Think before extending

The Government’s announcement allowing extensions and conservatories to be built without planning permission raises many issues. Not least of these is the fact that an ill conceived extension could detract from the value of neighbouring properties if it’s not in keeping with the existing building, out of scale or of a low standard. With any extension, careful thought must be given to how it will work with the character and architectural rhythm of the original building, while being sustainable in its construction and future performance.

Even before considering an extension it’s worth taking a step back and asking whether it’s actually necessary. Might it be better to convert a loft space or basement or even create a separate room in the garden? These garden rooms are often available in kit form or can be built offsite and craned into position with minimal disruption – if you move, some have the benefit that you can take them with you.

If you do decide to go ahead with an extension plan it properly, keep it in proportion with the existing building and consider how the extra space and circulation areas will work. All too often I see an extension that’s simply been tacked onto the back of a house; this means that the room it’s been built off just becomes a corridor into the new part so little useful space is gained.

Maintaining natural light and ventilation to the existing house is crucial. The addition of an extension can result in rooms within the original building needing to be lit by artificial light or ventilated mechanically. This increases energy consumption and will devalue the ‘feel’ of the space and sense of wellbeing.

Remember that an extension is unlikely to be upgraded for many years so build it well and make it ‘green’ and energy efficient. Set out to achieve the highest levels of insulation and airtightness possible and use materials that are natural and local. If you’re adding it to an old building respect the original structure, wherever possible avoiding knocking holes in the walls and instead use existing window or door openings to access the new space from the old.

If you want to know more, I’ll be in London speaking about how to extend a period house sympathetically each day at The National Home Improvement Show in the Real Homes LIVE! Theatre 2. Free tickets here