8 Tips for Extending Your Home

8 Tips for Extending Your Home

Choosing to extend your home is more popular than ever, and can be the perfect way to gain extra space without the upheaval of relocating. Here we discuss some of our key 8 tips for extending your home, which will help you on the path to extension bliss!

1. An extension should be part of a ‘whole-house’ solution

An extension should never merely be attached on to your existing house as a bolt-on. It’s crucially important that your extension works with your existing house, and that the solution has been considered as a whole. Spaces should flow together so that there is a clarity of layout between old and new, with the extension enhancing how the existing house works. Extensions crudely ‘tacked’ on to the rear of existing houses are characteristic of many 1970s & 1980s extensions which we are often tasked with removing, in order to rationalise and improve the original house.

It’s also very important to think about the impact on the existing services in your house. For example your heating system may not be able to cope with the additional space, which may necessitate a new system to serve the entire enlarged house. If this is the case it can be a good opportunity for your to consider introducing some renewable technologies to your home, such as an air-source heat pump or solar thermal system. These technologies are also eligible for the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, which can greatly reduce their payback period.

2. Consider architectural style

Every house is different, and as a result so is every extension that we design. Broadly speaking, there are three routes to consider with regards to style when undertaking the design of an extension to an existing building namely:

Complementary addition

This takes design cues from the profile, massing, bay rhythm, scale and proportion of the existing building, but without replication of details. Quite substantial extensions can be added to some buildings without detracting from the character of the original. The same additions to other buildings would result in imbalanced design or straggling composition. In those cases, a well-designed modern addition that will not read as part of the original building will affect its appearance less radically.

Deferential contrast

This is where the new becomes a modest backdrop against the old. Even if it is large, it doesn’t seek to be visually assertive. It might be achieved by reflective glass, for example.

Assertive contrast

This means affirmation of the new as a more or less equal partner to the old. New and old combined should be of greater lasting value than either on its own.

The approach adopted on any given project will be determined by the existing house. For example when it comes to extending a traditional house which has its own architectural quality, we often consider a deferential contrast approach to be most appropriate. However when extending a more modern house, which perhaps does not possess the character and quality of a historic building, then an assertive contrast approach may be most appropriate.

If your property is located in a conservation area then determining the style of any extension will be partly governed by the Conservation Area policy in place (which you can find on your local authority website).

You may be interested in our Lower Tullochgrue extension project, which is located in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park, and marries a striking contemporary design with a sensitive context.

3. Be realistic with your schedule

Most projects end up taking longer than you would like. Adopting a philosophical approach to this from the outset can put you in a better position to manage the ups and downs of your project, ensuring you don’t set yourself unrealistic expectations, which will only cause additional stress and worry during your build. In many cases dealing with the inevitable issues that arise in a calm and realistic manner can actually decrease the time taken for your project.

4. Keep on good terms with your neighbours

Nobody likes to live next to a building site, and we assure you that your neighbours are not the exception to the rule! Whilst it’s obviously important that the design of your extension doesn’t impinge on your neighbour’s property (they have a legal right to light, and privacy), what is often neglected is the importance of staying on good terms with your neighbours.

You will be asking them to put up with months of living next to a construction site, with deliveries, parking, noise, etc, without any of the benefits once work has finished, so it’s important that you engage with them at an early stage to explain your project, and what measures you will take to minimise disruption for them.

Depending on the location and proximity of your property with regards to its neighbours, the Party Wall Act may be applicable, and it’s best to contact your solicitor to ascertain this, and explain any ramifications to you.

5. Move out if possible

Living in a building site can be very unpleasant (see the Practicalities section in our advice piece on renovating. If finances allow it’s best to move out of your property while major works are carried out. This may seem like an extra expense if you need to find a rental property, but can often be cost neutral as contractors carrying out the works do not have to plan around you or your family, which often decreases the time taken.

If you do intend to remain in your home while you extend make this known to your architect and contractor at as early a point as possible, so that the project can be planned around this to allow you access to facilities such as a temporary kitchen and bathroom.

6. Be decisive

We can all be indecisive from time to time, especially when seeing a built space for the first time. It’s natural to feel the urge to tweak things over the course of a project, but this temptation is often increased when you are extending your home, and are able to see the works regularly. Keep in mind that changes have cost and timescale ramifications. It’s also best to discuss any changes with your architect, as they are best placed to advise you on whether there are any consequences to the revision that you may not be aware of.

7. Don’t forget insurance

When undertaking a major piece of work you will need to discuss the project with your home insurer. Most householder policies allow for simple refurbishment works, but if carrying out any building works you should notify your insurer, who may stipulate that any contractors are appointed using a SBCC /JCT building contract.

8. Remember VAT!

Many people do not realise that VAT is payable in full on the construction works of an extension. Whilst VAT is currently 0% on the construction of a new build property, unless your tradespeople are not VAT registered then it is due at the full 20% on all works to an existing property (unless the house has been uninhabited for 2 years or more, when a reduced rate of VAT may be applicable. You should contact a VAT expert for further advice if you feel that your property is eligible for a reduced rate.


Whilst extending your home can be stressful, it’s important to keep sight of the value it will bring to not only your property, but also your way of life. If you have an extension project you’d like to discuss with us please get in touch and we’ll be happy to assist.


Richard MacCullagh. 2013. Extending Listed Buildings – Principles and Practice. [ONLINE] Available at: www.buildingconservation.com. [Accessed 7 August 2018]