Home Property Features The do’s and don’ts of extending your house

The do’s and don’ts of extending your house


Some tips for hassle free building!

Building an extension can be a great way to fix problems with your home and make it tailored specifically for you. An extension gives you a chance to do something really special with your property and they are fertile ground for Architects. A good extension will add everything to your home, practically and financially as well as giving you a design that you will enjoy for the rest of your life. In turn, a bad extension will do the complete opposite and it can turn your much-hoped for dream house into a nightmare.

When you are building an extension, the orientation is something that has to be considered very carefully as you will want to bring as much light as you can into this new space. When you are adding a structure on to your property it will have an impact on the natural light in the house so it is important that the design and orientation of the extension responds to this light requirement. One of the things that you must consider when it comes to an extension is what materials you will use.

Brick: Brick is multi-functional as well as versatile. There are a lot of mortar joint designs as well as techniques in the laying of the brick to give patterns and effects that add yet another layer to its diversity.

Metal (zinc and copper): Zinc and copper can also be used for roof finishes as well as building finishes as they are naturally resistant to corrosion, they are also very durable and require little or no maintenance.

Fibre Cement: This composite material comes in any number of colours and it can be used to create interesting patterns and effects. It is also durable and versatile as well as having a smooth finish and it can also look like a large cladding tile.

Timber: Timber is often overlooked due to the Irish climate but it is the perfect choice of material to use on an extension and it is also very versatile. Hardwoods are best to use on a project.

Stone: Stone comes in different varieties and styles of installation and it makes an impact. Stone gives solidity and weight to a building. It also weathers well, as well as it being maintenance free and lasting a lifetime.

Concrete: This can be used not only for the structure of a house but also as an external finish material as well as it looking good and functioning very well.

Plaster Render: This is a simple mix of sand and cement that weatherproofs a wall. This material is quite versatile and you can paint it any colour or apply a colour to the render itself. Finishes with this material go from silky smooth to a heavier dashed finish.

“Before you start building you need to apply for planning permission so you need to engage with an Architect and then in turn you will need to engage with an engineer for any structural stuff that has to be signed off. The engineer is also needed to sign off on any works for drainage etc,” said Enda McManus of Coynestone Developments. “You can build on to the back of your house up to 40 square metres without planning permission but if you are extending to the side of your house or if you are building over the house you need planning permission. “It’s always good to engage with an Architect because they will see stuff that you won’t see and they will also try to maximise the extension to its full potential,” added Mr McManus.

“Over the last few years there has been an increase in the number of extensions that are getting built. People are living in neighbourhoods that they like, they have built up bonds with their neighbours and despite the fact that their families may have got bigger, it can be expensive to move house so the obvious thing to do is extend the house. Anything you put into your house long term, you will get it back; you’re not throwing money away. “If you have a house worth €300,000 and you add on €60,000 to €80,000 of an extension on, you would be very unlucky if you couldn’t get that money back out of a resale,” he explained. “The biggest mistake when it comes to building an extension is rushing. You should put a bit of thought behind it and that is why I’d recommend engaging with the experts. They have plenty of experience in this field. The quickest and cheapest way isn’t the best way.

“In my opinion doing anything without a small design team in place comprising of an Architect and an Engineer is madness. When you have your plans in place and your design team on board with you, you then put the project out to tender and find a builder. When looking for a builder it is important to ask to see proof of some of his recent projects, make sure they are insured and if you can visit one or two of the properties he has done similar but recent work on,” explained Enda.

“People should be able to enjoy the building experience instead of dreading the builder arriving at the house every morning. When you’re doing any kind of work on your house there is always a bit of upheaval and if there is extensive work going on, I would suggest that you move out of the house. “If you are renovating the whole house whilst trying to live there is just a nightmare for everyone. Try and rent somewhere for a few months. You have no enjoyment or comfort living on a building site and it takes longer to do a job when that is the case rather than when the house is empty,” he explained. “Working on your house should be an enjoyable experience. Depending on the size of the job, you should have site meetings every couple of weeks so there isn’t any delay on the work and you know when you can start ordering windows etc,” concluded Enda McManus.

In terms of the design of the extension, it is important that the materials used should be sensitive to its context as well as embodying what the design is trying to achieve. When it comes to where you are planning to extend your home, most houses are able to add a single-storey extension to the rear of the house. Extending to the front of your house is a pretty difficult thing to do as it has a whole host of constraints that means extensions to the front aren’t done very often. Smaller front gardens, parking cars and the configuration of most properties means they don’t lend themselves naturally to benefit from front extensions.

Side extensions are becoming increasingly popular as they often involve converting a garage which makes it quite easy to add a second storey extension that can wrap around to the back of the house as well. This type of extension is great for adding a downstairs bedroom or den area. This is adding real value to your home in terms of quality space and also in terms of what the home has to offer.

