15 Aug Extending a Victorian home In East Finchley , Enfield and North London
Full of period character and charm, Victorian homes are known for their high ceilings, large windows, decorative cornicing and abundance of fireplaces.
However, Victorian homes in terraces and semis are often arranged with small individual rooms that are not best suited to modern lifestyle trends. Let’s face it, most of us prefer open- plan living since it was introduced to us a few decades ago. It’s that feeling of space at home that we all want. And, even if you have a Victorian home you can still achieve this by knocking through from lounge to dining room, or extending into side returns or out into the garden to get the right mix of the amazing architecture of the past and the modern needs of today. Victorian homes were often built with a side return. Kitchens or ground floor bathrooms on the original floor plan would protrude out from the rear of the house, but not stretch across the whole property. The dead space between this and your neighbour’s fence will usually be patio or decking today, but squaring off your home at the rear could add much needed space to your kitchen, dining room or lounge without losing any length from your garden.
If you have a garden long enough to extend into you’ll have a few choices to make – blend your extension with the architecture of your original home, or go all out modern with bi-fold doors, LED spotlights and underfloor heating. Alternatively, you could choose a conservatory extension or, for a more sophisticated look and finish, an orangery.
It’s important to acknowledge that the original features of your property – the picture rails, geometric floor tiles, sash windows, etc – all add to its attraction and value. It’s generally agreed that if you preserve the front two-thirds of the property, it’s acceptable to modernise the back and that’s something which is often preferred by planning authorities.
Now, before you get carried away and instruct the architects today, there are a few things to take into consideration. The first is to check whether your property is listed, as you would need to get sign off on your plans before you start. It’s rare for Victorian terraced and semi-detached homes, but in some cases we’ve found that people are unaware of or have been misinformed about their home’s status. So, it’s worth double-checking this with your local planning authority. For the most part, applications are approved, but if your building is listed, you do need this extra permission to stay on the right side of the law.
As you would expect, building methods have changed a lot since Victorian times – they used single width brickwork and shallower foundations than we do today, so it’s vital to enlist a builder who has experience of working with these specific structural needs. You’ll want someone with the skills and knowledge to blend new with old, to extend without weakening the existing structure, and someone who respects the original character and features of your home. It will save a lot of time and expense in the long run, could increase your chances of gaining the planning permissions you need, and help to avoid delays. Before you begin working with an architect, surveyor or builder, make sure that they have the right experience, not only for your extension, but also for your Victorian home.
A few things to remember:
1. Have you informed your insurance company? They will need to know you’re considering extending.
2. Do you require planning permission, or can you utilise your ‘permitted development’ space?
3. You might need to get a surveyor in to do a risk assessment on extending your property and its impact on the existing foundations.
4. Speak to your neighbour – the more involved they feel, the less likely they are to worry, complain, or create planning permission objections.
5. Always ask your builder to give you a written quote and to supply you with references from customers who have had similar work done.