Glenna Woods and Gerry Warnock share how they successfully extended their home to face northerly views.

Glenna and Gerry were lucky to be able to buy a house within commuting distance of Dublin, and within walkable distance of the nearby village, at a reasonable price. Even though it did take them a while, they stuck to their guns of finding a detached home, mostly to allow them to play music as loud as they wanted.

But the house did have its drawbacks.

“The front door and porch were facing the road, to the south, and this set up didn’t suit us. One reason being privacy, the other the views,” explains Glenna. “We wanted to extend at the back however we struggled to see how these new north-facing rooms would get any sun. It took us three months to make up our minds on how we were going to change it.”

The solution came from their architect who turned the house on its head. Glenna and Gerry reflect on the experience to share their tips:


1. Install south-facing rooflights

To flood the north facing extension with daylight they built an A frame roofed extension with rooflights on the south facing side, to flood the hall and living/kitchen areas with light.
“At the very early stages we’d actually looked at a two-storey design but this requirement for southerly light, and the budget, dictated we go single storey,” adds Glenna.

She however recommends installing self-cleaning glass on the rooflights to reduce the number of call outs from professional window cleaners. “Our rooflights are hard to get at so my advice would be to make provisions at the design stage for how you will be maintaining them.”

2. Change around the position of windows and doors

The other clever design solution was to convert the original front door into a window and use the location of the back door, roughly, as the place to put their new front entrance.

“We still needed a back door, of course, so we enlarged the original kitchen window opening for that purpose,” adds Glenna.

3. Invest in artificial lighting

A lot of consideration was given to how they would complement the natural light coming from above. “Once we had the final plans, and before we appointed our builder, I met with a lighting consultant and that made a huge difference,” says Glenna.

“He gave professional advice which took everything into consideration so there was no quandary where to place fittings.”

4. If you have a lot of glazing, consider upgrading your heating system

Gerry wanted the sliding doors sized as big as possible, triple glazed at 12ftx12ft, and this worked out well as their views out onto the fields makes them feel very close to nature; on a clear day they can even see the Mourne mountains.

However being north facing, the windows suffer from the cold sheeting effect.

“In winter, sitting on the sofa my leg closest to the sliding doors will feel a bit cooler than the other. Thankfully in summer, overheating isn’t an issue as the rooflights provide cross ventilation,” reflects Glenna.

They kept their original oil boiler as it was able to cope with the extension – but just about. “The plumber said that adding even one extra radiator would have been too much,” adds Glenna wishing they had that extra capacity.

5. Insulate

The original cottage had been dry lined by previous owners with composite insulation board battened off the old walls; they soon realised it was damp with condensation.

“Our architect recommended stripping the walls and re-lining them with an airtight/vapour open dry lining system but we didn’t have the money to do it,” says Glenna. “So we just topped up the attic insulation, replaced the windows and insulated the existing timber floor with 150mm fibreglass laid in netting under the floorboards.”

One issue now is that the two properties are out of synch. “Whenever the heat isn’t on, there is a very noticeable difference in temperature between the extension and the cottage,” explains Glenna.

6. Ventilate

If you insulate you must ventilate to prevent the build-up of moisture; Glenna says she would have liked a larger wall vent in the downstairs bedroom as the window trickle vents aren’t always enough to keep the room fresh on warm nights when the curtains are closed.

She also cautions to make sure to consider the direction from which the wind blows, and avoid putting vents on a wall with prevailing winds to avoid nasty draughts.


House before: 105 sqm
House after: 177 sqm
Site cost: €157,000
Build cost: €200,000
Design and planning fees, furniture, landscaping, fencing, security, finishes & kitchen: €100,000
Market value: (house only) €350,000


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