Michael and Gráinne Neven left Dublin to build their dream home in Co Meath.
Michael and Gráinne Keane were lucky to find the perfect place to build their home; even though it had a few minor drainage issues, it was a greenfield site with lovely views. Here they recount the process of turning their dreams into reality.
“People tend to think they can do everything themselves but it’s important to ensure you get the professionals involved. I would thoroughly recommend an architect, ours was excellent,” comments Michael.
Even though they knew what they wanted – a low energy house with the look of a traditional farmhouse with courtyard – he says the advice and guidance of their designer was invaluable.
Accommodation consists of five bedrooms, four bathrooms, a cloakroom, cinema room, gym and a sunroom. “We went for a clean style, there’s nothing particularly fancy in our house; the furniture is oak and so is the kitchen which is finished in a high gloss.”
The couple’s three children (aged six months, three and five years), have rooms with loads of innovative storage for toys present and future.
Lighting is from recessed LEDs as well as some featured spots, the furnishings are equally uncomplicated.
“We’d heard horror stories of people having serious problems with planning and to be honest, I was expecting trouble, but it didn’t materialise, we were very lucky,” confides Michael.
The initial design did however feature glazing to the front in the form of a porch but Meath County Council wanted the house to have a traditional stone finish, as in the rural planning guidelines, so that had to go.
“It was a pity because there are beautiful views we could have taken advantage of, but having said that, I’m completely happy with the finished house.”
The principal, roadside, elevation was therefore clad in stone, a natural theme that is carried indoors with floors of either tiles or wood (oak).
“We didn’t go through any pre-planning meetings, instead we decided to see what their response was,” continues Michael. “We were asked for some adjustments, which we did, but in the process the house became a bit bigger in style. Despite that, the Council were happy and so were we.”
Features contributing to energy efficiency
The Windows are timber aluminium clad, argon filled triple glazed and the house achieved an airtightness result of 1.17 air changes per hour at 50pa (n50).
It’s insulated with PIR for the floor (120mm) and roof (60mm complemented by 200mm glass fibre between joists) while the 200mm cavity walls were pumped with platinum EPS insulation.
Underfloor heating on the ground and upper floors was installed alongside an air source heat pump with a thermal store. Between May and October the central heating is turned off; it’s on a constant low setting during the winter months. When needed, a wood burning stove gives a top up.
The air is drawn from the bathrooms and kitchen via a fan in the roof space, in the rest of the house Demand Control Ventilation operates via individually controlled external vents in each room which open and close according to the levels of humidity and carbon dioxide.
Michael and Gráinne chose to appoint a main contractor for the construction phase, instead of managing the build themselves. But that’s not to say they weren’t involved.
“It’s crucial to know exactly what’s happening on site and don’t be afraid to ask questions,” says Michael. “There was one thing I spotted in the bathroom concerning the pipes which I thankfully caught in time, but if I hadn’t, the tiles may have ended up off centre.”
“A good relationship with your builder goes without saying, we were lucky and trusted ours 100 per cent. We took on a number of his ideas and suggestions during the build and if we ever do this again, he would be our first port of call!”
“So trust your own eyes and speak to your professionals. Read up and be knowledgeable about the process.”
If Michael could, would he go back and change anything? “I probably would have made the utility room bigger, but I suspect this is something people always say! I think I would have also put the plant room in the house rather than in the garage.”
“Having said that and I know it’s a cliché, but we really are living in the house of our dreams. We’re very happy with it.”
Site size: 2.5 acres
House size: 4,500sqft/418sqm