Renovation Guide: Transforming Older House

4 Sep 2014 - Blog

By Dennis Sharp 4th September 2014

An Englishman’s Castle- A Joy to Live in?

Hardly a house in England has been left unaltered or extended. Many of these alterations and extensions are damaging to the buildings and reduce their value! With careful planning and a clear approach, it is possible to avoid common pitfalls and transform a building into a home that will be a valuable asset as well as a joy to live in.

The most basic question to ask is if you really like the renovation project you are about to embark upon. Does it excite you, will it transform the way you live and work? If not, it is not worth the effort- carry out basic maintenance, slap a coat of paint on and save yourself a lot of trouble!

Major Investment

Homes are our biggest personal investment and have a direct impact on the quality of our lives. Transforming an existing house is not an easy task, it requires skilful planning and a realistic budget.

Renovating for the 21st Century

It is easy to spend lots of money building palaces but it takes care, skill and cunning to build economically and get value. Doing it yourself is rarely an economic option. It is synonymous with doing it badly. Some people would argue that the annual damage inflicted by British DIYers on their homes is probably greater that that suffered in a natural disaster by many poor developing countries.

The performance and use of homes today is entirely different to the expectations and requirements of the original owners. We are an ageing population. Most households are single people or single parent families. There has been a technological revolution that enables us to order our groceries on the net and work from home but even brand new homes do not come with wireless technology and or facilities to store deliveries.

Many of our clients are very hesitant about being bold with their requirements because they cannot see how their dreams can be realised, economically, spatially or technically.  Complex requirements are often by very simply resolved once the design options have been explored.

There are a few simple rules to help guide the renovation process. We call these rules ‘COVET’:

  • Clarity: be clear about how the spaces are to be used (outdoor spaces are just as important as inside rooms)
  • Orientation: daylighting and orientation are very important  (north facing extensions can be brought to life with a south facing roof light)
  • Views: allow the design to extend out into the garden, Views and intermediary spaces (patios) are critical
  • Extensions: don’t compromise the daylight in existing rooms by building an extension- use roof lights to scoop light back into the house
  • Timing: programme the work realistically- time is money

Adding Value

Well designed extensions with sensitive alterations that enhance the existing property can substantially add to the value of a house.

Much has been written about the returns on adding bathrooms, ensuites, conservatories and new kitchens. Little is mentioned of the more innovative, economic and effective ways of enhancing properties. It is possible, for instance, to upgrade homes so that they require no heating or install underfloor heating to do away with radiators. The additional cost of superinsulating walls, underfloor heating and triple glazing is not onerous if considered at the start of a project. Solar panels for heating water are also economically viable particularly if installed when the plumbing system is renewed.

Gentle Loving Care

The renovation of older buildings is made easier if the proposed alterations are sympathetic to the materials and construction of the existing structure-enhancing features rather than make an imposition.  A careful and knowledgeable approach will pay dividends, enhancing the existing house and making it a joy to live in.


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