9 ways to transform your home's exterior

Want to give your home a whole new look? From new windows to a simple coat of paint, the changes you make to your home's exterior can be transformative. Here's how

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If you are renovating a house, revamping its exterior – even on a low budget – can improve its looks, saleability and value. But transforming the exterior of a house needs to be done carefully and sympathetically (which is where our expert advice comes in handy). 

There are a number of ways to change the look of your home. At the basic end you can make cosmetic changes like giving it a lick of paint, or adding cladding. If you are after something more drastic, changing the roof structure and replacing windows can make a big architectural difference. 

Whatever your budget, read on to find out everything you need to know to improve your home’s exterior.

1. Change your home's proportions 

For a significant renovation, it's often worth changing the overall proportions of a building. This can be achieved by adding an extension upwards or outwards to create a more pleasing balance, greater symmetry or to replace poorly designed extensions added by previous owners.

Subject to planning permission, it may also be possible to add a second storey to a bungalow, transforming it into a house, or to replace a flat roof. Many smaller extensions can be added under permitted development rights (PDRs), without applying for planning permission, especially those at the back and sides of a property. Read our guide to planning permission and permitted development for more advice.

With the exception of listed buildings, partial demolition does not require planning permission either, so you can remove unsightly structures or features, freely. This said, different rules apply for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, so always check with your local authority.

However dramatic – or not – your new addition is, make an effort to either match new materials exactly with the original materials your house was built with, or go for a stark contrast: swathes of glazing next to Victorian brick, for example. This is all, of course, subject to planning. 

What does this cost?

If you're using a main contractor, you can expect to pay £1,050 to £1,650 per m² of added footprint for a standard specification and £1,450 to £2,200 for a high-end finish. Design fees will range from 3 to 4 per cent for the design work, plus the same again to produce detailed construction drawings. A further fee will be payable if you then retain the designer to appoint and oversee your building contractor for the work.

2. Exterior finishes: cladding, render or paint?

If your home has 1970s or 1980s stone cladding, pebbledash, mismatching bricks or a mixture of different external materials, you can remove – or, easier still, cover – them with a different material to create a complete new look. 

The cheapest option is to simply paint the exterior of the house using masonry paint in a neutral shade, such as off white, to help unify the different materials. You can expect this to cost you around a few hundred pounds.

Rendering and repainting may be a better option if the original brickwork has been damaged. Or, if you want to give your home a brand new, contemporary appearance, cladding your home's exterior will make a dramatic difference.

a timber clad mobile home in the New Forest

Natural horizontal cladding was used on the exterior of this home in the New Forest

(Image: © Nigel Rigden)

Which exterior finish is right for your home?

Start by looking at samples of your cladding choices in situ at different times of the day. Ask your supplier if they can give you new and aged samples to see how your home will look freshly clad and a few months down the line. Make sure the weight of your chosen cladding or render is suitable for your property, as some materials are heavier than others.

