Home Improvements - Part I

Home Improvements – Part I

by Lisa De Silva

Everybody likes to get their mind and body in shape in the new year, but what about your home and garden? In the 1st part of our 2 part series we look at big structural improvements such as conversions and extensions.

Many home improvements over the past 50 years, such as hot running water, central heating and insulated windows have helped to enhance the quality of our lives and new year has traditionally been the time to plan any future improvements to our living space. With this in mind, we’ve produced a two-part guide to home improvements covering large structural changes, through to more modest DIY projects to help inspire you.

In this first part, we look at some of the larger home improvement projects that can add value, improve energy efficiency and help you to enjoy your home without the need to move. For most of these jobs, professional advice and services will be needed, so be sure to consult the experts.


Repurposing your loft space into an extra bedroom and/or a bathroom is an excellent way to increase your living space and add value to your home. Planning permission is generally not required, although approval from building regulations is needed to ensure the loft is structurally strong enough, there is sufficient sound insulation, as well as a safe escape in the event of fire.

The cheapest way to convert a loft space is to simply use the current roof space without building out from the roof, but do check the distance between the floor and ceiling, which has to be at least 2.2 metres at the tallest part. If not, you can be looking at lowering the floor, or enlarging the roof space which will greatly add to the cost.


As long as an extension does not extend more than 3 metres beyond the rear of your house, or 4 metres of a detached house or bungalow, it can fall within permitted development allowances and there will be no need for planning permission (but do check for properties in conservation areas, World Heritage Site, area of outstanding natural beauty or National Parks). However, there are strict rules on height, the building materials must be sympathetic to the existing building and the whole structure has to be thermally efficient.

In contrast, a conservatory does not have to comply with thermal performance guidelines if there are thermally efficient doors between it and the main house and building materials do not need to match the existing building. What’s more, a conservatory can be a much more cost effective way to add space to your home than an extension and with a number of contemporary glass structures now available they can offer a practical and stylish solution where space is a premium.


Energy efficient windows will not only save you money in the long term, but the type and styles available today can match most ages of home. Do ensure any new glazing complies with building regulation on thermal performance and safety, including air supply, means of escape and ventilation. It’s also sensible to use a registered window fitter able to self-certify their work, which minimises any involvement of local authority building control.


Planning permission is not required if your new driveway uses porous surfacing which allows water to drain through, or if rainwater is directed away to drain naturally. However, if you are covering a surface of more than 5 square meters with traditional impermeable material, you will need to seek permission. You will also need permission from your local council to drop your kerb and do ensure you use tradesmen with the correct insurances to carry out public highway works.


If your home only has one bathroom, adding another is a great way to add value. When sourcing a space look for an under-utilised area of your home, whether that is within an existing bedroom or within a large closet. While a small shower room will not need too much floor space, bear in mid that a full sized bath will require considerably more.


As adding more square footage to your home can be prohibitively expensive, using the space you already have can be a way to get more room without breaking the bank. Reinventing the garage can sometimes be the perfect solution. Often this space can be converted into a teenage den or home office without too much cost and disruption. Spend a little more and you could even create a self-contained living space.