The builder’s verdict on a renovation opportunity in Rathgar

This house in Dublin 6 is in need of ‘total refurbishment’. We ask a builder what that would involve, what sort of extension could be added and how much it would all cost


As anyone knows who has ever watched one of the many TV shows about refurbishment, the process is inevitably fraught with difficulties. It usually starts with the discovery that the the property is in much worse condition than first imagined.

With soaring house prices in Dublin in the last few years there are not that many regular buyers with the cash and bottle to buy a house cheap and refurbish it.

However, there are opportunities for those willing to live with a little discomfort to create the exact home for their requirements.

Number 31 Rathgar Avenue, is one such property. A photogenic house, it looks worse in reality than it does in the pictures but as agent DNG says in its brochure it is “full of warmth”. It’s also “in need of refurbishment”.

This Victorian house has changed little since it was built and it hasn’t been lived in for at least five years.

Priced €750,000, it is an average-sized dwelling of just 133sq m (1,431sq ft) and the main footprint contains just four rooms: two interconnecting reception rooms. Presumably the rooms on the other side of the hall were once bedrooms. All are a reasonable size with good ceiling heights but really just a scaled-down version of the two-storey over basements in the area.

The house has nice period features including window shutters, some mantelpieces and ceiling cornices opening with lovely plasterwork in the hall.

There is a single-storey return to the rear that comprises a warren of rooms starting with the family bathroom and ending up in a scullery kitchen. This is where there is potential to extend and add some contemporary creature comforts.

 A good blueprint for any plans is the work done on the house next door which DNG sold last year for €900,000, according to the Property Price Register. It came to market with the same asking price as that of number 31 but the market was stronger.

Peer over the garden fence and you will see that they added a simple but space-effective two-storey extension that has given them the contemporary open-plan kitchen and living dining room that so many homeowners now demand.

Clearly it would need additional investment to bring it up to living standard, but how much? Builder Kevin Moran of Moran Builders ( has worked on many residential projects (including collaborations with architects Sheehan and Barry, Thomas Murphy and Studio 42). He runs the rule over the property (see panel).

The builder’s verdict: ‘A double-storey extension to the rear would be worthwhile’

Kevin Moran,

“The modest size of the house would make a double-story extension to the rear very worthwhile,” says Kevin Moran of Moran Builders in Goatstown, Co Dublin, who suggests doing something similar to what the next door neighbours did.

“This will require demolishing the return to make way for a new build that could extend to the shared boundary wall. An internal courtyard will ensure the rear of the original part of the house still gets lots of light.

“A structure with a footprint of about 45sq m will cost in the region of €180,000 and will give you two bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs and a kitchen/dining room that could be positioned to get both morning and evening sun. The back of the property has a gorgeous southwesterly aspect.”

To build a further single-storey projection, one that would give a sunny family room, say 25sq m in size, will cost another €35, 000, Moran estimates.

The cost of renovating the existing house will add another €65,000 to the bill.

“The house requires complete rewiring and replumbing, and with old lath and plaster ceilings and lime render on its walls, you will probably have to completely replaster too.

“Whether this is a lime render, sympathetic to the building, will be a decision for the new owner to make. The house isn’t listed.”

Inside, the house hasn’t been modified or upgraded which is a good thing Moran says. “A lot of original features in the front part of the house exist, and seem to be in good order.

“Most of internal joinery looks good and free from decay and woodworm, with window shutters, doors and architraves still looking good. Some decoration to ceiling cornices and shutter boxes would have them looking sharp again.”

Currently with a BER of G, it would be hard to improve on this in the original part of the house without compromising its original charm and interfering with cornices, window dressings and the like.

Taking up the decayed floor boards and joists and putting in an insulated floor slab will help a bit, and would also offer the opportunity to put in underfloor heating should the next owner so wish.

“The house has a brick façade, which is in relatively decent order. It would benefit from new lime pointing, but this isn’t essential,” Moran says.

The house does show signs of rising damp and mildew. Zero ventilation during the five years it was vacant hasn’t helped. A DPM (damp proof membrane) injection to the external walls would help curtail the rising damp.

A bonus is that the house has pedestrian and vehicular rear access via a shared lane which, subject to access, would ease the build process, says Moran. “While most renovation projects are priced per sq m if access is difficult this will increase the costs significantly.”

In total the house will cost €280,000 for a high-spec finish that includes some basic external landscaping.

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