Living in a mica house this winter

MICA homeowners across the county are living in fear of the winter ahead as they question how they are going to heat their crumbling homes with energy costs soaring.

As the cracks in their walls grow bigger it is set to be a gruelling few months ahead for those desperately trying to keep warm and keep the draughts out.

Speaking to the Donegal News yesterday Letterkenny homeowner Peter Patton said as well as worrying about their home falling down around them they now have to worry about finding the extra money to keep it warm.


“We will have the oil on plus two fires to keep the house warm because twenty minutes after the oil goes off the house is freezing,” said Peter, who lives in Magherabouy.

“The electricity is so expensive and to have to find the extra money now to heat the house on top of that. It is more worry on top of worrying about our house falling around our feet.”

Mr Patton has young children and said they will have to keep the heat on constantly to keep their rooms warm.

“They are down in their rooms doing their homework and you have to keep their rooms warm. It is going to take a serious amount of money to heat our home this winter.

“You have to try and keep on top of the mould by keeping the heating on. We have one room in particular and when you walk in you have that blue mould damp smell.

“This is the last winter in our home. We are not going to spend another year here. We are going to have to move out because it is just getting past living in.”

Mr Patton built his family home in 2003 and in 2010 cracks started to appear. Since then he has been fighting for a redress scheme to fix his house.


His house needs a full demolition and he is currently waiting on prices for the new build before submitting plans to the Council. He emphasised the need for a scheme that covers all of the costs for homeowners.

“We are waiting and waiting on a proper scheme because we can’t afford the existing scheme. Until our costs are all covered to replace our home we are not going to go into a scheme until we have the right scheme. It is as simple as that,” he said.

Heating homes this winter is going to be extremely difficult for everyone but for those living in mica affected houses it is going to be much worse.

This week we spoke to homeowners who are living with mica who are becoming increasingly worried about how they are going to keep warm in houses where heat is escaping through the cracks.

Homeowner Joy Beard has decided to try and keep herself warm rather than turning on the heat and has bought electric blankets, heated throws and draught excluders in anticipation of the tough months ahead.

“There are a lot of houses worse than mine and I know they are all living in dread of this winter because their houses will deteriorate depending on what the winter brings and the fact that this energy crisis is really going to scupper us,” said Joy.

“Last year raised a lot of concern for us because our house would usually be warm and we noticed that it was pretty much impossible to heat unless we left the heat on most of the day.

“This year I have had to take provisions because I know what is coming. If we get a cold weather snap I don’t know how I am going to heat the house.

“The way I am looking at it now is that I am going to heat myself rather than trying to heat my home this year. I don’t anticipate turning the heat on at all just solely because it is a waste of time. It is going to seep out the cracks and the windows in the gaps of the house.”
Joy, who lives outside Buncrana, said she is constantly looking at energy saving tips but said many people will be paying more on their energy bills this year than their mortgage which she said is scary.

“We have enough stress on our plates with our homes the way they are without the added stress now of the energy costs,” she said.

Joy and her husband submitted their application to Donegal County Council last November but have heard nothing to date.
“It is a waiting game which is frustrating,” said Joy.

“You feel trapped. You can’t move on with anything and you can’t pre-plan, you can’t look forward at all because there is no timescale to let you know what is going to happen in the future.”

Her engineer’s report recommended full demolition, news she said was very hard to take.

“It still hasn’t sunk in. Whenever I got that call it was heartbreaking. It is like a death because your house is part of you.”

Róisín Gallagher is a mica homeowner and mother to two small children aged six and eight. Her house, which she has lived in for the last 16 years, needs a full demolition but she has no idea when this will happen.

Roisín and her husband first noticed cracks in their home about ten years ago but it wasn’t until 2018 that they registered with Mica Action Group when they realised it was more than settling cracks.

Heading into another winter they are very concerned about the cracks in their walls and around their windows making it impossible to heat their home.

“We are really noticing that the cost of the heating is doubling and we are really anxious about how we are going to keep the house heated during the winter,” she said.

Roisín was one of the first people to go on to the redress scheme in June 2020 and was approved very quickly for a rebuild of the house’s outerleaf.

Knowing that her innerleaf was in fact weaker she pushed for a second opinion and a full demolition was recommended.

She then had to resubmit her report to Donegal County Council and she is still waiting for approval through stage one all over again.

Like so many the family have been left in limbo not knowing when their home will be knocked down.

Róisín said it has been very difficult to prepare her children for when the time comes for their home and their bedrooms to be demolished but not knowing when it will happen.

“It is traumatic for everyone. There doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel at the moment,” she said.

Ahead of the pre-budget protest in Dublin on September 24 Roisín is urging people to attend the march which has been organised in response to the cost of living crisis.

“The single most important thing you can do is go to this protest because now is the time to do anything you can to get our lives back. We have been backed into a corner and now we have to fight to get out of it or we will suffer the consequences for generations to come,” she added.

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