This blog outlines our story as we struggle to restore an old Irish farmhouse
Saturday, 22 September 2012
The Yank's House - Salvage
Whether to use salvage or new and the different trains of thought on using salvage when restoring an old property was a bit of a challenge for us. When it can to recycling materials already found on site there was no difficulty. Slates were saved off the roof and reused, windows repaired and reinstalled, doors stripped and repainted. Even old door knobs and window latches were cleaned up and reused. However when it came to looking for replacement materials for the house, fireplaces — ours were all missing, toilets, sinks, role top bath, salvage bricks and stone, we had to make a decision whether to use old or new. Some people worry that the desire to use salvage results in some old buildings being demolished just to meet demand. On the other hand we wanted to recycle where we could. Surely it was better to reuse rather than continue to manufacture new materials. We had no way of measuring how much salvage was genuine and how much came from unnecessary demolition or stripping of old buildings.
Another consideration was whether new improvements should be obvious or should blend in seamlessly with the old. We decided on the latter. Pat wanted our house to appear as if it had stood in this condition for years without intervention. We made a conscious decision early on in the project not to build onto the house or to alter its external structure or shape in any way. To make room for a bathroom we split one bedroom rather than extend. We decided then to fit the bathroom out with an original old toilet, bath and sink which we hoped would make the space look authentic, as if it had been there for ever.
With this in mind access to good quality salvage materials became essential and we were lucky to discover the Royal Meath Architectural Antiques & Salvage Company in Bohermeen, Navan. It was close to where we lived in Meath, but we never knew it was there until I found it one night on the internet. The first time we called round to the yard we were dazzled. It was such an interesting place and full of beautiful things. There were all sorts of treasures. We knew straight away that we had made the right decision for us and that we would recycle and use salvage whenever we could. That first day we were looking for glass to replace broken panes in some of our windows. We came home with two beautiful restored sash windows, four fireplaces and the glass we were looking for. We were to visit this salvage yard many times, for stone windowsills and stone for our front steps. We got a beautiful front door with lovely old stained glass. We bought old bricks to repair our open fireplace in the kitchen, to brick up around basement windows and to build two lovely arches under the new steps we put in leading up to the front door. We also bought an old role-top bath and a toilet with a high cistern. All these beautiful old materials will add greatly to our restoration and give life and character to the old house.
Most times when we went to the yard we met Paddy and Maggie. Paddy and Maggie’s dad David owns the yard. The children used to come out to meet us when we would visit. Paddy liked to help. He was such a funny little fellow, always getting into mischief and full of chat and stories. He might pull his mouth organ from his pocket and entertain us with his own brand of music or demonstrate his skills on a small skate board. He was always followed closely by his faithful friend, a big friendly German Shepard. His older sister Maggie came out to us one evening to show us something. She had a little Jack Russell pup in a small handbag on her shoulder. Six years later these children are now all grown up but we still need to drop by occasionally looking for bits and bobs for the Yank’s House.
What I love about the Royal Meath Architectural Antiques & Salvage Company is you are always welcome and never pressured into making a purchase. We have even had the tea a few times, served from a silver antique teapot around a lovely patio table comprising of a slab of old stone with old garden planters for legs. It is the best yard I have ever been in and I have visited a few on this journey.
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