A Scottish man bought an abandoned house and spent 11 months turning it into a tiny house.
George Dunnett, the homeowner, estimates he spent £102,458 on renovations.
Dunnett, 28, said the renovation turned out to be much more expensive than he expected.
George Dunnett grew up in the small Scottish village of Kinnesswood, about an hour north of Edinburgh. For years he walked past an abandoned two-story house down the street from his parents’ house.
There were many beautiful houses in the village, but this building was one of the few that was still crumbling. The cottage was old and weathered, and the masonry walls were cracked.
“It was a little run down, so I was always a little sad that it was left in this state,” Dunnett, a 28-year-old video editor, told Insider.
Still, he saw the house’s potential.
Dunnett decided to buy the cottage and make it his first home, but it was a chore: the 400-square-foot cottage was uninsulated and had no running water. It didn’t even have a proper floor.
Dunnett bought the property in October 2020 for £55,386. Insider looked at Dunnett’s proof of purchase to verify the price.
“The floor was really just dirt and mud, there was no concrete floor,” Dunnett said. “The windows were bad, the roof needed quite a bit of work. It was kind of like a shell of a building.”
Due to the age of the building, parts of the foundation also had to be reinforced for safety.
“A lot of structural work had to be done before I got to the stage to sort out my curtains,” he added.
A thick layer of dust and cobwebs covered the interior. No one lived in the building for over 50 years and it was used as a storage area by the previous owners.
“There’s a family in the village that has had a lot of real estate that they’ve picked up here and there over the years,” Dunnett said. “This was one of the properties they owned.”
Based on what he learned from others in his village, Dunnett believes the building dates back to the 18th century, when it was used as a place to bind and distribute religious books.
“People have said it used to belong to a church, which has been demolished, and that was just the neighbor’s yard,” he said.
After the items were cleared, Dunnett assessed the condition of the house with the help of outside contractors.
Both levels of the house have an open floor plan, with no interior walls to divide the space into rooms.
There was almost nothing in the house except an old fireplace and a thin wooden staircase, Dunnett said.
The builders determined that parts of a wall had to be reinforced and that the old fireplace had to be boarded up for safety reasons.
The wall on the side of the house where the chimney was located turned out to be hollow and unstable, Dunnett said.
“Of course it would be a nightmare if that collapsed while I was living in it,” he added.
Dunnett was able to work with the builders to maximize the small space and design the house the way he wanted.
The plan was to split off two rooms on the lower floor, which would become his bedroom and bathroom, Dunnett said. The combined living room, kitchen and dining room are located on the second floor.
After cementing the ground to create a proper floor, the builders raised the ceiling of the upper level and added insulation to the walls.
“With all the insulation in place, it was actually nice to come in here in the cold winter and be semi-warm,” Dunnett said. The only drawback was that he couldn’t leave the original brick walls on the inside of the house visible.
The roof repair work was much more extensive than Dunnett had anticipated.
The builder found that the roof was not sturdy and had issues with watertightness, Dunnett said, “Because of this, I had to pay quite a few unexpected piles for the scaffolding and the repair work that followed.”
The bricks on the outside of the house had broken off, and Dunnett had to get a stonemason to fix them.
“The stonemason had to come and re-place all the cement fill around the stones to make them safe and watertight,” he said.
New windows have been installed to the front of the house and a skylight has been added to the roof.
Once the exterior repair work was completed, the house began to take shape.
“The windows brought so much natural light into the building, making it look more like a house than a vacant building on the street,” Dunnett said.
After the electrical wiring was completed, the builders were ready to install the drywall.
The cottage didn’t have a proper wiring system that would meet the needs of a modern home, Dunnett said.
“Once most of the installations were complete, the woodworker was able to put in the drywall to seal off the rooms below. This helped me see how the space would work and made the interior look much cleaner,” he said.
After the hardwood oak floors were laid, Dunnett and his mother painted the walls.
“I went all over the house with white paint to keep it bright and cheery, but added a few accent walls in the bedroom and bathroom with a blue-gray color,” Dunnett said.
The renovated house has a bedroom and a bathroom on the lower floor and a living room, dining room and kitchen on the second floor.
Last but not least, Dunnett had stair railings installed in the house. It was the moment he most looked forward to.
Until then, there was no barrier blocking the open space on the second floor.
“I hated going up the ladder to go up and have this big hole in the floor facing concrete,” Dunnett said. “I had the fear of falling through the hole and landing on my head.”
On the outside, Dunnett’s father laid cobblestones to create a walkway for the house.
Dunnett thought it would be a nice touch to have cobblestones in the front as the street the house is on is known as ‘The Cobbles’.
“It used to be a fully cobbled street, although it was paved some time ago,” he said.
The renovations took just under a year to complete, Dunnett said.
The renovation started in January 2021. Most of the project was completed in August and the finishing touches – the stair railings – were installed in November. Dunnett moved into the tiny house in late November and has lived in it ever since.
“This is the first time I’ve ever moved out of my parents’ house,” he said.
In total, the refurbishment cost £102,458, including lawyers’ and administrative fees, Dunnett said.
“With the money I’ve saved over the years from my work as a video editor and my YouTube channels, I’ve paid for the house and all the work and furnishings myself, minus the loan amount,” he said.
Dunnett estimates he spent £157,844 on the whole project, including the purchase of the cottage.
As a homeowner renovating an old house for the first time, Dunnett has some advice for others who want to do the same: Expect it to take longer and cost more than you initially think.
“I was quite naive about how long it would take,” Dunnett said. “Initially the builder told me it would take two months and it would cost £40,000 to do everything. But with time and as they get into construction you will find it takes at least twice as long and twice as long costs. as much as.”
Because the house is on a busy street, many people in the village have stopped by to talk to Dunnett about his house.
“They all said the same thing — that they’d always regretted the building being unused, and that it was nice to see someone from the neighborhood and young doing something fun with it,” Dunnett said.
Dunnett already has his eye on another fixer-upper in the area that he and his brother hope to buy. This time he wants to renovate it himself.
Dunnett said one of his regrets was not having the skills to renovate the cottage himself. But now that he’s seen how the builders have worked on his house, he wants to try a new renovation project.
“That’s not such a heavy project, it’s just a building that needs some work on the inside,” Dunnett said of the nearby cottage. “So I’m going to try and do all the joinery on that and see how much I can do myself.”
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