There are many reasons we may be considering extending our house, maybe we want to create an additional room for a growing family, or reconfigure the layout and create a more open space.
However, there are times when we are not able to extend our house, or, when we change our minds as we learn about the potential implications of our plans.
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Here are five typical and honest examples why we can’t extend from Architect Lisa Raynes.
1) The gap between you and your neighbour is too small
People usually want to be able to access their back garden, especially in a semi detached property where access is only on one side. If you have less than two metres between you and your neighbour, you may want to extend and keep a gap – sometimes the space just isn’t big enough for anything significant.
A lot of people either want to put a study in, another reception room or a bedroom, and these need a lot of space. You could squeeze in a downstairs loo, ensuite bathroom or utility room if you have a narrow space, but if it’s too narrow you just can’t fit anything in, all you’d be doing is creating a long corridor with a toilet at the end and a machine at the other – no windows, no room to walk past each other, you’d end up building a corridor and not getting any use out of it…
2) The house has already had significant or costly development
Has the house already had a costly extension? Has someone spent a lot of time and money on something like a reconfiguration or a new kitchen? In a high-value area you might be prepared to unpick that work, but if you did that work in the first place it’s pretty galling to have to take out the kitchen you just put in and move it. You would be losing however much you’ve just spent. You could have spent £100k on an extension and if your kitchen was put in the wrong place then you can’t extend further. I’ve seen that in various properties in Didsbury, Hale, where previous owners have spent a fortune ripping out steel work to put a new kitchen in, but even if you just want to put one more opening in you may have to unpick everything. Be wary if someone has already spent a lot of money – you don’t want to unpick it.
In this case, it’s better to look for blank canvas, something that has not been extended – get it at a reasonable price. It may not be fantastic to live in straight away, but at least that money hasn’t already been spent on the property.
3) You have overlooking windows
Another reason you can’t extend is if there are facing windows overlooking another property. There are general rules on overlooking from two storey extensions between each other. These rules are; 20m from habitable room to habitable room, that’s a bedroom, living room or dining room. So two close windows staring at each other is just not going to work. There may be some preexisting conditions and that’s fine, but your development can’t make it worse.
Another rule is 14m from a facing window to a blank wall, or an obscure window. For example, a bathroom or even a secondary window to a bedroom. Often if you’ve got corner properties there can be overlooking issues which would stop you from being able to extend.
4) You’ve got a corner property
If you have a corner property, both your front elevation – the front of your house and the side that faces the road – are deemed as principle elevations/main elevations. In this scenario, the planners can stop you from doing a two storey extension on the side where you normally would.
5) You’d be forming a terrace
A lot of people in semi detached houses want to build straight across the gap between them and their neighbour. There are houses that have done that in the past but planners will not allow that anymore. This is to stop terracing – planners always want to be able to see the original mass of the house. If you build flush to the side and your neighbour did too, then it would form a terrace and your properties will just completely change the nature of your street.
Here at Pride Road, we accompany people on viewings for houses before they’ve bought them. This is a free service where we give advice to potential buyers so they can see whether they are going to be able to extend and what the implications might be.
Also, some workshops do not move on to projects, some come to realise that the work they want to do just isn’t feasible, would cost too much, they wouldn’t recoup the value, or what they would do would unpick & redo parts of the house, or actually just wouldn’t give the results they’re after.