Do you need more space or just different space?

When it comes to creating your dream home, it’s often assumed you’ll extend to achieve that, yet there are so many different avenues you could go down to turn your everyday house into a fab family home.

You might be surprised to hear this, but extending isn’t always the answer. If your house is quite large, or has already been extended, you might have some redundant rooms or spaces, so adding more space isn’t a magic bullet. In fact, assuming you’ve decided to stay put and not move house, your existing property might have everything you need.

Instead of adding new rooms, you could remodel your layout and create larger spaces with structural alterations. 

Or perhaps reconfiguring the layout by swapping the use of some spaces will unlock the functionality you desire. 

But with so many options to consider, how do you figure out what’s right for you and your home?

The importance of briefing

I believe the key to getting it right is not to rush it. Take your time and start by defining the problem, not the solution. This sounds like common sense, but it is so easy to jump straight into solution mode. 

Consider how you use your home, what you like about it, and crucially what’s not working for you at the moment. Take the opportunity to fix those things that bug you, as well as including all those things you want in your dream home. 

Once you have a clear idea of your brief, the right solution will be a lot easier to figure out. When it’s your own home you can get stuck ruminating over the same old solutions and it often takes an outsider to help you unlock what’s most important to you before you can move things forward. 

Along with talking with your family to consider what your needs are, an architect could help by asking some probing questions that you might not have considered before. They will also be very likely to have encountered similar problems with previous clients, so they’ll be able to suggest innovative solutions based on their experience. 

The pitfalls of extending your home

Whilst it’s lovely and in some ways easier to build an extension, the last thing I want is for clients to spend all their time in the new extension and leave the rest of their home unoccupied!

That’s why it’s so important to consider all of the options available, and be sure that you’re making the right choice for you and your home. 

Houses that are already extended are likely to become very dark in the middle if you make them even larger. Take care to avoid simply moving your living areas into a new zone, leaving the middle of the house gloomy and redundant. 

So, if you’ve decided against extending, what else could you do instead?

Be resourceful with the space that you have

Instead of adding an extension, can you reconfigure your existing home to work harder for you and your family? If so, there are so many added benefits to renovating rather than extending.

Whilst renovation can be just as costly as extending, alterations usually require less material so this can be a sustainable choice if you’re concerned about minimising your impact on the environment. Maintaining the same building footprint also has the benefit of avoiding any loss of garden space. 

However, there’s a lot to consider with renovation, so taking the time to come up with a holistic plan for your whole home will always give you the best outcome by far. If you skip this step, you risk having to rework the same areas five or ten years down the line, undoing work and wasting money.

It’s easy to get stuck in the analysis paralysis state, where you don’t know what to do, so you don’t do anything. This is another part of the project where working with an architect is a great way to keep things moving in the right direction. 

Clients often come to me uncertain of how to move forward with homes that are lived (albeit languishing), in a slight state of disrepair. As an architect and problem solver, I love to take the time over this initial briefing to ensure I understand how you live. That way, I can help you to decide if you need more space or just different space.

Finding the solution that’s right for your home

For many renovation projects that I work on, the client will come to me with ideas of what they want, sometimes they even have a solution. I like to challenge that thinking to make sure we’re getting to the nub of the problem, so that I know they’re going to be really happy with the end result. 

Consider this: Do you actually all sit down to breakfast together? Do you have hobbies with large equipment that clutters the hall? Where do you sit to put your shoes on? 

We all have a tendency to think that everyone lives in a similar way to ourselves, but I’ve seen how the same type of house can be occupied in many different ways. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to creating your dream home so doing what someone else did might not be right for you. 

Instead, taking the time to create a comprehensive plan that considers all of your needs and bugbears means you’ll always end up with a home that you love. 

Choose your next steps with confidence

If you’d like to feel more confident with your renovation, I’m developing some new resources to support you in getting the project brief right, and to help keep your project on track as it progresses.

It’s called From Brief to Budget to Build, and contains some of the super useful stuff I use with my clients in a handy resource bundle. 