  • PVCu cladding is one of the most inexpensive options. Coloured or wood-effect PVCu is comparable in price to timber boarding. Low-maintenance and easy to clean, it should last for up to 20 years. Some PVCu cladding has a cellular core that offers good thermal resistance.
  • Laminate cladding such as that made by Trespa, is made by compressing impregnated paper or wood fibres and epoxy, phenolic or polypropylene resin. Durable and scratch-resistant, it can have coloured pigments added to the surface during curing, making a variety of colours and finishes possible. Virtually impervious to weather, it can also be cleaned very easily.
  • Composite cladding like that made by LG Hausys, is made up of stone powder and high-quality acrylic resins with pigments to add colour. Highly weather-resistant, it can be easily cleaned, moulded and fitted.
  • Timber boarding suits contemporary and some period properties. Shiplap boarding has straight tongue-and-groove edges, while feather-edged boarding overlaps and has irregular edges. Softwoods, such as pine or spruce, are the cheapest option. Hardwoods, like oak, chestnut or larch, can be left to weather naturally or sealed with a fire-retardant coating.
  • Fibre-cement weatherboarding, being a composite, is long-lasting, won’t twist or warp over time, is fire-resistant, frost-proof, comes pre-finished, needs minimal maintenance (an annual hose down will do) and won’t rust or rot.
  • Brick slips look like solid bricks but are actually 2-2.5cm deep ‘tiles’ made from clay – either kiln-fired as preformed slips, or sawn from the face of standard clay bricks. Cladding panels with a brick finish and interlocking prefabricated boards are also available.
  • Stone tiles are of a similar construction to brick slips, and are split from genuine stone. They are ideal for a more traditional look, offering a cost-effective and lightweight alternative to building with natural stone.
  • Metal is an expensive option but is low-maintenance and weather-resistant. It can come painted, powder-coated, pre-aged or coated to preserve its finish. Steel is the most affordable and should last at least 30 years; lightweight aluminium is good for 40; untreated zinc weathers to look like lead and should last 50 years; copper develops a verdigris finish and should have a lifespan of 100 years.
  • Masonry paint is a cheap and fast way to cover an ugly exterior. Textured finishes are particularly good for hiding minor cracks. It can hide poor-quality or mismatched brickwork on period properties, and create a sleek finish on modern homes.
  • Concrete render shouldn’t be used with the lime mortar masonry of many period properties as it will lead to damp and rot. Use a silicon-based render, which is flexible, breathable and easy to maintain. Lime render can be an eco-conscious choice for new homes and over masonry, too.

How much does exterior painting, rendering or cladding cost?

Comparing costs is not just a case of looking at the material costs. We have factored in labour and the cost of associated materials for fitting (such as mortar for bricks and battens to attach cladding to).

Note that when it comes to timber cladding, the costs will be impacted by treatment. Hardwood cladding materials cost more than softwood, but as hardwood naturally silvers and does not need decorating, the full cost of installation and treatment brings softwood to the same total. Heat-treated timbers like Accoya have a large initial outlay, but require next to no maintenance, making them a good long-term investment.

  • Timber composite cladding – £105/m2
  • Fibre cement weatherboarding – £65/m2
  • Softwood timber cladding (painted or treated) – £50/m2
  • Hardwood timber cladding – £90/m2
  • Heat-treated timber cladding - £80/m2
  • Tiles (concrete) – £40/m2
  • Tiles (slate) – £100/m2
  • Natural stone – 100/m2
  • Artificial stone – £70/m2
  • Metal – £50/m2
  • PVCu cladding – £50/m2
  • Brick - £60/m2
  • Brick slips – £50-60/m2
  • Rendering – £60/m2
  • Masonry paint (three coats) – £15/m2

Do you need planning permission to change your home's exterior finish?

Permitted development allows for extensions to be built with materials matching the existing building, but if you’d like contrasting cladding, you’ll most likely require planning consent.

Building Control at your local council will also be concerned that the house meets regulations for thermal efficiency, so always consider whether cladding will alter its eco performance. Some will boost insulation, but it’s vital that airflow is maintained. If you live in a listed building or Conservation Area, detailed consideration needs to be given to how cladding will impact the character and fabric of the house.

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3. Replacing a roof

On some styles of house – especially a bungalow – the roof is a very dominant feature, so if you change the shape of it, or the exterior covering, or even just improve the look of the existing tiles, it will transform your property’s appearance.

Replacing the roof covering usually falls under your permitted development rights, so it doesn’t need planning permission, but you are required to add roof insulation at the same time to meet building regulations.

If you are stripping the roof tiles, it’s a good time to consider increasing insulation and also adding additional rooflights if you have loft rooms, as it’s easier to make changes to the structure with the weight of the tiles removed.

changing the exterior cladding on a house

The roof on this 19th-century seaside cottage has been completely replaced and altered to suit the modern aspects of the house

What does it cost to replace a roof?

Changing its shape is a more radical and expensive alteration but it can have a dramatic impact, for example, to increase the roof height on a 1970s house with a very low-pitched roof, or a flat-roofed 1960s house.

