10 tips before altering or extending your home
PUBLISHED: 09:00 12 April 2017 | UPDATED: 09:00 12 April 2017
Bruce Clark from built environment consultancy Nash Partnership speaks to interior designer and fine decoration specialist Lucinda Rowan-Mayberry (Mayberry Fine Interiors) for her tips on what to consider before altering or extending your property
Many home owners would say the options for moving are reducing. From current high property values and stock shortages to limited mortgage availability, there are many reasons why people are choosing to ‘improve, not move’ their households.
Whether you want to create more space, make your home more habitable, add value, update your property, or just keep up with trends, the potential pitfalls are plenty. Here are Lucinda’s 10 valuable tips to think about before altering or extending.
1. Consider the long term
When moving in to a new home, alterations are often scheduled early as part of the routine of making the home one’s own. However, this is where time and money can be wasted. It is important to stand back and consider the longer term needs and requirements. For example, will there be more or fewer people living in your house in future? Try to imagine what life will be like at the property in, say, 10 years’ time.
2. Create a brief and a budget
Before you decide to alter or extend a property, it is sensible to create a brief and set a budget for the work you are considering. Do your research: find out the costs of the qualified tradespeople you’d need, get full estimates and think about how you will manage your budget.
3. Be brand aware
Most people like brands. Some of us get ‘locked’ into a particular brand identity and current branding trends often influence our buying and product choices.
We often associate brands/products with different types of quality and value for money, rather than being purely analytical and seeing the product for what is actually is. We often seek brands associated with a lifestyle to which we aspire, or simply to associate with our own lifestyle. This can skew a brief and lead to inappropriate choices.
For example, you can spend thousands of pounds on a particular style of tap when a quality tap can be bought for much less. In creating your budget, be aware that ultimately, the product has to be functional, not just chosen for branding or style.
4. Check specifics with your local authority
Government policy is helping owners to extend or alter their homes by increasing the options for permitted development and removing the need to get planning permission for much domestic development. For example, a 6- or 8-metre single-storey rear extension or conservatory may not need permission. However, it is important to check with your Local Authority or a specialist first, because the detail is often more complex than it appears.
5. Make sure your expense will add value
The benefits of altering or extending in cash terms depend on several factors: location, property type, scale and type of alteration and the amount expended. But, all other things being equal, square footage tends to equal money. The most commonly considered alterations with expectation of increased value are:
• Refitting kitchens
• Refitting and increasing the number of bath/ shower rooms
• Creating extra space (eg. Conservatories or garden rooms).
If one is not very analytical, any increase in value can easily be outweighed by the expense. Unless you intend to stay in the house in the long term, it is worth speaking to an estate agent. This will help to establish the best expected value and therefore help set the budget if you want the alterations to add value. Some initial online research is possible, but professional advice will establish realistic expectations for the type of house and the location.
6. Consider re-organising
In looking to create extra space, consider what you could gain from reorganizing the existing building rather than looking automatically to extend. However, be aware that this may create further short/medium term practical issues. Bathrooms and washing facilities are an example of work to meet modern expectations that have increased dramatically over the last 40 years, as is the need to safely accommodate increasing numbers of electrical fixtures and fittings.
7. A fresh coat of paint
A fresh coat of paint in a neutral colour gives an instant lift to a room, obliterating scuffed paintwork and the previous owner’s choices. The first phase of re-decorating should involve a hygienic base coat in a non-offensive colour that does not distract from visualizing future (design) plans.
Phase two of your decorating project ideally takes place after any structural or layout alterations have been carried out. At Mayberry Fine Interiors, we usually do this once we have established a scheme for the final interior decoration and furnishing styles for the room. Budget and existing furniture will help determine the final scheme.
8. Architectural style, detail and setting
Conservatories and garden rooms are often seen as a quick, cost effective way to add usable space. They are also aspirational, being historically associated with country houses, as Orangeries, and later large Victorian and Edwardian homes. Now, rooms derived from the style are used as habitable spaces, typically as a living room, dining space next to the kitchen or as an office.
There are many companies offering off the peg designs of varying cost and quality. But as a prominent change to one of a house’s most important elevations, be sure to consider the architectural style, detail and how it affects the garden setting.
If budgets allow, a lot can be achieved with glass, with superfine metal frames and even totally frameless systems available.
Glass is developing at an increasing pace, with various tinted and thermal options available. Even double glazing is no longer a single product, with variation in the gas used. To reduce the visual impact of the double glazing spacers, ‘slimlite’ and vacuum glazing systems have become available.
9. Be practical
Make sure you consider practical issues about how the extended or altered space is to be used. For example, where are the heating/lighting locations? Will there be any fixed furniture? What are the requirements of Building Regulations, particularly if the space created is to be used as a living area, rather than a traditional conservatory? Will the new space be separate from the rooms of the existing house, typically via French windows? If the space will act as an extension to an existing room, there will be structural issues to consider if existing openings are to be widened, and the requirements of Part L of the Building Regulations to meet.
Large sheets of glass at low level, in or either side of doors, need to be made of a safety glass to protect people in case of breakages. A very real practical issue to consider is the weight of the glass, and how to install it. One recent Nash Partnership project used a single sheet of glass weighing ¾ of a tonne, impossible to lift by hand.
10. Think maintenance
All conservatories need some form of maintenance to stay in good condition. The most common points of failure are the rainwater drainage system, double glazing units and the waterproofing between the conservatory and the existing house. As an extension, the conservatory will move differentially from the house. Failures have occurred where the connection between the new and old buildings is too rigid, distorting the framing of the conservatory.
In summary, extending or altering your home can add financial value as well as extra space. You can help to keep your alterations profitable by considering some basic factors before you decide.
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