The Sunday Independent – Advice Clinic

Click here to view link to The Sunday Independent article

Architect's Clinic Patti O'Neill


Heat seekers: How do we insulate an old cottage?

PUBLISHED 21/02/2016 | 02:30

Q: WE live in an old stone-built house (1890s) and are currently planning a new extension to it. Keeping the existing house warm in the winter is becoming increasingly difficult. What options are available to us in terms of insulating our home? And what materials should we consider for the new extension?

A: When thinking of your home, consider it your second skin. Your skin is breathable and carries out several functions so why shouldn’t your floors, walls and roof be doing the same for you? In dwellings this can be translated into the right choice of materials. On our island, moisture is one of the biggest features of our climate so let’s embrace it instead of fighting it. Old buildings are great teachers for learning about naturally breathable and moisture-regulating materials.

In the case of your stone house, it is important to remove any cement concrete on the floors and walls to allow moisture to pass through freely. Cement, gypsum boards, plastic membranes and polyurethane insulations have no place here. Lime, clay, wood, sheep wool are some of the materials that regulate room humidity levels, absorbing and releasing moisture readily. Sheep wool is not only a great insulator it is also hygroscopic and able to purify the air in a room, for example, removing many odours and harmful substances such as formaldehyde. Many of these products carry out multiple functions to create healthy living environments, whilst also being ecologically sustainable products that don’t leave mountains of waste for the next generations.

You can also use the same approach – treating your house as a living, breathing structure – in the new extension to your home by using similar natural materials which have been processed and improved by modern technologies. An example for a masonry wall is the monolithic clay Poroton block with a special honeycomb structure, which has breathability and thermal mass attributes. It eliminates the need for the onerous cavity, ties and fixing of polyurethane insulations as used in the ubiquitous cement concrete block walls.

If your new extension is going to be a timber-frame construction, wood-fibre tongue and grooved boards in combination with 100pc sheep wool insulation allows for vapour-permeable walls without plastic membranes. A product made from the glass recycling industry ‘foam glass gravel’ has been used successfully under buildings for insulation with additional structural functions, again simplifying the construction and eliminating the need for polymer products. Many of the suppliers of these natural products also have retro-fit solutions.

It is important to remember that value for money lies not in the cheapest product out there but in the product that performs numerous functions and benefits you most by creating a long-lasting healthy living environment. We don’t know what a lot of these synthetic materials will do in the long run and what toxins they emit over time, so why not be safe and keep it natural?

A registered architect can advise you on the best insulation products and technologies for your home, check on for a registered architect near you.

Patti O’Neill – Dipl-Ing Architect, MRIAI, Conservation Accreditation Grade III – can be contacted on

Grant of Planning Permission

We are delighted to announce the successful planning application for the protected structure of Ballyhogan House for its refurbishment and extension giving a new life and a new face to the building.

14017 Web Model 151028




Patti’s Cottage as seen on RTE1 ‘Home of the Year 2015’


View Excerpts of the Program

About the Architect

Judge’s comments


Shinawil film crew patiently working all day 


for 7 minutes of tv screening!



before the works began


during works


view of fire-place before the works with all the cement!


 view of kitchen before the works


For more information please view: ‘Cottage Restoration’

Island Dwelling in The Irish Independent

Stunning Galway home – featured in The Irish Independent

Stunning Galway home commended at International Architecture fair

A County Galway home on the island of Inis Óirr has been showcased at a leading international architecture fair.

The three bedroom house was designed by Tipperary based architect Patti O’Neill and featured at the BAU fair in Munich last month. The home takes advantage of the wild ocean views surrounding the site and encapsulates the surrounding rugged landscape of Inis Óirr.

The construction of the home was originally thought out by husband and wife Brigid and Kevin Keane in 2009. The pair wanted to make the most of the site’s stunning surrounding scenery. Following Kevin’s death in 2010, Brigid made a decision to carry on with the project assisted by O’Neill Architecture. The home is made up of poroton monolithic clay blocks, which were imported from Germany for the build.

The beautiful build is spread out over two stories and offers breathtaking views of the ocean and the Cliffs of Moher.

ONA Showcased at the BAU 2015 fair in Munich

JUWÖ POROTON-WERKE in association with ‘Mein Ziegelhaus – Verband’ showcased our project on Inisheer at the BAU 2015 building & architecture fair in Munich this January. It even made in on to the front cover of their magazine!

Read More

Town house Fit-Out – Practical Completion

Practical completion has been achieved for our semi-detached town houses. In contrast to our last update on the fit-out of this project in September 2013 the spaces has gotten colour and are furnished well thanks to Interior Designer Michael O’Mara.

Town House Refurb

Read More