Thursday 26 April 2018

Ask the experts

New Extension

The new plans for my extension come very close to a large old tree in my garden. I'd also like to build a decking area but this would be overshadowed by the tree. Should I just cut it down now or is there a way around it?

TREE removal should be a last resort for constructing an extension. Nevertheless you should consider the possibility that the tree may die due to cutting of part of its roots or the disruption of the soil around it during construction.

In general the roots of the tree will lie about 600mm below the ground and extend further horizontally than the height of the tree.

But before commencing any work, engage a qualified arborist who is certified by the International Society of Arboriculture,, who will review your plans and the current health of the tree. If you do decide to keep the tree there are a number of points to consider.

A protection zone should be erected around the tree during the construction phase.

Although your arborist will advise further on this, to estimate a root protection area take the stem diameter at approximately 1.5m above ground level, multiply by 12 and use the result as the radius from the centre of the tree.

For it to remain healthy, this area should not be incorporated in the construction area and should be hand dug if necessary. It should not be used as a storage area for building materials and building cable connections should not snake through this area. Depending on the design of your extension you should be prepared to clear the roof and gutters of any falling debris from the tree. Other questions that need to be considered include: Can you safely and easily access this roof area?

Will the tree cast a strong shade on your extension or decked area and is this your desired result? If not consider trimming the canopy.

What is the likely result of extreme weather on the tree? If it falls will it cause considerable damage to your home? If you do decide to remove it, any works should be carried out by trained people as it can be dangerous work.

Regarding the decked area, if done carefully a striking external area around the tree can be created without impacting on the health of the tree.

Ruth Kealy Architect


Recently I noticed some very pretty meadow flowers along roadside verges. How can we create meadow planting in our garden?

IN mid summer large sprays of ox-eye daisies, bird’s foot trefoil, cow parsley, cornflower and poppies along roadside verges are jaw-dropping in their splendour.

Contrary to what you may think, wildflower meadows do not arise from rich cultivated land, but rather tend to colonise poor, nutrient-deficient soil.

Natural meadow lands have often come about due to the lack of competition from woodland that could not establish. Meadows also predominate where grassland is grazed by cattle or sheep and hence the wildflower mixture is not overly dominated by grass. The pretty cowslip is purported to have obtained their vernacular name from the fact that the germination of their seeds takes place in cow pats.

To establish your own plot of a scene from a Monet painting, ideally a large tract of land will be required. Meadow planting is not for those obsessed with a manicured garden, indeed some may interpret it as low maintenance, with established meadows requiring only two cuts a year.

Ensure that you don’t mow until the wildflowers of annual varieties set seed to ensure a succession of flowers the following year. To reduce nutrient levels of rich soil you can remove the topsoil. Take care not to enrich the soil, as the use of fertilisers diminishes the ingress of the opportunistic wildflowers and their ability to germinate.

Of particular importance when planning a wildflower setting is to obtain a seed mixture which is native to the area in which you live in. Non-native visitors can prove extremely detrimental to the local eco system and therefore it is advisable to source seed from a reliable seed provider such as the Irish-owned ‘Designed by Nature’.

Rachael Byrne Landscape Gardener


I’M re-mortgaging for a small amount to build a kitchen extension. My main mortgage is a tracker, but when I approached the bank they said I could only re-mortgage the whole lot as a new variable rate loan which is more expensive. Can they do this and what other options do I have?

ALAS, you find yourself in a common predicament as the banks continue their inexorable dilution of the tracker mortgage market.

The truth is that all banks want rid of trackers at the earliest opportunity and are using every means in the book of achieving that, which can include disallowing new top-ups under existing mortgage arrangements.

Some banks, however, will allow the tracker stand and offer additional funds via a standard variable loan – you don’t say which financial institution you’re dealing with, but it’s worth asking anyway, according to Frank Conway of the Irish Mortgage Corporation.

He adds: “In some cases banks that simply never had the internal systems in place to offer this type of facility would need to re-do the entire loan structure, which ultimately means a standard variable or fixed rate loan.”

Your choice is limited. If you move to another bank, you won’t be offered a tracker either, and getting a separate loan on an already-mortgaged property is not feasible.

Is the amount modest enough that you could get the extra amount from a credit union loan?

It is more expensive, but may be worth checking out in order to retain the tracker on the higher loan which is yours as long as the contract is not broken.

With interest rates due to start rising, you may save in the long run. Work out your numbers.

Sinead Ryan Financial Advisor

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