Renovating a protected structure

Does anyone have any experience of this? We’re looking at potentially buying one that needs complete renovation but wondering quite how much red tape there will be. Will we need permission for doing things on the inside?
Any advice most welcome.

Hi Lisa.

Citizens Information have a very good overview of the issues involved with protected structures.

I was looking at buying an Edwardian house in Ballsbridge which is listed. I was told I wouldn’t be allowed insulate the house because of the coving on the ceiling. The heat was on full blast and it was a sunny day, yet the house was cold. There was also damp on the walls. I walked away. The best advice I can give you is run like the wind.

These houses aren’t for everyone, but I think the beauty of them easily makes up for any relative discomforts. It can be difficult and expensive to upgrade these structures particularly with regards to insulation, but there there are new materials on the market now that make it possible.

I knew someone who owned one and the restrictions were pretty strict - could not get planning for an ensuite bathroom as an example. There were very strict rules about replacing the windows etc, which made it far more expensive than a standard house to renovate. Every little thing costs a fortune to do, and is more complicated than a normal house. You need to be very passionate about conservation (as you will have to pour lots of the cash you would normally spend on other stuff into the house). I wouldn’t consider it unless you have very deep pockets.

Imo you would be best to talk to someone (or better, a few people) who have some responsibility for protected structures in your location or area before you do anything.

Policy and thinking can vary from place to place, according to local needs, and according to the views of whatever committee or body takes decisions in the area.

For example, in some towns, economic growth and development is a priority, so they are development friendly and would let you go as far (for example) as just retaining the facade and doing whatever you need to behind that facade. However, in other towns, you can hardly touch a thing.

Once you find out their thinking and general policy, if you are going to test the outer limits of that policy, then you need to ensure that they trust you not to make a mistake and accidently damage something. So, detailed schedules, plans, risk assessments of work to be carried out, drawings, documentation of the personnel and sub-contractors undertaking the work will very much help your case. (demonstrating that you understand their concerns and are taking steps to allay their concerns).

You will find that usually, these people are professional, development friendly, and amenable to any work that will enhance the integrity and preserve the protected structure.

But just remember, their priority is to protect the structure, and they will not take any chances with that objective.

Hi guys,
Thanks very much for the advice.
Roc I was planning on doing just that. I want to get in touch with the conversation officer who would be in charge of making any decisions on what I could do and see what they say about it before going any further. Apart from a couple of features ie the windows and staircase, the previous owners haven’t retained any of the period features inside or decor and so I’m hoping that it’s going to unrestricted on the inside bar the period features that remain. Need to talk to someone in Dublin city council though. These kinds of things can be so dependent on who you end up having to deal with at the council I find.

I don’t suppose anyone has dealt with anyone in the conservation department over at Dublin city council have they? Would be good to have the name of someone who has been known to be reasonable in the past!



If there isn’t much original material of value inside, then you should have a free hand - and probably won’t require Permission.
I don’t think you’ll get a choice of conservation officers I’m afraid. (Certainly not from where I’m based).


The first thing you need to do is get an experienced and competent Grade I Conservation Architect. Refer to the following link for further info.: … editation/

Be very careful with what anyone from Dublin City Council may say or advise you. Although they (DCC conservation officers) are generally quite good to work with, they cannot agree or confirm anything until the planning permission is lodged and formally processed. And it is not possible to lodge a planning permission until you own the property. Therefore do not even think of approaching this property until you’ve met with an appropriate architect.

My brother in law bought a protected house 10 years ago. It was in 16 separate units (mostly single bedsits). The Dublin City Council conservation offficer was very strict about what he could do. DCC were very happy to have the exterior of the house restored to its original condition (reclaimed roof slates, the ‘gingerbread’ around the guttering, the brick work repointed using traditional methods). However, he could not put in double glazed timber sash windows, he could not add on a two storey extension at the back, they had very fixed ideas about pipework on the outside walls - and they did come and inspect the work to make sure it complied with their conditions.

smash the gaff to bits and say ‘Sorry guv . . . Like that when I got here’ . . . .No more no less . . .

