It's been nearly four months since our last progress report, and lots has happened since then!
When you see Jameswood on a daily basis, it's really easy to forget how far you've come and notice the changes that are slowly happening. When a friend re-visits and exclaims, in shock, that, "the place has electricity!" Or, "this room is cleared out!" You realise, lots has changed since we first started the project!
It's important to allow some time for self reflection. We've taken on HUGE project, and looking back at all we've accomplished so far helps motivate us to carry on!
In our last progress report, we had managed to clear the garden - an epic task that required battling through a forest of weeds that had engulfed our property and rescuing trees from the chokehold of ivy and other climbers.
PROGRESS REPORT #2: March - April, 2019
Shortly after my birthday, near the beginning of March, we finally got electricity on site. This was a monumental step for us. Aside from no longer having to live by candle light (a risky way of living in a small caravan), we could now charge our tools on site, instead of down the road in our neighbours shed, which really helped get the project on its way!
At this time, we didn't own the whole building (YET!), so, to keep ourselves out of any legal troubles, we weren't working on the actual house, aside from clearing our own flats. This meant we had plenty of time to spend on ground works.
Cal spent this time digging out the old, cracked and broken sewage and storm water pipes. We dug these out by hand, but, as it turned out, the pipes were too far gone, so we took them all out and replaced them, like for like, with the hopes of not having to dig them up again in our lifetime! We crushed some of the old pipes, to use as hardcore for the driveway, and kept others to reuse as planters in the garden.
During this time, we also dug some ditches closer to the house's foundations, as extra protection from groundwater erosion and dampness. I became the French Drain Queen - filling in all of these ditches with landscaping fabric, washed aggregate and perforated pipe, to divert water to flow away from the house.
In the meantime, negotiations were going ahead with the couple that owned the final apartment in Jameswood. By the end of March, we were proud owners of the whole building, and we could start thinking about building works! I wrote a blog post around this time, explaining how we acquired the whole house. You can check it out here!
Once we owned the whole building, we spent the first few weeks clearing the final unit out - which we hadn't touched until we owned. The upstairs of Jameswood is now completely cleared back to the studs and ready for works!
I also set my eyes on finding scaffolding! We managed to get a really good price on a joblot, the only problem being that it was all in Bristol! We needed to find a way to get all our scaffolding from the South of England, up to Scotland.
Our first thought was to hire a 7.5 ton truck, and drive the scaff up, with the help of Cal's dad. We soon realised that this was going to be a very time consuming option - and after a flight down to Bristol, multiple days away from the project, fuel and rental costs, it was not going to be economical.
I started posting ads on haulage websites, and just as we were starting to lose hope, I got a call from Alan - a WONDERFUL guy, who was about to drive an empty truck up from Bristol to the Glasgow area. He picked up our load the day after our first call, and the next day, we had our scaffolding delivered to our door! This was really one of those happy occasions when life works out and everything fell into place!
Now we had our scaffolding. Next, we had to learn how to put up scaffolding!
I hadn't known this, but scaffolding is a trade of its own. We had considered getting quick-stage scaffolding, which is much easier to put up, but we chose to get traditional tube and fitting scaff so that we could use it to brace the partially collapsed bay window and front wall while building.
Cal read a scaffolding book that our neighbour had lent to us, watched numerous Youtube videos, and took on some very helpful advice we received from an Instagram follower (thank you!)
We managed to get the scaffolding up on the gable end, and safely take the chimney down with a pulley and a bucket. This had become priority after chimney bricks had started falling into the house! We needed to take it down before it came down on someone's head!
With the chimney down, and a new hole in our gable end wall, we were finally ready to start work on the house! For some reason, we were both very nervous about this. I guess it felt like we were finally diving right in. We had chosen to restore Jameswood, and had been planning for months, but now it was actually happening. We were actually doing this!
Luckily, Cal has worked with a VERY talented and experienced stone mason, who was happy to give us some advice! We've decided to use traditional natural hydraulic lime for repairs to the house. This will help newly repaired patches of wall move and breath in the same way as the rest of the house.
With the repair on the gable end done, we've lowered the scaffolding on that face of the building (for now, we only needed it at full height for this repair), and we're in the process of extending the scaffolding around the rest of the building.
Next up: were going to be getting into the scary stuff! Fixing the front wall and bay window, and repairing the roof! I'm sure it will make for a very eventful summer!
So far, we are absolutely loving our adventure. It feels so good to wake up every morning, and work hard at making something for ourselves, bring a beautiful, old building back to life, and learn new skills along the way - it's incredibly rewarding and empowering.
