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Five ways to create more space on a budget

Seventy five per cent of people are choosing to ‘improve rather than move’ as the current climate shows no time in changing (RICS 2011). According to Michael Holmes, spokesperson for The National Home Improvement Show (Sept 2012), adding space to a property is the most effective way to create value and he outlines his five top tips on how you can improve the value of your home whilst on a budget:

Remodel Your Space

Most properties have potential to be improved by adding or removing the partition walls between existing rooms to make better use of the space you already have. Remodelling can make your home seem much larger, especially if you open the space up and create open plan, multi-function rooms that make the most of natural light.

Popular ideas include reusing redundant or lesser used space such as; a large hallway and landing, unnecessary corridor space, understairs space, a former airing cupboard or coal store, the dining room, or an overly large master or second bedroom.

The starting point for remodeling is to get a floorplan of your home so you understand the layout and see the potential to combine space. The space is typically used to add a larger kitchen breakfast room, en suite bathrooms, extra bedrooms or a downstairs cloakroom.

Removing walls is often inexpensive and uncomplicated, but you should always consult an architect, builder or structural engineer before undertaking any work. Load bearing walls will require structural alterations and so need building regulations consent (Building Standards in Scotland).

Conversion

One of the most cost-effective ways to add value is to convert a loft, garage or cellar. Providing the existing structure is reasonably sound and proportioned, adding space through conversion is usually more cost-effective than adding an extension and has the added bonus of not sacrificing any garden space.

In the loft, look for space with a ceiling height of at least 2.2m; if the space is limited it is often possible to enlarge it by changing the shape of the roof at the back, or sometimes the side or front, typically with the addition of a large dormer window.

Typical costs for conversion of existing space range from £900-1,400/m2. Compare this cost with the average value of property in your area to see if it’s a worthwhile project.

Loft, garage and cellar conversions don’t usually need planning permission, depending on their design, but there are restrictions in Conservation Areas and National Parks etc. so always contact the planning department.

Think Vertically

When looking at room layout options most people only think of their space horizontally and ignore opportunities to make more of space by thinking vertically. Simple ideas like fitting high level storage can make a big difference in freeing up space elsewhere.

A bedroom with a tall ceiling could accommodate a desk with a raised sleeping platform above it, freeing up valuable floorspace. Fold down furniture such as a desk or dining table, or a bed are great ideas where space is really tight: when not in use they fold up into a pocket on the wall.

Where a room has a loft space above it, removing the existing ceiling and incorporating the roofspace can create a dramatic double height vaulted ceiling feature. If the room is large enough, it could have mezzanine gallery above part of it, reached by a space efficient spiral staircase, ideal for an en suite bathroom, home office or sleeping platform.

Sometimes lowering the existing floor level or raising the ceiling height can transform the amount of headroom available, making a cellar or attic space more practical for everyday use as living space.

Re-Use Redundant Space

In a period property there are often features that are completely redundant or which can be replaced by more space-efficient modern alternatives. The chimney is a classic case: many older houses have fireplaces in each room and several chimneybreasts taking up a lot of volume. In a small terraced house or flat removing a disused chimney can offer a significant amount of space, making way for storage, or other features. The cost of removing a chimney ranges from £1,800 - 2,800 depending on size and height. In a flat, check the flue is not in use with your neighbours.

The hot water cylinder and hot and cold water storage tanks can take up a lot of space, but in many areas providing the mains water pressure is 3 bar or above, they can all be dispensed with and replaced by a modern space- and energy efficient combination boiler.

A ‘combi’ boiler is fed direct from the mains with instant hot water on demand. It’s important to get the size right. – if you have more than one bathroom in your home.

Space Efficient Design

Trick yourself into thinking that you have more space than you actually do. Light colours on the walls will brighten rooms and make them appear larger while dark walls draw the eye inwards and immediately shrink even the biggest of rooms. While you have a brush in your hand paint your ceilings white, or off white – it will make your rooms look taller. The easiest and cheapest illusion is to simply add a mirror. It will work by reflecting your space to effectively double its size.

Fitting the same floor finish throughout your home creates a connection between rooms and makes them flow together as one, adding the illusion of more space, especially if a lighter colour material is chosen.

Adding French doors, patio doors of folding sliding doors creates a relationship between inside and out, creating the opportunity to expand your living space outside onto a deck or patio area – forming an ‘outside room’.

Other options include adding more storage to remove clutter; selecting smaller format furniture items; and improving lighting.

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