In there you’ll find workbook style questions to help you delve into your reasons, priorities and aspirations for your project, a budget planner that considers the costs likely to be involved in your project so you can keep the budget on track, and a template to capture the fixtures and finishes details for accurate pricing, and much more. 

Click here to find out more. 

Lessons learned on a lockdown build

Rear of the house before
Rear of the house afterwards

A tired three-bed semi with outbuildings in the garden, and a shabby extension to the rear, this house was in need of some serious TLC. As a growing family, they wanted to create larger bedrooms, more living space and a more open layout that really flowed.

While the project was a success, they faced several challenges throughout. The most significant of these was keeping on top of the implications that various decisions had on total cost. As well as the time and input required for the project when going it alone with the builder.

The client brief

To fulfill the ambition for a larger family home, we planned single and two storey extensions, utilising the footprint of the existing garage to get the most out of the plot. The extended section of the house would include a playroom which can double as a fourth bedroom when required. 

Converting the existing kitchen to a utility room and shower room, we moved the kitchen to the back of the house. And by maintaining side windows and roof lights we were able to keep the central spaces well lit. The new kitchen dining space opens up to the garden and so does the playroom, for an indoor/outdoor feel on warm days.

With a  keen eye for detail and interiors, they have furnished the home with some lovely touches.

The implications of going it alone 

With a lockdown build and a baby on the way, there were a few things which the client admits could’ve gone better to keep her stress levels under control. No matter how well you plan, there are almost always some on-the-spot decisions to be made. On this build, the costs and implications of each decision did not always become apparent until later down the line. 

Without anyone to help, they lost track of these variations as the project progressed and were often surprised to discover them later. Keeping your architect involved or appointing a project manager to monitor those cost implications can help mitigate this. 

Lessons learned in hindsight

Managing your own project takes up a lot of time. They simply hadn’t realised how much attention they would need to give the project and ended up  being far more involved in the running of the project than they had expected to be.

Acknowledging that the never ending decision-making was one of the most stressful aspects of the process, the client explained that if they did it again they would certainly look to keep their architect involved throughout the build.

The completed extension has truly lived up to the client’s brief and provides the spaces they need for their young family. They’re really pleased with the way the house flows, and that the extension integrates well with the existing rooms, feeling like a whole house rather than the extension simply bolted on. A big chunk of the budget was put towards the kitchen, which is a particular favourite of theirs now that it’s completed. 

Project completed Autumn 2020 by PDM Construction Ltd
Suppliers: Kitchen – Mobalpa

Are you ready to extend your home?

There’s a lot to consider when you’re changing  your home. Is extending even right for you and your house?

If you’re looking for clarity on what’s involved in the process and how to get started, you can use my Project Planner to help find the next step… 

Click here for your free copy

5 steps to keeping your home renovation costs under control

They say money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy you a lovely home! The real question is:  how much money do you need to create that dream home? 

“How much will my home renovation project cost?” is one of the most common things I’m asked. Sadly, I don’t have a crystal ball, but I can help you to understand the process, the associated costs and how to budget for your project. Understanding all of this will give you the best chance of getting it right without running out of funds. 

Create a budget from the start

This might sound obvious, but it’s a really straightforward way to keep your costs under control during a project. Map out everything that you’ll need to pay for, then check how much you can realistically afford to spend on the renovation. Don’t forget to hold a healthy contingency fund as well – you can always blow it on a fancy sofa, if it’s left at the end (although it rarely is).

There are plenty of costs outside of the building work itself which are often overlooked but really can mount up. These can include consultants’ fees, applications, and surveys, which all come in the months leading up to your building work.

Don’t forget to factor in VAT – this is a killer 20% at present, so it’s important to understand how this will impact your building work. At the time of writing, extension projects are subject to 20% VAT, whilst new builds are VAT free.

Once the building work is finished, you’ll also need to have funds left over for things like kitchens, flooring and furniture. It’s these finishing touches that feel far away at the start, but which you’ll want to include to finish the job. 

Get an accurate quote for your building work

Now that your budget is ready and your design work is underway, you’ll no doubt want to find out what the building work will cost. 

