Written March 2017…
Our extension plays such an important role in our home life, it has brought us a sense of freedom, space to exist alongside each other, but also room to breathe, to play and create. It means we can stay in the house which we had already made into a home.
You see photos of it almost every day in my Instagram and Facebook posts, I followed the progress of it’s creation last summer in several blog posts, but as time goes on I receive more and more messages from people who have questions about the specifications. My opinion on the space, the size, recommendations, warnings…so I thought it was about time I got it all down in one place.
I’m aware that some of the information included will be specific to geographical location and therefore not of use to many of you reading, but you will be able to find local people who offer the same services. I want to be in depth, so it may be a bit of a long one!
As I have talked about in previous posts such as Home is where my heart is and here in The anticipation of a dream come true there came a point where our house just wasn’t working for us anymore, we had outgrown it and I was desperate to move. But after looking at the housing market and how much more we would have to spend to make it a worthwhile upheaval it soon became apparent that moving wasn’t really an option. Yes it could be done, but we would be signing ourselves up to an added financial commitment that we didn’t really want. So instead we turned our full attention to the idea of extending.
We don’t have a large garden, but being end of terrace means it wraps around the side of the house and it has a feeling of seclusion. Extending would mean sacrificing outside space, but I felt if done right it would only serve to pull the house and garden together, blurring the line between the 2, improving both.
I started by getting several builders to come and quote for what I had in my mind, a solid structure with 2 large Velux windows in the roof to let in light. I was concerned about affecting the feel of the 2 existing downstairs rooms, which were filled with daylight for most of the day, but saw no alternative. Quotes came in and I was quite shocked at the costs, I couldn’t have what I imagined and yet would still be paying way over what we could afford. My heart started to sink, perhaps this idea wouldn’t work out.
As I explored cheaper alternatives I found myself thinking about conservatories. I would shudder a little at this word, the image of a small cold white plastic box stuck on the back of the house made me feel sad, surely this wasn’t a route we had to go down? Nonetheless I booked for some well known companies to come and quote, but yet again I was shocked by the cost and this time for something that was SO far removed from my imaginings.
Let me warn you now, avoid Everest and Anglian like the plague, they were very unhelpful, super pushy and had absolutely no vision to go off plan. And the cost!!!!
So then I turned to friends for recommendations of local glazing companies, this is how I came to find Window Solutions (Network Veka registered), the company we went with. The guy came around, I showed him my drawings and then we worked on the design from there, I had full input and felt able to really get my vision across. Price wise we were looking at almost half what I had been quoted by the bigger companies, half AND I didn’t have to put up with the awful boring sales pitch and tactics, Ian knew his stuff, was very matter of fact and I liked that I was actually talking with the person who would be building it, that gives you much greater confidence than a man in a suit, with his brochures, hiding behind his company’s tv adverts and promises. Urrrgh, they really pissed me off, can you tell?!
My specifications were –
Absolutely no white plastic, absolutely no wood grain affect (this is the norm so you must specify otherwise it would seem, WHY would you want plastic fake wood?!), dark grey, as high a pitched roof as possible, one solid wall coming out from the kitchen, same floor levels throughout ground floor, as few sections as possible, larger than standard doors, several ventilation options. I would have loved Aluminium, but this would have increased the price by nearly half again and we just couldn’t justify it.
I initially wanted bi-folding doors, but it soon became apparent that they wouldn’t suit the space as you would be looking at the side profile of the doors from one room or the other, as well as cost and the fact they need more space in which to travel, it was just a big fat no!
The designs came back and after a few tweaks (I pushed to increase the pitch of the roof even more, something at the time they were rather sceptical about, but I was confident in my vision) we were in agreement and work was booked to start the following month. I couldn’t believe it, this was really going to happen!
Boring things you may need to know –We didn’t require planning permission as it’s technically a conservatory, but we did have to go through Building Control as it’s classed as a ‘Highly glazed extension’ and due to having it all open plan they were concerned about heat loss etc. This cost a couple of hundred pounds in total, we had to get a Mining survey report, something quite common in Cornwall and also had to agree to have a Radon Sump fitted, again, a Cornish requirement due to the granite in the ground.
The summer holidays came and with it a lot of mud and big holes. We were unlucky with the weather which slowed things down a bit but overall I just couldn’t believe how quickly everything happened. Garden to slab in about 3 weeks.
Once the slab was poured I couldn’t help but have a play to get a sense of scale.
The frame went up in about 2 days and suddenly my vision was really brought to life. The area measures 2.6m x 5.5m approx and has almost doubled our ground floor space.I’ll never forget the day the wall was finally taken down in the kitchen, the sun came flooding in and our lives were transformed.
