Loo with a View, Cornwall

When property developer Charlotte Thomson and fiancé Joey Auger bought a derelict public toilet in Cornwall, they planned to turn the 200-year-old building into a romantic cliff-top retreat. They installed Celotex GA4000 in the roof and spent around seven months overhauling the old loo to create a beautiful, modern abode.

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Celotex GA4000 installed in seaside property renovation

Products Used: Celotex GA4000
Sector: Housing

Joey and Charlotte aren’t the first to spend (a lot of) pennies transforming old public conveniences. In fact, it seems to have become a bit of a trend in property development.

In a bid to save money, councils across the country have been selling off public toilets, and creative developers are taking on the challenge of transforming these small spaces. The finished results are often remarkable.

Charlotte and Joey’s cliff-top public loo is located in the historic port of Charlestown. Situated at the curve of the bay, the ramshackle building was built in 1771 and served as a fishermen’s net store for more than 100 years. After the war, it was converted to a public loo. While the structure needed a lot of work, the main attraction for the couple was the panoramic ocean view.

They purchased the loo - along with garden on the other side of a public footpath - for £115,000, well above the £70,000 asking price. Charlotte admits she got “excited” about the building’s potential, but it was also a big gamble since they weren’t sure they’d be able to get planning permission for a change of use.

Speaking to architect and television presenter George Clarke on Channel 4's Amazing Spaces, Charlotte and Joey explained that the old public convenience might not be what you expect when you think of an idyllic cliff-top home in Cornwall, but that’s why they were able to buy the stunning property for such a bargain.

“To have a coastal property in this area, you’re looking at silly money. Hundreds of thousands,” Joey said - but the couple only paid a fraction of that.

Of course, transforming the home took a lot of work, and with a budget of around £65,000, Charlotte and Joey took on a lot of the hard labour themselves.

Using a pneumatic drill, they removed more than 30 tonnes of reinforced concrete from the old cubicle walls, and some careful planning had to be done to transform the tiny structure, which measured just 8.8 m by 5.1 m, into a useable living space.

To make the most of the small floor plan, Charlotte and Joey decided to raise the roof and build a second floor, which would include two bedrooms - one an en suite master bedroom with a roll-top bath next to a window looking out to sea. This work was handed over to the professionals and required more time and expense than expected. But once the new roof was finished and the second-floor structure installed, it was time to get started on the interior.

One important step in this process was to insulate the property. A home can look stunning, but if it’s cold and hard to heat in the winter, it’s not going to be very comfortable or romantic. So, before they started adding glamour and sparkle, they made it energy efficient.

Charlotte and Joey decided to use Celotex GA4000 to insulate the building, and it was installed in the floor, walls and roof.

Charlotte said they chose Celotex because they’ve used it before in other renovation projects and have always been pleased with its high quality and durability on site.

Celotex GA4000 is a multipurpose PIR insulation board that's ideal for pitched roof applications. It was supplied in boards measuring 1200 x 2400 mm, and Charlotte was able to cut them to size using a handsaw.

“Because we used so much of it throughout the property, cutting and fitting it was almost second nature towards the end of the build,” Charlotte explained.

“I liked the fact that there was little mess or dust when cutting it, and that it didn’t bend or collapse when it was fitted in the ceiling (it’s a hard enough job as it is!)”, she added.

The insulation boards were easily attached under the rafters, and then they were covered and painted over for a seamless finish.

Underfloor heating also helps to keep the home warm during the winter.

It was then time for the couple to start putting character and charm back into the former loo. Joey used reclaimed ancient oak beams to create window lintels, while Charlotte collected items from the local beach to bring a sense of the outdoors inside. For example, a large piece of driftwood that washed up in a storm was used to create the handrail on the stairs. The downstairs bathroom even includes a set of the original “Ladies” and “Gentlemen” signs over the door.

“We couldn’t get rid of them, we couldn’t do it,” Charlotte said.

Visiting the property after work was finished, George Clarke called the result “virtually unrecognisable”.

The couple admitted the project went significantly over budget, but wouldn’t say by how much. George Clark reckoned they spent at least double what they had planned - but it was worth it for the high-quality finish.

Once the project was complete, Charlotte and Joey considered selling it. The house, now called Harbour Lights, was valued at nearly £600,000 and was listed as one of Coast Magazine’s 9 Homes to Buy Beside the Sea in January 2017.

However the couple has since decided to keep the property and let it out as a holiday home.

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Key considerations

When using Celotex products, you need to satisfy yourself that use of the product meets all relevant national Building Regulations and guidance as well as local, national and other applicable standards relevant for your construction or application, including requirements in relation to fire and applicable height restrictions. In addition to the product datasheet, please refer to the following product documents:

Celotex products should not be used in the external walls of buildings over 11 metres in height. Recent changes to Building Regulations mean that only non-combustible insulation or insulation of limited combustibility should be used in buildings of that height.