The renovations thread


cheers ian!


Yep! Had a similar experience doing up the bathrooms to a modern standard. Didn’t even go wild on tiles or sanitary ware but it still cost a small fortune. The house was fine when we moved in but a bit jaded. Thinking back to some genuine doer-uppers we viewed I can’t imagine how much a proper overhaul must cost.

Room to Improve has some educational value in that the costs run over and there are unforeseen problems and delays with windows etc. but it’s all sewn up in 55 minutes so before you know it everyone is having a laugh at the after-party. Nobody remembers the stress and the costs because the kitchen is beautiful and they have vertical radiators now.


It revolves around how sound the house is to start with. It costs a significant amount of money to “get out of the ground”. That is: dig and lay foundations and rising walls, lay sewerage, lay floor slab. And it costs to build walls, chimney and floor/roof wood structures. And it costs to demolish and dig out what’s there is placing new on old footprint

If the above are reasonably sound then you’re way ahead of a new build (so long as you’re not remodelling the existing base structure beyond economic limits). It doesn’t take that long to rip a building down to core.

A new build is also subject to comparatively onerous input from professionals. Cost and complexity.

The error comes in trying to rework that which is crumbling - but if you simply tear down to solid core then you’re not that different to a new build brought to that state of progression.


Am I the only one who doesn’t like those full-height vertical rads? Yes they free up some horizontal space, but they take away from picture-hanging space. Also if you have a good plumber who calculates the BTUs actually needed in a room you might find a big vertical rad can be far too much for some rooms.


A lot of it seems to be psychological. People keep telling me for example that it’s impossible to knock & rebuild a semi-D, respite the fact that it’s eminently possible, done all over the world, and I watched a terraced house being knocked and rebuilt in SCD over the last year. Irish builders & architects just aren’t used to it as it’s not the norm here.


Not mad on them myself - rads can be ugly at the best of times. if letting the plumber do the calc then he might well be working off the fact that houses in Ireland are poorly insulated. Had a guy spec up a double panel rad for a small bedroom and I overruled for a single panel and smaller overall size due to the insulation going in. Even that’s been cranked down in flow and is virtually never on - what with hot air rising upstairs anyway. In fact, we don’t turn the rads on in any of the bedrooms ever


what are your thoughts about underfloor heating? We are contemplating removing some internal walls to open out the rooms at the back which will give space but I really don’t want to take up too much of the remaining wall space with radiators.


Had a serious look at underfloor heating when doing my renovation recently but decided against it on ground of costs but also practicality.

We have an open space living/dining/kitchen area of about 55sqm (room length is up to 11 m), and ended up with 2 radiators on the opposite ends of the room, one horizontal radiator under a window, and a larg’ish (in hindsight oversized) vertical radiator on a corner.
We only got the vertical rad connected after a few weeks (took a long time to get it manufactured / delivered), adn the room was fine even with just the one radiator running, despite the crap weather in December.

I was a bit worried about cold feet (which was our main motivator for the UFH), but we have put down a floating engineered real-wood floor and no problem with cold feet. We were however quite anal about insulation, drafts, etc., and have a MHRV system in the house.

One thing I’d advise though is properly insulate the subfloor, including in the existing building, and especially in large rooms use screed across the whole area to have a proper level floor. We didn’t do this due to time constraints (it will take a few weeks to properly dry out before you can lay the finished floor), and I am still annoyed that I didn’t do this. Probably going to do it whenever we want a new kitchen in 15-20 years or so.

Reg UFH itself: there’s probably as many reasons to put one in as there are to not bother. If you want e.g. a polished concrete floor, it is a no brainer of course. If you want wood floors or parquet, you need to be aware of the implications of doing so and it might you costs a bit more.

Also, you can’t do the “coming home and turn up the heating” thingy but recommended to work with different temp settings at different times etc.


Hi NewIrish

I would be interested in your exact floor make up as I am starting an extension myself shortly.

Is it

  • insulation
  • floor slab
  • finished flooring


  • floor slab
  • insulation
  • thin screed (50-60mm)
  • finished flooring

I can’t decide which is better and my engineer doesn’t care either way


The new floor of the extension is your first option: insulation, slab, finished flooring. We pretty much left the floors of the original house as is and only patched up a few things. would have been around 5K or so to break it up and redo (plus potentially proloinging the built by a few weeks) which was the main driver to not doing it. (sub)Floor itself was in good condition in general, concrete slab with 24 or mm wood boards glued onto it.
Given we then put another 5mm of insulation on top of this plus another 15mm or so of finished wood floor I wasn’t too concerned about the heat loss through the floor to be honest.

