The Self-Build Journey – Drawing the Plans

Self Build Journey with Haldane Fisher

The Self-Build Journey – Drawing The Plans with Haldane Fisher

There’s no doubt that the urge to build our own home, just as we want it is a strong one. Look at 100 houses and you will always find something you don’t like. For some of us, we just ignore that irritation and buy the house. But for those who can consider self-build, then you no longer have to do this. Instead, you can have the house of your dreams. But getting that house starts with drawing the plans and this isn’t something you can do yourself.

The Design Process

Successfully designing a home takes a lot of knowledge and expertise but it helps if you, the self-builder, has plenty of ideas about what you want before you talk to professionals. Write down a wish list of features, sketch out ideas for room layouts, anything that you really want should go on a priority list. Then you can start talking to professionals who can give you confirmation about what will work and what won’t.

There are DIY options available and if you have the right experience of qualifications, then you can go down this route. But many who have done this find themselves falling foul to the planning permission department or running into a brick wall called Building Regulations. Using a professional can help negotiate around these issues.

Working Through The Ideas

Once you find the right person to work through the process with you, you can start sharing your ideas and all those notes you made. Look at the most important stuff, the things you can’t live without. Then look at the next tier of things, the stuff you would love if possible. Finally, there may be room for those things you would like but can manage without.

All of this will be done from the perspective of the rules and regulations that effect any property. Planners can help with questions such as materials, shape, height and orientation of the home so it pays to understand these questions from the outset, saving time down the line.

You may also want to consider factors such as the energy efficiency of the building and the sustainability of the materials. This matter will have more importance for some than others but should always be a consideration. Houses built with these factors in mind might even have a better chance of getting planning permission. Also, down the line if you want to sell the house, these factors can have an impact on the value and sale-ability of the property.


The other big part of this process is looking at the budget you have and what this will allow you to do. We would all love a huge house with loads of bedrooms, bathrooms and an indoor swimming pool but not every budget will stretch to it! But even a limited budget doesn’t mean a poorly designed house – it just means making the most of what you have.

Working with an expert may seem an extra expense but is one that will pay for itself in terms of project success and simplification of the process. Then you will firmly be on the way to your dream home.

Haldane Fisher are exhibiting at this year’s Self Build & Improve Your Home Show on the 17th – 19th February at the Titanic Exhibition Centre, Belfast from 10.00am to 6.00pm each day.  Why not bring your plans to Stand F22 and allow our team to assist you in the building process. Our self-build offering will include; AGA Cookers, Bathroom Sanitaryware, Hormann Garage & Entrance Doors and Engineered Timber including roof trusses and joists.

To get your free tickets to attend, use the Promo code NORTHERN at

Fire Your Imagination – A Customer’s Guide to Buying a Stove

Haldane Fisher Stoves

Fire your imagination with Stoves available from Haldane Fisher

Wood burning stoves have long been a popular choice with consumers looking for efficient and natural ways to create heat in the home. The multi-fuel stove however is a relatively new addition to the market and it is quickly becoming popular for a variety of reasons. So might it be the perfect solution for your home?

What Are Multi-Fuel Stoves?

As their name suggests, multi-fuel stoves are able to burn different materials and are also referred to as mineral-fuel stoves. Typically, they can burn wood and coal as well as smokeless fuels although some do have different facilities and react differently depending on the fuel in use.

Because coal needs air to reach it to work properly, most multi-fuel stoves have what is called a riddling plate. This lets in air under the coals to generate the heat and also make it easy to remove ash that builds up once the coal has burnt. Wood works a little differently and burns best when sitting on ash, known as a firebox while the air circulates above.

Which Type Of Fuel Should You Choose?

As with most things, the fuel you choose to use in your stove will often depend on its cost. So let’s take a look at the pros and cons of some of your fuel options.

Wood – This is a very popular fuel given that it is a renewable and natural source which makes it cheaper than most other fuels. Using wood will also create less ash which means that you wont have to clean out your stove as often. On a negative note, seasoned wood can be hard to get your hands on in the winter, therefore you will need to stock up on it in the warmer months.

Smokeless Coal – A smokeless coal such as anthracite will burn for longer and create more heat than wood. There are also still smokeless coal delivery services available making it less necessary to store it over the winter. As with wood there are some downsides to using coal. One of the obvious negatives is that it is quite a messy fuel to store and use. There is also more maintenance required as the stove will need to be cleaned out after each use and your chimney will also need cleaning more often than if you used wood.