The cost can be mitigated if the new roof is tall enough to allow for a loft conversion. Bear in mind that raising the height of the roof will always require planning permission.

  • Good roof maintenance is a must, particularly in a period property. Pressure-washing a moss-covered roof can be an inexpensive improvement which helps to freshen up a tired-looking property.
  • If you change your roof covering it will cost from £40-£80 per m². 
  • Replacing sun-faded concrete roof tiles can give a 1960s or 1970s house a new lease of life. Budget £28-£35 per m² to replace old tiles with new interlocking concrete ones, including labour and materials.
  • If you’re looking to do a period-style makeover, look at traditional properties and copy the vernacular style, whether it is plain clay tiles, Roman tiles, slate or stone. For a contemporary makeover, you should opt for natural slate or man-made slates.

It’s also worth considering changing guttering, which can also have a big impact on the look of your house. Many properties now have white uPVC guttering, which shows up dirt more easily than black uPVC, and which also looks better on period properties. Galvanised guttering is now very affordable and can suit both modern and older properties. For a very contemporary look, powder-coated aluminium box gutters can look great.

Changing the roof's shape

Generally, flat-roof extensions and modern, low pitched roofs look out of place on traditional-style houses, so replacing them with a more appropriately styled design can make a huge difference to a property’s overall shape. Ideally, the new roof will be steep enough to create usable space beneath, which will also help justify the cost.

If it is not economical to replace an inappropriate roof, it may be possible to disguise it with a steep-pitched front-facing gable or a parapet wall, built up in the same material as the exterior walls – a trick used by the Georgians. 

For a contemporary makeover, a ‘brise soleil’ overhanging sun shield can hide a low-pitched roof and give the appearance of a modern flat design.

4. Replace your home's windows

Windows are the eyes of a house — if you change them, you can alter your property’s whole personality, especially if it’s done in conjunction with an overall redesign scheme.

Under permitted development rights you can choose and fit replacement windows, alter the shape and size of the window openings and add new ones without having to get planning permission. However, if choose windows and doors for a period property with care if you are planning to maintain its authentic style. 

Modern extension and crittall style windows added to Victorian villa

The owners of this home made lots of changes, with an extension, larger windows on the ground and first floors, plus a new veranda on the terrace with a balcony above

(Image: © David Woolley)

What do replacement windows cost?

  • A modern house that might be lacking in character can be made to look like a period property by adding period-style small casement or sliding sash windows and by altering the door openings. Expect to budget an average of £600-£800 per window supplied and fitted.
  • A 1950s or 1960s property with modest window openings could be given a contemporary makeover by adding large window openings with a horizontal emphasis and narrow frame profiles.
  • The most inexpensive solution is to buy new windows direct from a manufacturer, DIY supplier or online and fit them yourself. PVCu windows from websites such as Dunster House and DIY UPVC Trade Windows can be ordered to your bespoke specification online. Expect to budget £200-£350 per window. If you want the windows installed, you should always shop around and hold out for the best price.

All replacement windows must comply with building regulations. This means either using a FENSA registered installer who can self-certify their work for building regulations purposes, or submitting an application to the local authority together with the correct fee and either fitting them yourself or using a general builder to fit them for you.

5. Update your front door

Whether choosing a new front door, or refurbishing and painting your front door, updating a front door is a quick, easy and often DIY-possible way of improving your home’s facade.

If you live on a road where there is a very uniform house type, you should try to match your front door as closely as possible to those of the homes around yours. There are many modern doors that are made to look like traditional styles, so if it is new technology you are searching for, you won’t have to look far.

If you are living in a period property, and are looking to restore your home’s exterior to its former glory, then trawling reclamation yards to find a door in the style and period of your house is a good bet, as is commissioning a skilled joiner to make a new one that mimics the original to a tee.

front door

(Image: © Malcolm Menzies)

How much does a new front door cost?