Finally I had the home I had imagined…
The solid wall out from the kitchen was crucial in my design. Without it I feel all sense of architectural wow factor would be lost, it ties the extension to the house, creating a flow and continuity, it’s really hard to imagine it could have been any other way.
The height of the roof is a really wonderful surprise as you walk out into the space and realise it goes up, as well as out, again this is crucial to making what is still a pretty modest sized build have a lot more impact and drama.
Here’s some of the nitty gritty –
HEAT LOSS/TEMPERATURE CONTROL – This is the number 1 most asked question, is it too cold in the Winter and too hot in the Summer? This is another reason why I have waited to do this post, it’s now March and we have been living and loving this space since August last year, so we have experienced both ends of the temperature scale. In the Summer, yes, it can get a bit toasty, but we designed the space to have lots of air sources. We have extra large sliding doors at the end and along the front, as well as small windows above the daybed AND 2 openers in the roof, lots of opportunity to create a cross draught. If it gets too hot, within minutes of opening these it’s back to a comfortable level. If it ever gets too much, which I really doubt, but *if* it did then we will put up sails to create some shade. I can’t stand the standard blinds that are available and so would never go down that route. In addition to this the roof glass has a UV tint on it, it’s called Solar Control, to help with heat retention and reflection. I had a complete freak out about this initially, including tears the morning the glass was going in as I had specified that I did not want tinted glass and I thought what they were installing was exactly what I hadn’t asked for, it looked SOOO blue! But, once in you could hardly tell, in fact all it does is makes the blue of the sky look slightly more saturated, like a brighter summers day.
It’s orientated to the west but gets full sun from midday onwards in the Summer.
Cold – short answer…no! The reason this extension works so well for us is because the open plan style means hot and cold air circulate. We had electric underfloor heating installed (bought from Living Heat) which keeps the floor a nice temperature for bare feet in the winter and with the wood burner so close by in the living room we can heat the whole downstairs within half an hour. We don’t have central heating (night storage heaters instead) and as yet we have not felt the need to put any other heat source in the extension.
Is it aluminium? The grey plastic frame looks so good people do mistake it for aluminium. I’m so happy that we went with this choice and trust me, I never thought I would say that!!
Cost – *edited* While I feel a bit uncomfortable talking about large sums of money I guess it’s really what everyone wants to know. It was CONSIDERABLY less than moving to a slightly bigger house at approx £18.5k (not including furnishings/ floor)
Time frames –making contact with glazing company to confirmation of plans – 2 weeks, wait until work began – 3 weeks, From start of groundworks to pouring slab – 3-4 weeks, Erection of frame – 2-3 days Fitting glass – 2 days, Plastering – 2 days
What makes this conservatory stand out? The solid wall at one end and pitch of the roof mean that it looks much more high end that the standard spec styles. The changes I made to the initial design I feel have really made this something special.
The beautiful continuous engineered Oak floor, which you can read more about here, flowing from the front door, all the way to the back creates the sense of even greater space and quality of finish.
The open plan layout means the spaces flow, there’s no real boundary so furniture can be moved back and forth to make one space bigger, another more snug, every inch of space is utilised and enjoyed.
The daybed!! I’m not going to lie, the idea of my beautiful Ercol daybed came first in my mind and then I built up the design of the room around it!
So there, my longest blog to date I think, but so hard to skimp on the details, well done if you made it this far!
I hope if you have been considering your house options, should you move, should you extend then maybe this has been helpful, perhaps some questions have been answered, I’m sure there is so much more I could say but I don’t want to frighten you off!I can say in all honesty I wouldn’t change a thing about it, everything is as I wanted and I think that’s because I felt I was in control of the whole process. I guess it does help that I’m not afraid to make my feelings known!
I’d love to hear what you think of the transformation and if you have any further questions send me a message or comment below.
☆ Edit -I have been asked by a few people about what it was like living with the building work so I thought I would add to this piece as it’s very relevant and I can’t believe I didn’t talk more about it to be honest!
Anyway, generally it was much better than I expected. For the most part the work was all outside, we could close the door/ window…and even sometimes the curtains in the living room when I wanted to lounge unashamedly in my PJs at 11:30 in the morning and block it out. From outside they cut about 95% of the way through the wall, beneath the kitchen window, right at the start. This was because it creates a lot of dust/ mess so they didn’t want that going into the actual structure once built. Everything else was done externally, then once it was sealed and watertight they then too the patio doors and kitchen window out and knocked the remaining wall down with a sledgehammer. Yes it did get the kitchen really dusty, no I didn’t pack everything away, I just carried on and pretended it wasn’t happening!
Living with the bare, dusty concrete floor for several weeks, whilst it dried out enough to lay the wooden floor, was a bit of a drag, but I knew what was coming so really it wasn’t a big deal.
Overall it was a pain free, exciting and quick process.