Adding a two storey extension either to the side or to the rear of an existing two-storey house can add significant space and value to your home. Two storey extensions are usually done to create an extra bedroom and if this is the reason it often becomes the master bedroom as it will probably be the biggest bedroom in the house so you should also consider adding a dressing room and en-suite in this space. The only problem with this type of extension is how the new rooms can plug in to the existing staircase and back to the existing house. It is important that the spine of the house, the stairs and hallways are in the right place to facilitate the link at the upper level. It’s important to seek advice on this from a qualified Architect as an extension done badly without proper planning could dramatically reduce the value of your property as well as the flow and functionality of your home. If you are lucky enough to have a good pitch on the existing roof of the house and you are in need of extra space, then you can potentially convert your attic. These are some of the things you must consider if you are thinking of converting your attic.

Floor: The existing attic may be fine for the odd suitcase but an engineer will need to specify the works required to make sure the new floor is structurally satisfactory for habitable use. This involves the insertion of steel sections or girders which will also reduce the floor to ceiling height.

Skylights: You will want to include skylights in your conversion. You will need planning permission to put them on the front of the house but adding them to the rear of the property is okay to do without planning permission.

Fire: When it comes to converting an attic in a two-storey, you are effectively adding a third storey which means the house will now need to comply with fire regulations. This requires you to have a safe route of escape from the attic in the event of a fire in another room as it is not acceptable to jump from a window or be rescued at that height. The impact of this is that the hallway must become fire protected from top to bottom, front door to attic. All doors on the hallway (from bedrooms) will need to be replaced by fire doors and they must have self-closing mechanisms fitted. If you have large sliding doors downstairs that you like to keep open all the time, these will need to have self-closing mechanisms retro-fitted, so there is an impact throughout the house from top to bottom in deciding to convert the attic.

Staircase: The staircase will need to conform with the current regulations so it is always best to check with an Architect or design professional to ensure the new works are in compliance.

Habitable Room: If you are converting your attic because you want it to be used as a bedroom then you need to make sure that at least 50% of your floor area has a head height of 2.4 metres. If it doesn’t, the room will only ever be classed as storage. A dormer extension can increase the head height in areas to get you over that threshold but this will need planning permission. If you are extending your home or undertaking significant refurbishment to your property, then you may need to apply to your local authority for planning permission or if you live in an estate or within an apartment block you might also need to seek approval from the management company. Some smaller projects don’t require planning permission. These projects are generally towards the back of the house and under 40 square metres. This relates to additional areas to the original footprint of the house so if you have already converted your garage into a living room or an extra bedroom, then the size of this conversion must be subtracted from your 40 square metres. Roof heights are capped at four metres for pitched roofs and three metres for all other roof types including flat roofs. There is an allowance of 12 square metres from the 40 square metres that can be used at first-floor level. Porches can change your life if you live in a small house. You can build a porch without planning permission as long as it does not exceed two square metres in area and it is more than two metres from any public road or footpath. Where the porch has a tiled or slated pitched roof, it must not exceed four metres in height or three metres for any other roof type. If you own a protected structure or live in an architectural conservation area there will be limitations to what you can do with your house. In these cases, it is always better to ask an Architect for advice as most exemptions will not apply.

Any windows proposed at ground-level as part of an extension should not be less than one metre from the boundary they face. Any windows proposed above ground level should not be 11 metres from the boundary they face. If you have a flat-roof extension, this cannot be used as a balcony or a terrace. Engaging with planners early in the project is beneficial as it opens up the dialogue and it lets them know that there is potential work being planned for a given house. It can also flag up any serious issues with drainage or boundaries that are better to deal with early on rather than when the application goes in. The application itself is a series of drawings, maps, letters, forms and images that accurately convey the design intent in full to the planning authority. A legal notice will need to be printed in the newspaper and local authorities will give a list of approved publications. Local newspapers will cost much less than the nationals and as these advertisements can be quite word heavy, the cost can easily run to €400 so it is worth shopping around.

A site notice also needs to be displayed at the house/front gate and it must be in place for five weeks. Make sure it is erect and visible because failure to ensure this is displayed fully during this time can invalidate the application.

A five week period for observations- this coincides with the length of time the site notice needs to be on show and is the time period allowed for third parties to make an objection or observation on the application. They may have a concern over a certain issue so they have a concise period of time in which to make their concerns official if they wish to do so. Three week period for notification of the decision- this will also be circulated to those who lodged observations. Four week period for the final notification- this gives time for any third parties to lodge an appeal if they wish to do so.

There can be unforeseen requests from the authorities depending on your project in order to make their decision. When the decision comes through, there will be a set of conditions marked out that clearly state any specific comments in relation to the project. The planning approval is valid for five years. Most third parties who become embroiled in planning application disputes live near the house being renovated/extended so it is basic common courtesy to speak with your neighbours if you are planning extensive work. Building work can be noisy and disruptive. If you share boundaries and live with neighbours, it’s always a good idea to call in and talk them through your plans. “If you are doing a small to medium house extension you will need to give it the time it requires for planning permission. If you are going to build an extension that is going to be exceeding 40 square metres you will need to apply for planning permission,” said Fergal O’Doherty of Tyler Owens Architects. “With the new certificate of compliance and the resale value, it is important to have professional people working on the project so as they can give you the certificate at the end of the job. This is important to have if you are ever going to sell the house. “It is also a good idea for the client to have a good, clear brief of what they want. It is also a good idea for them to collect information as they go along so as they get what they want from the build. You want to ensure that the clients get something that meets their requirements because at the end of the day it is their home,” added Mr O’Doherty.


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