The best and surest way is to complete the design process, technical drawings and tender documents completely before approaching any builders. This means you’ll have a comprehensive set of information for them to price against. If you pick a well-matched set of builders to price the project then the quotes should come in at a fairly similar level. So, now you know the cost

But, what if the quotes come in and they’re a lot higher than you’re expecting? You’ve spent months, maybe years, to get to this point – to not be able to afford your project would be heartbreaking. 

That’s why getting some early stage cost input can be super important to ensure that you avoid this situation. 

Make the effort with early-stage cost input

Early-stage cost input can be a really useful way to start getting a rough idea of what the build cost will be.

The main downside with attempting to price too soon is that you won’t have finalised everything at this stage so there will be assumptions made. However,  if you can encourage a handful of builders to give you some feedback that’s still a useful starting point, just ensure you understand what is excluded.

They will likely be giving you an indication for the shell of the building, not necessarily the glazing, finishes, landscaping etc. And remember, material and labour prices change, treat this as a rough estimate. 

With your ballpark figure in mind, it’s important to understand that your specification choices later on down the line will impact the overall project cost. Do you choose the £10,000 windows or do you prefer the look of the £20,000 windows? You get my drift.

Square meter rates have their place but only as a VERY broad guide. Other alternatives for early-stage cost planning, and for cost control throughout the whole project, include appointing a quantity surveyor. And whilst this isn’t commonplace on smaller projects, it’s certainly something to consider if your project is particularly complex. 

Value Engineering aka Cost Cutting

Sometimes, in spite of your best laid plans and intentions, your quotes will come in above your budget. If this does happen, don’t panic! Working with your architect and builder you can look for opportunities to make savings. 

Begin by reflecting on your priorities. Do you need a finished space ready to move into? In which case could you scale back on the size and complexity. Or would you be happier to complete the shell, undertaking the painting and finish as you go? If the skinny frame glazing is a must have, could you fit a cheaper kitchen? 

Sometimes you can’t have it all, so it’s worth thinking about what’s most important. The earlier you can make these decisions, the better equipped you will be to make that dream a reality, even if things start to go south. 

Understand your payment schedule

The majority of applications, surveys, and consultants fees are due upon submission of applications or as different stages or services are completed. The building work comes with a similar distribution of costs. It’s not uncommon to pay deposits on bespoke items with long lead times – stairs, doors, windows. 

When it comes to paying your builder it usually goes one of two ways: stage payments or regular valuations. 

Stage payments mean that you pay a pre-agreed amount once certain milestones are reached. For example, when the roof work or the plastering is complete. These are agreed up front, so it’s important to make sure that the milestones are things you understand. Agreeing a milestone of “works complete up to DPC” is all very well, unless you don’t know what the DPC is. My advice is to opt for jargon-free milestones.

Alternatively you can manage your payments on a valuations basis. With your architect or quantity surveyor onboard through the build, they can manage this process for you, inspecting the works and agreeing the builder’s valuation and amount due on a monthly or fortnightly basis.

However you move forward, agree what method you will use before you start work. Ensure that the contract sum is known and agreed in advance, as well as how any retention clauses will work. You might typically hold 2.5% or 5% of the builder’s money back for 6 or 12  months, but don’t spend it in the meantime.

For help sourcing a building contract that’s suitable for domestic projects, which will set out these provisions in detail, I recommend the following resources:

https://www.ribabooks.com/homeowner-contracts
https://www.ribabooks.com/RIBA-Domestic-Building-Contract-2018_9781859468692

Ready to start planning your renovation?

There’s a lot to think about before embarking on a building project – sometimes it can be hard to know where to start! I hope this blog has helped you to feel more in control of budgeting for your renovation project.

If you’d like some more support in preparing for your build, I’ve put together a list of 5 key questions you need to answer with “yes” before you’re ready to extend. Want to find out if you’re ready? Click here!

1930’s Home Extension: A Place to Eat

A table too big

This family lived in a 1930’s semi with a garden that banked steeply up at the rear. The property was already extended with a loft as well as garage conversion which now housed the kitchen. A separate dining room across the hall contained the dining table – an important artefact in this story, it was hand built by my client. Yet, the table was simply too big for the dining room, it needed a new home, somewhere it could take pride of place and where the family could use it without excusing one another to get up and down.

