Kitchen Extension – Woughton on the Green

Our clients in Woughton on the Green desired a new updated kitchen which made the most of the fabulous countryside views from their garden; so, therefore came to us for ideas and design options. Due to the L shape layout of their house it meant we could explore a number of locations, orientations and designs as to where was best to locate the new kitchen extension.

A new design was chosen by our clients and achieved exactly what they asked for – a light and airy kitchen with an island for cooking and socialising; which they did not have before with roof lights which really open up the space. The bi-fold doors across the back means more importantly it now connects with the surrounding landscape whilst overall integrating better with the house.

Our clients said “We thought you’d like to know that John Foster has practically finished our extension now and we are extremely happy with the design and plans”.

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Invest in your home.

According to the consumer magazine Which, the best way in which to add value to your house may be to add a garage, and although they noted that this was disputed by some estate agents, people who are contemplating converting their garage should take note. What was more interesting to me was that the next best improvement is to add a bedroom. The third most profitable improvement was the addition of a reception room. Of course, to add another bedroom for most people will mean they would have to extend the ground floor footprint too, or possibly convert the loft.

The exceptions are those people with an attached garage or a single story part of the house which can be built over, and we get our share of these projects as well. However, it’s clear that most homeowners intuitively know that an extra bedroom or extra living space adds value and that is why extending your house has once again become one of the UK’s favorite pastimes.

We do have a significant number of clients who just want a new house layout where it doesn’t involve extending but most of our projects (about 85%) want more space. Interestingly, a growing number of our clients are retired or at least nearing retirement, so you wouldn’t think another bedroom is necessary. However, if you’re looking at where to invest your savings with the knowledge that over a longer period of time you’ll get a good return, adding well designed and thoughtful space must be considered.

This type of investment doesn’t involve researching the shares market, and it doesn’t require paying brokers of fund managers, but you do get the benefit of a nicer surrounding until you cash in your investment and even best, all of it’s possibly free tax-free. Many people aged 55 and over can now withdraw their pension savings (subject to a one-off income tax), and according to the Treasury more than 85,000 people have dipped into their pension plans so far, cashing in 1.3 billion. It looks to me that the more canny aren’t spending this on holidays or new cars, but are investing in what is already their best investment ever; their house.

We must presume that when the time comes, they will downsize and mete out the proceeds as a pension. That may be the tricky part, but if interest rates have recovered by then, they may be able to live on the interest I suppose, since it could be a sizable sum, especially if we have some significant house inflation in the meantime – and we mustn’t discount this.

Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics.

Extending vs Loft Conversion vs Converting your Garage – Which is the best value?

I met a lovely couple this week who were considering converting their single garage to create a self-contained annex for their daughter who is expecting. It was clearly too small to convert in this way, especially once you allow for the insulation etc you need to the external single skin of brickwork that most garages are built of. The problem is that they had few alternative options since the garden was small, and so they were loath to give up some precious external space. The third option was to convert the loft, but they could not see how to do this to give the degree of separation which was required. In actual fact this may be the answer to their problems, but until we are commissioned to do a feasibility scheme and carefully analyse how we can configure the space, given the usual structural and access constraints with a loft conversion, we will not know. Sadly, we may never know because the budget probably won’t stretch to a loft conversion (with all the trimmings, en-suites and all).

Rear extension in Milton Keynes

It is true that the garage conversion would be the cheapest option if it were an acceptable solution, whereas a loft conversion and small extension would cost more. Of course you’re not comparing like with like. So how do you decide on what is the best solution? It is not always straight forward but clearly some permutations are not workable. For instance you cannot put a garden room in the loft and you cannot put a nursery on the ground floor of a two storey house. So once you have thought about what space you are trying to achieve the range of choices may be narrowed. Then I suppose the budget is the next thing to consider and you have to be realistic about your objectives. For a basic garage conversion you are probably talking about a minimum of £10k, a loft conversion £18k upwards and a small single storey extension about £20k.  But I would also argue that for value for money the extension is still the best. You may lose some garden space but with the others you will lose either garage (storage space) or at least part of a an existing bedroom (space for the stairs, to access to the attic rooms). These are non monetary costs but none the less should be considered as something you will sacrifice.
Loft Conversion in Milton Keynes
We know that for some, the garden is so important that extending over the garden is also too much to bear. The option that is often overlooked is to extend your house at the front. This of course takes some design skill so that it can be designed in to look comfortable with the original house. Another more obvious option to satisfy some requirements is to extend over an existing ground floor extension or garage, and we at Building Tectonics do plenty of these too.
But we won’t know what’s best until we have carefully looked at the options and often, sadly, the only way to do this is by a thorough investigation of the possibilities.
A photo of a converted garage space with wooden flooring and cream painted walls, a green fabric sofa with brown, cream and green cushions, a window and a skylight window in the roof giving the room a light airy feeling.
The inside of a garage conversion in Milton Keynes.

Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics Ltd

Don’t move, improve: Extending your home.

If you can extend a house to create more usable space then it is probably worth doing in the current market. This is especially true if you can create another bedroom, and even more so if you can create another bedroom whilst simultaneously making more living space to keep the house in balance.

So when our client came to us and asked if we could devise a way of creating a bedroom for the expected baby, we looked at how we could do this. However, we were not about to forget that the downstairs living space should be increased as well.  The obvious way to increase the living space on the ground floor was to convert some, or all of the garage; this is what actually happened. As I have blogged before, in my view garage conversions should be carried out, only if you have an overriding reason to convert. What I mean by this is that if you can create more usable space by extending then it must be better to do than converting a garage. When you lose garage space you probably lose storage space rather than a parking space, so you would need to find alternative storage space, unless of course you can dump the contents, and even if you can what about the next inhabitant. Garages do have a value and this should be considered when looking at the economics or converting the garage.

In the case of this house, extending was not an option because the garden was so small, but they would desperately need extra living area not only to keep the house in balance, but also because babies take up an inordinate amount of living space.  So we created a new kitchen and a utility room, again really useful when you have babies or young children because it becomes the laundry room effectively.

So the scheme was to convert the roof space over the garage and partly convert the garage leaving enough to act as a garden store. The bedroom produced was enhanced by the creation of a dormer window.  Even a small dormer window can make a big difference to a small bedroom as it increases the area that you can stand in, and of course it is a connection with the outside.

The main area of difficulty with projects like this is that we have to be able to make the floor plan work so that you do not have pass through one room to get to another. We were able to achieve this.

The extended house has enabled the family to live there for longer, and will easily recoup the cost of development when it is time to sell.  Of course some of the increased value would have happened anyway, with house price inflation, but they have had the benefit of the additional space in the meantime and they can move when they want instead of being forced into it at quite possibly, an unsuitable time.

When you are buying a small house it is worth asking if the house was designed so that it can be extended. It is government policy to encourage extendable homes and often architects are asked to consider this by developers. But not in the case of this house- but we did it anyway because that’s what we do at Building Tectonics.


Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics Ltd.

Foundation and extensions.

Foundations and extensions to houses.
There is a lot of confusion about foundations and extensions, especially where the requirement is to build over an existing building. Often the question is whether the existing foundations will support the load of the additional building. There are two very simple things to remember about foundations. 1) The width of a foundation and the nature of the soil below dictate how much load it can take. 2) The depth of a foundation is only important to stop the foundation moving due to fluctuations in the ground below.

In Milton Keynes, where I practice, the clay is usually supportive enough so that even a narrow foundation can support two storeys and therefore the foundation put in to support your single storey building will normally be able to take the load from two storeys. Thus you can often build over without worrying about the foundations.

In respect of the depth of a foundation, if you are building on clay, as in Milton Keynes, you have to take the foundation down to a depth where it will not be effected by seasonal shrinkage, ie dry summers ( remember those) causing the clay to crack and dry, even down to 900 millimeters. This effect is made much worse by the presence of trees where the ground can desiccate / shrink even at depths of 3 meters plus due to the trees sucking up so much moisture. This type of problem will cause cracking in a three storey house or a garden wall alike and thus logically no matter how much the load, if you want to avoid any type of movement you have to go deep on clay. Of course nobody invests a lot of money in a garden wall foundation so no wonder they crack and fall over so often.

It is not the same where building on sand. Sand does not suffer from shrinkage in the same way and so a much shallower foundation may be okay. However the foundation may have to be wider to take even a modest load – it depends on the type of sand.

Therefore most building can be successfully built over, using the existing foundations but, if there is evidence of movement such as cracking then it would be unwise to build over since that will probably crack too. All of the above is a generalization and you need an expert to advise, but you should not be put off exploring extending upwards because of a fear regarding the foundations. Talk to us and we will try to advise on the best strategy.

Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics Ltd.