The Diary of an Irish Stone Cottage Renovation
this is our documented story and the history behind the renovation project we decided to undertake, of our family owned, but derelict, traditional, early twentieth century, west of ireland stone cottage, which had been left alone, unoccupied and open to the elements and neighbouring livestock, for over thirty five years. More
how does someone with no building experience, other than something slightly more than weekend d.i.y. projects, find themselves undertaking a derelict renovation project in another country? This book is the diary of such a journey where our plans were based around my wife’s heritage. her parents came from Ireland and her mother still owned the cottage where her family had been raised. the only problem was that it hadn’t been lived in for well over thirty years and was now derelict, with only cattle and sheep for neighbours! we decided to go to ireland and see if renovation of the cottage was possible, or even viable. we travelled around the country for a month or so before deciding that the cottage was in a good location in county roscommon and that with family still nearby, would be an ideal place to set down some roots and hopefully start a successful business.
so having discussed our plans with the family back in England, with varying degrees of scepticism, ‘you’re mad’ being one of the more printable comments we received, we packed our bags again and made the move to roscommon in june 2006. we had a ‘novel flat pack’ style caravan, that folded down within minutes into a trailer style arrangement, that we had picked up by chance while flicking through the adverts in the local paper and so we had our ‘temporary home’ while we looked for something more permanent once we had arrived in county roscommon. we arrived at the caravan site in lough key forest park near boyle in the north of the county, (now becoming quite famous as the location of the t.v. series ‘moone boy’ commissioned by sky u.k.) where we had booked in for the first three nights of our adventure, while we looked around for more permanent lodgings. so we had a camping adventure to kick off and then got lucky, finding an old farm cottage for relatively cheap rent within a couple of days, (remember that this was towards the end of the ‘tiger years’ in ireland and nothing was relatively cheap then and there weren’t that many homes for rent either) and so the adventure had really begun!
as you might imagine, after being left empty and unused for over thirty - forty years, the cottage was a bit of mess.iIt was well overgrown, with knee length grass everywhere, bushes scattered around the grounds, swallows had been nesting in the building and even cattle from the neighbouring farm(s) had managed to get inside the building over the years. add to this an ever increasing amount of broken and intact glass bottles scattered around the site, and we felt at times that we would be able to have started our own recycling plant, (or so it seemed!)
the first step was to get a structural survey instigated to ensure that our plan was indeed possible. the architectural surveyor came out and poked around our ‘small but grand design’, doing what a surveyor does and there was a certain amount of, ‘are you sure about this,’ most folk would knock it down and start again? even so, he decided that it was probably 50:50 as to whether we should knock it down and start again, or renovate and he had to concede that the walls were structurally sound and the roof rafters were in surprisingly good condition. so…..yes, we were still on course, it was ok to renovate! our grand plan could continue and we could now seriously look into how best to renovate the property, utilising as much of the existing old building as possible, as well as incorporating what we felt was the best and most suitable of available 21st century sustainable technology. we also brought our ‘flat pack’ caravan down onto the site, so that we could have somewhere comfortable to eat and drink and even stay overnight if we worked late! so while we cleared the site ready for the actual renovation work, we planned, investigated and sought information on how best to tackle our ‘project’.