Converting Unused Space in your Home

They say that time is money: in our experience as architects and builders, space is money in London. You can add value to your property by adding an extra bedroom or extending your kitchen, as well as making it a more comfortable place to live. We take a look at how unused space can be converted into useful rooms, transforming both your home and its value.

If you’re thinking of extending your home, here’s how you can get that valuable extra floor space.

Decide which direction to move in

Up, down, sideways or backwards: which way can you extend your home? Naturally, this depends on the existing building, as well as local planning permissions. In our experience, most homes can be extended in one direction or another, which is excellent news if you plan to improve, not move.

Moving up

The obvious way to extend your home is upwards. Loft conversions are a popular way to create new living space in London; and let’s be honest, you don’t really need the entire roof space to store the Christmas decs and empty boxes. Many attics already have power and light, and it’s generally straightforward to tap into services if you want to add an en-suite. Ideally, the head height is already 2m – but don’t give up if this isn’t the case, as there are often options.

You’ll need to work within Building Regs, but unless you live in a Conservation Area, you’re unlikely to need planning permission for a loft conversion if you stick within the limits of Permitted Development. Talk to our architects as soon as you can, and we’ll be able to answer all your planning questions. The main issue affecting a loft conversion in a conservation area is the window or dormer, so natural light is something we’ll need to think about.


Image 1: Loft conversion at our project on Englewood Road, SW12

There are plenty of ways to increase the space: switching to a combi boiler with instant hot water does away with the need for tanks and cylinders, for example. If you have a sloping ceiling, make use of the low areas with useful, built-in cupboards. A loft conversion can mean you’re losing that handy dumping ground, so plan in storage solutions.

If you have a generous budget, you can also build upwards by raising the roof and creating a full new storey. Again, this is easier in some areas than others, and tends to be favoured more by detached home owners.

Or heading down…?

Basements are increasingly popular in London due to the high demand for space and additional square footage. There are many uses for a basement conversion including relocating the kitchen and family room, a teenage hang-out, a self-contained bedsit for rent or relatives, a home studio/office, a gym, cinema room etc. The list goes on!


Image 2: Cinema in the basement at our project on Trinity Road, SW17

You’ll need to tank (we are registered installers of Delta Membrane Systems) and insulate the walls, but on the whole, it needn’t be too complex or expensive a job. Basements with separate access or window light wells will already have natural light. If this isn’t the case, solar tubes and toughened glass floor panels on the ground floor are possibilities.

If you don’t have a cellar already costs will be higher. However, when you think of the costs of moving to a larger property in Chelsea or Wimbledon, it may not be such a bad idea. Talk to our architectural design team about the possibility of a new basement.

Pushing backwards

You usually can extend your detached house by 8m backwards into the garden under permitted development (6m if you live in a semi or terrace). You may be able to extend even further with a planning application if the garden is large enough. Extending into the garden can greatly increase family space, form a bigger kitchen or even create a sunroom or orangery. It is often down to the priorities of the family in terms of what is most important; a larger garden or larger home as these do eat up precious outdoor space.


Image 3: Existing rear elevation and proposed concept of a two storey rear extension at our project on The Chase, SW4

Try going sideways

Side return extensions are a good option if your property is suitable. If you have a passageway alongside your home, you can usually extend sideways. Unlike a full rear extension, building sideways doesn’t eat into valuable garden space: the chances are, this narrow passage is simply used for recycling boxes, if anything at all. This style of extension transforms the traditional galley kitchen into a squared-off, larger room, and enables you to have patio bi-fold/sliding doors into the garden.

Permitted development rules allow side return extensions, with various height limits dependent on the proximity of neighbouring properties. The extension can be up to 4m high (single storey only), and the width can go up to half that of the original property. However, if the extension is within 2m of a boundary, the maximum eaves height should be no higher than 3m and you’ll need your neighbours on-side (no pun intended) with this option.


Illustration: Side and rear single storey extensions to detached house under Permitted Development.

To find out more about home extensions in South West London, come and talk to us at BTL Property 020 3489 0332

If you have any questions relating to this article, why not ask our Architectural Design team?

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