Kollette and Darren Smith have completely rebuilt a former schoolhouse on the verge of collapse, creating a family home whilst preserving the original building’s charm.

For more than 40 years the old school in Skidby, East Yorkshire had stood empty, over-run by weeds, buried under creepers and so dilapidated that it was on the verge of falling down. There was no doubt that if Kollette and Darren hadn’t stepped in when they did, the 200-year-old village landmark would have been reduced to a pile of rubble.

“It had been left to rot and looked really poorly. It was certainly going to be a challenge to get it back on its feet again,” says Kollette. “Just two walls were left standing and we knew there was no point in having it surveyed — we expected the worst and we got it.”

To begin with, the site needed clearing and the path around the building – which had become so high that it was almost level with the window openings – had to be dug down and levelled to create access to the back of the property. An old toilet block was demolished and the unsafe walls, along with an old porch and the children’s cloakrooms, were taken down brick by brick.

Most of the spoils from the dismantling were taken to the back of the property and tipped into a pit, which later became the foundation for a decked area and hot tub. All of the slates were stripped from the roof, cleaned and stored in piles on site.

Kollette and Darren decided to project manage the process themselves. “We fitted it in around work,” says Darren, who is a site manager by profession. “We were both working full time and couldn’t take time out to concentrate fully on this, so we just did what we could when we could. Luckily I was able to pull together a team of people to help us.”

Site clearance took six weeks, then the corners of the remaining building were underpinned and a further two weeks spent creating the foundations.

The main structure of the new house was created from a steel inner frame which was designed to stand independently of the old walls. The window openings were dropped by 400mm to allow for an upstairs floor without altering the roof line. The roof slates took a month to re-lay and while this was being done, the windows were made to measure.

“It was a steep learning curve from beginning to end and we went over budget by £25,000, but it’s been worth it,” says Darren. “We have something really special. Friends and family who thought we were mad to take it on now understand why we did it. It’s really satisfying to take something which is derelict and give it a new lease of life.”

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