Thank you so much, to everyone, for your continued support. We have received incredibly kind, positive and supportive words from people from all over the world! It really helps us keep going, especially on days when we feel overwhelmed by the tasks at hand!
I haven't had a chance to individually thank everyone for this - but please know it is because we have a very needy building to take care of - not because we don't appreciate it!
Thank you again,
Claire and Cal
Today, I'm having a rest. I'm doing nothing.
Well.. after waking up at 7 a.m. to unload scaffolding off a truck for 3 hours.
After that. Then, I'm doing nothing.
Cal and I realised we haven't been taking enough breaks. We typically work on the house 6 days a week, and take one day off for ourselves.
Our day off usually involves hiking up one of the various mountains in the area - a peak a week - is what we call it.
Even on our days off, we usually end up doing some work on the house. It's just hard to sit down and do nothing when there's so much to do on the place!
We're doing a good job at getting enough sleep, eating well and (naturally) getting plenty of exercise, but a key ingredient we've missed out on is rest.
Cal is usually a morning person. Staying in bed until 8 is considered a lie-in for him. It seems he has boundless amounts of energy, and he usually greets the day with a giddy smile and a bounce in his step. Seeing Cal accidentally sleep-in past 9 was a very good indication that we haven't been giving ourselves enough downtime!
Our current workload is unsustainable. Something needs to change.
We have to take self care seriously while working on this project, so that we don't burn out, and so that our relationship survives this adventure (an unrested Cal and Claire can lead to some very grumpy behavior)!
So that's why, this weekend, we're taking the WHOLE weekend off. Tools down. Feet up!
We hope everyone has a happy Easter! We'll be enjoying ours while firmly planted in some garden chairs, soaking up the Scottish Sun (Yes! It's been incredibly sunny here lately! We're loving it!).
Thank you SO, SO much for the ongoing support!
Cal and Claire
There's something I've been hiding from my readers since we first started this Blog in January.
Jameswood Villa is a building made up of four apartments. When Cal first went to auction, he only bought ONE apartment in the building.
We decided not to post too much about this because we were in the process of negotiating to buy the other units. Ironically, one of the first times we made it clear we hadn't bought the whole building was in our interview with the Scottish reporter who "broke" our story - but she didn't mention it in her final article!
This week was momentous for us, because we finally own Jameswood... ALL OF IT! And now I can finally tell you all about it.
The fact that Jameswood was split up into seperate apartments is likely a major contributing factor to the building falling into disrepair and becoming derelict over the years. Owners hadn't agreed to make the repairs needed to stop closing orders being put on the building, and apartments weren't sold together, or at the same time - putting off investors.
The fact that the building was split into apartments is ALSO the reason for Cal's (now famous) auction mix up. You can read more about how we accidentally bought Jameswood here.
Three of Jameswoods apartments were up for sale on the day of the auction. The first was sold to another bidder, the second was sold to Cal and the third had no bidders.
Later that day, the Auction house called Cal and asked if we'd like to buy the third apartment that had been up for sale that day.
We hadn't yet seen the place, but we knew that if the last apartment had to go to auction again, we could be waiting months before there was another investor on board for common works to commence. We saw the unsold third apartment as a loose end that needed to be tied up - so we agreed to buy the flat for a discounted auction fee.
Now we owned half the building. And this is when Cal first went and saw Jameswood. As most of you could probably guess, seeing the building for the first time was a bit of a shock. It was definitely more than the "upgrades throughout" that we were expecting from the auction description. Luckily, our good friends Barry and Dexter were there to calm Cal when he first saw the place. Together they did an initial survey of the building, and started to uncover the problems that would have to be solved to repair the building.
The bones of the building were good. Lots of work.. but we could come out alright if we carried on with the project.
The other guy who bought an apartment at auction didn't feel the same way. On his first site visit, he called us and offered us his unit. At this stage, we genuinely didn't know if we could afford to take on the whole building by ourselves. We had been hoping another builder would work on the project with us, to subsidise some of the common repairs. Luckily, taking our time to decide whether we wanted the third place worked in our favour. The guy decided to sell the unit to us at a loss.
Now we were just missing the fourth unit. It was the smallest apartment in the building - only two rooms and a tiny bathroom, but we would either need the owner on board for common repairs, or we'd have to buy the unit so we could start work on the place.
The problem is, no one knew who owned this apartment! The local pub became our investigating spot, and over the course of a few weeks, we had heard rumour after rumour about who owned the property.
The council were able to contact the owner, but the overseas landlord wouldn't speak with us, and instead, they put the apartment up for auction.
