Adding a small extension: 10 clever ideas

Small extensions can add plenty of space and value to your home. Here's how to get yours right

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Small extensions make a great alternative if you lack the space or budget to add a large extension to your home. A modest, but well-designed addition can be transformative, changing the aspect of a room, bringing in valuable extra daylight, linking existing spaces or improving circulation and flow.

You can expect to pay from £900 to £3,000 per m² depending on location, specification and scale. It's worth noting that smaller single storey extensions tend to be proportionally more expensive because of fixed costs such as planning and design, building regulations fees and the fact that there are no economies of scale. This said, they are a worthy investment if their addition will transform the feel of your space. 

Whether you want to maximise loft space with a box dormer, achieve a brighter basement with the addition of a lightwell or add square feet with a porch or orangery, the options are abundant.

1. Create space by adding a porch

Adding an enclosed porch can act as a useful buffer to the elements, especially if your front door opens directly into a living room or you'd like to make a small hallway feel more spacious.

Gemma Medden and Gareth Fisher's extended cottage in Hornby, North Yorkshire. Hero house for September

(Image: © Katie Lee)

2. Add a box dormer to create more full-height space

If you've inherited a loft conversion from a former owner and are dissatisfied with the amount of full-height space, a box dormer is an easy solution that promises to transform the feel of your loft. It can be especially useful in providing the headroom needed to add stairs into a loft (1.9m minimum at centre) or for a loft bathroom.

terraced house with large side extension and box dormer

(Image: © Alison Hammond)

3. Extend an existing room

Extensions that add only a metre or two in width can’t usefully form a living room in their own right, so it is often best to use the space to extend an existing room, linking old and new with as wide an opening as possible. The exception is if the space is used as a cloakroom or utility room.

living room extension with skylights images by leanne dixon

(Image: © Leanne Dixon)

4. Connect your home to your extension with a covered walkway

A covered walkway linking a house to an outbuilding, such as a garage conversion, can be very successful. A glazed walkway can be a great solution to planning restrictions – for example, a listed building, where a solid link would be inappropriate.

5. Transform a dark basement with a lightwell

Adding a small glazed extension to the back of a basement conversion will flood the space with light, helping it appear larger and lighter. The extension needs only to be modest in scale and works well if it opens onto a sunken courtyard, with stairs up to the garden.

home exterior with large lightwell by james balston

(Image: © James Balston)

6. Add a bay window

A projecting bay window can enlarge a room and does not necessarily require foundations – it can be cantilevered on brackets from the existing structure. Windows on three sides also bring in extra light, enhancing the spacious feel of a room.

exterior shot of a house with large bay window extension photo by adam carter

(Image: © Adam Carter)

7. Fill in the side return

Many terraced and semi-detached homes have a small outdoor area behind and at the side, called the side return. Filling the space with a single-storey extension is a great way to increase the size of a kitchen, making it better suited to open plan living. Take a look at our gallery of Victorian terrace extensions for inspiration. 

kitchen extension into side return with industrial feel and steel frame windows, photo by brent darby

(Image: © Brent Darby)

8. Add a conservatory 

An addition that can be built (subject to size and design) without planning permission or building regulations consent, a conservatory is a great way to create as additional living room. To use it all year round, you will need to invest in heating and blinds.

conservatory attached to home by solarlux

(Image: © Solarlux)

9. Build an orangery

An orangery is the perfect balance between an extension and conservatory. With areas of solid walls and solid roof with a glazed roof lantern, it is better insulated than a conservatory and is easier to control the temperature.

orangery attached to period property by anglian home improvement

(Image: © Anglian Home Improvement)

10. Add an oak frame extension

There are many modular extension systems that offer a design-and-build solution for a new room. An oak frame extension is a more traditional option – a single room with a pitched roof featuring a vaulted ceiling with exposed trusses.

oak frame extension with vaulted ceiling and exposed beams by border oak

(Image: © Border Oak)

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