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
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!
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!
What Have We Dunoon Blog
by Claire Segeren
is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at