Saturday 18 November 2017


I've heard that there is a new form of construction which uses mud to form the walls of a house.

What exactly is this and would it be suitable for domestic construction?

Mud walling is not a new form of construction and has been used throughout the ages with vernacular examples evident throughout the country. There has however been a renewed interest in traditional mud walling because of its ecological and biodegradable nature.

Traditionally mud walls have been used in three ways:

1 A monolithic type of construction,

2 In courses bound with straw or

3 As unbaked bricks.

The bricks, when erected, were washed with lime and generally they formed strong and stable walls. You may also have heard of rammed earth construction. Rammed earth is a method of building where the earth is compacted in layers.

Each layer is approximately 150mm in thickness and it is layered until the desired wall height is achieved.

In this type of construction the soil mix is very important and needs to be very carefully balanced. Depending on the soil used the end result can also be beautifully rich in colour.

The Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales (CAT) has been researching rammed earth and mud walling construction for a number of years.

They are currently building the highest rammed earth walls in the UK.

At an impressive 7.2m these walls will form the internal circular area of a theatre and will bear the load of the roof.

In terms of suitability for domestic construction, proponents of this technology would argue that rammed earth walls, through their thickness and density, provide protection from extremes in climate, give good sound insulation, while also being a versatile and environmentally friendly form of construction.

Others may question its suitability as an external wall material in the damp Irish climate, especially with the current lack of building expertise in this particular type of construction.

If you are considering using this type of construction I would strongly recommend receiving professional advice before proceeding with it.


Since the onset of winter I haven't set foot in the garden and I am wondering what would be the best tasks to start on?

Firstly try not to over-extend your regime at the beginning and ease yourself into your green-fingered pursuits. Mundane as it sounds, now is a great time to remove any emergent weeds, including lawn imposters, before they have had a chance to establish. For tougher bullies like dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) a selective lawn weed-killer may be necessary.

A large number of woody deciduous trees and shrubs including your rose colonies can be pruned now. An exception to this is any tree from the genus Prunus as they are prone to fungal attack in this climate.

It is better to prune these in summer when the spores are less active. Garden tools such as secateurs should be rigorously cleaned at regular intervals to avoid the spread of diseases.

Shrubs, which need to be transplanted to a more appropriate home, can also be moved now. The old dark canes of autumn, fruiting raspberries and deciduous grasses such as Miscanthus can be cut back before new growth begins. I recommend rounding off a tiring day with the more pleasant tasks of perusing seed catalogues and planning your summer garden.


My wife and I are separating. Our house, which is heavily mortgaged, is in negative equity. I am already facing into an expensive rental situation as she is staying in the family home.

We both earn similar amounts, so she will pay the mortgage while I pay rent. What situation would I be in if she defaults and the house is repossessed? Should I take my name off the deeds?

It is possible, but unfortunately not quite so simple, especially with the house in negative equity. As far as the bank is concerned, you are joint mortgagees and as such, are fully liable for the entire debt as your name is on both the loan and the title deeds.

Kevin McNerney, director of The Mortgage Finance Company explains the ramifications. "If the bank were to repossess the house and sell it at a loss they would seek to have a judgement registered until the full amount of the loss was paid back. This judgement would be registered against both of you.

"Ideally, if you are not going to be making any further mortgage payments in respect of the property and are happy to relinquish any future rights to it, then have your name removed from the mortgage and the title deeds.

"In order for this to be done your wife will need to prove to your current mortgage provider that she would qualify for the current mortgage on her own, based on their current lending criteria.

"As the house is worth less than the mortgage, this will raise concerns with the mortgage provider and would definitely rule out the possibility of her being able to switch the mortgage to another lender were the current lender not willing to remove your name from the mortgage".

Irish Independent

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