Yes I have heard of builders “accidentally” having walls collapse, but you run the risk of being fined if they don’t believe you or claim you were neglgent. Depends on the authority. Most have these properties documented so not sure you could get away with smashing it up.

I just cite this article on how sticky they can be i.e. if a building suffers total fire damage you may still have to rebuild the facade at least as per previously.
“However, if the building forms part of a larger architectural design such as a terrace, square or other group of buildings or was an important urban or rural landmark, then the planning authority may stipulate that the reconstruction in replica of at least the exterior of the building will be necessary in order to protect the setting of other historic structures or the character of an ACA.” … sider.aspx

Hi Lisa,
as posted on another thread last week I thought about buying a protected place some time ago but ran like hell when I found out what it involved. It is not just a matter of maintaining the outer facade although this does depend on what element of architectural interest remain now (and remember lots could be found when you start to strip the place back - an uncle of mine found dead bodies in his garden when using an excavator and it cost him a packet! He also had an architect on site supervising the build and then they had to close the site while excavation commenced… it turned out that the bodies dated from famine times… another story!).

Back to the present…effectively what is normally considered “exempt” for normal buildings requires a Section57 declaration for protected structures. This must be submitted with an architect’s report etc. As you have intimated yourself I would also advise you to contact your local conservation officer. Assuming you are in Dublin you can contact them from here:

I do predict that the new requirements for rental accomodation will push a lot of ex bedsit buildings onto the market over the next few years since many are not rentable under current rules. It will be interesting to see how it works out. Make sure that whatever tradesmen you get have experience of working on older buildings… it is easy to make very costly mistakes on such properties. There is something really amazing about those old buildings but from my reading of the rules it would cost too much to renovate and I was not prepared to compromise on comfort (I remember what it was like to live in a bedsit when going to college back in the day!).

Good luck with it!

Fined ? not if you do it on a Saturday . Like the old Wilkes Cerdac building in East wall . If you do it on a Saturday there is nothing the Council can do as they are closed . You then go on to say " Well its done now , where can we go from here ? "
I have first hand experience of this . I once owned a protected building and some goombeen bought the building next door , which was also protected . He wanted to develop the building and the council slapped all kinds of restrictions on him . Well he turned up at 6am one Saturday morning with a JCB and knocked his building and half of mine . It was a nightmare going through the courts as the attitude of " well its done now " was accepted as the norm .

The welcome guest and his pigs is correct on this one .

In fairness if this is what you would like to do to a protected building, then maybe…eh…a straight forward semi-d in subarbia-land might be more your thing…mother of jaysus XX

I have been reading this post. I think its alarmist. I have renovated 5 protected structures over the last 15 years, ranging in size from 1,500sq ft to 34,000 square feet, and on buildings dating from 1837 to 1874. Renovating a protected structure is very simple, read the law and guidelines published by the DoE and follow them. Don’t put in plastic double glazed windows, double glazed wooden sash is usually ok, and don’t worry about BeRs – they do apply to protected structures.
Do not hire an architect, as he will scare you with silly bollocks about how the council does this that and the other, as he is following an agenda to put on his Cv that he restored a 18/19th century building to its original state.
Most important you do not need to hire a “conservation” architect as there is no such profession, and until recently been an architect was not a legally recognised title.
Respect our very limited historical inheritance, and if the CoCo messes you around be prepared to walk away and leave it to fall to ruin.

Hi onlyone,

… do you mean that BERs do NOT apply to protected structures? My understanding is that they do not…

My point about being careful with such structures is that they are much more expensive to renovate than an equivalent house that is not protected (and the resultant house can also be the result of compromises on comfort, particularly if you cannot get plans to insulate external walls approved…). The idea of being

is something that I certainly couldn’t afford to do!

You advise not to hire an architect and also say to folllow the published guidelines… but they require an architect’s report to be submitted with your Section 57 forms before you actually make any changes. You give an interesting perspective on how to navigate the renovation of such a structure but it doesn’t change my opinion…

you submitted the original post so it’s over to you… please keep us updated on your decision and experience if you decide to go for it!

You’re the right fierce cute whoooore Onlyone… :unamused:

You’ve managed to be right about one thing though - a BER certificate is not required for a protected building.