If I would have had the money lying around I would have spent it though, but given there is always budget constraints I didn’t see the return.
If i’d do it again, I’d probably go for the screed option (as you said 50mm or so) as then you have more options and choice in terms of floor. I’d like to have a herring bone parquet for example, but your floor needs to be spot on for this to look good.
So floating engineered floor boards it was instead which does look good (enough).


Due to a wall knock between the living room and kitchen by the previous owners the current space is not adequately heated by the two smaller radiators that replaced the old ones. Wall space is an issue for us too.

Had a vertical radiator recommended by a neighbour who’s a plumber but was not too keen on losing even more wall space. I am waiting until I have the time and money but am considering installing something like this myself. … M33J7H2UJO

Also, I want to see the effect of adding a stove in the sitting room first which will close off a big drain on heat.

It’s plumbed and has a fan to circulate the heated air. I’ve mapped out a reasonable route from our boiler and don’t think it’d be too hard to do myself with a little help from my father-in-law. I’m not 100% sold on this approach yet and am still considering my options.

It’s going in where the space is effectively wasted anyway.
Heat from ground level up
Faster circulation than standard rads
Thermostatically controlled so is only on once the central heating is on
Has a fan mode than can be used on particularly hot days
Not visually imposing
Toasty toes at counter it gets installed under :smiley:

Can get dusty over time so will need a little TLC
Fan noise (Not really an issue in a kitchen with a fridge or other appliances)

There are electrical plinth heaters too that I haven’t completely ruled out just yet. The kitchen is one of the coldest rooms in the house (hip extension facing north west) so it might be desirable to be able to turn on a little heat in there on it’s own sometimes.


You’ve an open chimney? I’d stick a child’s football (better than a chimney balloon - get one about 10" in diameter) against that ope and reassess.


We do. Cheers, I’ll give it that a try.


thanks for the feedback


We’re getting them in the kitchen/living/dining/reclining room because the kitchen takes up one full wall and when you include space for doors and a wall of storage plus windows and a corner of glass there was shag all space left for rads. Then once we’d put in two vertical rads and some wall-mounted lights we realised we had just one spot for hanging a decent-sized picture.

The only upside is that having barely any wall space makes the choosing of wall paint a fairly insignificant one!


thanks for the info… going for wooden floors so cold feet would not be much of a worry


Warmboard. The hidden health risk of our times?

One of the elements involved in renovating many an Irish property will be the issue of insulation. BER’s E,F,G do, afterall, adorn many a property put up for sale in Ireland.

External insulation will be a solution adopted by some but many will, for reasons of cost / brick facade / appearances … turn to internal insulation and install what is commonly called ‘warmboard’. Warmboard is effectively, a normal sheet of plasterboard with a bonded layer of foam insulation on the back. It’s relatively cheap, easily fitted and can be bought with various thicknesses of insulation.

The question arises as to it’s suitability many of the houses to which it is fitted. Look at most refurbs which turn an old house into a BER B or C and the likelyhood is that that house will have been warmboarded.

Irish houses up to quite recent times have their external walls constructed either of:

  • a single leaf of brick (wall thickness typically two bricks thick - overall, perhaps a foot thick). Typical of period houses.

  • a single leaf random rubble walls (stones and pebble with a mix of binder to stick it all together). Because they are more unstable than brick, these walls tend to be quite thick - perhaps a couple of feet thick overall

  • in more recent times, a single leaf hollow (cavity) concrete block.

All of the above share some common characteristics

  • a continuous physical connection between inside and outside faces of the wall

  • sponge-like ability to absorb and transmit water through the structure, especially rain from outside to inside.

Whilst lime/concrete render finishes add a degree of water protection (over say brick/mortar joints, which are kitchen-roll absorbent), all readily absorb and transmit moisture through the wall from outside to inside. Especially those walls exposed to driving rain (say South/South West)

As originally designed, these wall dealt with the issue quiet simply: moisture moving through the wall could evaporate into the internal spaces. Given these spaces amply ventilated by ill-fitting sash windows / t&g floorboards / draught-riddled doors / fireplaces there was no issue. The inside surfaces of the walls remained dry

Laying a sheet of moisture-impermeable warmboard on the inside surface changes this dynamic however. Moisture travelling through the wall encounters an unventilated space between inside surface of wall and rear of warmboard. It has nowhere to go and simply sits on the inside surface of the wall, rendering that surface permanently damp. Mould growth follows and mould spores migrate into the internal space rendering an unseen health hazard.

There is plenty of reading to be found on the subject online.

What to do?

