A Self Built Extension Transforms A Family Home







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Whilst planning and living through a renovation is a huge project for most of us to take on, Anna and her husband Phill (@renovation_at_5a), took it to the next level and carried out most of the build themselves.

The result is a large rear extension which is the most sociable family space. The striking glazing allows wonderful views into the garden whilst also letting light stream into the home.

Having such a huge involvement in their project meant a tight grip on the costs, so Anna shares with us her renovation story and advice, including why compromising is important to stop the costs escalating.

We love the sociable open plan area 

Can you tell us about your home and renovation project?

We bought our current home back in 2009, it had been recently converted from a true bungalow to a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom, dormer. It had a brand-new kitchen and bathroom and as a family of 3, was perfect for us. 

10 years later, our family had grown and we decided we needed more downstairs space, so started looking at a potential move in 2019. After viewing a few homes and not really finding anything we loved, we began looking at the prospect of extending our own property. My husband, Phill, had recently helped his Dad build a small single storey extension on his home, so felt confident that he could project manage our renovation himself. 

We had our plans drawn up in March 2020, just before the first national lockdown and work began in June 2020. We added a single storey, back (3m by 9m) and side return (2m by 7m) giving us an open plan kitchen, living and dining space, with a downstairs toilet, utility and storage room. The project was completed in December 2020. 

The dark kitchen is combined with warm tones to create an inviting look

How much of the work did you carry out by and what gave you the confidence to take on such a huge project?

My husband Phill managed the whole project, taking on about 50% of the physical work himself. After completing a similar yet smaller renovation project alongside his Dad, the previous summer, he felt confident enough to take on this project. As our renovation coincided with the start of the Covid pandemic, being an engineer meant that his day job became a little less demanding and he found he had a little more time at home. This turned out to be a big help to us. 

We hired an architect, who was a personal friend, who was always on hand to advise or rethink ideas with us. We also hired a team of bricklayers, a team to fibreglass the flat roof, a professional renderer and a plasterer. All other work, including digging the foundations, fitting the kitchen, plumbing, flooring, decorating and electrics ( checked by a certified electrician) was carried out by ourselves. 

The patio area looking onto the house shows the extent of the extension

What were the biggest challenges that you faced throughout the extension?

The biggest challenges were: 

1) The weather. Having no windows and doors for 7 weeks in October and November wasn't too much fun! 

2) Booking professionals to do the right job at the right time. Due to delays in materials, we had to cancel some professionals and re-book others as they couldn't fit our job in! It was a bit of a balancing act at times. 

3) Waiting for materials due to delays during Covid. 

4) Having to style and furnish without being able to look at items in real life as shops were closed, again due to Covid. 

5) Sticking to the budget! 

The dining area has a roof lantern which adds height to the ceiling and also lets lots of light come in

Did you have a budget and do you have any advice on how to stick to one?

Yes, we did have a tight budget. We sat down together at the beginning of the project and assigned an amount to each stage of the project. We knew this would change as time went on and, in some areas, we spent more than we'd anticipated but in others we managed to save. 

We had to make compromises such as not having the real wood floor we'd originally wanted and actually reusing our old kitchen units in our utility instead of buying brand new ones, but overall, we are still really happy with the finished project. 

The large window in the kitchen is the perfect way to bring so much light into the kitchen and also allows the best views into the kitchen

What are you most proud of now?

We love our open plan space now. It has really transformed our family life. When we cosy up on the couch at night and look around at our new living space it feels really special to be able to say 'we built this!' 

We were also proud (and quite astonished) of the fact that we managed to stick to the timeline, despite some setbacks. We'd promised ourselves we'd be complete by Christmas, and we were!

Our favourite space is our downstairs toilet. Our guests are always surprised at the size and love the quirky tiles. 

Our favourite feature is the huge picture window that frames the kitchen island and has a lovely view into the garden. 

The downstairs toilet with the fabulous feature tiles

Do you have any advice for anyone carrying out a similar project?

Our advice to anyone carrying out a similar project would be to have a really good budget plan. Keep your eye on every penny you spend and have a weekly review of where you are up to financially. If there is something you are not prepared to compromise on, that's fine (I didn't want to compromise on the kitchen) however, be prepared to compromise in other areas. 

If you have the budget, try and keep a little money back to spend on your garden once your internal renovations are complete - as it can end up being a bit of a mud bath! 

If you are thinking about a renovation project in the near future and need some help finding an architect or architectural designer, we can match you with the most suitable ones for your project.

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Published: July 22, 2021

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