What to consider when adding more space to your home

Thinking about adding more space to your home is not something that happens overnight. It’s the constant toe stabbing against a particular chair in a cramped kitchen that is always in the way or that press that is a daily avalanche of everything but what you are looking for. It’s the realisation that your children are growing up way too fast and suddenly the cosy home you all fit in is now bursting at the seams. So after many months of flicking through magazines, online Instagram accounts, stalking neighbours to get a glimpse into their new home extension and drawing shape after shape in a bid to design it yourself, you stop and want to forget all about it. But wait, you could call that local builder who will come out free of charge to tell you how much an extension would cost.

Out comes the builder and before you know it you are getting a whopper new extension (great you think), just what we need, until they land you with the price. So you ask where would the best place be to locate a new kitchen? I need lots of storage, do you think we would need planning. This is the point where any good builder says ‘ you need to be talking to an architect‘. They can design this to exactly how you live and then they give me a set of drawings for an accurate price. Otherwise once I start if you look for more things added in it will be expensive.

So, before you go and waste any time bringing people out to your home here are my top tips that will help you get the most from your new space and most importantly save you money and your time.

  1. Know how much you have to spend and get a figure in mind- talk to an architect first to understand costs and if what you are thinking is even possible for your own home without blowing the budget. We know that in most cases the bank will look for a Building Estimate stamped by us to review a potential application for funding. Being realistic now is crucial.
  2. Ask yourself why you really need the extension in the first place. Is it sheer necessity to have more space? Is it dividing the house for growing teenagers, Is an elderly parent coming to share your home.
  3. Consider the space you have at the moment and ask yourself what doesn’t work.  You may need to re-configure the existing space that you have (what works and what doesn’t) and then arrive at the size of extension you need, saving you potentially a lot of money. As architects we are trained to look at the problem areas first and then focus on the positive aspects and incorporate them into a home extension or renovation.
  4. Always start by writing down your needs and wants; these can be very different. One may need more storage but another person in the home may need more light and want bigger windows. This may reduce wall space and if not talked through can cost you money when designing and building if changes are made during a build.
  5. Keep a journal. We see more and more clients coming to us with a scrapbook full of cuttings and images of what they like and recording things over a period of time that bother them in their home. It can make the whole design process much cheaper when we have your ideas  and design thoughts in front of us.
  6. Do think about the value of your home currently and what value it will add when the new extension has been added. Don’t be overly ambitious if you are never going to make this money back again.
  7. Think about your garden and outdoor space. Under Planning laws you must retain 25sq.metres of open space to the rear of your property. You also don’t want to build something so big that it looks out of place and may affect your ability sell in the future with a smaller garden.
  8. Talk to your neighbours and get a sense of how their garden maybe affected in terms of sunlight and daylight. Always keep them on side. We have seen the best of neighbours become disgruntled once a build starts on site and you have to live with them for a potentially very long time.
  9. Find out about the planning rules and whether you need planning for your extension– ask your architect or visit your local Council website.
  10. Use your time in the early exploration stages to visit window, flooring, kitchen showrooms to see what you would like in terms of finishes. Once you start the process with an architect the time goes quickly and nobody wants to be deciding on such important finishes without having time to really think about it.

Finally if you are now ready to start looking for an architect to partner with make sure you check the RIAI Register to ensure that they are a qualified architect; if they are not on the register they cannot call themselves an architect. Always ask if your plans are going to be prepared in 3d; a good integrated 3d model will allow you to see your space before the build starts and really can save you so much time and headaches changing things and it should not cost you any more.

I hope this gives you some insight into the early stages and as always feel free to get in touch if you would like to talk to us about your space.

Ronan