There’s a growing trend, nationally, to renovate and extend existing homes, rather than selling up and buying elsewhere. Home owners around in the UK are choosing to spend the money they would have spent on moving house on improving the houses they already have.
Beautiful extensions are more than just great design and some building materials
There are several benefits to this trend to put down roots and build on what you have: you get to stay in a neighbourhood you’re used to, you can get a lot more house for your money, and it’s a good way to keep your spending in check while increasing the value of your investment in your home.
Renovations and extensions can be a lot of fun too – if you plan correctly, apply a little realistic thought to the job, and if you know the following 14 things about extending your home:
- The Laws About WC Placement Have Changed
There used to be a law in the British Building Regulations that stated that a WC had to be separated from any other room by means of a ‘lobby’ – a small room that acted as a buffer between the WC and the rest of the house.
While there may have been reasons for this law (most notably concerns about hygiene), it did restrict the possibilities in terms of layout. These days, you can put a WC anywhere you like – but exercise a little common sense, and keep it out of high traffic areas and living spaces.
- Ditto Showers
The same changes that apply to WC’s have been applied to showers too – which means that if you have the space for one, you can put one just about anywhere you like. Stick to the good practices here though, and try to keep showers in isolated areas of the home, on the same side as other plumbing.
- Through Rooms Are Never a Good Idea
When you’re in the throes of designing an extension, chances are you’re hypnotized by all the square meterage you’ll be gaining. However, if your plans include using any room as a through fare to reach the extension, chances are you’ll be gaining both a new room, and a new corridor – in other words, wasted space.
Always consider the actual usable space you’re gaining – not simply the area on the plans. You may find that you’re gaining less than you thought.
- Consider Converting Existing Space
You may already have usable space that’s easy – and a lot cheaper – to convert to additional space in your home. Porches, conservatories and even balconies can often be converted to a bona fide part of your home quicker, easier and cheaper than starting from scratch.
- Take Practicality Into Consideration
When you’re designing an extension, remember to take both the law, and practical considerations into account. For instance, if you’re adding two extra bedrooms to your home, do you honestly believe that you can still get by with just one bathroom? Every home should meet the needs of the occupants, and be balanced.
- Know Whether You Need Approval for Your Plans
There are certain types of extension that don’t require planning permission or approval – but there are a great many that do. Since there are all kinds of nasty consequences, including fines and having your project halted or delayed if you need approval and don’t have it, it’s always best to ask. Contact the local authorities before you plan any extensions, and make sure you follow their requests to the letter.
- Open Plan Is Cheap AND Chic
The best news for any would be home remodeler is that these days, open plan homes are fashionable. That means that you can leave out unnecessary walls on new parts of your home, and possibly even remove non load bearing walls in existing parts of your home for an added feeling of space. You’ll also save on building the walls, so it’s a win win situation.
- Head Room Matters
Another change in the building code is that it’s a lot less restrictive about height. However, while the building regulations may be more lenient these days, you’re still building an extension that actual people need to use. Actual people with heads. Give them some room.
A standard ceiling is 2.4m high, but if you’re working with limited space – like a basement or attic conversion – you can get away with 2.1m in a pinch. Make sure that that’s 2.1m over the majority of the floor space too, or you could end up with a brand new space that’s not comfortable to be in.
- If It’s Historically or Environmentally Significant, Your Home May Be Harder to Extend
The building laws may have got more relaxed about extensions, but the laws about listed buildings and conservancy areas are still fairly prescriptive. If you live in an environmentally sensitive area, or in a historical building, make sure you find out exactly what restrictions apply to your extension – before you start!
- You’re Legally Required to be a Good Neighbour
Yes, you want sweeping ceilings and double volume, and you simply MUST have an upstairs rumpus room. The trouble is, while you think those things are essentials, the law protects your neighbour’s right to light – which means you can’t go too high, too close. Be a good neighbor, and consider their feelings when you design.
- Room Size Minimum Guidelines Dynamite May Come In Small Packages, But There Are Limits Smaller homes are easier to manage – no denying that. However, there are minimum restrictions applied to the area of all of the rooms in any building. That means that when you design your extension, you need to make sure that each room matches or exceeds the minimum requirement for a room with the same purpose. If in doubt, the building department in your area should be able to advise.
- Trees Could Be an Obstacle
It’s not only history or ecology that might hamper your extension – you may find that there are trees on your property that have TPO’s or Tree Preservation Orders on them – which means you can’t remove or even cut them back for your building project. Find out before you start planning, if you suspect this is the case.
- Don’t Confuse Estimates with Quotations
Estimates are often rough guides to the price you’re likely to pay for a project – not a detailed account of everything that goes into it. A quotation, on the other hand, is a detailed, usually legally binding offer to perform a particular contract or project for a particular price. When you’re planning your project, estimates are fine – but when you actually plan to spend money, you want to have a firm quotation.
- Tax Isn’t Fixed on All Extensions
Certain extensions and renovations, like those on listed buildings, are not subject to VAT. Work on unoccupied buildings could be subject to just 5% VAT if they’ve been unoccupied long enough, and some are subject to the full 20% VAT as a standard. You can also save on tax by using small, unregistered contractors, but be warned that small contractors often need more ‘babysitting.’
As you can see, there’s a lot more to extending your home than a fantastic design and some building materials.
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