House Renovation - UPDATED

With some imagination your tired and dated house could be given a dramatic new lease of life both inside and out.

Taking a neglected house and giving it an exterior makeover can totally transform a property – increasing both its kerb appeal and the potential value. Something as simple and inexpensive as painting the front door or planting up the garden can give a home a real boost or, for the more adventurous, new windows, cladding or even a different roof covering can render a building completely unrecognisable.

This is not about choosing the right property – it’s about owning the wrong property and adapting it to make it into your dream home.

This Arts and Crafts-style house was brought up to date with the addition of new windows and a modern rear extension to connect the house with the garden.

The owners had originally considered demolishing the Arts and Crafts-style dwelling but realised that the 1920s property was well built and structurally sound.

Spotting Potential

If you are looking for a project, it is important to do your homework. Look at local property papers and listings and visit estate agents to find out the asking price for similar properties on the same street and try to establish the maximum potential value. It’s pointless spending £100,000 on improving a property if it will only add £70,000 to the sale price, unless you plan on staying for some time.

Renovation involves keeping the good bits and improving the bad bits of a house.

Some people will strive to accurately restore a building to its former glory, while others will transform a featureless house into a highly contemporary home. Many start by adding an extension and this leads on to changing room layouts, removing walls, adding windows and generally tinkering until the entire property has been made over.

The important thing is not to get carried away by a fantastic site and buy a building which is totally unsuitable for renovation, when demolition and redevelopment may be the most sensible solution. Not every older building is a potential palace. Some have poor foundations and would require underpinning; others were built from asbestos-based materials which would need to be carefully removed.

Try to view the building in wet weather, which may show up roof leaks and damaged gutters, and look for obvious structural defects such as cracks near corners, sagging roof ridges and rotten windows.

On a run down property, a detailed survey is essential.

A run-down property may be a bargain if you’re willing to put in the time and money required, but you should be aware from the outset exactly what will need doing, which is where a detailed survey comes in.

Living with a Renovation

Living in your house while building work continues around you may seem like the perfect solution – saving money on rent and ensuring that you’re on hand to tackle day-to-day decisions and problems.

Apart from the cold, noise and dirt, this can prove to be a stressful option, however, with no privacy from the builders. Many people who decide to stay put will change their minds and move out after just a few days when they realise how much they and their belongings are getting in the way.

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Renovating a property can be a messy affair, so careful consideration should be given to moving out while the work is completed.

If the building work involves a single extension, which can be separated from the main house until the last minute, it should be possible to live relatively comfortably in the old part of the building, although there will obviously be a certain amount of noise and disruption.

If the work involves multiple rooms and will take several months to complete then decamping to the bedroom may not be a practical option, and it would be worthwhile to consider renting. All this can drastically add to the final bill, but will ensure your furniture and sanity remain intact, and will allow the builders to work unhindered.

Adding Value

Always start by securing the basic structure and then move on to the interiors. There’s little point in decorating every room only to find you have a damp problem, a leaking roof, or damaged windows.

Once structural concerns have been sorted out there are certain key ways to add value to virtually any property. Updating services such as ancient plumbing and wiring needs to be completed before any decorating or cosmetic improvements, as does installing a new heating system when required.

If you can extend either outwards or upwards into the loft space then a previously cramped building can miraculously become a spacious family home, in a completely different price bracket.

Updating or remodelling fixtures and fittings, such as kitchen units and sanitaryware, will then unlock the property’s full potential.

What every house needs is at least one wow factor – whether a high-budget item such as a fantastic kitchen or conservatory, or a less expensive option like an eye-catching fireplace. Not only will people remember your home more easily, but such features, if executed sympathetically, can significantly add to its value.

Timber Frame Extension

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A timber-frame extension was added as part of a major renovation of this two-storey family home in Sutherland. The extension incorporates a new outdoor living space, carport, garage, gym and cinema room. A total of 43 bespoke trusses were required for the new roof which is a complex design, with the upper floor formed using attic trusses and the two wings meeting at different angles due to site constraints. A gym on the first floor required higher loadings than a standard domestic attic and meant that the timbers and plates needed to be engineered to a higher specification.

