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RTÉ One,Sunday, 9.30pm
Dermot Bannon: Architect

Dermot's Top Five Tips

Dermot Bannon

1. Light:
If you're planning an extension think about where the light is coming from. Light is the most important thing in any building. If the place doesn't have the proper sunlight you can throw your hat at it.

2. Function:
Make sure your functions relate to each other. Think how you will use the house. Maybe open plan will suit you and maybe it will not. So think holistically. See how you live your life and prioritise the rooms accordingly. If you don't cook very much there's no point in putting the kitchen at the back where the light and view is.

3. View:
Always maximise the views. For Room to Improve we did a house in Glasnevin that had a lovely south-west facing garden. There was a door at the back with two tiny windows and heavy blinds so you couldn't see the garden. If you have any kind of an outside space, make your house relate to it because it can be another room.

4. Keep it pure and simple:
Work from a blank canvas. People will pick a floor or choose a fireplace or a painting separately and look at things in an individual way and not together. I'm not a great believer in decor - lots of soft furnishings and that. Animate the house yourself with your own possessions and things that you love. I often see people buying paintings just because they match the carpet.

5. Proportion:
Everything has to be in proportion. Treat a room as a volume and not a plan: that is three-dimensional rather than two-dimensional. In practical terms, it means that a large room will require a higher ceiling so that you don't get that tunnel effect. The elevation of a wall is like a blank canvas - all windows and doors have to be in proportion to that space.

Patricia's Tips on Setting and Managing a Budget!

Avoid disappointment, be realistic at the outset, it is vital that your budget and wish list are sensible, and can be achieved. The earlier you find this out the better, before you are months down the line after a lot of hard work, only to realize you can't afford to build your dream home.

Items to be included in the Overall Budget:

  • Set your build budget; this can be done by limitation of your actual finances available, and or a cost per sq ft for the size of build or refurbishment required, seek advise from a professional quantity surveyor on appropriate rates.
  • As life can be very un-predictable, it is wise to allow a contingency sum for possible unforeseen works (usually 5% -10% of build cost).
  • Allow for professional fees; Architect, Engineer, Quantity Surveyor, Land Surveyor etc (overall 10-15% of the build cost)
  • Budget for Indirect building costs - planning fees, charges, contributions, utility charges i.e. electricity connection, gas supply, Eircom etc. These are not part of a builder's price.
  • Make a provision for your fit-out items: Kitchen and utility appliances, loose furniture, curtains, mirrors, pictures etc. These are also not part of a builder's price.

Managing the Budget

  • Once the design is in place, a detailed cost plan should be carried out by a professional quantity surveyor, which leads to an analysis of the design versus budget. See if there are any specifications or finishes that could be altered to bring about a saving without affecting the aesthetics, or any areas that could be post poned to be done at a later stage or omitted in their entirety.
  • Within the actual build costs, there is a list of client chosen items; i.e. Kitchens, sanitary ware (bath, toilet, wash hand basin etc), utility units, stove, gas fires etc. Do some shopping around and set or adjust these budgets yourself to reflect your style and standard.
  • When reviewing quotes from builders, try and ensure you get a full breakdown to their costs, as well as looking at what is included in the costs, look for what's not included, what's missing! When comparing builders make sure you are comparing like for like quotes, apples with apples, and oranges with oranges.
  • Try and tender some of the larger cost items to a range of specialist sub-contractors, so you can control the specification and the cost; for example, windows and doors.
  • Generally the plumbing and electrical installations can be approximate 20-25% of the overall build cost, and these often get over looked until it's too late. Ensure you are specific in your requests for heating, type of radiators, under-floor heating, boilers, stoves, solar heating etc.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for different price options in the tender, so you have all the answers when the prices are in to make accurate decisions. Be specific in your list of electrical points required on a room by room basis, as when this gets to site stage you will be charge for each additional point, and this can add up quite quickly.
  • Keep in close contact with the builder and the team to ensure all is going to plan, the earlier you know a problem, the more chance you have of mitigating or reducing its cost.
  • Try and reduce the amount of unknowns as early as possible into the build i.e. selecting your tiles, floor finishes, doors, ironmongery etc. This may give you flexibility to add or put towards other works.
  • Always ensure you only pay your builder for work done and materials on site, so you don't make an over payment.
  • Keep a track of your spending and of any changes, thus prices changes so you can record your overall spend, this should be constantly updated so at any point in the build you are always aware of your bottom line.

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