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Empty Homes Renovation – We spoke to Nick about his renovation project in Dumfries

What is the story of your empty home project?

The project is the renovation of a maisonette flat circa 1850 within the Dumfries Conservation Area, although the flat isn’t listed. The flat had been poorly maintained & upgraded and then left empty for over 10 years before we took it on.

Several areas of penetrating damp were present and neither the roof or walls were insulated.  We decided the best course of action was to re-slate the roof, strip out all the poorly installed upgrading work, removed wall and ceiling linings, electrics, heating and fixtures/fittings and essentially start again. The flat has now been reinsulated with sheepswool insulation to walls and ceilings with woodfibre linings and breathable lime plaster to external walls with breathable paint finish. Internal partitions have been reinstated, electrics have been rewired to current standards and a new heating system installed (although the gas boiler was retained as it was fairly new). In the coming months we should complete the works with new timber sash and case windows, paint removal to the outside walls (back to the stonework) and gutter/drainage system repaired. Sanitaryware and kitchen units will be upgraded or replaced, hopefully with reused fittings.

Did you get any help from the Empty Homes team at Dumfries and Galloway Council?

Dumfries and Galloway Council were approached prior to purchasing the property regarding any assistance or funding they could provide. They confirmed the property had been empty for over 10 years therefore it would qualify for 0% VAT. They also suggested we apply for their Empty Homes Grant funding. An application was submitted, and we successfully obtained 50% funding toward certain elements of the build.

What was the process of bringing your empty home back into use?

We purchased the flat in February 2023. Both planning and building warrant submissions were obtained by late spring 2023 after which the process of stripping out the building commenced. Internal repairs and reinstatement of partitions followed thereafter along with reinsulating the rooms in the roof and lower floor external walls. A new staircase was installed late summer and work on re-sating the roof commenced late Autumn through the winter months (challenging!)

Rewiring and replumbing will be completed by April 2024.

We are aiming to have the works fully completed by end of summer 2024.

What do you think makes this Empty Homes project special?

This property belongs to my daughter who is studying in Dumfries and has invested all her savings into the property purchase. Financial support from ourselves and the grant funding have enabled us to provide her with warm, dry and healthy property to start her life away from home and provide us, as architects, an opportunity to use environmentally friendly materials on an older property; something that will become a necessity in the coming years as we move towards net zero. We have tried to reuse and upcycle as many fixtures as possible and anything that we couldn’t use has been taken to the local recycling centre. The maisonette has three bedrooms so the intention will be to offer the other rooms to student lodgers to provide low cost, good quality, healthy accommodation at an affordable rental level.

In undertaking the work we have pealed back layers of history and discovered old shoes, cigarette cards and handcrafted wood toys, including one of a World War II Spitfire. On the downside the amount of historic soot we’ve removed has been incredible! Local people have stopped and interacted with us with emotion and relief that this little building is being rescued, including someone who remembered visiting it as the home of their best pal over 50 years earlier. We hope that by renovating we may act as a catalyst for other refurbishment work in the area.

Its been hard (and very dirty) work but equally an emotional, rewarding and positive experience.

If you have purchased an empty home and would like advice, please contact the Scottish Empty Homes Advice Service on 0344 515 1941 or [email protected].