Onwards and Outwards
Onwards and Outwards

Maximising the interior of your home with an extension can restyle where you live. From changing the feel of your home, to transforming the size, Suzi Boyle uncovers how to do it right.

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The number one reason for moving is want of more space, but what if you could create that right where you are? Adding an extension to your home can be the ultimate makeover. If you feel like you’ve outgrown your current space and need to move, but can’t financially manage it (or don’t want to risk today’s shaky property market), taking advantage of redundant outdoor space can work miracles.

Architects and builders nationwide are experiencing a surge in demand as property headlines scream renovation can cost less than relocation. And while the days of doing up a bathroom to add value to a property may be over; the days of investment-savvy homeowners adding an extension to increase their property’s worth are just beginning.

Glass architectural company, Apropos, has recorded a 12 per cent increase in customers in the past year.

“People are staying put,” explains Regional Sales Manager, Gary Shaw. “We estimate that if you were to move out of a home worth £300,000-£400,000 and then move straight back in again, you’d still spend somewhere in the region of £25,000-£35,000. Whereas, for as little as £7,000, you can open up your property with a glass structure that will totally change where you live.”

Tom Gresford, an architect for Architect Your Home, agrees: “Depending on what you want to achieve, how much you can spend and, of course local planning, an extension can infinitely change your property. From adding a simple extra room to even doubling the size of your home.”

While elaborate extensions are costly, you don’t need an excessive amount to give the illusion of having more space. “A big budget is not necessary, but some budget is,”says Tom. “You need to be realistic, but some of the most interesting projects are the outcome of tight budgets. The key is to think creatively.”

One cheaper way of changing the flow of your home is by installing bi-folding doors at the back of your property, which open up onto the garden. Or, in Victorian houses, where there is an alleyway between your house and the neighbour’s, simply adding a glass roof to the side return can open up a whole room with natural light.

“People sometimes come to us with a room they don’t use very open - maybe it’s dark, or has low two metre ceilings,” points out Gary Shaw. “Extending the roof with a self-supporting roof light, which will cost about £8,000, can transform it into the main feature of the house.”

Add an aesthetically pleasing extension, and you should at least make your money back when you come to sell.

As Darren Haysom, Sales Manager for Foxtons Islington, says: “Adding an extension can differentiate your property from neighbouring houses and attract potential buyers, so it is a great way of adding value.”

Getting Started

Before you start work, it’s important to decide what you want from your extension. Do you want to be able to use it all year round? Is it primarily for lounging in, or will you use it as a dining space? Once you have a budget, you will then need to find the right architect (if you use one) and builders for the job.

Gary Shaw says the projects that fail are the ones where people have made bad early decisions. “My absolute top tip would be to employ a company that doesn’t use typical sales people. You want someone who listens, who will work with you to achieve what you want.”

Not using an architect means you will be responsible for all the work yourself - from submitting drawings to the council, to knowing building regulations and control applications. As for builders, positive referrals from friends and family can be invaluable, or you can research different options on the find-me-a-builder website (www.fmb.org.uk/find-a-builder). But be 100 per cent sure before you hire someone - you don’t want to be banging your head against a half-built brick wall mid-extension because the budget is out of control or the work is sloppy.

“Another area where most pitfalls occur is not getting the correct planning permission and the costs for it upfront,” says Tom Gresford. Since 2008, under “permitted development”, if your house is detached, you can extend up to four metres behind your property (three metres if it’s semi) without having to obtain planning permission. That said, most extensions will require more space, so you’ll also have to budget for the council fee and building regulation approval too.

Apropos estimates the size of a structure should add the same amount in value, so a structure that adds 10 per cent size, should add 10 per cent to the asking price of your property. It may seem a daunting process, but plan your extension carefully, budget appropriately and take advice from the experts. When that dark, unused part of the house has been turned into a ‘wow’ space you can thoroughly enjoy, it will all have been worth it.

Top Tips


Explain to your neighbours early in the process what’s going on and how long the work is expected to take. If changes are taking place on a shared wall, you will need to employ a surveyor to initiate a party wall award whereby you will be responsible for all ‘reasonable’ costs incurred.


Check your local council’s rules on extensions prior to committing to the idea. For example, some London boroughs have imposed a two-metre height limit on extensions, which means you may need to lower the floor for height. This can be surprisingly cost consuming.


As your property increases so will your insurance premium, therefore it is a good idea to get an estimate before you start work.


Builders in general quote you for what they can see, but often unforeseen costs arise (especially in older buildings). Budget for roughly 15 per cent more than what they estimate.


Match the decking or tiles used outside to your interior flooring; it will dramatically increase the illusion of space.


Keep in mind there may also be costs involving your garden, e.g. landscaping afterwards if you’ve had lots of work done.


While it’s natural to want to add as much interior space as possible, beware of consuming the entire garden. Over extending your property can actually devalue it if the result feels disproportionate to the rest of the house.

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