The existing landscaping of the garden posed an issue for a rear extension, the garden would need some serious intervention too in order to make some space. And with access only though the existing garage (now kitchen), a whole literal heap of mud was about to get barrowed through the house.

A steady pace

Almost a year after the Planning Permission was granted the building work began. Building Regulations approval obtained and Party Walls Awards in place, the dream was finally on it’s way to becoming a reality.

More than willing to wait for the builder of their choice, we soon hit a hurdle when COVID hit and a lockdown forced things to slow down. Whilst building work continued with a very small team, the interaction between client and contractor was reduced to a text message or brief chat through the window here or there. With considerable ground works to create the new terrace outside and the extension works contained for the most part to outside, work was able to continue at a steady pace.

Having been asked by my clients to help them manage their project through the build phase, I arrived for my site visits just as the builders were leaving. It gave me plenty of time to run my eye over things uninterrupted. Clients safely locked down in their own home, I’d phone them afterwards from their driveway to update them, strange times.

“We had no idea what to expect or what to do and Carly helped us at every step using her extensive knowledge and wonderful attention to detail. Every meeting and decision was logged and Carly signed off on each milestone. We really felt we were in safe hands.”

With doors and windows in short supply due to manufacturing shutdowns we opted for a more contemporary look, without the glazing bars we had intended. They matched well with the charcoal bricks as well as the grey radiators and wire framed pendant lights that were later selected.

Transformation

On the summers day that I return to take photos, the new extension and terrace are a little suntrap. It feels a million miles from the winters day I first visited to meet them. The retention of the existing window openings between the lounge and dining space form little trinket nooks with the new windows mirroring them and roof lights set between.

The new layout has absolutely surpassed expectations. The house flows beautifully and we absolutely love the space.

Building work completed Summer 2020 by AJH Building Services Ltd

Products and Suppliers: Doors and Windows – Origin, Flooring – Quickstep LVT, Roof lights – Velux, Render – K-Rend

Extending an Edwardian Semi

A sizeable semi-detached property, this Edwardian Semi was built for a different way of living. This family of five came to me to help them reconfigure their home for the 21st century.

Setting the Brief

Fed up of squeezing round the low level island for family meals, amidst the clothes washing, it was time for a change. Their requirements were for a large kitchen/dining space for five to cook and eat together, it should be somewhere to entertain. And also a flexible space for working from home, a library, making lego, stuff with glue! They wanted huge doors and windows with character and for the extension to feel solid and part of the original house (not a glass box on the back).

Notwithstanding a 180ft garden, the rear of the house was North facing and they were particularly fond of the South facing courtyard to the side of their house. They already liked to hang out there, despite the “awful concrete garage, we could do without”. We set to work to make this space an integral part of the design. It was to become “a sunny outdoor courtyard for eating alfresco and working outside in the summer” (British weather permitting).

The ground floor had the original kitchen set in middle of the house between large reception rooms to front and rear. It needed a new layout to reconfigure their home for today’s way of living.

Transformation

Extending to the rear and to the side of the house, we created a double aspect kitchen, capturing sunlight from the south side and connecting to the much loved side courtyard, all the better with garage now gone. The old kitchen became the utility room and study, which also opens to this space.

The doors and windows, taller than standard height, have an old steel frame appearance but are actually aluminium frames which are thermally better performing. These were sourced by the client from IQ glass and are a real focal point of the space from both inside and out.

The exposed brickwork within the kitchen retains some character of the original property within the new space and is a beautiful contrast to the otherwise gallery like white space.

Finishing the kitchen just a day before their wedding, a no doubt busy last few weeks, but a wonderful space for an informal reception and a great excuse to invite guests and entertain.

This project completed Summer 2019 and was built by A. Pearce Builders.

Products and Suppliers: Kitchen – Howdens, Pendant Lights – IKEA, Roof lights – Velux, Doors and Windows – IQ Glass.

2020 – What a year!

