With millions of homeowners unable to move, take advantage of the recession and make the most of your home by renovating upwards, outwards and beyond. An extension can add anything from 10 to 50 per cent in value to your home and will release its potential. Make sure you hire reputable builders and that you get more than one quote. Stuart Carter from TrustMark, a government supported scheme that helps you find reliable tradesmen in your area, says, ‘We always advise people to get three quotations and never pay cash upfront. If somebody was very, very low or very, very high I’d be nervous, they either don’t want the work or have no idea. Ideally you want three quotes that are a similar price and a similar time scale, and always hold back a retention balance until the work has been done. If you’re talking about serious building work then you should get JCT (Joint Contracts Tribunal) building terms’.
These are a favourite project among home improvers, as they can add a lot of extra space and boost the value of your home by up to 20 percent. Loft conversions don’t have to be bedrooms – you can turn them into anything from an office or living room to a gym, and if you follow building guidelines such as size restrictions and roof height, you don’t even need to get planning permission. Not all lofts are suitable for a conversion, as a general rule the steeper your roof is, the more suitable it will be. The roof height must be at least 2.3m, but if your roof isn’t high enough, you might still be able to convert your loft using a dormer window, which will create more space at the side of the loft and let in more light. Loft conversions are expensive, starting at around £20,000 but adding an extra room or level to your house will automatically increase the value and won’t steal space from your garden. They typically take around four to 10 weeks, depending on the size of your home and the work being carried out.
If your roof can’t support a loft conversion, the next best thing is an extension. Extending outwards will give you the freedom to add any room on to your home, whether you want a bigger kitchen, bedroom, bathroom or office. Research by GE Money shows an extension, after a loft conversion, is the second most popular home improvement scheme, and adds an average 11 percent to its overall value. Although it will boost the value of your home, remember that it will take garden space, which could in turn decrease value. Again, you won’t need planning permission as long as you keep to the style of the property and the extension doesn’t cover more than half the area of land around your house. The cost will vary from builder to builder, but you can expect to pay from £500 per sq m of floor space to £1500 per sq m, depending on the interior finish you want. Building will take around three to five months. TrustMark or the Federation of Master Builders can help you find an accredited building company in your area.
A room with a view
Conservatories are a great way to improve the outside of your home, and are still as popular as ever. Research by Alliance and Leicester shows almost half of Brits think a conservatory encourages them to use outside space to its best potential. They can also be used as an extension of the house as a dining room, playroom or even an extra living room. A basic professionally fitted conservatory will set you back £5,000 and take 10-12 weeks to build, but will add around £12,000 to the value of your home. If you’re prepared to do the hard work, a DIY conservatory can cost as little as £1,500. You don’t need planning permission providing you stick to certain conditions. For more information visit http://www.planningportal.gov.uk.
Going deeper underground
It’s not just upwards and outwards; expanding below is now a popular option. Extending your basement is usually the most expensive option, at around £25,000 to convert an existing basement or £50,000+ to create one from scratch, so you need to look carefully at how much it will add to your property value. Adding an entire floor to your property will completely change your home, and will really impress potential buyers. The tricky bit is getting it right. The most important factor is damp, and it’s not a good idea to have a basement if your house is in a flood-risk area. ‘If you’re thinking about getting a basement the first thing to consider is soil conditions because that will determine the design of the basement,’ says Vaughan Bradbury from extension company, Basement Living. ‘Basements certainly improve the value of your house, we do retrofit basements where we dig out below existing buildings in London that are worth £3 million, and by spending £300,000 you can add about half a million in value to the house. Two favourites for basement conversions at the moment are gyms and home cinemas, which are very popular. We can also put bathrooms and wet rooms down there.’
You’ll need to consult an architect and surveyor and work will take around 10-16 weeks, but be prepared to move out during the work as there will be a lot of mess.
Building regulations approval is vital, visit http://www.communities.gov.uk/planningandbuilding for more information, but if you have an existing cellar, you won’t always need planning permission, though you will need to put in an application for a new retrofit basement. You’ll also need the nod from your neighbours, as walls you share with your neighbours (party walls) must have a formal agreement before any work goes ahead.
The government changed the laws last October, so that now in most cases planning permission will be required if the extension exceeds 70 cubic metres of the property’s original space. If you want to make major structural changes such as moving a wall or room, you’ll need a surveyor’s and architect’s expertise, Director of the Royal Institute of British Architects, Richard Brindley says, ‘Deciding to use an architect is a crucial decision for the success of your home improvement project. An architect has the experience to see your project safely through to completion, overseeing the design, the planning and building regulations, the builders and your budget’.
The great outdoors
It’s not just indoors that can be improved, landscaping your garden can improve the value dramatically and will create a space for you to relax and the children to play. Anthony Stiff, director of Landscape Architects Anthony Stiff Associates says, ‘Landscaping your garden could cost as little as £500, it takes just a couple of weeks, and really affects someone’s first impression of your home. You could landscape your garden yourself with the right tools and knowledge, but it’s a good idea to consult a professional on any queries before beginning physical gardening work’. If you can’t face the hassle of preening your garden, try artificial grass from Prima Lawn (http://www.primalawn.co.uk) for a perfectly manicured lawn.
As well as transforming your garden, you could convert a garage or shed into an office, which would give you peace and quiet away from the house to work. If parking space is an issue, you could consider concreting over your front lawn, it might not look pretty but it’s a practical solution.
Chop your fuel bills
Making small-scale home improvements can be energy efficient and will help you save money. Leading financial psychology expert Benjamin Fry says, ‘According to the Energy Saving Trust the average household can save £340 a year by being more energy efficient and with the credit crunch unlikely to ease any time soon, there has never been a better time to start finding positive motivations for living a greener life.’ A good place to start is insulation, insulating your home will make a huge difference and reduce your fuel bills – a home that isn’t properly insulated loses up to a third of its heat through the walls alone. Insulation specialist KdB has a sustainable solution – their Airflex Superpose thermal systems are only 10mm thick, increase living space, are easy to install and help save energy. Wood burning stoves are also a safe, environmentally friendly option and will cut your gas bill by around a third. Starting at around £700 they’re not cheap but you can save money by burning scrap wood, and they will make your home incredibly cosy. Double glazing is also important if you want a toasty house, as it cuts heat lost through windows by half, and can save you £140 a year. Double glazing traps air between the panes, creating a warm air shield and blocking out noise. Fitting secondary glazing is less expensive and still does the job. Draught proofing around windows by sealing gaps with window putty could also reduce emissions by 140g of CO2 a year.
Solar power is one of the most popular forms of renewable energy and is a great way to boost your energy efficiency. Contrary to popular belief sun-starved Brits can have solar panels, as solar rays are given out even on the coldest cloudy days and can produce enough rays to heat at least half of your water. Hot water solar panels heat your water providing you with enough hot water during the day so you won’t have to use your boiler. You can also use Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, which convert daylight into electricity to run your appliances and lighting, without using greenhouse gases. Though they are slightly more expensive they last around 30-40 years and can easily be installed into your roof. Both are available at http://www.heatmyhome.co.uk.
If the area around you is a sea of urban grey concrete, bring some green to your home with a roof garden. Roof gardens can provide insulation in winter and will cool your house in summer. ‘Roof gardens are entirely in tune with the needs of city living in the 21st century, says Sarah Bevin from Urban Roofs. ‘They help absorb rainwater, therefore playing a part in flood prevention, will cool your roof by as much as 50c in summer and improve air quality. They will also extend the life of your existing roof fabric by up to 70 percent’.