7 ways to transform the exterior of your home

Award-winning architectural designers Tony Holt shares seven ways you can turn your home’s appearance from drab to fab

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1. Use cladding to cover up old materials

This is possibly the easiest way to transform the exterior look of your property and there are a variety of options available. If your house was built in the 1950s, 60s or 70s, the chances are it now looks dated, as many of these properties would have been built using cheap bricks, often featuring concrete tile hanging. Houses built by mass house-builders in the 1980s can also look dated and uninteresting.

The choice of exterior cladding will depend on your attitude to maintenance. A favoured option is to clad external walls with natural timber cladding, the most popular of which is Western Red Cedar. To retain its warm colour, oiling is required and this will need to be repeated periodically.

If you’re looking for a product requiring less maintenance, then consider man-made fibre cement products (sidings) that look like timber but do not require painting. It’s often good to consider a mix of materials, and timber cladding or fibre cement sidings can be complemented with painted render. I often use timber/cement sidings on the first floor, as they’re a lightweight material, and then render the ground floor.

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Another choice that is very fashionable at the moment is natural stone cladding. There’s a wide range of stone types and configurations to choose from, and the panels, which are normally about 30mm thick, can be adhered to existing masonry walls. I normally try to use this as an accent material in smaller areas as the pattern of the tile cannot be easily identified when used over large areas.

There are now even more options coming onto the cladding market, which include specialist composite timber panels for a low-maintenance solution and a contemporary appearance. When considering this option it’s often worth combining the cladding with additional insulation to improve the thermal efficiency of your external walls.

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2. Change your roof tiles

A change of roof tile can have a big impact on how a house looks.

Large-format concrete tiles have been the mass house-builders’ choice for decades. They tend to be more porous than clay or slate and therefore more likely to suffer with unsightly organic growth on the surface.

My favoured choice is natural slate, if budget allows, or there are some very good fibre cement slates available. These tiles are lighter, which means there’s no need to strengthen the roof structure. The darkness of slate also provides a great contrast against painted render or timber cladding.

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 is thought to be more discreet, but actually shows up dirt more easily than black uPVC, 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.

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.

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bungalow with garage underneath

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4. Remodel the exterior

This is the most expensive option, but usually has the most dramatic results. I’ve remodelled hundreds of properties with great results, giving tired and aging home a totally new style. There are various approaches available, depending on the existing house style.

For example, houses built in the 1970s make good candidates to transform into a contemporary style. They generally have large rooms with big windows, meaning internal alterations can be minimised and more of the budget can be spent on the exterior. Bungalows are also ideal for remodelling, and a tried and tested approach is to remove the roof and replace it with a prefabricated timber structure, which can completely transform the property.

Care needs to be taken to understand the condition of the existing building before design ideas are produced, to avoid a situation where the entire dwelling needs replacing in order to deliver the final design.

a 1970s home prior to exterior remodel

5. Landscape your garden

It’s worth allocating some of your budget to landscaping to if you’re looking to really transform the appearance of your home. The design stage often fails to incorporate landscaping that will enhance the works carried out to the house, which then dilutes the overall impact of the finished scheme.

I often advise clients to engage with a landscape designer and have a concept produced. Even if you don’t get a detailed scheme, the conceptual approach is often enough to point you in the right direction to make sure the landscaping reflects and harmonises with your new home.

Popular choices at the moment include bonded-aggregate driveways and low-maintenance planting. Artificial grass is also becoming common as the products have been developed in recent years with much more convincing results.

6. Add a welcoming porch

One way to create depth and a more inviting appeal is to add a porch. This also provides practical shelter when digging keys out of a bag and can be used as a place to store coat and boots. Most extensions to the front of the house require planning permission, but permitted development allows the addition of a porch. Bear in mind that limits regarding size, height and distance to a boundary may apply. See planningportal.gov.uk for more information, as rules differ in different areas.

7. Rethink external finishes

A cohesive rendered finish can uplift a whole elevation where mismatched or poor quality finishes exist. Render was traditionally made from sand and cement, but you can now get a number of acrylic, self-coloured renders that are more durable. Renders also add waterproofing and, in some cases, insulation, which can significantly improve thermal performance.

exterior transformation