Choosing A Multi-Fuel Stove

One of the issues some people have with multi-fuel stoves is that they may not be laid out correctly to use both coal and wood and tend to be limited to one or the other. Therefore, when choosing a multi-fuel stove look for ones that allow you to control where the air circulates depending on what fuel is being used.

You might also want to consider what type of fuel you will burn the most and go for a model that is primarily optimised for this. So if you plan to burn wood 75% of the time and use coal and other fuels only occasionally, then look for a model that is laid out for wood and can be easily adapted for other fuels. Also, make sure that if you are in a smoke controlled area that the stove can burn smokeless fuels – these are normally DEFRA approved.

Heat Output And Physical Size

The other two main considerations when choosing a multi-fuel stove is the physical size and the heat output. The size is a very variable area so there is almost always one to fit any space in your home. However, you should have enough space to leave a gap between the stove and other items, at least 150mm is recommended to the sides and 50mm at the back.

Heat output is how much heat the stove will create and this should be appropriate for your home. Too small and it won’t heat the room but too big an output and your room will be uncomfortably hot. Heat output is measured in kilowatts and the amount of heat you need can be worked out roughly with a simple measurement. Multiple room length by width x height in metres and divide the figure by 14 – this tells you the output you need from your stove to adequately heat your room.

We sell multi fuel stoves from renowned brands such as AGA, Henley and Firewarm that allow the customer to burn a range of fuels such as wood and coal. This allows the customer to decide whether they want to use the stove purely as a wood burning stove or use a range of fuels.

Choosing The Right Roof Truss For Your Build

A house is made of a number of crucial components that work together to provide it with structural integrity, longevity and the ability to defend against the elements. At the top of the house, the roofing material is the first line of defence against the weather but a roof is only as strong as the trusses beneath it. So how do you know what kind of roof truss is right for your home?

Basics Roof Trusses

Roof trusses are structural components that take the weight of roofing material such as tiles or slates. They are made most commonly from either timber or from steel and are nailed, pegged or bolted together to create a supportive roof base. Trusses are common in both homes and business premises as opposed to stick roof framing because it is stronger and can handle the weight load correctly. These trusses are often made in elsewhere and brought to the construction site ready to install so this also reduces the time needed to finish the property.

Roof trusses are generally more economical than other options because they are usually made from 2 x 4 stock which is a lot less expensive than the material used in stick roof framing. The trusses also can be installed by a number of tradesmen rather than needed a specialist on site, also saving money on the project.

Types Of Truss

While there are a number of different designs and formations of roof trusses available, most homes tend to use one of a smaller number of tried and tested styles. These are used around the country on most of the homes built as well as in properties being renovated where new roof trusses are required.

The king post truss is one of the most popular styles, mostly due to its durability, able to withstand the tension of a building for a long period of time. The design uses two main rafters along a central vertical post, called a king post, and a tie beam.

The queen post truss is often confused for the King Post Truss but is different. The queen truss uses two main rafters, the same as the king but it has two vertical posts rather than one. This makes for a bigger span and can even be expanded further using spliced joints.

The raised tie truss is used to make vaulted ceilings in the house and is where the ceiling is lifted to above the wall plate height.

The scissor truss is given its name for its resemblance to an open pair of scissors. The bottom part of the truss crosses one over another and then connect to the top part, known as the chords.

Most of the time, selecting the type of roof trusses needed for a project will be done by the architects or builders on the projects. But as with anything to do with your home, a good basic understanding of what they do and what benefits the different types offer means you are best informed when the decisions are made.

Which Type of Brick Do You Need?

When it comes to choosing building materials it may seem that you are overwhelmed by choice. However, each and every brick type that is available throughout the UK has its own set of benefits and is ideally suited to a range of purposes.

This guide looks at some of the most popular bricks and what type of build they are most suited to.

Clay Bricks

Common Bricks

Bricks that have no control on their appearance or colour are known as common bricks. They have a low compressive strength and are often seen as being lower quality then other types of clay bricks. These should only be used above ground and are most commonly found in internal brickwork.

Engineering Bricks

If you are looking for a brick with high compressive strength as well as low water absorption then the engineering brick is for you. They are most commonly used for below ground level work and for Damp Proofing.

Facing Bricks

Facing bricks are bricks designed to create a aesthetically pleasing external look to a property. They come in a variety of colours and sizes and are the most popular type of bricks used in building work.

There are a variety of different types of facing bricks including; wirecut, stock bricks and waterstruck.

