Renovating an Investment Property in Ireland


It has been a few months since I have posted anything because I have been insanely busy and also took a much-needed holiday. Since my last update:

  • I have mostly completed the work on the renovations with the help of my friend (she’s a legend)
  • The tenant has moved in but the arrangement has changed slightly.
  • I am back living and working in Dublin for now.

I am very lucky to have an extremely skilled friend who was willing to do a labour exchange with me. She had a big job on in a house in Portlaoise that she couldn’t do on her own. My friend’s client is a landlady and her tenant had moved out (after getting a house from the council) but the condition the tenant left the house in was shocking. Really eye-opening for me. 

So my friend and I agreed to do one week working on my house in Wicklow and then one week in Portlaoise – alternating every week for 6 weeks until we were finished both.

It was a lot of 12 hour days and I was physically exhausted by the end of it but I learned so much and we got the work done.

Bathroom is Pretty Much Finished

This was the most challenging project in the entire house and certainly one that I would not have manged on my own because I hate tiling. Fortunately, my friend is very good at it.

The first step was demolition (which I like, and I’m good at). The next order of business was levelling the floor area to “remove” part of the slope from the old wheelchair-friendly wet room. I had never done this before but it worked out OK in the end. 

I ordered tiles from Nationwide Tiles (they were helpful) and bought  the toilet, towel radiator and shower screen in Screwfix. The sink and vanity came from IKEA.

Tiling the walls was a nightmare as they were VERY uneven. We did our best to level things out and built a “wall” for the shower screen to sit on. 

Starting the demo
Starting the demo
Custom scribed retainer to level a section of the bathroom floor
Levelling compound in
Start of floor tiling and plumbin in new bathroom furniture
Wall tiling underway and wet area tiled with R11 rated floor mosaics (nonslip)
Constructing a flase wall for shower enclosure and more plumbing
Plumbing for wastes and new towel radiator
Tiled false wall
SHower door on and cleaned/grouted tiles
Installed new vanity and tap
Still need to buy a mirrored cabinet but this is good enough for now

Utility Area

After plumbing in wastes and water inlets, I tiled the floor of this area. I then built some sturdy shelves to hold a dryer. I slid the appliances into place and hooked them up as needed. The eventual plans for this will be to construct a door to cover it over. The door on the washing machine cannot be reversed though, which is annoying. 

Tiling the utility area
Built a very sturdy shelf and managed to get this dryer up onto it on my own (yes I did bend my knees)
Still tidying this area up a bit

Stairs, Landing and Bedrooms Carpeted

Always pay a little extra for the thicker underlay. I knew it was worth it the first time I walked up the stairs and around the bed rooms. I had made some effort to address the creaking by fixing down the wooden floorboards with screws. The underlay and the carpet took it to the next level and greatly reduced any noise. Carpets absorb so much sound, the difference in the acoustics of the house was amazing.

Carpeting in progress (I let the pros do this job for me!)
Nice job, acoustics are so much better now

Kitchen is Built

I have previously done some basic cabinet making in my Dublin property. Never again. IKEA kitchens are the way to go. The engineering and design of them really is amazing. I think I saved myself over €1,000 by fitting the kitchen myself and once you get the rails onto the walls correctly it’s a very manageable project. Just do one thing at a time. 

I tiled the backsplash of the kitchen with the help of my friend. Again, I hate tiling

Ripped out the windowsill to allow countertops to be level to window. Started attaching the cabinet wall brackets
Assembled all the carcasses (took a day or two) and got them level
Cut the counters and cut/installed the hob and sink
Had to get creative to make a hole so I could install the new tap
Got a lend of this BEAST of a drill to make a hole in the exterior wall for th new waste (old hole was at a different height so I couldn't use it)
That drill went through this wall like it was nothing, I plumbed it up pretty quickly
IKEA sink wastes are weird. Ended up using a Jubilee clip to connect it to the external waste.
Tiled and grouted the back splash and installed an extractor fan
Still waiting on the dishwasher door which has been out of stock for ages
Installed the last of the handles and made din dins

Downstairs Floor is Layed

Laminate flooring is an easy enough job to do if you plan it right. You need to work out which direction you want to go in and the doors and architraves between the rooms are your biggest challenge. My friend got me started by taking care of all those difficult bits. After that, it’s like Lego. 

I decided to try a green wood fibre underlay which was €7 a pack from Screwfix. It seemed like the more environmentally friendly option. In retrospect, I would have levelled all of the downstairs of the house if I was doing this project again. Some areas of the floor were a little uneven and you can still feel these spots a little as your walk in some areas. 

