2-up-2-down cottage, as it had literally only four tiny rooms – two bedrooms upstairs underneath the eaves, and downstairs, a kitchen and a ‘parlour’.

There was a narrow staircase in the kitchen to the bedrooms upstairs that was almost like a ladder it was so steep and a fireplace/chimney wall separating the two downstairs rooms. In around the 1960’s a very fancy modern convenience known as a bathroom was built on to the kitchen.

Outside the front of the cottage in 2006

When we bought the cottage in 2005, the previous owners had added on two more downstairs rooms to the rear (south) and an entrance hall on the eastern side. The cottage was very charming and very cosy but in 2008, when I was unexpectedly expecting our fourth child we realised that two tiny bedrooms with an extra small downstairs spare room would be a bit too cosy for six people.

Build or Move?

In my previous post I wrote about how we moved house so many times when I grew up and even more once I left home (24 times!), that although I was very experienced at packing boxes, moving house had become one giant pain in the rear and I was loathe to do it all again. Now we were faced with the choice of whether to move house with three kids and a bump, or to renovate and extend our existing home.

In our (relatively) youthful optimism we decided to extend our home, even though I was 100% fully and enormously pregnant and then had a newborn baby through the final stages. It was not a whole heap of fun and looking back I think we were crazy, but then you can’t always plan or predict things like pregancies, mortgages, planning permission and economic downturns.

(Having said that we seemed to plan the catastrophic confluence of all of those events down to perfection).


a half built home with a woman and child looking on
Extending the rear of the cottage. ‘You have to break a few eggs to make an omelette’ was one of the builder’s favourite sayings

Little did we realise that because the old cottage needed to be totally overhauled with new wiring, plumbing, roofing, insulation and windows we had to pack up absolutely everything and move out anyway for the duration of the build!

and also move!!!

Being pregnant meant that not only was I grumpy but the builders were also grumpy with me everytime I popped on to the site to see how things were progressing. Maybe it was just a good excuse them telling me that a buidling site was no safe place for a pregant woman because then I couldn’t offer up as many ‘suggestions’ or as much ‘critique’ as I would have liked!

Ten years ago there wasn’t all the information available online that there is nowadays so we tried to figure our way along by speaking to local providers and looking at other homes we liked.


One of the features of building that we did take plenty of time thinking about was the windows. It might not be the number one criterion that pops into your head when you think about designing a home, but considering how many you need and where you place them is hugely important.

We had only moved to Ireland four years previously from South Africa and the most obvious aspect of living there that we missed the most was the sunshine. So it was natural that we were greedy for it and wanted to draw as much of it into our house as was humanly possible!

ivy covered cottage exterior
New windows and door in the old part of the house.

However, windows are so much more than a purely functional source of light. They define the external appearance of your house in terms of balance and symmetry, they create atmosphere inside, they define the character both internally and externally, they increase warmth, they bring in fresh air as well as protect you from the elements. Finally they also add space to your home by allowing the garden to become an extension of your indoor space.

Although our home wasn’t and still isn’t enormous, we are blessed with a beautiful large garden so we wanted the outside feel as though it was just an extension of the inside. The side of the house that faces the garden is also south facing which is ideal for optimising on the hours of sunlight so we decided to put in as many large windows as we could afford.

looking out to the garden through large double glazed windows
New windows overlooking the garden

However, when it comes to chosing replacement windows I hadn’t realised there were so many varieties in style, colour and design. The original windows on our house weren’t double let alone triple glazed so they were terrible for insulation and energy efficiency. They had metal frames which attracts condensation in the winter and a couple of them were actually cracked and resealed with silicone sealer!

When we submitted our first draft to our local planning permission department, it was refused and one of the reasons they said was because of our choice of windows! We were told that they were inconsistent and ‘too quirky’. We were not impressed and I told them they were being ‘too boring’.

floor plans for a  home
will we ever get the plans finalised??

I had wanted a round porthole window above the front door and we also had a sliding door that had a cottage pane effect on it. We had kept that old sliding door window as it was large and already insulated and seemed an unneccessary extra cost to replace.

However, we had to change it to match the rest of the house and I’m glad we did as it creates a consistant look thoughout. We put in a boring rectangular window instead of the round one just to keep the planning department happy – and it worked, we were finally allowed to build.

Our builder recommended a wood effect pvc frame but in the end we opted for white upvc windows as they are the easiest to maintain, they look fresh and I like how the white frames reflect more light into the rooms.

exterior of double story home with many large windows
Our home Feb 2019, extension to the rear – the cottage is on the other side.

My only regret is I would have loved to get sash windows as they create a distinct period feel to a home but when we did a comparison of window prices we discovered they are significantly more expensive than casement windows and our budget was already stretching in every direction. (As it always tends to be on a build).

This month now marks the tenth year since we have completed the build and can you believe, there are still jobs that we need to do! I don’t think that a homeowner’s to do list is ever complete as there are always things to paint and mend.

There are plenty of tips but always consider the windows!

If you do a search online now you’ll find plenty of tips for building a home but surprisingly, very few of them suggest you spend time planning where and how you place the windows. However, I would add it to the top of my list of considerations, especially as the ones we have still look brand new and will undoubtedly last for a good ten years more.

Have you built a home or are considering it? What would you recommend and what challenges have you faced? I love to hear from you in the comments below.

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DIY Daddy

8 thoughts on “What’s the one self build feature you should ALWAYS consider?”

  1. Greetings from Mayo! Great article and important tips about windows, we just bought a tiny house and we have a very cool unique treatment planned for our little windows too! thank you for the tips which i read aloud to my BF, i love your yellow, so cheerful!

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