  • Wirecut bricks are the most common in the UK. During the process the clay is passed through a brick shaped die, giving a sharp and crisp brick, followed with the look being determined by adding sand for texture. This clay is then cut into shape and fired individually in the kiln.
  • Stock bricks are moulded by machine with a tool called a frog indent. The wet clay is pushed into these sanded moulds and gives the bricks a soft texture and irregular shape.
  • Waterstruck bricks are released from their moulds using water. They do not contain any holes or frogs and are completely solid.

Reclaimed Bricks

As the name suggests, reclaimed bricks are those that have been reclaimed from other sources. Often demolition sites. These come in a variety of formats including handmade, facing and engineering.

It is usual for reclaimed bricks to be worn and have irregular sides due to their original use.

However, they also have a sense of character and uniqueness that appeals to many people.


Unfortunately handmade bricks are not common to find anymore, despite this being the traditional method of crafting bricks. These bricks often have a real sense of distinction when compared to machine crafted bricks, however, due to the rare nature of the handmade process now in brick manufacturing; these types of bricks can be costly.

So now you know more about the different types of bricks, you can decide which one is ideal for your property. Whether it is for internal brickwork, work below the ground or simply to make the property look great. Bricks really do have everything that you are looking for.

10 Winter Preparation Tips For Your Home

Winter Tips For Home

Winter is well and truly on it’s way and it’s set to be another cold one. With that in mind it’s time to prepare yourself, and your home for the freezing weather. We have put together 10 tips on how to ensure your home is ready for winter.

Check The Mains Water Stop Tap

Make sure the tap is able to turn to isolate the water supply in the event of an emergency. Consider fitting a “Superstop” stopcock: the easy way to turn water off.

Lag Pipe Work

Ensure all your pipes are lagged properly inside and outside your home to prevent freezing and flooding should a cold snap take you by surprise. Consider fitting a frost watcher heater in your attic.


Clear all your guttering of dead leavers and other debris to allow rain water to flow freely. This will prevent damage to the buildings and drainage systems.

Check Thermostats Are Working Correctly

They control temperature and provide a comfortable living environment while helping to reduce energy costs.

Boiler Servicing

Have your boiler serviced and your heating system checked over by a registered service engineer to ensure it’s working efficiently. You should also consider adding antifreeze to your heating system as an extra precaution.

Roof Insulation

Ensure your home is not losing unnecessary heat through the roof by fitting additional insulation between 200-300mm thick.

Water Storage Cylinders

Make sure they are lagged to reduce energy bills.

Be Kinder To The Environment

Why not consider replacing your old inefficient boiler with a new High Efficiency Oil or Gas Condensing Boiler and save money on bills over time.

Dripping Taps

Repair and replace broken taps to prevent complete tap failure and the possibility of flooding.


Make sure you have the details of a trusted plumber to hand in case of emergency. Contact us for a list of approved tradesmen.

Why It Might be Time to Renovate Your Garage

Hormann Garage Doors

Let’s step back and take a look at your garage – does it ever see the car apart from parked outside? Is it full of stuff in a random manner that could probably do with going to the tip or at least being sorted into some semblance of order? Do you feel like it is a completely wasted space? If the answer is yes to any of these, then it might be time to renovate your garage.

What Can You Do?

So what uses are there for a garage that is otherwise sitting around doing nothing? The answer is a surprisingly large amount! One of the classic uses for a converted garage is as a playroom for the kids or a games room when they get older. Once the basic work is done you can add a big screen TV for their games consoles or other features that allows them to have their own dedicated space.

A home gym is another popular idea, allowing you to exercise when you want and only have the equipment you use within it. It can save you gym membership money in the long run and motivate you to use it as there are no opening times to contend with.

A hobby or interest space is another idea where you can work at what you love without interfering with the normal running of the house. From woodworking to art to crafts, a garage can make a perfect studio or workshop. Just be sure to take a look into adding the extra room to your existing property insurance.

Planning Permission

Before you start doing anything with your garage, you should check out if you need planning permission and if there are any building regulations involved. In most cases, planning permission isn’t needed unless you are altering the structure of the garage so if the work is purely internal, you are okay. The only exceptions are if the property is listed or in a conservation area, while some newly built properties may require it.

Building regulations will apply to any changes you make and all you need to do is contact your local authority with the relevant information. They will let you know about any rules that apply to your plans and will send a building inspector once it is done to give a certificate of completion.

