Extensions: What are your options, and what is the process for extending your home?

Increase your living space with an extension. We look at the options.

Just because you run out of space doesn't mean you need to move home. An extension creates more living space, adds value in terms of energy efficiency, and at the same time increases the value of your home. Options range from an extension, through adding another story, to converting your loft.

Wide range of home extension options

A homeowner's needs can change over the years: a growing family, renovating the house for senior living, a new hobby requiring additional space, or improving the energy efficiency of your home. There are lots of reasons as to why you might want more space in your home. Various types of extension are suitable, depending on the building.

Extensions: Widening or lengthening?

Widening a house can often be time-consuming and uneconomical: As a rule, the entire roof will need to be replanned and adapted to the larger structure. In addition, new rules on energy saving may apply. For example, the external walls will need to be insulated. What's more, new fire safety requirements may apply. Last but not least, the structure of the house may need to be checked.

Lengthening a house usually requires less work, because only the gable wall of the existing building needs to be removed and the shape of the roof can be retained. In this case, the process involved in building the extension is almost the same as a new build. The design of the extension can match the existing house, or you can make a statement with a bold, modern look. The possibility of installing a new balcony is another attractive option.

Important: Extending your home to create more living space means increasing the floor space; consequently, a home can only be extended if there is enough room at the site. You should also find out in advance whether you need a building permit for the project.

Expanding the living space: Widening or lengthening

Widening versus lengthening

Both options increase the floor space of the building.

Adding a story

Adding a story extends the living space upward, meaning there is no change to the footprint of your home. The construction method depends on the building's load-bearing capacity. Only a lightweight construction in wood or steel can be considered in many cases, as bricks and concrete are too heavy.

Adding a floor is also a good opportunity to improve the building's energy efficiency: Investing in new insulation for the roof and facade doesn't add much to the overall cost of the renovation in most cases. Moreover, reduced heating costs compensate for the additional outlay.

And that's not all: A photovoltaic system on the roof could cover your own electricity costs, for example. By increasing your energy efficiency and thus reducing your CO₂ emissions, you could also be entitled to financial subsidies.

A new floor extends your living space without increasing the footprint

Adding a new floor increases your living space

Adding a new story increases the floor space upward

Loft conversion

Converting your loft will create more living space, while the footprint and height of the house will remain the same. This is a very attractive and at first glance "simple" way to gain living space. However, there are a few things that need to be considered in advance: The slope of the roof can be a challenge. This is particularly true when it comes to the internal space: In most cases, for example, conventional furniture will not fit under a sloping ceiling. Expensive built-in cupboards or other ideas will therefore be needed in order to make good use of the space under the sloping ceiling.

Note also that the roof will need to be insulated internally as well as externally, and that new windows may need to be installed because there is not enough natural light entering the loft space.

Another important factor that needs to be clarified at the planning stage is whether the water and electricity supply already extends to the roof space; otherwise this will also need to be installed.

In overall terms, note that construction costs and expenses can quickly soar beyond your initial expectations.

Converting your loft to create more living space

Converting your loft to create more living space

Converting your loft is often a good way to increase your living space.

Converting your basement or garage

A basement or garage can be converted into a great hobby room, office, children's playroom, or sauna. To estimate the cost of converting your basement or garage, it's essential to start with an assessment of its current condition. Fact is, the existing space may first need to be sealed and insulated. Windows may need to be installed, while existing electricity and water connections may need to be extended.

This solution may also be the best in terms of heating. In newer buildings in particular, basements or garages can often be turned into comfortable living spaces with just a few alterations such as new flooring and attractive lighting. Underfloor heating, for example, is very popular in basements and garages in particular.

If you're planning to install new insulation or heating systems in these rooms, you should nevertheless check what effect it has on the indoor climate, as it could become more susceptible to mold, for example. There's also the question of whether you can – or wish – to install windows.

Converting your basement or garage to create living space

Converting your basement or garage to provide more living space

The cost will vary depending on the condition of your basement or garage.

Adding a conservatory

A conservatory can be added to your house in the form of an extension or glazed balcony in order to increase the habitable floor space. However, your new living space will need to be heated if it is to be used all year round. In this case the heat insulation requirements will need to be adhered to.

There are three basic types of conservatory:

  • Heated conservatory

This type of conservatory can be used throughout the year and can easily be heated to temperatures of around 20 degrees Celsius. The glass roof, floor, and side elements will therefore need to meet the relevant energy efficiency requirements. Unsurprisingly, this type of conservatory is always the most expensive.

  • Partly-heated conservatory

In a partly-heated conservatory, temperatures usually range between 12 and 19 degrees Celsius. This type of conservatory is an intermediate solution between the unheated and heated options, and is always frost-free.

  • Unheated conservatory

This option is used by households in the summer usually, and in the cold season provides a place where plants can overwinter.

With all options it's worth obtaining several quotes from tradespeople for comparison purposes and to check whether all desired parts and materials are available, or whether alternatives need to be found.

Conservatories create additional living space and light

Conservatories – an attractive way to gain extra living space

Conservatories are a great way to create more living space and provide more light, especially in the winter months.

Cost of an extension: Obtaining finance

The cost of an extension depends on a whole host of factors, including the type of extension, area covered, materials, and any extra building work that is required. Consulting an architect is helpful in terms of working out your budget before the project starts. This can serve as the basis for finding an appropriate financing solution:

Extensions require careful planning

So, instead of looking for a new house it's often worth extending your existing home. It's a good idea to get advice from an architect beforehand. That's because the most suitable type of extension varies from house to house and depends on the needs of the owners.

Also, it's important not to forget the fact that the cost of building materials and labor has risen of late. Indeed, many building contractors and suppliers are still feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Inflation and rising interest rates also pose challenges for some construction projects. That's why it's always important to obtain several quotes for comparison purposes. It's also advisable to be flexible when it comes to specific materials or components, and to switch to alternatives where possible.

As well as costs and financing, it's important to clarify the situation regarding a building permit for the project. Fact is, most extensions, additional floors, and conservatories will require a permit. The permitted type and size of any extension are set out in various laws and ordinances issued by the federal government, cantons, and municipalities. It's also wise to ask an architect to assist you when applying for a building permit.

In addition, bearing in mind the energy transition, it's worth combining your extension with energy efficiency improvements. This will help reduce your costs. It's a good idea to consult an architect in order to work out your budget before the project starts. This can serve as the basis for finding the right financing solution.

Are you looking to extend your home? Would you like to know more about our financing solutions?

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