The Second Fix stage of a build consists of the finishing touches. This is when you start to see your house becoming a home and when the move-in date looks a lot closer in sight. After Christmas and once our floors dried out we got our electrician Denis Lavery Electrical to come back to fit our light switches, plugs, fuse board, etc. You require an electrical certificate from your registered electrician before ESB will make the connection to your dwelling. It took approx. 2 weeks for this connection from the certificate lodgement date, however, there is an ESB connection application form that is required to be filled out and submitted and a connection fee paid prior to this stage and you should allow a couple of months time-frame for this.
While we were waiting on the electricity to be connected, our heating specialists NuTherm came back to install the horizontal collectors in the garden. This consisted of temporarily excavating 1-2 metres of ground to allow for the installation of the surface collectors that are laid at approx. 1.2 metres below ground level. These collectors absorb energy stored in the ground via plastic pipes distributed over a large area. The area required will be specifically designed by your specialist to suit the size of your dwelling and needs.
The above picture shows the geothermal hot water cylinder, which is basically the whole system fitted into the tall white unit, which is appox. the same size as a fridge. We have this unit located in our utility room on ground floor level, off the kitchen.
NuTherm also installed our Mechanical Heat Recovery Ventilation system, which is shown in the picture below and located in our hotpress on 1st floor level.
Our Main Contractor Seamus Friel & Sons carried out all our service connections at this time and they hired Patrick McDaid Plant Hire, Buncrana to clear and level the site. Patrick was very professional and created a top quality finish. We also contacted Vodafone to get a new connection for a telephone line and internet. Again you need to allow up to 1 month time-frame for this connection.
My childhood home is just to the rear of our site so we got Patrick to create a path up to mum’s, which is so handy for us and the kids… ‘Built-in sitters’ up the hill ;
To help keep the build moving while we were waiting on the heat to be turned on our main contractor, Seamus Friel & Sons, arranged for the painters to come in and undercoat the whole interior of the house. We used a very reputable award winning company called McCann Decor Ltd., Painting and Decorating Contractor, who are based in Derry, for our entire project. I had seen their quality of work over the past few years and wanted to ensure we used a top quality painter for our house. McCann Decor had recently been crowned Supreme Winner of Johnstone’s Painter of the Year 2016 for their fantastic work on St. Columba’s Church, Derry.
The first undercoat of paint made the house feel bigger and brighter instantly.
The next step was choosing a staircase. As our staircase is seen as soon as you come in the front door I wanted this space to stand out and have a different contemporary style. I researched high and low and spent many late nights trailing Pinterest and found an image of the style of stairs that was perfect and that I’d fallen in love with:
However, my husband wasn’t long putting his say on the stairs and alterations to make to them. He has a joinery background so I had to take off my tinted glasses and listen with reason. He totally ruled out the return flight of floating stairs with open risers and a glass balustrade, and to be honest I know a glass balustrade would not stay clean for 1 day in our house with small kids and sticky fingers. So we compromised and came to an agreement that we were both happy with. The next questions was….who could we employ that would create our bespoke staircase?
We appointed O’Neill Bros Master Joiners, Derry. O’Neill Bros have been in operation for over 50 years and have an amazing portfolio behind them of wonderful bespoke joinery works so our confidence with their firm was very high. We knew if anyone could create our dream staircase it was them.
We met with Dessie O’Neill and Gerry Harrigan who talked us through the process and gave a very professional service and opinion on the best way to achieve this style of staircase.
They created a frame first and then clad the frame in a stained white oak solid finish. It took many samples to create the right colour finish but O’Neill Bros’s did a wonderful job.
They also manufactured our bespoke front door, which was too large in width and height for a standard composite door so we hired their services for our main front door. Again I found an image on Pinterest (1st photo below) and they created the style to suit our sizing. Our door is 1m wide by 2.4m high so it gives a sense of grandness to the main entrance of our home (2nd photo below). The colour we chose is ‘Vert de Terre’ from Farrow and Ball’s colour chart.
Our domestic plumber, Stephen O’Sullivan of SOS Plumbing , Heating & Leak Detection, came back to fit all our sanitary ware, which we purchased from Elite Showers & Bathrooms based on Garvagh, Northern Ireland. Stephen from Elite is an old college friend of mine and I was amazed at the variety of stock they had at very reasonable prices. I saw their products on Facebook throughout the years but had never visited their showroom, which is based in Garvagh and each member of staff was very helpful and knowledgeable when it came to choosing the right products for our needs. They also provided free delivery to Buncrana, which was a bonus!
We decided to tile the entire ground floor, with the exception of solid engineered boards in the living area and sitting room. Tiles are rated the highest efficiency for underfloor heating. The tiler we used was Brian McConomy, Derry. Our Contractor uses his services quite regularly and we had worked along side him in other residential projects within our practice so we were confident with his standard of work. Brian and his team done a fantastic job. We sourced the majority of our tiles from McDaid’s Bathroom, Plumbing Tiles, Buncrana.
McDaid’s have a magnificent showroom in Cockhill, Co. Donegal and a great team of experts. The only problem we had at this stage was choosing from the wide variety of wonderful tiles on display.
For our main entrance hall I loved the idea of using a natural timber finish but knew I’d be watching everyone’s shoes (especially high heels) as they entered the house and wishing for them to be taken off so we opted for a timber effect tile that will stand the main traffic flow of the house and be durable. A lot of people so far have thought these tiles are real timber. We sourced this tile from Boyce Tiles & Bathrooms, Carndonagh.
