22.11.12 The restoration and extension of Frances Street, Newtownards for Ards Community Network is now complete. The building was officially opened today by Nelson McCausland, Minister for Social Development, pictured here with Cathy Rice.

16.11.12 The newly extended and restored St Columbs Park House officially opened today. The original building serves as a residential reconciliation centre. The new cafe extension is for the wider community to enjoy.

10.09.12 Our re-roofing project for the National Trust at Cushendun Village is now on site.

22.02.12 A brief history of St Columb's Park House

St Columb's was formerly the estate of the Hill family.  The house was called 'Chatham' as its builder was a naval officer Lieutenant John Rea, whose daughter married Sir George Hill of 'Brookhall'.  In 1845 the Hill Estate was bought by the Londonderry Corporation for use as a public park.
The Hill house was used for a time as a Nurse's home before being used as an activity and reconciliation centre. First renovated in 1994, the building is currently undergoing a second restoration and extension by DON Conservation.

20.02.12 DON's restoration project at St Columb's Park House, Derry started on site today. Works to the Grade B1 listed building include additional conference, dining, residential and car parking to enhance its use as a Residential Reconciliation Centre.

20.12.11 Anna Beeka, aged 3, winner of our European Heritage Open Day colouring-in competition called into the office today with her mum. She collected her prize and enjoyed a little Christmas party with the DON team.  

07.11.11 DON Conservation have been appointed by the National Trust to carry out restoration work to Trust properties in the historic village of Cushendun, Co Antrim.

Lime mortar

Mortar is essential for the preservation of the fabric of our historical and vernacular heritage. The most important factor to bear in mind is the compatibility of the new mortar with the existing one. This does not necessarily mean a "like for like" replacement. In many cases the original aggregate will not be available or the binder has lost most of its characteristics to be suitably identified. In other cases the building is not in the same condition as when it was originally built and the mortar might have to perform differently from the original.
Buildings pre 1900 would not have been built with cement (with few exceptions in the late 19th century) but with a lime mortar. To introduce cement or cementitious mortar in these buildings means to introduce a decay process due to the chemical composition of cement with high presence of gypsum and alkalis that will cause sulphate and alkali-silica reactions. Irreversible damage can be caused, especially in consolidation and grouting work, with the result that in few years we could seriously damage structures that centuries have not.

19.09.11 The winner of our EHOD colouring in competition. Pretty impressive for a 3 year old!
An architect of the future maybe....

13.09.11 The recent EHOD was a great success. Over 100 interested people turned up on the day to hear a little bit about the history of The Old Throne Hospital.
Many of those who came along used to work in the hospital or were past patients and they were very interested to see how the building had been restored and the old wards converted into office space.

22.08.11 To coincide with the NIEA European Heritage Open Days, DON Conservation have been selected to exhibit two schemes in the PLACE/RSUA Conservation Exhibition 'Revival' which runs from 8 September - 29 October 2011.
The projects chosen are Church of the Immaculate Conception, Louth Village, and The Old Throne Hospital.

22.08.11 DON are taking part in European Heritage Open Days 2011.  The Old Throne Hospital, a Grade B+ listed property was restored by DON Conservation to provide office accommodation.
The building will be open to the public on Sunday 11th September from 10.00 - 16.00 with tours every hour on the hour.


Traditional sash & case windows  - repair or replacement ?

Many people’s first reaction to timber sash windows is that they are draughty, cold, always sticking and a bit of a nuisance .... much better with new low maintenance uPVC windows.  It seems in recent years that the uPVC industry is winning the argument about replacing your old sash windows.  It is true that sash windows can be cold and draughty and I can verify this from personal experience, but there are options other than replacing these windows and many good reasons why you shouldn’t replace.  If your building is listed or in a conservation area then you will not be permitted by legislation to replace your traditional sash and casement windows.  The traditional sash and casement windows are much finer in detail and section than uPVC windows and therefore give a much better appearance to the traditional building.  I lived through a couple of cold winters in a period house with sliding sash windows.  When it came to investigating what to do with the windows I looked at various options and the best solution was to refurbish the windows.  This is not as difficult as it may first appear and there are plenty of companies specialising in the refurbishment of sash windows.  The wood in Pre First World War windows is generally of a better quality than Post First World War.  Prior to the First World War there were many forested areas across Europe which traditionally grew trees for at least 200 years before harvesting.  The First World War saw large areas of these forests ravaged both to source timber for the war and by the destruction of war.  Post war the tradition was to grow trees for 50 years before harvesting.  The net result of this is that new wood has much less heart wood than old wood.  Heart wood is less prone to rot and insect infestation.  Therefore if your building pre-dates the First World War you will most likely have sound timber windows made up of mostly heart wood.  My house was built in 1901 and once I scrapped off the many layers of paint I found Redwood in almost perfect condition.    The decision was then easy !  The small areas of soft wood were filled and sanded with a proprietary filler, putty areas repaired and replaced as required, the windows primed and painted.  The sash ropes were replaced and the existing sash weights re-used.  As the glass was not replaced and the sash weights were re-used there was no need to re-balance the windows.  The sash windows were eased as necessary to allow them to slide easily.  The diagram from Historic Scotland shows the make-up of a typical sliding sash window.

11.02.11 How do I make my sash windows warm & draught free ?

There are different solutions to making your sash windows warm and draught free.  There are a range of manufacturers on the market that supply products that can seal against the sliding sashes, allowing them to operate and still providing an air tight seal.  The other issue remains the heat loss through single glazing.  Recent research undertaken by Historic Scotland has shown that traditional single glazed windows are not as bad as has been portrayed in recent years.  There are simple measures to reduce heat loss through your traditional single glazed sash windows.  The simplest is to install heavy curtains.  Other measures are wooden shutters, which are also traditional in many period buildings, insulated shutters are even better or secondary glazing.  Some companies produce thin double glazed windows which reduce the heat loss in sash windows but they can be easily seen as double glazed and the window frame will need to be altered to suit these new glass units.  They also make the sash window heavier and so the sash weights will need to be altered and windows rebalanced.  My preferred solution is secondary glazing.  I liked this idea so much that I installed it in my own house.  I kept the original single glazing dating back to 1901 in my sliding sash windows which has all the original characteristics such as the air bubbles and slight ripples.  I installed a fine timber frame on hinges to the inside of the original window frames and fitted a proper double glazed unit which complied with current building control requirements.  The frame is sealed against the sash windows to stop draughts.  The result is draught free, warm windows which are also much quieter than before.  The added benefit is also one of security. The outside appearance of the windows is unaffected by the secondary glazing, if anything the slight ripples to the original glass is accentuated.