Extending your home may seem like a daunting task, but with careful planning and a team of well-chosen tradespeople your project can run smoothly. Follow this expert advice on planning, designing and building a kitchen extension to make sure your project is successful.
A good place to start is planningportal.gov.uk, the Government’s online planning and regulations resource for England and Wales. The website includes interactive guides where you can apply for planning permission online. To find a chartered architect or practice in your local area, contact the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) at architecture.com, which also provides a wealth of information about working with an architect to redesign your home.
When planning an extension, the best people to talk to are often friends and neighbours who have had experience with similar projects. They can be a great source of information and will be able to recommend (or not) local tradespeople. Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid the mess, upheaval and disruption that comes with building an extension, but preparation can help to make your project as stress-free as possible.
Scroll down to read more or jump to a topic from the list below…
- How to use the space available
- Getting the proportions right
- Hiring the right tradesmen
- Incorporating architectural features
- Be prepared for bad weather
- Consider the age of your property
- Overlap your interior and exterior spaces
‘Look at ways to use the space available’
Ben Ridley, architect at Architecture For London says: ‘A side return extension is a classic way to add space to a Victorian terraced home and will typically create a kitchen around five metres wide. This will allow suffi cient width for a run of kitchen units, an island and a dining table next to each other to create an open-plan family space that is perfect for social cooking and informal dining. An extension to the rear of the property could then be used as a snug, with comfortable seating and a wood-burning stove to make the room the heart of the home.
‘To maximise the feeling of space, windows and doors are a key consideration. Frameless glass can create an impressive picture window to the garden from the side return, and fullwidth sliding or folding glass doors to the rear extension help to pull the garden into the room. Traditionally, the side return of period properties was a useful way to allow natural light deep into the building. A glass roof for your new side extension will maintain this function, and help to give the space wow-factor. For a really special design statement, you could have glazing on the roof wrapping around the rear wall to become a large window giving an extensive view of the landscape, from the sky right down to the grass.’?Back to top
‘The golden rule is getting the proportions right’
Hugo Tugman, architectural designer and co-founder of Architect Your Home says: ‘When designing an extension for any house, the art is to create a design that will work both inside and out.
‘The golden rule is to get proportions right. Give careful consideration to the overall height and roof design of your extension. Might there be planning-related limitations to the height? What ceiling height do you want/need inside? Do windows above restrict the height of your proposed roofline? Often, choosing a parapet and flat roof design would give more internal height than the common ‘lean-to’ design. Alternatively, a gable design, where the roof slopes down from the central ridge to two gutters either side, works well.
‘Combine these roof options with your glazing and consider how to use light in your space. For example, if your extension faces south, could too much sunlight be overpowering? Don’t be too prudent with glazing – opening the extension to the garden with folding glazed doors makes a great impact.
‘Many of the most successful extensions are made from contrasting materials to the original building, such as reclaimed brick, cedarwood, slate and preweathered zinc, which can calm a sharp, glassy design.’?Back to top
‘Employ the right team and agree terms before starting’
Michael Holmes, experienced renovator and Editor-in- Chief of Real Homes says: ‘Ask for quotes from several builders with a breakdown of all costs, avoiding any that appear too good to be true and lack detail. Always get references and check them out in person. Put a contract together – standard contracts for domestic extensions, setting out terms of payment, typically made in arrears for completed work, are available from the Federation of Master Builders (fmb.org.uk) or the Joint Contracts Tribunal (jctltd.co.uk). Never pay in advance, other than for any completed design work undertaken as part of a design and build contract. Consider acting as your own building contractor. Buying the materials yourself and employing subcontractors can save up to 15 per cent but you will need to allow time for daily meetings.
‘I also recommend that the kitchen designer be asked to produce a full wiring and plumbing plan at the first fix stage, including details of the extract ducting. This will ensure that there are no nasty surprises when it comes to fitting the kitchen after the floor has been laid and the walls and ceilings plastered and decorated. Also plan the wiring for the rest of the space, including power sockets, TV aerial points, phone points and lighting in advance and include them in the original quotes.’?Back to top
‘Incorporate architectural features into your design’
Graeme Smith, conceptual designer at Second Nature Kitchens says: ‘When planning your extension you may have to make some compromises due to the architectural aspects of the build, but this shouldn’t be seen as a barrier or something to hold you back. Don’t shy away from structures such as pillars or supporting beams. Instead, consider making them a feature of the design, or integrating them as a piece of furniture so that they become a natural part of the scheme. For example, a pillar can be the central point of an island, giving gravitas to the design. You can also play around with the colour or material finish and clad it according to your taste, or to contrast or co-ordinate with other areas of the room. Embrace these architectural features, as such details will make your home truly individual and not just a boxy and characterless space.’?Back to top
‘Be prepared for bad weather’
Ron Klingenberg, managing director of Inner Space Developments says: ‘Starting your project in winter can be tricky and may delay the work considerably. The cold temperature is the biggest problem and is out of the builders’ control. It can also be very uncomfortable if you are living in the property while the work is being carried out, as the rear will be partly exposed to the elements. Cold weather can create structural problems too. Laying bricks and pouring concrete in freezing temperatures means they are likely to freeze then ‘go off ’, making rebuilding necessary.
‘British weather is unpredictable. Rain appears at all times of year and your builder will need to deal with it accordingly. It can be especially disruptive during the key stages where materials need to be kept dry. Putting up scaffolding with a temporary roof is a good way of helping the work stay on schedule, but it is costly and is an unnecessary expense if timing is not crucial.
‘Generally the beginning stages, before the roof goes on, are the most dependent upon weather. Should there be a very bad spell of weather during this period, approach the builder and ask him about his schedule to see if he feels it has slipped back. As these are still early stages, it will give you time to make arrangements.
‘Although building work can take place all year round, the best time to start an exterior project is around March and April. Most of the bad weather will have passed by this time, so it shouldn’t be too cold while the rear of the house is exposed, and as extensions generally take around three months to complete it gives you plenty of time to enjoy the summer in your garden and new extension.’?Back to top
‘Consider the age of your property’
Richard Gill, architect at Paul Archer Design says: ‘If your house is listed or in a conservation area you will be more restricted on the size and design of your extension. Some planning departments prefer a contemporary style rather than a pastiche version of the property, as it will highlight the characteristics of the existing building contrasted next to the crisp lines of the new. An extension with lots of glass, for example, can allow you to see through to the historic fabric of the building. A more modern property is likely to be less affected by stringent planning rules, allowing more freedom to explore spatial arrangements.
‘People use architects not only for their technical know-how but also for their creative thinking. For the project pictured, we moved the kitchen from the lower ground floor to the ground floor level. By doing this we were able to add a study/ bedroom and make a flexible living/dining area that’s better connected to the garden.’?Back to top
‘Overlap your interior and exterior spaces’
Paul McAneary, managing director at Paul McAneary Architects says: ‘Try to reconfigure and expand existing space by designing a large open-plan area to create a continuous space that is functional and engaging. The 30-degree twist featured in the design above right allows physical and perceptive overlapping between indoor and outdoor spaces and dramatically improves the amount of natural light in the house. In terms of composition, the kitchen/living area transforms the external landscape, while the garden merges into the house through the frameless glass skylight and open facade. The kitchen stretches into the garden on a trapezoid platform that floats about 40 centimetres above the garden level. To reinforce the continuity and connection, the same floor tiles have been used for both the kitchen/living area and the garden’s platform.?Back to top