Far from the doom and gloom that March predicted, 2020 has been real success – here’s how things panned out for me…

(more than) A few wins:

  • I focused on working with clients from concept right through to completion to ensure they get the best outcomes with the least hassle.
  • I blogged regularly on all sorts of topics from Mistakes to Avoid to Lighting and Storage.
  • I started a Facebook group to help people get clued up before you begin.
  • I gained nine 5* Google Reviews.
  • I developed a collaborative approach with structural engineers Michael Aubrey Partnership to bring structural input to the early stages of design. As well as enabling clients to reduce overall project fees by avoiding duplication of effort.
  • I worked with business coach Gemma Gilbert and soaked up her brilliance to get all of the other stuff done.
  • I ran a 100km in October and raised £650 for Breast Cancer Now.

A few challenges:

  • I took on a little too much work, everyone being at home all the time sent enquiries sky rocketing! Fortunately, I was able to work with others to help me deliver it all.
  • I didn’t implement my new CAD software, the task seemed mammoth and I didn’t break it down into small enough chunks.
  • The COVID restrictions meant I wasn’t able to visit previously completed projects as much as I’d hoped to, so the case studies remain outstanding.

What did I learn?

  • That most things are possible if you put your mind to it.
  • That content marketing is actually just about sharing value and connecting with people.
  • That virtual meetings can actually be quite productive and save on travel time!
  • That systems are key to efficiency and I wouldn’t be without Dubsado.
  • That I need a little bit of human support too, and am pleased to be working with Admin Lab helping me keep on top of it all.
  • That maintaining good relationships with contractors is just about picking up the phone.
  • That sending chocolate brownies to clients in the post when they’re having a rough time is always a winner!

What does 2021 hold?

For me 2021 is about changing focus with my project work and bringing energy retrofit to the table alongside extension projects. I want to help people make their homes greener. I’ll be completing the AECB’s Carbonlite Retrofit Course to develop my knowledge in this area and will be seeking clients who are keen to embrace a sustainable design agenda.

I’ll be implementing the new software I’ve been avoiding, by taking it in bite size chunks, and look forward to seeing the benefits it will bring.

Most importantly? I’ll help my clients get their dream homes built.

On reflection

It was far from the easiest year, with our kids home for what seemed like eternity, but somehow all that stuff got done. I’m excited to embark on 2021, but far from wishing 2020 away on reflection it’s been quite a success.

1930’s Home Extension in a 2020 Lockdown Situation

Completed during the COVID lockdown, a few compromises were required to maintain momentum, but they got there in the end. As a client with project management skills in their own field, I wasn’t involved throughout the build, so I visited them back in September to see how it had all turned out.

“Actually having you visit makes us a bit reflective. It’s sometimes hard to appreciate the end result when you’ve lived through it but looking back it’s quite the transformation actually.”

Motivation

With a tight kitchen and an under used separate dining room, the initial motivation for this project was to create a larger open plan kitchen dining space. The addition of a seating area, ground floor loo and utility room, brings this three bed 1930’s home up to speed with a more contemporary way of living.

Conscious that we were chopping and changing the original layout, we chose to push all the beams up into the ceiling void, with the benefit being that the new spaces flow from the old house right into the extension without interruption.

When you think that the whole of the kitchen used to be in what is now the utility room and ground floor loo, it’s amazing to see the difference. The new kitchen is spacious and bright, with the dining table serving unexpected dual purpose as a work from home space as the world of work continues to evolve beyond the initial project brief.

A challenging journey

Whilst the spring lockdown stopped the building work initially, it soon resumed with the construction industry carrying on as near to normal as possible. However, temporary closure of builders merchants, and paused manufacturing of some key elements, did impact the project:

“We had to change the doors and windows from aluminum to PVC because during the lockdown we couldn’t get them supplied from the people we wanted to. It was a decision we made because we didn’t want our build to take another two months.”

“We had some unexpected challenges with the kitchen installation but the end result is great. The flooring came from an online supplier because we couldn’t visit any showrooms at the time.” Having lived through every minute of the project, being at home throughout the build, my clients were somewhat relieved when it all came together at the end, after several months of washing up in the bath.