The auction house called us, and offered to sell the apartment prior to auction. They were asking for more than any other unit had sold for. And it was the smallest one.
To take the project forward, we needed that unit. But we're not the biggest fans of the way the auction house conducts their business, and we didn't want to give them any more of our money - especially to overpay for an undersized, derelict apartment. So we held out, and eventually the place was sold at auction - to another set of buyers who hadn't seen the place - for way too much.
To anyone planning on going to auction: please, please do a site visit before purchasing!
The new owners were quite shocked when they saw the state of the place they had just bought, not on a site visit, but on our blog! They contacted us once they had seen it - and we found a price somewhere in the middle - a little bit more than we had wanted to spend, but a lot less than they had paid for it at auction.
This Friday, we finally became the proud owners of Jameswood Villa - every square inch of it.
Getting here wasn't easy. It was a nerve racking experience, but we're incredibly happy with the outcome.
An unknown owner made pursuing this project very risky - but it's also what put off so many buyers in the past, and pushed the price of the property down to where we could afford it!
With great risk often comes great reward. - Of course, we have a long way to go before we can claim any reward from Jameswood, but at least we've made it past a big and stressful hurdle!
Thank you so much to everyone, for your amazing support. We are blown away by the kindness we have received from so many people, and we are very excited to share our story with you all.
Claire and Cal
Wow! What a whirlwind.
About a week ago, Cal and I thought we were going to be in one Scottish newspaper, having done an interview with a reporter after they had seen our story in Dunoon's local paper.
As the day progressed, we were shocked to find the story spreading, first to other UK papers, and then across the globe.
We were soon getting messages from people in Australia, New Zealand, North and South America, Russia and Thailand.
At first it was a bit overwhelming. It's a very weird feeling, knowing so many people know who you are, and know about your little mix up at an auction. The stories seemed to get more and more sensationalized as the day progressed, and unlike here on my blog, we had absolutely no control over how things were told by all these news sources.
But what came from having our story spread all over the internet was amazing. Cal and I are incredibly moved by the enormous amount of support, the incredibly kind words of encouragement and the general positivity we have been sent by so many people.
From all over the world, people have taken some time out of their days to follow our Facebook, Instagram and Blog, and to email, message and comment us such lovely well wishes.
The scale of this project can feel very daunting at times. It is so nice to know that so many people from all over the world are supporting us as we take this on.
We would just like to say a heartfelt and sincere thank you to everyone who has sent us encouragement.
I will be posting a new update very shortly, but for now, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Cal and Claire
A few of the articles we've found about our story.
While taking on a restoration project of this scale, we inevitably find ourselves hitting road bumps at nearly every step of the way. Finding a new problem seems to be a daily occurrence here at Jameswood.
To keep our spirits high, and stay motivated, Cal and I like to reflect on some of the small victories we've had, instead of the huge hurdles ahead of us.
So here they are...
Finding the elusive electricity wire
The first, and arguably, the best win we've had in the past week has been finding the cut electricity wire, that used to connect the property to mains electricity.
Soon, I'll post a blog explaining just how hard it was to find this wire, but for now, just know that we have been searching for this wire since November!
Hopes of finding the wire were starting to dwindle in the past few weeks, and the gravity of the situation was starting to become clear. If we couldn't find the wire, we were going to have to pay a hefty fee to have the pavement dug up, to be reconnected to the main line.
We were told to look for a little black box, where the cut end of the wire would be sheltered, about 500mm deep in the ground. We were also given a map of the property that indicated (inaccurately) where the wire was supposed to have run.
This week, while digging out drainage pipes at the front of the property, Cal stumbled upon a cut end of a thin, black wire, wrapped tightly in black electrical tape, lying in the ground, with no "black box" in sight.
It was the live electricity wire and we are so relieved to have found it! (And very excited to have electricity on site in the near future!)
Getting a driveway laid
One of the first things Cal did when he first got to Jameswood was clear a Ford Transit-sized space at the front of our property, to facilitate access to our building site.
Now, Transits are incredibly helpful to have when restoring a home, and I'd recommend them to anyone looking to take on a project like ours. However, I would not recommend them to those of you looking for an off-road vehicle..
Our van has gotten stuck in the slick, deep mud on our "driveway" too many times to count. And with such a heavy vehicle, pushing it out (with the help of our friendly, but exasperated neighbours) is not an easy task.
For a while, we would lay old plaster out on the driveway while we were clearing the house. The plaster was a great temporary driveway, but it was a bit too water soluble for the wet conditions we get here in Scotland. Once it had rained, the plaster just added more gunk to the the messy mud our van was getting stuck in.