Warmboard has application in the more recent* build scenario - which sees houses built with double leaf walls - that is, two walls built close together with a cavity of perhaps 4" between them. Moisture penetrating through the outer leaf can’t bridge the cavity (which is the reason for building the cavity) and so warmboarding the interior walls of such a construction represents a different proposition.

  • hollow concrete block / concrete render construction is cheapest of all so will find application, these days especially in extensions

There are breathable versions of warmboard available (calcium silicate) so the handiness of warmboard is there - but these more expensive so don’t expect a builder to have used them in any much-improved BER house you see for sale

Since rain-penetration is the significant issue, I would imagine less of an issue on non-weathered walls (whether by orientation or by virtue of being sheltered), especially where these are render finished as opposed to brick. So perhaps a combination of traditional warmboard and breathable warmboard an option.

It’s occurred to me (and I haven’t seen it contradicted) that a solution could lie in opening vents in a warmboarded wall to the exterior. If the warmboarded wall was sealed all around it’s perimeter (say on a wall by wall basis) with expanding foam at the time of installation and the space between the wall and board ventilated to outside, then moisture build up in the space could be avoided, along with air movement through the vent to inside the building due to perimeter sealing. Suspended wooden floors/joists are kept ventilated in this way - typically involving a vent on front of building and one on rear to allow crossflow of air to keep moisture levels down.

The dab n’ slab method of board application, which sees a small cavity created between warmboard slab and wall would be required here, rather than the alternative: mechanical fixing. Mechanical fixing with ‘mushrooms’ presses the board tight up against the wall, denying ventilation possibilities.


@York: I really don’t understand why this is such a big deal in Ireland.

My mother lives in a Victorian redbrick terraced house on a hillside in the UK, with a north-west facing rear which is very exposed to driving rain.

I delivered a long monologue similar to yours, going into detail about moving condensation points and the evils of cement render, and she just said “mine is just studded, never had a problem”. I think she meant that there was plain plasterboard with a gap to the brick, supported by wooden battens. I assume it isn’t foam-backed, not sure whether there’s any glass wool but I don’t remember seeing any when doing basic DIY jobs. Her heating bill is lower than mine.

Are you saying that in Ireland the normal practice is to bond/nail the plasterboard directly to the wall without any studs?


As it happens, I was talking to a guy who does breathable wall insulation for single-leaf structures and he filled in some detail which corrects what I say above.

Although plasterboard is water absorbent (plasterboard & paper, though not the alu foiled backed stuff), that’s not the same as breathable. Breathable insulation effectively encourages and enables moisture transfer from the inner surface of the wall, through the insulation and into the room and away. The insulation is fully bonded to the wall - like a tile, rather than a cavity being created between the insulation and wall (which occurs with warmboard / drylining). The idea of full contact between insulation and wall (with suitable adhesive obviously) is to draw moisture from the wall into the insulation rather than leave a canyon which the moisture cannot bridge.

Simple dry lining (plasterboard on wooden battens fixed to the wall but no insulation - a cheap way to resolve crumbling original plaster) creates a cavity and thus, moisture build up on the inner surface of the wall.

The insulation is then skimmed with a breathable plaster - not gypsum (normal skim coat / plasterboard filling, which itself isn’t breathable)

It ain’t cheap. A 30mm layer of insulation fitted costs around €95 + vat per m2. 50mm costs €115+vat m2. 30mm might be the recommended max in certain circumstances too - so it’s not like you can turn your period into an A3 rated property just by throwing money at it. These prices presume the underlying plaster flat and sound such as to attach the insulation.

If unsound plaster, they can strip it and replaster with a cork-impregnated material which acts as an insulation. About 15% more expensive than the above but with slightly better insulation qualities.

Normal warmboarding at say 70mm thick (and with better insulation qualities per mm thickness) could be installed for perhaps €60m2

And so, houses all around (period and other single leaf structures) being fitted with moisture retaining / mould inducing / building fabric damaging warmboard.


Anyone got a hob on an Island/Peninsula? or thoughts thereon?

I think it’s the way to go, especially with an induction hob, a sink is spashy and encourages mess in its environs but a hob is used less and can be wiped down easily

I’m stuck deciding between

*** Island Extractor Fan** - traditional extractor except fixed to ceiling rather than wall

  • pro: simple to install, vent
  • con: a bit ugly, even raised to usual max would be in my line of sight across kitchen/dining area

*** Downdraft/backdraft extractor **(pop ups behind the hob) sucks air behind, down and out (under floor in case of an island)
+pros: looks great, keeps open plan concept

  • cons: expensive, difficult to install correctly, possibly not as effective (surprisingly few reviews online)
  • pro: simple to install, no venting required, can look cool
  • con: recirculating so not as effective, would be in my line of sight