Adding living space is more popular than ever, but many people start their extension project without knowing enough about design, the law, construction and planning. Before beginning, realize that your neighbor may try to interfere with your plans by claiming they have a legal right to light to one or more of their windows. There is such a thing as a legally established ‘right to light’, usually established automatically after 20 years, however, it is only relevant in limited circumstances.
A right to light is a type of easement and overrides any planning permission you might have and your permitted development rights. It can in theory, therefore, prevent you from blocking out a neighbor’s window. However, it only provides for whatever light is reasonably required for the use of the building. It does not mean that your extension cannot obstruct a neighbor’s window or view, or reduce the amount of sunlight entering .
You put water closets and shower rooms wherever you want to
It used to be a requirement for there to be a lobby between a water closet and any other room. This was commonly conceived to be for reasons of hygiene and to relate to the kitchen where food is prepared. This is no longer necessary under the Building Regulations. You can also put a shower room anywhere that has enough space.
Pay attention to minimum ceiling heights
There is still a practical minimum height and this is especially worth thinking about in attic and cellar conversions. All rooms should normally have a specific floor to ceiling height throughout. In rooms with sloping ceilings, there are different regulations.
Don’t forget about site insurance
Many people don’t know that most home insurance providers will not cover the building if you are changing the structure of the build — for example extending, doing a conversion or renovation. When carrying out the works you need to have site insurance to cover the existing structure and the new works until you complete the works.
Builders will often say they have insurance but it is important to check their documents as the majority have liability cover which will require you to prove fault in the event of a claim. If you are vacating the property during the build, you will require site insurance or unoccupied buildings insurance which will usually be a minimum six month policy.
Avoid through rooms
Working out the most efficient and practical way to access an extension is often the greatest design challenge. Do not sacrifice more than you are gaining, for instance by slicing up a good sized bedroom in order to gain access to an extension that adds only one more bedroom of a similar size.
Using an existing room to access an extension rarely works unless it is sufficiently large and the furniture carefully arranged. Such rooms usually end up as nothing more than a corridor and a dumping ground for homeless storage. Circulation space is very important to the healthy function of a house, ensuring that it is liveable and that the best use is made out of all of the space.
Add a conservatory
You can integrate a conservatory into the existing house to make it an extension to an existing room, rather than a bolt on, but you have to be careful with the design. The Building Regulations require most conservatories to be separated from the existing house by exterior quality doors. Such a doorway with a threshold can leave the new space feeling isolated from the rest of the house.