We also purchased our inset Stanley stove from McDaid’s Bathroom Plumbing Tiles. They have a vast array of stoves on display and an expert adviser to help chose the right stove for your room size. We wanted a more modern look to a standard traditional stove as it suited the style of our house better. The one we chose can burn all types of fuel.
The engineered solid timber floor we chose for our living room, which steps down from the kitchen area, and also our sitting room is from a very reputable local company Scott’s Flooring, based in Bridgend, Co. Donegal.
I love the warmth of timber floors but was afraid that underfloor heating would warp the boards, however, Philip of Scott’s Flooring assured us their boards are treated and engineered precisely for this reason. They supply floors all over the world and have a very prestigious name in the timber flooring industry and we couldn’t of been luckier to have such a reputable company right on our doorstep. Choosing the timber finish wasn’t an easy task but again Philip was very helpful and professional in guiding us through what feels like another ‘life or death’ decision. We opted for the Oak Smoked and White, 220mm boards, which I absolutely adore. For the house you will spend the rest of your life living in, a good solid timber floor is worth investing in!
Floor It based in Letterkenny, fitting specialists, fitted our solid floor from Scott’s and created a fantastic finish. It is very important to use an experienced fitter for a high quality floor as they can advise when the screed is dry enough for fitting and if it’s not they can recommend specific products that will seal and dry the floor within 24 hours. Shaun from Floor It has many years of experience and we would high recommend his work.
On first floor level we debated to-and-fro on what type of floor finish to use as we didn’t want the underfloor heating to be blocked by using a heavy carpet and we also wanted a finish that would be easy cleaned and kept for a young family (baby no.3 is on the way so I was cautious of night feeds and possible “spills”). We decided to go for a timber effect laminate board finish, with an underlay that is specifically designed for underfloor heating. We purchased this laminate flooring from Hegarty’s Home Interiors, based in Buncrana, who have a very large display of home interior products to chose from. Again, what a great shop to have right on our doorstep.
Seamus Friel & Son’s carried out all our second fix joinery work and nothing we asked was ever a problem. Their attention to detail was second to none.
In our sitting room we decided to remove the open fire due to energy efficiency so I wanted to add something to this room that would still provide a feature wall. I have previously decorated feature walls with bespoke wallpaper but I wanted to try something new so between our joiners and myself we created a paneled TV wall, which I wanted to paint a dark colour to give it more depth. This simple technique has added a lot of character to the room.
To access our attic space we have a trap door and it was vital that this door was insulated and airtight as we have a cold roof. Again, I searched the internet for such a specific product and found the exact system in Coyles Arro, Buncrana at a very reasonable price.
We purchased all our doors, skirting and architraves from Exclusive Doors and Floors, based in Springtown Industrial Estate, Derry.
Kevin from Exclusive Doors and Floors was very helpful and their showroom is fantastic if you are unsure on what style you want to go for as they have all kinds of joinery work on display. We had purchased timbers from them in the past and we couldn’t of recommended them highly enough. Their prices are also very reasonable and it was a no-brainier for us to use their services again. They also delivered free of charge to Buncrana.
We opted for 2-panelled solid pre-primed internal doors, with a 6 inch pre-primed skirting board and a 3.5 inch architrave with an additional hockey stick surround to give the architrave additional depth. Before visiting Exclusive’s showroom I didn’t even know what a ‘hockey stick’ finish was but I loved the extra detail it gave to the door surround.
We painted all our joinery work ‘Cornforth White’ from Farrow and Ball colour chart with a sheen finish.
Now to the final part of our second fix and the heart of the home….our kitchen! As I’ve mentioned before, my husband comes from a joinery background having spent over 10 years working with a local kitchen company Crana Joinery Kitchen Specialists, based in Buncrana, so choosing our kitchen specialist came easy to us. Michael had seen their quality of finish and knew their standard of work so we were more than delighted to work with them on our dream kitchen.
From the minute we arrived at Crana Kitchens showroom Roisin was very attentive talking us through all the different types of finishes and showing us their wonderful kitchen displays. We were fortunate that Michael came from a kitchen manufacturing background and knew what sizes to allow for units and I could use my drawing skills to have a plan and elevation drawing ready for this first meeting. We had the design knuckled down to a tee but we were unsure of what colour to go with, worktop and door handles to choose from. In the end we opted for a solid painted kitchen in ‘Hague Blue’ from Farrow and Ball with a white marble effect worktop and matching splashback.
The timber finish on our island is from DG Mobile Sawmill, Buncrana, which is a solid elm wood that was cut and finished by Crana Joinery. This solid piece of timber creates so much character to the island and is one of the main features that finishes the kitchen off.
For our larder door I loved the idea of a sliding barn style door so Exclusive Doors & Floors supplied the door, we purchased the rail from Amazon and Crana Joinery painted the door to match our kitchen units. I wanted the door to be painted the same colour as the kitchen as the larder is essential the heart of our kitchen.
All the above brought us to March and we were approaching our move in date of “Easter”. We put the pressure on and we managed to meet our deadline and got moved in on Good Friday (which was stressful to say the least). I want to dedicate a blog to our completion stage with still many suppliers and products to show you as a finished product, which I hope to write about soon. I’ve discovered I’m not a very good blogger with running a practice, family and getting time to write a blog but I hope to have the final piece up soon.