Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Extending your property.

Are you planning your dream home? Perhaps you want carry out alterations or extend your existing house?
Many of the properties I have visited to discuss an extension have for sale signs outside. The owners have decided they need a larger house for whatever reason, but they cannot find the right one, in the right area, or not as nice as their existing property, and so they think about extending their house.

Generally the householders have identified the space they are lacking with their house, for example a larger kitchen, extra bedroom, or bathroom. They have also probably identified the best place they want the extension to be – front, side or back of the house. It likely they have planned it out on a scrap of paper, napkin or whatever, but mostly it is still in their minds. It isn’t uncommon to see chalk outlines of an extension on the paving flags though.

Depending upon the size of the extension and its location, it is likely that planning permission is required. There has been a lot of publicity recently about the relaxation of the size of extensions allowed under permitted development, 6.0m deep extensions at the rear of a semi-detached house, inside of the 3.0m that was allowed. In reality I haven’t found a property where this would be permissible, because the extension starts to take away the light, overshadows or overlooks the neighbour. A rule of thumb is to strike a 45 degree line from the middle of the neighbours window of a principle room (lounge, dining room or bedroom) and if the extension crosses the line, it would not be allowed. If theses windows are close to the boundary, you cannot build very far out before crossing the line.

Accessing the extension without long corridors is always something to be mindful of and usually there needs to be some compromise. Consider a rear extension to give a larger kitchen, this is ok as long as the space of the existing kitchen is used in the room, or else you have middle rooms with no light. Side extensions can be more complicated because the house is usually designed with either rooms, or the stairs on the outside wall, again ok if you are making a larger room, but creating access to a new room, may mean taking space off an existing room to gain access via a corridor to the new room, particularly if the stairs are on the party wall.

Planners generally require an extension to be slightly smaller than the original house – the term subservient is the words they use to describe this. This is achieved by setting the walls of the extension back slightly from the face of the house, which reduces the width (or depth) of the extension compared to the original, and by simple geometry the ridge height of the new roof is lower than the main roof.

One reason for this is to stop the street looking like a row of terraces, imagine if every pair of semi’s in the street extended sideways to the boundary, the whole row would become linked. A builder recently suggested that it highlights the extension. Potential buyers to the area will see the extension(s) and decide that it is an affluent, or up and coming area where people are improving their houses and that will persuade them to move there. How much truth there is in that, I am not sure, but the recess between the old and new creates a shadow line and mis-matched bricks is not quite as pronounced as if they were flat against each other. Setting back the extension helps to ensure that the original building keeps the essential character and design once the extension is completed, for example an extension on the side of a pair of semi’s would ‘unbalance’ and change whole appearance of the property, but setting back the extension maintains the original appearance.

If you are considering extending your property, seek professional architectural advice to get a design which will meet your needs, and hopefully also keeps the Planning Department and importantly your neighbours happy.

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