Making Home Improvement Less of a Gamble With HomePro

When increasing your home space, converting the loft is usually simpler than building an extension. There are few spaces that offer so much scope for making a design statement. With imagination, it is possible totransform a dusty no-go zone into a galleried extension to a bedroom or a self-contained playroomor study. You can be as minimalist or as theatrical as you like.

Specialist companies say the cost varies from about £10,000 for a terraced house to £20,000 for a semi-detached. A bonus for owners is that many of the materials needed are now available over the counter at DIY outlets. However, you could appoint an architect to produce a set of drawings and then appoint a builder, as surveyors normally recommend employing a builder for the heavy structural work. Victorian houses probably offer most scope because the roof spaces are big and the timbers may not need to be reinforced – your architect should confirm this.

Conservatories can provide an instant solution if you lack space. In Victorian times, they were a temporary retreat, but now they are commonly used as live-in extensions. The design secret is to unite house and garden. "People can make awful mistakes" - according to Marston & Langinger, which makes 'bespoke' conservatories. Basically, a conservatory should look an integral part of the house, rather than sticking out 'like a sore thumb'.

Cheap DIY conservatories can be bought for less than £2,500, but you can pay as much as £20,000 for a good-quality structure. "The best extensions are those where you cannot see the join", claims Julian Owen of the Association of Self Build Architects. This means having 'respect' for the style and scale of the existing house and using reclaimed materials where possible. The extra space should cost no more than about £50 per square foot.

Creating space by excavating below the house and underpinning to form a basement is an expensive last resort. However, some houses have a cellar that can be converted into a decent-sized nursery or utility area. Extra height can be gained by digging up soil and laying a new floor, and then tanking the walls to make the room watertight.

Often, space-making improvements do not require Planning Permission, but they may need Building Regulations approval, which covers the standard of work. All householders have certain 'permitted development' rights, but you should check with your local authority before you commence work. This is especially important if you live in a conservation area or in a listed building, where the rules are tougher. The penalties can be extreme. You could be fined or ordered to demolish an unauthorised extension or conversion.

League Table

Type of Home
Value Factor
(out of 10)*
Central heating
Loft conversion
Home security
New windows
Swimming pool/sauna

* Ratings based on observing the rules/advice above

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