Transformation

Despite the challenges along the way, the finished extension is a real transformation from how the house used to be: “We’re really pleased with how it’s turned out, we basically live in the extension now”. The original front room which was retained can double as a spare room for guests in the future, and for now, provides a space for some privacy away from the open plan rear of the house.

We talked about some of the smaller things that make a big difference to how the house functions now and I was pleased to see that these design elements had been retained and not omitted in lieu of cost savings. Both daylight and artificial light being important considerations:

“Having the roof light in the utility room makes such a huge difference for what is essentially an indoor room, we now have daylight and ventilation here, we chose to opt for the roof light with electrical operation, which has been really good on some hot days.”

“We really like having our lights on different circuits so that we can create different moods”

Overcoming the cramped feel of a “kitchen made for one”, the new space is generous and somewhere to be enjoyed together, and eventually with family and with friends.

Building work completed summer 2020 by Steve Tyler and Sons Builders.

Products and Suppliers: Pendant lights – John Lewis, Kitchen – Wren.

Where’s the Fish Tank?

“Where’s the fish tank?” I asked. It was one of the things I remembered from the old dining room. I suddenly realised that we hadn’t planned a spot for it in the new extension. Sadly, (although somewhat to my relief) the fish had not survived the building work. I felt somehow thankful that they did not need a space for the tank, but also guilt at my relief! I made a mental note to add ‘fish tank’ to my project checklist, it would be there along with cat flap, and the myriad of other things that need to be considered. I would not want to forget the fish tank again.

Not to downplay the loss of a pet(s), but the sadness was quickly replaced with a sense of pride from visiting the finished home (and envy – I wanted to move in!). I entered into the new extension on a sunny Monday morning after the school run – it was bright, spacious, beautifully furnished by my client – with great eye for detail.

Catalyst: A Bigger Bedroom

When I met my clients back in 2018, the original brief had been to create a larger third bedroom for their son – to extend above the existing dining room extension. Their 1960’s home had good sized rooms, albeit the third bedroom being on the smaller side. Once the process began, the realisation dawned that if you’re going to do building work, you’ll probably only want to do it once. With that, the scope expanded to extend the ground floor and renovate the kitchen as well, they wanted a space to entertain especially for family at Christmas.

Before it all began

Journey: Some Twists and Turns

With a revised brief for a larger project we set off on a journey which had its twists and turns. A hundred year old oak tree in the front garden and the house having been previously underpinned due to subsidence added some complexity to an otherwise straightforward project; the structural engineer designed for piled foundations. The need for a specialist piling contractor alongside a general builder made for additional coordination.

Result: A Space to Entertain

Obstacles overcome, the outcome is lovely, a space for the family to enjoy and to entertain. The only downside being that COVID has limited their potential for visitors, but this will no doubt be a great entertaining space when the time comes.

The ‘slide and fold’ doors across the width of the space, adding elegance with their slim frames. The internal bi-fold doors between lounge and dining bring flexibility for open plan or closed off living. The roof lights enhance the dining space, bringing light from above. Upstairs, in the two-storey part of the extension, the enlarged third bedroom had been commandeered as the master, with a walk through dressing area adding some glamour.

“The house is finished and we love it!” That’s the feedback I love to hear. And whilst the end result is very much the point of hiring an architect, it’s good to have positive feedback on the journey to get there as well:

Carly was sympathetic to our needs, very organised, has great communication skills and went above and beyond when working with contractors. She made the whole process as seamless as possible and we stayed on budget throughout. We are extremely pleased with the service she provided and are really pleased with our 2-storey extension.

Building Work completed early 2020 by Duncan Crawford.

Products and Suppliers: Kitchen – Howdens, Worktop – Rocktops, Kitchen Flooring – Amtico, Pendant Lights – Koltrane Lighting , Bedroom Flooring – Quick Step LVT, Rooflights – Velux, Slide and Fold Doors – Sunseeker Doors, Internal Bi-fold Doors – Todd Doors.

How do the kids feel about extending your home?

