The Process So Far

f you’ve been following along, you know that we spent months sorting through everything in the house. We filled four skips. We took down plaster to prep the walls for dry lining. We filled two dump trailers with rubble.

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Last autumn, the house was surveyed. We spent hours pouring over the plans, sketching ideas, researching our options. The engineer put our ideas on paper, and we tendered the job. We scaled back, revised, re-envisioned. Once we had our contractor selected, we finalised our plans.

The process since the builders arrived on site in June has gone something like this:

The power to the house was disabled, except for two sockets for the builders, and the cable running outside to the workshop, which has its own fuse board. Our room in the back is functioning with two heaving duty extension cords coming in from the workshop. A temporary water supply was run to the old kitchenette in the back, so we have cold water for washing dishes and cooking.

Most days, three builders arrive at 8am and stay until 5pm. Based on who does what, I’d say they are a mason, a plasterer, and a carpenter. First, they stripped out anything we weren’t able to – like the guest bathrooms, partitions, kitchen fireplace, architraving, and ground floor ceilings.

Old windows were removed anywhere they would be replaced with new triple glazed PVC ones. The wooden lintels above all of the windows, and some of the doors, were either rotted or charred (likely from when the IRA burned out the house in 1920.) They were replaced with concrete lintels. Larger openings, for the two sets of french doors, were given steel beams at the top. One of these, in the dining room, involved removing a few square meters of stone above the door. It had these old metal strips crisscrossing to support from underneath – needless to say that doorway feels much safer now!

A fireplace in a guest room was bricked up, with a hole left for ventilation. Other nooks and crannies were filled. The exterior wall in the kitchenette was built up, as the bay window had to come out and will be replaced with a large PVC window.

We had a bad leak in the back of the house, which turned out to be worse than anticipated.

Water streaming in behind the plasterboard rotted joists on both the ground and first floors. The rotted sections were removed and replaced. As the work was carried out downstairs, a column of stone that was added to make a doorway smaller started to list away from the wall. We decided to remove it and make a bigger opening to the hallway – it looks and feels much less cramped now.

Scaffolding went up to access the roof. Having the slates opened made us really want to pop in some skylights, but our budget just doesn’t allow for that right now.

Wood framing went up to reconfigure the first floor hallway and writer’s nook. A press (closet) was built, which also helps define our office space.

A different team of lads came in to put up the metal stud work wherever we are dry lining.

Channels were jackhammered into the floor to run water supplies to the radiators. Holes were bored through walls and joists to accommodate more pipes and wiring.

We pulled up the old stone slabs in the hallway/downstairs bathroom area. That will get its own post later in the week… The builders levelled and insulated this area, and after plumbing pipes went through, they poured a new floor.

Concrete was poured outside where the oil tank and boiler will go (alas, the air to water heat pump and underfloor heating were not to be!)

Wood sash windows were installed in the original 1767 part of the house. PVC windows were installed on the sides and in back. They look fantastic. I didn’t think I would like the PVC ones, but they actually are great! We weren’t able replace the windows in the studio or writer’s den yet, we will be sanding and painting them to match the chalk colour of the newly installed ones.

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The plumber and electrician came in to do the first fix in August. This presented us with a lot of final decisions about guest bathroom layouts and where wall lights would hang. It’s great to be able to decide where your electric sockets will go!

Slabs and insulation were delivered recently, and in the last week three rooms downstairs have gotten ceilings. It’s starting to take shape!

The yard is a disaster zone – we have a rubble pile, and a pile of wood for burning.

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The best part of the process is seeing change by leaps and bounds on a daily basis. After so much planning, each day we have tangible progress.

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