Before you start an extension project
Reconfigure What’s There
As well as adding new space, reconfiguring the existing room arrangement to create the optimum layout for making the best use of natural light, views, access to the garden and drive, and to improve privacy, is crucial to making the new extension work. Internal walls and doorways can be added or removed to achieve the space you require and to integrate any new extension, to ensure you get real value and use from it.
If you are looking to achieve maximum value for money with your extension, consider building over two storeys rather than just one, as the average cost per square metre (m²) is reduced by stretching the more expensive elements of roof and foundations over a larger area. You could also build an extra storey over the top of an existing single storey structure, such as a garage.
A Strong Style
When extending your home choose either a contrasting but complementary style, or make the extension look like it has always been there. The former is much easier to pull off well.
If you decide to create a seamless extension, make sure you copy the key design elements, roof pitch, materials and details like the brick bond and even the mortar colour, or it will look wrong.
Tall ceilings can transform the way a room feels — larger rooms especially are made to feel even more spacious and impressive. An extension gives scope to add this feature for relatively little cost, either by digging down to lower the floor level, or by building up. In a two storey extension this may result in a split-level on the first floor, which can add interest.
Where an extension is beneath a pitched roof, there may be the option to create a vaulted ceiling, open to the ridge. Instead of building a conventional flat ceiling with a void above, fit insulation within the pitched roof structure to create this feature.
If you can’t decide between enclosing a new extension with a wall or going open plan, consider fitting sliding pocket doors, giving you the best of both worlds. When closed, sliding flush doors can give the appearance of a wall, but when open they can disappear within the wall, presenting a clear opening.
Smaller conservatories often don’t require planning permission are excluded from the Building Regulations and are fairly inexpensive, making them one of the most popular home improvements. A conservatory can have its drawbacks, however: it must be separated from the house by external doors to reduce energy loss, and it can be difficult to heat in winter and keep cool in summer. A popular alternative is to build a sunroom/an extension with large areas of glazing, but with a conventional insulated roof and typically one insulated wall (particularly the one facing the boundary). The space can be open to the rest of the house, and the temperature can be controlled more easily.
The Glazed Link
When extending a period home, it can be difficult to find the right design to complement the existing property. One solution is to add the new space as an entirely separate building in a sympathetic style – either traditional or contemporary – and to join the two with a fully glazed walkway. Using structural glazing it is possible for such a link to be constructed entirely from glass, reducing its visual impact and leaving the original building’s character unaltered. This is a device favoured by many conservation officers and can work well in linking existing period buildings, too.
A well thought out lighting scheme will give your new space great atmosphere, allowing you to use different combinations of circuits for different activities. Independent control of each circuit using dimmer switches or smart switches with preset options is essential. As well as ambient lighting to provide basic background light for everyday activities, include accent lighting in the form of directional spotlights, uplights, downlights, wall washes, baffled (concealed source) lights, table lamps and standard lamps to create light and shade, which is key for atmosphere. Add decorative lamps, for instance, above a kitchen island or dining table as feature lighting.