Renovation2020-extension.jpgMany of the original walls and elements of the upstairs remained. The new design features a standout sunroom and an outside dining area connected by a large expanse of glass to make the most of the views. The project was a collaboration between roof truss manufacturer Pasquill, building contractors Richard M Mackenzie Ltd and Blueprint Architecture. It was shortlisted for BBC Scotland’s Home of the Year.

 

Planning Permission

A number of major alterations can be implemented without the need for planning consent in many cases, including rearranging the interior of a house, adding roof lights and converting non-habitable areas such as integral garages and lofts into living space. An interactive house guide is available at planningportal.co.uk which steers you around the planning permission rules for homes and our Guide to Permitted Deveopment Rights outlines what can be acheived without planning permission

If you do need to make a planning application, it’s always worth chatting to your neighbours first about your intentions. They may be more supportive if you can show them a model or drawing of the finished result. With seriously radical changes it might prove helpful to have your designer on hand to answer any technical questions and attempt to smooth things over.

For extensions and major remodelling projects it’s usually advisable to employ a professional to draw up accurate plans, which will be submitted to the local authority for Building Regulations approval, and you may also need the help of a structural engineer. If you’re using an architect, then choose someone with relevant experience to guide you through the maze of choices.

Making Space

Many remodelling projects start with an extension. These are not always the standard tacked-on sunroom or new kitchen but can be several smaller additions designed to open up a hallway or improve circulation between rooms.

Loft conversions can be one of the cheapest ways of adding space and value to your home.

Loft conversions cost less than half the price per square metre of a new extension because the basic structure is already in place, and planning permission is therefore not usually required. Not all attics can be easily converted, however, and some can prove expensive to adapt.

Space will be taken up by the new staircase, so make sure that you are actually gaining more living space overall. Building Regulations also require an enclosed means of escape, which may mean adding fire doors to all rooms leading onto the staircase and hallway.

See more in Guide to Loft Conversions »

Adding new space in the form of an extension or loft conversion will usually increase the value of a property but remodelling and improving existing space is also a money-spinner, particularly in the living areas and kitchen.

Redundant hallways and corridors may be combined with living rooms

Kitchens and dining rooms can be knocked together to create a large, informal space; and bedroom walls could be moved to enlarge a box room – although remember to add acoustic insulation to new stud walls and to consult a structural engineer or building surveyor if structural walls are to be removed.


Eco Retrofits

Green renovations and makeovers are becoming increasingly popular, as homeowners attempt to reduce fuel bills and choose environmentally friendly products. This has been encouraged with the government’s recent announcement of £5,000 grants to improve the energy performance of existing homes.

Often termed ‘eco retrofits’ refurbishments of older houses can transform a draughty, fuel-hungry property into a comfortable, energy-efficient home.

If you only do one thing, insulating is the top priority. Without adequate insulation around 40% of heat is lost through the walls and roof.

To reduce the environmental impact of your improvements, consider using recycled or salvaged materials – timber, bricks and roof slates are all available through reclamation yards. Choose natural, sustainable materials, such as wood and wool, and try to buy locally wherever possible.

This 1940s semi has been upgraded with a Passivhaus retrofit 

Read about Passivhaus retrofit of 40s semi


The Roof

Many houses built in the middle of the last century were roofed in ugly, poor-quality concrete tiles. Changing these can totally transform a house, and homeowners are increasingly choosing this option for the visual appeal alone – regardless of whether the roof actually needs to be replaced. Others go one step further and change the shape and pitch of their roof entirely, which can involve major structural work.

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Replacing a roof is a major investment.

Replacing a roof covering is usually the most expensive way to alter the external appearance of a house, and is only financially viable if it is old and damaged, or so unattractive that replacing it will significantly increase the overall value of a property.

