7 Brighton Terrace in Dun Laoghaire, County Dublin, is an old Georgian terrace-house built in the late 1800s. The main contractor Top Development Ltd. asked Newform Group- who specialise in using lime-mortar- to complete various restorations throughout the house. Sandycove and the wider Dun Laoghaire area- and really Dublin per se- have a history of Victorian and particularly Georgian architectural influence from the UK.
Such architectural styles thus capture and reflect still today Dublin’s still-recent colonial history, in which the city (alongside London and Edinburgh, amongst others) represented a ‘prize city’ of the former British Empire. Consequently, faithfully restoring such properties as this is culturally important in order to preserve physical memories of this legacy and the relatively recent, watershed changes in modern Irish history.
Fortunately, having worked in properties throughout this area across many years, my team and I fortunately have had a good degree of experience working in these styles of houses, and therefore knew roughly from the outset the final appearance and structure we had to achieve, as well as the correct methods to use in the process.
Here we can see PVC mesh/expanding metal used to fix cracks within the house’s original walls. This was vital to ensure the structural reliance of the walls before we began applying fresh coats upon them
This house in particular stands as one of the oldest houses in the Sandycove area- dating back to the 1840s. The house was constructed as one of the very first ‘big’ homes in Sandycove’s first villa terrace following the establishment of the Atmospheric railway, which helped open up the small Dublin fishing village to social and economic development. The house and its private surroundings remain virtually untouched to this day, with even the landscaped back-garden retaining its original granite walls and outhouse. Consequently, in completing our external restorations, as MD I had to ensure that my team exercised great care and caution whilst working around such pristine and historic surroundings.
Before even beginning our work, we began as always by covering up and protecting any valuable items and furnishings which were at risk of harm during our restorations. Indeed, being such an old home, virtually every room is adorned with valuable cornices and covings, as well as the house’s old Georgian sash windows and fireplaces; all of which we took care to cover and protect during our work. Moreover, as MD I consulted with Top Development and many of our specialists and conservation operative contacts before starting the restoration to decide on the best manner in which to approach the project. Firstly, Top Development decided to strip back any old plaster according to conservation standards.
Here is invariably an element of compromise in all conservation works, and this preemptive action allowed my team and I to produce matching, sturdy walls, as we were able to work upon the original stonework and build the walls evenly from there- rather than working over old, fragile plaster. Ultimately, this allowed the property to be restored honouring the original appearance whilst also being adequately updated for structural reliance.
Pictured above (right) we can see the technique of ‘devil-floating’ employed. This is very effective in providing a key for subsequent coats in conservation works such as this project.
Subsequently, Newform applied scud-coats (4 buckets of plastering sand, 2 buckets of NHL 5 lime product) and left them for 2 weeks to cure, making sure also that any cracks within the walls were fixed using PVC mesh/expanding metal. This ensured that the old, fragile walls being plastered over were stable, as otherwise we would risk inflicting permanent damage to them.
After they walls were given time to sufficiently cure, we applied a float-coat; straightening and ‘devil-floating’ it before leaving again for a further 3 weeks to cure. As in previous projects, leaving plenty of time for the old walls to adequately ‘cure’ is vital if we are to safely secure the original walls whilst working upon them. Moreover, the method of ‘devil-floating’ in this project is especially effective in old works such as this to provide a key for subsequent coats.
Finally, using NHL 3.5 we applied a lime-based skim coat of HP Diasen product. Diasen Diathonite Evolution is a natural, eco-friendly product- premixed and totally cementfree- made with natural lime NHL 3.5, cork, clay, diatomaceous earth and reinforcing fibres. Materials with these properties are necessary to reproduce the original aesthetic of the property. We mixed up this product in two-bag tubs and applied a scratch coat, securing the PVC mesh within. We left this to cure for 24 hours before applying a float/dubbing-out coat, which was then straightened and left for approximately three weeks before applying a final smooth-coat. The commitment to eco-friendly and lime-based materials in this project- as in previous and subsequent works- is also essential not only to meet heritage and conservation standards, but furthermore in order to faithfully restore this old Georgian house according to its original construction.
After the smooth-coat, we applied Aquabond sealer and left to dry for 24 hours. This is a ‘breathable’ application used on old surfaces, typically before lime undercoats. This allowed us to retain the ‘breathability’ unique to old, lime-based walls, as well as effectively sealing the walls further before applying the Pictured above (right) we can see the technique of ‘devil-floating’ employed. This is very effective in providing a key for subsequent coats in conservation works such as this project. final coats. Once the walls were sealed, we applied a smooth, lime-finish coat in three applications, with an overall thickness of 3mm; leaving 24 hours after the base coat before applying and flattening the final two coats. Finally, all walls were finished in Diasen Argacem HP. This is another all-natural and highly ‘breathable’ material suited to restoring old works; leaving a grainy, slightly rough final appearance which accurately reflects the look of old wall-finishes.
Thus, with our finished plasterwork we left the house in prime condition for subsequent specialists to further add to and decorate the large, gaudy rooms in line with Georgian tradition
To the left we can see a material overview for Diathonite Evolution (HP Diasem). This summaary is available on Newform Group’s website- was the result of extensive research conducted by myself as well as external advice from conservation operatives. The information within demonstrates the environmental advantages of the product and how it is appropriate for conservation works such as this project.
Reflecting on this project, my team and I were successfully able to restore this old Georgian terrace-house to its original condition- despite having to strip back the original plaster- whilst also updating its structural integrity in places as proved necessary. We took the utmost care at every stage of the project to exclusively use materials and follow construction methods both in line with UNESCO heritage guidelines and more specifically which suited the restoration of Georgian-style houses.
The client and Top Development Ltd.- as well as ourselves- were both very satisfied with the final condition of the house, which- as all conservation works should strive to accomplish- seamlessly blends the old with the new, sustaining the original condition of the house for many years to come.
Pictured here we can see the final ‘float’ coats being applied to the interior walls.
Above we can see a portion of one of the exterior walls before being raked out and restored using NHL 3.5 lime-mortar. The ‘raking out’ stage was necessary to remove any old, deteriorating mortar which was inflicting damage on the wall. We could then fix any cracks and level-out the wall using limemortar to strengthen the walls
Here we can see the area where the Diathonite Evolution mix was prepared for use on the interior walls. Pictured also is the Aquabond sealer product used to seal the old internal walls.
Here the Diasen undercoat is being applied as a sealer before the base coat is laid on carefully with a mesh trowel in order to avoid leaving any cracks.
Shown above, once the undercoats have been left to cure for 3 weeks, a Diasen skim-coat is applied in two applications; with the base coat being applied and left for 24 hours to cure before applying the finishing coat. Finally, this coat is steel-flattened at a 35° angle.