Making The Space Usable

If you plan to use the garage for anything more than storing your car or your junk, then you might need to make some basic alterations to it. Insulation and damp proofing are two examples that are often left off garages but will be needed for a comfortable liveable space. There are regulations about the U value of the property and the damp proofing layers that are required which a good builder can explain in full.

Plumping and wiring will also likely be considered depending on the use of the garage you envision. Any kind of electrical work needs an electrician to complete and will need to be connected to the mains unless the usage is going to be minimal. Plumbing may not be needed unless you want running water to the space.

Get the Best Materials for Your Home Extension

Self Build Extension

As the housing market continues to be a bit unpredictable, more and more people are looking to extending their existing homes rather than moving to a new, bigger one. Adding to the rear of the property can be a big benefit to the overall size of the property and the extra space can be used for a wide range of things with games rooms, home gyms and offices for freelancers being particular popular. While trying to keep the budget down for your extension is always the aim, getting the best materials is also a huge benefit. So what are the best options?


Stone is perhaps the most expensive material to construct your extension but if you live in a conversation area, national park of Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) then you might not have much choice. Listed buildings also require any extension (if it gets permission) to be in keeping with the original house and this often means stone.

There are advantages to stone, hence the reason it has been a building material for thousands of years. It’s tough, for starters and it’s very weather and moss resistant. Most of the time if stone is required for an extension, then it will be used as an exterior finish with other materials inside it and an insulating layer between the two.


Brick tops the list in terms of house construction materials because it is highly versatile, cost effective and easy to obtain. If your house is brick built, then you will often want the extension to fit in with it and look much the same. It is common for cheaper, less finished bricks to be used in construction and finished with a finer quality, more expensive brick outside, similar to what is done with stone.


Block or breeze block is without doubt the cheaper construction material but doesn’t look so great so is usually finished with something a little fancier such as brick or stone. Block is ideal for modern dual-layer walls and can even be finished with a layer of rendering for a modern look.


Glass is most often associated with conservatories but there are some modern designers who are using more glass in their extensions. This can make the area more energy efficient, gaining heat and light from the sun and retaining this through the use of double glazing. Glass also looks very decorative although isn’t as popular if the created space is going to be used a bedroom in some cases.


Wood is one of the original building materials, pre-dating stone and brick which have come to replace it. Wood was seen as old-fashioned and impractical but modern developments have brought it back to the list of the best materials.

Kitchen Renovation Ideas For 2016

Kitchen Refurb

No matter how much you love your kitchen, there comes a time when renovation is needed. Whether it is simply refreshing the cupboard doors and drawer fronts, changing a few key elements or a complete overhaul of the space, the kitchen is a hardworking room and this work always pays off. So here are a few kitchen renovation ideas to get you started.


The kitchen is as much about storage as it is about cooking and cleaning. Food, pots and pans, cutlery and a host of other items all need somewhere to live and getting the balance between useful storage and clutter can be difficult.

While kitchen cabinets are great for hiding everything away, sometimes it can be good to open everything up. Kitchen shelves rather than cupboards is a popular choice at the moment, using wood that coordinates with door colours and making use of a few accessories alongside the practical elements. Another idea for kitchen shelves are those that come in a laminate look that mimics the countertops. This creates a harmonious look from bench to ceiling.

If you have too much clutter on shelves in your kitchen, then why not look at pantry storage? Use a cupboard to keep all of those bottles and jars and grab some of the nifty storage solutions available to organise them. Keeping things like herbs and spices out of the daylight can also prolong their lifespan and maintain freshness.

Little changes

Renovating the kitchen doesn’t mean scrapping everything and starting again in all cases. For example, if your doors and drawers look good but you hate the handles, then simply replace them. You can change the feel of a room just by altering the hardware on the units and use the theme or colour in other elements of the room.

Tiles are another little change that can be made that can have an amazing effect on the room. Going for a splash of colour or pattern or even just styled white tiles can add something new to the room without having to change a single cupboard.

A new light fixture is another great little touch to change the room. You can follow the style you want or go for something practical such as a rail with directional spotlights on it, allowing you to shine light in all corners of the room. For an extra practical touch, add under cabinet lighting too – LEDs are great for this and very cost efficient to run.

The big stuff

Gone are the days where kitchen cupboards had to be a wood effect and painting them in colour is a great way to overhaul the look of the room. There are now ranges of special paint designed for the purpose with a full range of bright and subtle shades to suit any taste.