Prices will vary depending on where you live, the shape, size and pitch of the roof, the materials, who undertakes the work and other variables. Slates are ideal for both traditional and contemporary homes, with Welsh slate proving more expensive than imported slate from Spain and Brazil. The other popular option is clay tiles, with machine-made tiles costing less than handmade.

Glass

Adding glazing to your home can deliver truly spectacular results, and contemporary glass box extensions with bifolds or sliding doors are popular alternatives to the traditional period-style conservatory. They can be built using a framework of timber, aluminium, or uPVC, or may be held together with structural silicon, which seamlessly bonds glass to glass for a contemporary, frameless effect.

Traditionally, such rooms could only be used for a few weeks a year, growing icy cold in winter and overheating in the summer. Modern technology means that this is no longer the case, however, and technical advances make these into year-round rooms that can be used for a variety of purposes.

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Inserting roof lights, new doors and windows into a property can open up the interiors to light and views as well as totally transforming the appearance of a house. Replacing discoloured plastic or damaged metal framed windows with aluminium or timber ones is a quick, if relatively expensive, way to improve kerb appeal.

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Planning permission isn’t normally required for repairing, fitting or replacing doors and windows, but if the building is listed or in a Conservation Area you should consult with your local planning authority.

Replacement glazing will need to be fitted by a recognised installer or have Building Control approval.

 

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iqglassuk.com

Glazed doors and windows can bring much-needed light into formerly dark interiors, as well as adding a contemporary feel to an older property.

Cladding

Painting or cladding the walls of a house will completely change its appearance and can cover up cheap or damaged brickwork. Timber boarding may be stained or painted, and some cladding such as oak, western red cedar or Siberian larch can be left untreated and will weather to a silver grey. Composite weatherboarding is slightly more expensive than timber but won’t warp or twist, is fire resistant and often comes pre-finished.

An uninspiring 70s house dramatically transformed into a New England-style home. images: back2frontexteriordesign.com

Bathrooms and Kitchens

Selfbuilders tend to blow their budgets on kitchens and bathrooms, splashing their cash on costly gadgets and gizmos. It’s important to tailor spending to the overall value of the house and avoid over investing on luxury items such as a sauna, whirlpool bath and wet room if the house doesn’t justify it.

An extra bathroom will add value to a property, while an en suite or a downstairs cloakroom is also a good investment.

Homebuyers still clamour for master bedroom ‘suites’ with an en suite bathroom and walk-in dressing area seen as the height of sophistication.

Consider buying a basic bathroom suite and then spending a little more on the taps, tiles and accessories for a more luxurious finish. The same goes for kitchens.

It is possible to spend the price of a small house on a bespoke kitchen, but such an investment needs to be carefully considered.

If a high-end kitchen is in context with the property and affordable within the overall budget then a quality kitchen will add that essential wow factor and make your home stand out from the crowd. An expensive kitchen badly fitted, will look cheap and unappealing, though, so make sure that the kitchen fitter is up to scratch.

Current Trends

One fashion which may prove lucrative is the growing trend to recreate the more relaxed and open-plan American-style home, with painted weatherboarding, pretty verandas and shutters reminiscent of New England propertie – all of which can be added to existing houses for an instant makeover. For more ambitious renovations, extensions or new-build homes, over-sized feature windows are a characteristic of many American house styles, while strong rooflines, dormer windows and heavily protruding gables are also common.

Avoid strongly themed rooms at all costs. They may seem fun on TV makeover shows, but in reality no one wants to be lumbered with a Moroccan sitting room or a ‘seaside’ bathroom for too long. It’s very personal, and after the novelty has worn off you will be wishing you’d resisted the urge for porthole windows and a plastic lighthouse toilet roll holder.

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The art of a good renovation is deciding what features to retain. Here, the former kitchen of a Georgian townhouse has been converted into a charming contemporary dining room.


This Beginner's Guide to Renovation & Makovers is from the November 2020 issue of SelfBuild & Design magazine.

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