Number 18 is a fine example of a Dublin commercial premises of the extended Georgian period. Four storeys over a basement with a commercial shop at ground floor level, is has the added complexity of an earlier 18th-century building connected at each floor level to the rear. Both buildings are constructed in the common Dublin manner using mass masonry brickwork with timber-joisted floors, bonding timbers in the walls and slate-clad timber roofs (the back building lost its original pitched roof to a flat roof in the 20th century).

While both buildings feature the elegant proportions, charm and character expected of period houses of this kind, they exhibit a number of structural problems that require addressing before the exterior can be restored and the historic interiors conserved.

Structure

The greatest challenge the buildings presently face is a significant outward lean to the side wall of Number 18, which is visibly bulging onto Arran Street East.

This movement has been caused by the removal of internal walls over the course of the 20th century and historic water ingress that has rotted bonding timbers in the walls and encouraged outward movement. Poor original detailing has also played a part, with insufficient brick bonding to adequately tie the walls together.

We have undertaken an extensive laser survey of the front and side elevations which has revealed the precise locations of problematic areas. This will enable targeted structural engineering solutions to be developed that will reinforce and tie back these areas into the structural core of the building.

Shopfront

The stone-arcaded shopfront at the front of the building, which likely dates to 1789 with the upper floors rebuilt above it in 1842, does not presently provide sufficient structural support for the building’s upper walls.

The arched granite stonework and infill masonry will require additional engineering restraints to ensure the overall building is adequately supported and to prevent future outward movement. As part of these works, the side arch facing Arran Street East will be reopened with its infill blockwork removed.

The original design intention of the shopfront has also been muddled over time, with opes and entrances moved and the stonework extensively painted over. These later interventions require reversing and the handsome original design revealed.

Window heads

Throughout the building, water ingress over the years has rotted a number of embedded timber beams – known as ‘heads’ – over windows and doors, which will require replacement. In some places, floor joists and the ends of roof rafters will also require splice repairs or replacement for similar reasons.

Pebbledash

The exterior façades of the building are coated in a rough cement pebbledash finish which was likely applied in the 1950s. In some places, this is trapping rainwater behind the cement where it cannot evaporate, leading to moisture build-up in the outside. The pebbledash may also be concealing other structural problems that require inspection such as cracking caused by subsidence between windows.

Aesthetically, the pebbledash presents a somewhat crude and non-original finish to the building, disfiguring the elegant yellow brickwork. We know the facades originally featured hand-wigged lime jointing as a sample has fortuitously survived on the side elevation beneath a former street sign. Chunky cement reveals to the windows have a similar inappropriate impact around the windows.

Like many historic buildings in Dublin that were modified during the 20th century, these cement-based interventions can cause serious unintended structural issues that will require opening-up works and close examination.

Plaster

Internally, many original lime plaster finishes to walls and ceilings have decayed as a result of water penetration in previous decades. This has caused delamination of plaster layers in some cases to wholesale failure of plaster in others, revealing the structural brick underneath.

Ceilings are generally in good condition with the exception of the top floor that has suffered from past water ingress. Ceilings will be repaired where possible using lath and plaster methods while in limited areas complete replacement may be required.

We will also be exploring suitable breathable insulation strategies to improve the thermal performance of the building as part of these repair works.

Services

Number 18 features a dense layering of defunct electrical services from multiple former occupants that included hotel, restaurant, boarding house and gunsmiths. A complete renewal of these services is required as part of the modernisation of the premises and to comply with building regulations.