  • PVCu front door – from £600
  • Glass reinforced plastic composite front door – from £900
  • Timber core composite front door – from £1,200
  • Veneered timber front door – from £250
  • Solid hardwood front door – from £2,000

When choosing a new front door don’t always go for the budget option. Not only do you need to consider the style, you need to think about safety, so going for a solid and secure door is important.

6. Add an extension

Changing the shape (and function) of your home by adding an extension can have a huge impact on its appearance. Smaller alterations, such as adding a porch or a bay window needn’t be expensive but can add a lot of interest and character to the exterior.

A larger extension to the side or front can help balance the shape and proportions of your property to create a particular architectural style, as could the addition of a large feature chimney.

black engineering brick extension to a London terrace

Clarisse and Karim Mallem have created a contemporary family living area, increasing the light and space in their London ground-floor flat with an extension

(Image: © Alistair Nicholls)

How much does an extension cost?

How much an extension costs depends to a large degree on its spec and size, but expect to pay between £950-£1,350 per m²; however, there are clever ways to cut your extension's costs

Many smaller extensions, including a porch, single-storey side and rear extensions, side and rear loft extensions and some two-storey rear extensions are considered permitted development in England and Wales, so they may not require planning permission, subject to certain design constraints.

7. Adding a porch

Adding a porch on the front of your house will give character to a featureless frontage as well as providing extra, practical storage space indoors. It is especially worth considering if your front door opens straight into a living room rather than a hallway.

Think carefully about design; the porch should be constructed in a style that suits the original architecture and in proportion with the size of the house.

When designing an enclosed porch, consider the impact it might have on the natural light that flows through your existing front door – you may be able to improve the amount of daylight with a well-considered design.

As the property is in a Conservation Area, the porch extension, is in keeping with the original, Victorian design, which contrasts with the modern extension to the rear

As the property is in a Conservation Area, the porch extension, is in keeping with the original, Victorian design, which contrasts with a modern extension to the rear

(Image: © Adam Carter)

How much does it cost to add a porch?

  • A brick-built porch with a new front door can cost anything from £3,000, depending on size and materials.
  • Wall-hung timber porch kits are less expensive than enclosed designs, but will transform a flat frontage, especially if climbers are trained around the structure to help it blend in. Expect to pay around £1,000 for a kit.

8. Converting a garage

The appearance of a house will be dramatically altered, and you will gain a whole new living space by converting a garage. The join between old and new should be seamless – this may mean hiring an architect to ensure the details and proportions of features, such as windows, are right. Keep the palette of materials used outside to a minimum, and ask your builder to tooth and bond the new work into the old to avoid a bolted-on look.

Before you go ahead, check with a local estate agent to ensure you’re making the right move – if the advantages of an extra room are outweighed by the need for secure parking, the resulting impact on the value of your home may be negative.

Large double garage doors can be an eyesore on the front of a property and don’t suit a period-style makeover. Converting the garage into a living space and replacing the doors with walls and windows will alter the main elevations and could help create a more traditional period look. 

What does a garage conversion cost?

  • A garage conversion will cost from £850-£1,250 per m² and does not normally require any planning permission.

9. Landscape the garden

Once all the building work is complete, turn your attention to the gardens, both front and back.

Choose a planting scheme that’s in keeping with the rest of the work – if you’ve gone for a contemporary finish for your home’s exterior, pick architectural plants; for a more traditional feel, opt for cottage garden foliage.

A period home might have its encaustic path repaired or reinstated; a cottage garden might have raised beds made from reclaimed bricks, and a new house might have garden walls rendered and painted.

Fit a wall light next to the front door or highlight the front path and planting to make the house look very attractive at night.

What does a garden makeover cost?

  • If you do the work yourself, a front garden transformation could cost just a few hundred. 
  • Think in the region of £3,000 plus if hiring a landscaping company. 
  • You might want to consider hiring a garden designer to get the most out of your outdoor space, which will cost £250 to £750 for a day's consultancy.

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