An extension can add real value to a home – both in dollar terms and how much you enjoy living there – but be sure to plan well and expect the unexpected.
1. Letting in too much summer heat
Most people love an abundance of natural light in a home, but if there isn’t enough protection from the sun in summer it can be unpleasant to live in. Ideally, an extension should be oriented to bring in the northern sunlight during winter, but block out the western sun in summer with strategically placed windows or external shutters and awnings.
2. Neglecting glazing alternatives
Tailoring the glass in your windows and doors to your climate can make for a more comfortable home and dramatically reduce your energy bills. In cooler climates, double glazing can retain heat inside a home during winter and keep out heat during summer (just be sure awnings or eaves are designed to prevent the sun from directly hitting the glass in the warmer months). Other glazing options can reduce glare, dampen noise, and provide extra privacy, so be sure to consider all the options.
3. Forgetting to budget for demolition and clean-up
No matter the size of your extension, it’s likely that something will have to go to make room for your extra living space. Trees may have to be cut down and removed, and walls or rooms may have to be demolished before construction can begin. Likewise, clean-up and tip fees can also add up.
4. Designing an inflexible layout
Extending a house can add the space a family needs, but be sure the layout flows and is flexible enough to suit a variety of scenarios. This is particularly important when it comes time to sell. “Open-plan living/kitchen/dining continues to be in demand, but buyers are also looking for layouts that accommodate adult children, ageing parents or a growing family,” says LJ Hooker Avnu founding agent Adrian Bridges. “Thinking beyond your immediate needs will pay off long-term, whether you stay where you are or decide to sell.”
5. Not building in a buffer
Budget blowouts happen, but including a 10-20 per cent buffer in a renovation budget can give you room to move if an extension costs more than anticipated. Unexpected (and expensive) issues may be uncovered in the original home when a rear wall is demolished, for example, or an older home may need to be rewired to meet regulations.
6. Getting insulation wrong
The better your home’s insulation suits your climate, the more comfortable it will be. The Building Code of Australia outlines the types and minimum levels of insulation for a variety of climates across the country. Do your own research and discuss the options with your builder or designer early in the planning process.
7. Ignoring the neighbours
Privacy and noise considerations should be a top priority if you’re designing an extension that opens your home to the backyard. Council regulations ensure a degree of privacy for you and your neighbours, but be sure to discuss this early on with your architect or building designer. A kitchen window that looks directly into your neighbour’s kitchen window is never ideal.
8. Cutting costs on finishing touches
If you’ve underestimated renovation costs and money is tight at the end of the project, making compromises on kitchens, bathrooms and appliances can be necessary. There’s no need to choose high-end everything, but avoid cheap-looking tiles, taps and lighting that take the shine off an extension. As well as reducing your overall satisfaction with the project, you also risk reducing how much value the extension adds to your home if you ever decide to sell.
9. Running out of steam (or funds) for landscaping.
An extension often takes longer than planned, and by the time it’s finished many renovators are well and truly over it. But don’t forget to save some energy and dollars for the outdoor areas adjoining your extension. Hardscaping such as stairs, paving and pathways can transform a backyard, as can garden beds and hedging. Include landscaping in your extension budget from the outset.
10. Underestimating the renovation timeline
You may want to be in by Christmas, but the weather may have other ideas. Expect the unexpected when extending your house, and it will be a far less stressful process. Common reasons for an extension taking longer than planned include rain, delays in deliveries of materials, issues with tradespeople juggling multiple jobs, and hiccups encountered during construction. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that adding an extension can add around 20 per cent to the value of a home – and it will all be worth it in the long run.
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