The side return extension is one of the most common domestic building projects in the UK and in the Spring of 2015, we did just that to transform our 1899 Victorian Terrace in Surrey.
The millions of terraced and semi-detached houses that define so much of our urban landscape are ripe for this addition. But side return extensions need to be thought through properly. Get it wrong and this ‘improvement’ is not just disappointing, but can damage the light, flow and quality of your existing space rather than improve it.
These properties are good quality pieces of design that ooze potential but the dated layouts just simply do not work for us anymore as they reflect a bygone social structure with smaller separate rooms, separate kitchens and bathroom add on’s stuck out in the rear away from the main living space. So, how do we overcome this and make these properties work for 21st Century living? The answer is the side return extension!
The most important advice I can give, for a basic side return extension, is that you do not need to spend thousands on an architect, which, most people think is a must, and before you’ve even started, you are already a few thousand pounds in to your budget. People also assume you need an architect to produce the floor plans and elevations for your planning permission application. However, most of these extensions do not require planning permission and can be built under Permitted Development as the government have relaxed the rules on PD allowing you to build single storey extensions up to 6m (for terrace and semi-detached) from the original house under the ‘neighbour consultation scheme’. For a detached house it is up to 8m. This means you are not applying for planning permission which every Tom, Dick and Harry is able to have a say on. The neighbour consultation scheme just involves your immediate neighbours that share a boundary with you. For your floor plans and elevations, well, you can do these yourself or employ a CAD technician. All the council want to know is are you abiding by the Permitted Development rules i.e. staying within the 6m allowance. You can read the criteria in more depth on the online planning portal.
Of course if you are under taking a more complex side return extension then you may want to employ an architect. But for ours, a very simple design, there was no need.
There are so many ways this could be designed which all comes down to the space you have and most importantly, your budget. So I am going to talk about our side return extension, and the design and layout we went for.
Here are my drawings. Very basic, because this is all they need, and it saved me a fortune!
You will however need to employ a structural engineer to produce your structural drawings and load bearing calculations which you need for building regulations to apply for building notice. This is the next step after you have your permitted development approved. Building notice is a requirement for building regulations and this allows a building inspector to visit the build at each stage to sign it off. This is to ensure your builder is complying with current building regs. This then gives you final sign off at the end to prove you have complied with building regs. You will be issues a certificate which is a legal document that you will need when you come to sell the property.
Light is very important when planning your side return extension and the space is often long and thin which can create a tunnel feel if not designed properly. Make sure you include large Velux windows on pitched roofs and roof lanterns on flat roofs. The area also needs to be zoned in to different areas such as the kitchen, dining area and sitting area. Make sure you have plenty of space for these areas or it can feel very cramped.
I also strongly recommend spending the extra money on aluminium bi-folding doors over uPVC as they will last a lot longer due to the quality, they are also much more attractive. The runners on bi-folding doors are delicate and can often go wrong. The saying ‘you get what you pay for’ is very true. Our extension is 3.7m wide which is a common size for a terrace house, meaning our bi-folding doors are 2m wide by 2.1m in height. Sliding doors were not an option as the opening wasn’t wide enough. Bi-folding doors have a master door which opens independently which can be used as your everyday back door. As our garden is south-facing it is extremely sunny in the summer so the doors are open all the way a lot. Bringing the garden into the house and vice versa is fantastic. It makes the house feel even bigger as the side return extension has allowed the garden to become part of the house.
Here are some before shots of the house in the state we bought it in before works started.
Here are some during shots.
The soil stack that you can see in the photo below was re-routed through the new extension roof and down the new wall.
And the finished result. We couldn’t have been more happy with the end result.
- Wall paint colour – Farrow & Ball Ammonite
- Built-in units colour – Farrow & Ball Lamp Room Grey
- Flooring – Quick Step Light Grey Varnished Oak
- Bi-folding doors – Quickslide
- Radiator covers – Jali
- Kitchen – Benchmarx Holborn Cashmere
- Worktop – Quartz Silestone Blanco Norte