Change can be challenging, especially with kids, here’s why involving your kids can be an important step when undertaking an extension project. I sought some expert advice on how best to approach things…

Excitement

It’s exciting isn’t it? Planning an extension project. You’re going to change the way you live, overcome those awkward parts of your home, improve functionality, create more together space and bring harmony to family life… well that’s the plan!

How do the kids feel about it? Have you asked them? Maybe they’re excited too or possibly a little bit worried. Getting a new bedroom sounds like fun doesn’t it, but have any of you thought about the disruption you’ll go through before the flat pack furniture building begins?

There are hundreds of decisions required to build your new home and whilst you might want to involve the children with some of them, you’re likely to overwhelm them if you use them as a sounding board for every last fixture and fitting.

Disruption

Children, on the whole are pretty adaptable but if you don’t help them through it then you might find the build phase more stressful than you’re expecting. Working around less space and a temporary kitchen is an obstacle, but can be overcome. Living together in just half of your rooms whilst the others are knocked about is only fun for a little while. Everything takes time.

Dust gets everywhere. You can tape things up as much as you like, but it will be settling for months afterwards, so there’s no escaping it. Construction is also very noisy and if you’re going to be around during the daytime you might find this quite the distraction. Perhaps moving out is an option, but there might be a cost with that. If you are planning to “live on a building site”, it’s important that you understand the risks and that you communicate with your builder’s team to ensure that you are able to keep the children safe.

Strategy

Starting right from the outset before the build commences, how can you manage this changing time with the kids? What can you do to help them feel excited whilst at the same time building resilience to cope with an unusual situation? I spoke to Sarah Billingham of Confident Kids, a specialist teacher who had this advice:

“Whenever there is going to be a big change for children, we tend to jump into telling them all of the things that will be different. Instead, start by telling them what will be the same so that they have some sense of familiarity. Slowly introduce them to the things which will be different so that they have the opportunity to process each aspect without becoming overwhelmed. One of my favourite ways to explore the topic of change is to share stories together on the topic of the change ahead (in this case- building houses!). This helps children to get a sense of what to expect and the equipment they might see. Children can explore and talk about the change in a non-threatening way. “

What your Conservatory is saying is “Replace me”!

Conservatory: lovely concept but far too hot in summer, too cold in winter. Terrible thermal performance is the number one reason to get rid of it, that’s what it’s trying to tell you! But take care not to replace it with an extension that is glazed to the extent that the same problems might persist.

Poor Performance

Designing a new extension to replace a conservatory is a brief I’m commonly presented with. The main reason cited for replacing it is always poor thermal performance, don’t get me wrong – conservatories have their place but they aren’t very functional for year round family living and if yours is a dumping ground for toys and garden paraphernalia, fear not – there are others out there just like you.

That said, there are some huge advantages in terms of light that come from a fully glazed room. And in replacing a conservatory it’s often the case that you’ll want to go for as much glass as you can, which could in turn perpetuate the same conditions. Fortunately, the Building Regulations have some criteria to help you avoid this in terms of amount of glazing that is permitted before you reach a tipping point. After which you’re required to mitigate your excess glass by “over insulating” other components to compensate, although this is more in relation to heat loss than solar gains.

There are lots of options including triple glazing and solar control coatings to help improve the performance of your glazing and the orientation of your building will be a key factor too. The angle of the sun comes into play somewhat in the UK where it’s low and weak in the winter (desirable) but high and hot in the summer (problematic). If your main elevation is south or west facing, you’ll need to consider the design quite carefully to avoid overheating in the summer months. Solar shading in the form of a roof overhang or vertical fin might be an appropriate solution.

Panorama Overdose

Rarely do people say “I want to replace my conservatory becayse I hate looking at my garden”. But it’s worth considering, do you want to look out on all of your garden or just the best bits?

Frame a view of something worthwhile, mask out the ugly bits. Yes, the apple blossom is nice but do you want to look out at your knickers on the washing line when you’re sat on the sofa… when your friends have popped round to admire your lovely new extension? Maybe not.

It’s also worth considering that floor to ceiling glass can play havoc with your furniture layout, see also Is Open Plan Always The Answer? where it turns out walls have their place.