Extend or remodel? Creating your dream home
It’s a classic dilemma. You’ve purchased a tired, rather dated property in a fantastic location with the plan to extend it and create your dream home. But have you considered if reconfiguring your existing space would do the job? When it comes to your biggest asset, should you extend or remodel?
The obvious answer is - it depends. Clearly, there is no right or wrong answer to this design dilemma because every case is different and there are so many factors to consider. But here are some of the major issues to research, to help you decide.
Need more space?
Most homeowners extend when they feel they need more space. Today, the most popular extension is an open plan kitchen with dining area overlooking the garden. But do you need to build an extension to achieve this or is it something you can create from the space you already have? The biggest difference between homes built before 2000 and those built today isn’t the size of the house but the layout. Modern houses are no bigger – many are smaller - than those we’ve been building for decades. But they benefit from bright, open plan layouts, whereas older homes tend to have lots of small rooms, each with their own purpose.
Consider the floorplan of your home. The room next to the kitchen (probably bigger) is the dining room. Is it only half-used as a dining area with the rest an office/computer games/dumping area that’s cleared out for Christmas dinner? In some homes, there’s also an integral garage – invariably used for storage with the car parked on the drive. Then there’s the lounge. Which rooms do you use the most and why?
Could your dream open plan family kitchen be achieved by removing internal walls to open up your home? Can you knock through from the kitchen to dining room and steal a bit of space from the lounge or attached garage to maximise the feeling of light and space? If you need an extra bedroom, could you convert the loft space? Is there enough headroom? An extension should only be considered if other options for remodelling your existing space have been dismissed.
It will almost certainly be cheaper to remodel even if the layout changes radically than building an extension with new foundations, external walls and roof. If you go down the remodel route, it roughly costs about £1,000 per simple internal wall removed and made good. But before you pick up that sledgehammer, check with a structural engineer or your builder if it’s an integral part of the structure of the house. Load-bearing walls can still be removed but it will be necessary to insert supporting structures, such as steel beams, which bumps up the cost. In terraced or semi-detached houses, where new beams need to rest in a party wall, you will need a Party Wall Agreement with your neighbours.
It’s always worth asking for advice from a qualified architect, especially as the initial consultation is usually free. If there is no way you or your design professional can work out how to conjure up extra living space, then you are on your way to building a case for your extension project.
The planning hurdle is likely to be higher for an extension than a remodel. In most cases, there is no need for planning permission to knock down internal walls or replace windows and doors. Nor is planning permission usually required to convert your garage into additional living space, providing the work is internal. The main exception is if your house is listed in which case you will have to obtain listed building consent. That said, it’s always best to check with your local authority in case these permitted development rights have been removed. Of course, a remodel will still need to meet all modern building regulations.
In most cases, working with what you’ve got is more eco-friendly than building a new extension from scratch. Why? A remodel involves gutting the interior of a property but will require less energy than demolishing exterior walls and rebuilding from scratch. Plus, if you compare the amount of waste generated by remodel vs extending, the former will usually be greener. That said, the devil is in the detail. A homeowner who extends and recycles or salvages building materials may be greener than someone who remodels and sends all the debris to landfill.
So, should you remodel or extend? In some cases, the decision is made for you. For example, if you live in a flat with no garden, there is little chance of making it bigger. But if you have a house with outside space, extending your property becomes a real possibility. It’s important the end-result is balanced. A four-bedroom family house with no garden or parking, could be hard to sell. A major advantage of reconfiguring your existing house rather than extending outwards is that it preserves the garden.
It pays to weigh up the pros and cons of each option. Whether you opt for an extension or remodel, there are multiple issues to consider, including your budget and garden size. If you’re still feeling confused, contact an architect for expert advice. Ultimately, work out whether your aims and aspirations for your home are best achieved through an extension – or whether you don’t need to extend at all.