A new kitchen sink is a great way to change the look and feel of a room and many now drop into the bench so replacing them with a new style may simply be a case of measuring the gap and picking from the candidates available. Add new taps to complete the change of look, tying them in with new cupboard hardware.

Why Choose Glulam & Posi Joists?

When looking at the construction of a building, one of the most crucial areas is the flooring. The design of the structure and the flooring used on this foundation is critical to the long term strength of the property as well as making for a well-designed and visually pleasing end result. Two of the newer ideas on the market are Glulam and Posi Joists. But what are they and why would you use them?


Glulam Example

Glued laminated timber, known as glulam, is a structural timber product that uses a number of layers of timber that are bonded together with a highly durable and moisture resistant adhesive made specially for structural jobs. Because of this design system, glulam is very flexible in its size with variations ranging from 45mm x 45mm right up to250mm x 1800mm x 30 metres long. It is an environmentally sustainable material that needs no mining or high energy processing in the way that steel or cement does and creates a warm and comfortable feel to any building in which it is installed.

Glulam is also lightweight, relieving stress on the underlying elements of the house and is one-sixth the weight of a reinforced concrete beam and two-thirds the weight of steel. Because it is lightweight it is also very easy to work with and is also fire resistant. It confirms to the Approved British Standards 4169:1988 and BS EN 386:1995.

With glulam being made as it is, it can also be created into various specifications depending on the needs of the property. It is very durable and can even work in very corrosive environments such as in a swimming pool where the humidity and chlorine levels can cause serious problems to other types of materials.

Posi joists

Reduced Posi Joists

Due to the ever changing demands for sustainable homes that also have a range of ventilation and heat recovery systems, more and more architects and builders are looking for open web flooring systems to meet these needs. One of the most popular of these are the posi joists and strut system. The combination of the lightness of the timber and the special steel web structures means that the system can cover greater distances than other forms. It also allows for a greater variety of internal layouts and a larger range of design freedom in domestic, commercial and industrial properties.

Another major advantage of the system is that there are far few components to put into place than in a traditional softwood floor. This means it is both cheaper and quicker to install. Carpenters don’t spend large amounts of time drilling holes and accommodating the electrics and plumbing facilities that are required. The system also requires less bracing material than other systems and there are no herringbone strutting required.

Finally, once the property is complete, the posi joist system allows easier access for maintenance and alterations than most other systems. So once ventilation and heating systems are installed, they can be easily reached for servicing and alterations. This can continue to save money in time and effort needed to do the work.

Specifying Materials For Your Self Build

Self Build Northern Ireland

Being hands-on with your self build project has many advantages but it can also be overwhelming when you realise the sheer scale of choices that you are faced with when deciding on building materials. Every aspect of the build will require a huge number of decisions and to add to the confusion you may find that your requirements change as the build progresses.  To make your life easier and ensure the build goes according to your schedule and budget you will need to decide on your materials and eliminate those that don’t fit with your budget or style early on in the process. 

Sometimes Alternatives Are Better

You may be tempted to go for authentic materials such as wood and stone but there are lots of modern alternatives which are a lot cheaper and in some cases they actually perform and look better. A good example of this is using slate and stone cladding instead of natural stone. Often alternative materials are easier to install than their natural counterparts so they require less skill to install. This will lower the cost of installation or make it easier for you to do yourself.

Which Wood To Choose

When building your own home it’s likely that you will be needing lots of wood for a variety of uses. Wood is a great building material as it’s strong and durable while being flexible and renewable and it looks great as well. The type of timber you choose depends on what you are using it for.

Wood is strong, durable, long lasting, restorable, recyclable, renewable and of course, attractive. With so many different types of wood available you should consider what you need it for and allocate a form of wood best suited to each job. For example engineered timber is perfect for flooring, pressure-treated timber is great for decking and western red cedar is ideal for fencing so the wood you choose depends on its purpose. Your budget also plays a big role in which wood you choose as you may want solid oak floors but may find that your budget only allows for laminate. Once again specifying the best materials to suit your decor and budget is important.

Know Where To Look

So where can you find the best range of materials to choose from for your self build? Thankfully there are some useful online tools available for specifiers to search a huge range of building products, materials and fixtures and they also act as a comparison tool which is ideal when you are faced with lots of choice.

Knowing where to source your materials and building products is essential for saving you both time and money when undergoing a self build as you can be assured that you have chosen the best materials that your budget allows and are able to eliminate others early in the process. As with any build good planning is vital and this includes specifying materials at an early stage.