All the floor downstairs had these plastic tiles hiding under the old laminate. A heat gun, a crow bar and a lot of effort got them all up
Lots of stuff to skip and organise
Laminate floor with wood fiber underlay
Laminate floor down, curtains up, couch in, doggo bed occupied

Fireplace was Demolished and Tiled

This is a unfinished project. The original fireplace was ugly and the fireback crumbled in my hands when I inspected it. I knew it had to go, so I got to demolishing it and spoke with some stove companies about what I needed to do. I didnt have the funds to go ahead with a stove so I just tidied up the area and sealed it off for now. 

I really like that I was able to claw back some floor space by making the tiles in front of the fireplace level with the flooring. According to the stove installers I spoke with you need minimum 30cm out from the front edge of the stove for safety regulations. At some point in the near future, I will either get a stove or explore another option.

The old back boiler was still in there, the fireback itself crumbled to dust in my hands. Probably never should have lit a fire in this thing!
Cleaned out, dusty job
Tiled and tidied up, ready for a stove to be installed

House was up to "livable standards", tenants wanted to move in and I needed a holiday

I was pretty exhausted by the time I got the house to a livable standard. I went online and booked a week in Gran Canaria. I didn’t care about the location of the mediocrity of my hotel – I wanted to drink cold beer on a sunny beach for a week. Four days later I was relaxing in the sun (smothered in factor 50 of course)

32 degrees. Cold Beer. Crisps. Beach.

What's the story with my tenant?

My brother and his family were due to move in and the house was 90% ready when they arrived. They were in just at the end of August in time for school. Some personal and employment factors have changed for my brother which I won’t be going into details about here. Suffice to say, it will be a while down the road until I start earning any rent. 

This doesn’t present much of a problem for me. The mortgage is relatively small and is covered by my part-time income. In the interim, my brother might be making some contributions to the cost of outstanding works in the house. This suits me as I have pretty much capped out on what I wanted to spend on renovations out of my own pocket. 

The Cost of Renovations

Almost 20k on the nose so far. Still a lot to do but the house is livable now.

  • The biggest spend was the rewiring of the house which came in around €7,000.
  • The IKEA kitchen was €3,000 to purchased.
  • The new boiler for the oil-fired central heating system was just under €3,000.
  • Carpets cost €1,700.
  • I did have to buy a few new tools along the way which I see as more of an investment than an expense, spending the few extra euros to get the DeWalt stuff was certainly a good move.

So all that considered, I reckon I saved thousands by doing a lot of the work myself. I also got to buy myself a few new tools along the way. 

The downside was doing 12 hour days for about 6 weeks in a row. My body is also a little worse for wear and I am now doing exercises, stretches and yoga classes to help release some mild back and knee pain.

The next big expenses will be the fireplace. Estimates of €2,200 for a wood burning stove supplied and installed. I am still not sure though, as I’m also looking into solar PV and hot water for both Wicklow and Dublin.  After that, I need a demolish and replace the garden shed and do some serious landscaping  –  fun stuff.

What's Life Like Now?

Well I’m back at work (teaching job) in Dublin and it absolutely sucks. I really miss Wicklow. A lot.

Being back here has consolidated my desire for the dream house in Wicklow sometime in the near future.

In other news, I am down to one tenant in Dublin for the past few months and I am happy enough to keep it that way for the short term seeing as I am back in the house a lot more. There is more of a story to the other tenant leaving but that is for a future post.

I am still managing to save €500 every month and I am studying JavaScript web development in the evenings and on weekends.  My goal is to  build a good enough portfolio to help me to land a higher paying 6-month contract in January 2021.

I am happy for that job to be outside of Dublin or in another country altogether. I have also looked into what career break options are available to me with my teaching job. Very generous it seems – five years! Plus they can be consecutive or not. Unpaid, of course. But if I land a web developer role and I like it, staying in that role beyond 6 months will be an option.

If that works out, I will be in a better position to try to secure a mortgage for the forever home (I know that will be hard to do). My friend has been encouraging me to sell my Dublin house which is now worth about €290k which means I could clear the mortgage and have a sizeable chunk of spare change to buy in Wicklow. The FIRE voice in my head says to hold off, keep Dublin and consider renting out the entire house to fund semi retirement and pay the mortgage on any new place in Wicklow.

A welcome reward for when my friend and I finished the work on the house.
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