This week, we were excited to receive our first on-site delivery: 10 tonnes of aggregate, about a quarter of which has gone into making a nice, new, sturdy resting spot for our van!
Our New Home - A Caravan!
As much as I love #vanlifeYoutube videos, trying to live in our Ford Transit, while also using it as a working van, has not been ideal. This week, we've found a new home!
We are now living in a little, 1990's, two berth caravan. It's a dry, clean space to retire to at the end of the day (and has way better closet space compared to the Transit.)
I am absolutely thrilled!
So, as frustrating as this house can be at times, Jameswood is helping Cal and I remember to appreciate the little things in life, and focus on our small victories, instead of the constant problems we encounter.
I hope we have many more little victories for me to write about soon!
Thinking of moving to Argyll and Bute?
The council has a great new website with useful information to help facilitate your move.
They recently posted a lovely story about our move!
You can check it out here
Are you renovating in the Dunoon or Glasgow area? Maybe you know someone who is?
We want to recycle your building materials!
Cal and I want to restore Jameswood Villa in an environmentally friendly way (and a budget friendly way too!) One way to do this is by using reclaimed building materials.
Right now, we're looking for floor boards in particular.
So if you're redoing your floors, please, don't take the old boards to the tip! Email us!
We'll be happy to pick them up at a time convenient to you!
We'd also be glad to have any old timbers, sheet material, old kitchen and bathroom units... anything you think we could recycle or upcycle for the project!
We can be contacted at email@example.com
For those of you who'd like to see more photos of the project, follow our Instagram page at
We'll be posting visual updates of our progress, as well as photos of the beautiful scenery we come across as we explore our new home and the rest of Scotland.
We’ve had our property in Dunoon for a few months now, and I’m sure some of you are wondering what we’ve actually been doing. We’ve decided to start writing intermittent progress reports to update everyone on our developments.
Progress Report #1: Nov-Dec 2018
When Cal first visited Jameswood with our good friends Barry and Dexter, they had a difficult time reaching the front door of the building. The grounds were overgrown with a wide variety of bushes, trees and weeds and some ferns had even managed to take root inside the building. Nature had truly taken over.
We can now walk around the house!
On days where it was bucketing down, we had plenty to do inside the house – where our holey roof provided us with a little protection from the rain.
The apartments had been left fully furnished… with soggy, mouldy couches and mattresses, broken furniture and decades-old appliances. After more than five runs to the dump, with our Ford Transit filled to the brim, we are getting to know the friendly staff at Dunoon’s local tip and gradually clearing the trash that has been left on the property.
Click photos to view full size.
Before we can start fixing the house, we also have to clear out the crumbling wet plaster that lines Jameswood’s walls. Property development tv shows make this job look easy. Their montages of knocking down walls with sledge hammers and bringing a house back to its bones look fun and exciting!
I’ve now found out that plaster is dustier and heavier than I could ever have imagined! And getting rid of the mouldy, wet insulation sitting behind the walls and ceilings can be a very itchy endeavour!
Bucket by bucket, and with plenty of help from our friends, we’ve managed to bring our apartments back to the studs, and in the process, we’ve also collected a lifetime supply of kindling produced by the lath!
Clearing the land and the house has been A LOT of hard work, but we’ve managed to have a lot of fun in the process. Cal and I are really enjoying having nature right here on our doorstep, and have managed to take a few days off to explore and hike in the area.
Little by little, the property is starting to look less like a haunted house in a spooky, overgrown forest, and more like a proper building site. Now that we’ve prepped Jameswood Villa, we’re excited to start actual restoration work in the coming weeks!
Thank you for joining us, as we take on Jameswood Villa!
Cal and I have been OVERWHELMED by the friendly and warm welcome we have received from the Sandbank and Dunoon community.
We love the almost daily “hello’s” we get from neighbours passing by. Everyone is happy to stop for a chat and see how we are getting on.
We’ve had a number of people visit us at Jameswood Villa, post on our website and message us on Facebook to offer local knowledge and support that will help us with the project.
Despite the fact that most of you likely think we are crazy for trying to restore Jameswood, everyone has been really positive and supportive, and we have received countless well wishes for our journey ahead.
We’ve taken on a really big task, and sometimes, it’s a bit overwhelming. It is so helpful to know we’ve moved to such a friendly community and have so much local support. We can’t fully explain how much it means to us, but we can say thank you.
So, thank you Dunoon.
Claire and Cal.