As experienced Interior Architects we love finding innovative ways to realise the untapped potential of our client’s homes!

One important option that we often find homeowners initially overlook is internal alterations.

Many people feel like their homes are not providing the space they need for their daily life. Perhaps you need a bigger kitchen, or a snug room next to the dining table where all the family can sit together after a nice Sunday dinner, or even a study corner to comfortably work from home?

Whatever your brief, there are always various ways to develop a design that will meet your requirements. It could take the form of an extension to give you more outright space, or simple internal alterations to improve your home’s livability with a better layout.

Both options certainly present new opportunities for your home, but how do you know which one is best for you? We have put together some key questions you can ask yourself that will help you to identify the changes that will suit your home.

We believe that every home is unique and therefore there can never be a formula that applies to all cases! 

It is worth asking yourself the following questions in order to understand the best way to add space to your home:

  • What type of space do I need to add to my home?
  • The cost of internal alterations vs. an extension
  • Do I need planning permission for internal alterations?
  • How much space is available for an extension?


Internal alterations to a home

What type of space do I need to add to my home?

Sometimes the extra space we need is for a bigger kitchen and dining area, or more storage with a utility and WC downstairs, or maybe our family has become so big that an extra bedroom has become a necessity. Making a list of the things you need and why is a good kick-off for your project. You probably already know it because you know your house better than anyone else and that extra space lacking is very much at the top of your mind every day.

However, have you ever wondered what spaces you don’t need? These are harder to identify than we think. Big spaces that we end up using for storage and clutter are the obvious ones, like a garage that is used for anything except for a car. Or that awkward corner with a couple of pieces of furniture that’s rarely used by anyone in the house.

Sometimes there can even be features in our houses that make us waste space! Identifying them can help us decide whether internal alterations could be enough to completely change how you interact with your home.

What could these features be? It could be a space big enough for a bedroom but is only used as a corridor. Or a living room with a ‘weird’ shape that makes it half useable and half empty. Even apparently minor details like an inconveniently placed door can have a big impact on the way we use our rooms.

Once you have identified what you need and what you don’t need, you will have a clearer idea of whether just internal alterations would be enough, or a bit of extra space is a must to fulfil your needs. Sometimes a combination of both can offer a huge improvement and deliver great value for the time and money you put into your investment!

The cost of internal alterations vs. the cost of an extension

Considering how much we are willing to spend on our home project can really help us make the right (and feasible) decision. Usually, internal alterations tend to be less expensive than extending a houses footprint.

Why? Because with an extension you will essentially need to start the building from scratch: foundations, a new insulated super-structure, and a new roof. Internal alterations by comparison will potentially require restructuring, plumbing works, and sometimes even moving the entire staircase, however, most of the sub-structure, roof structure, and external walls are already there, saving us great costs!

When thinking if the investment would bring any value to your property, it’s good to do some research in your area. A really useful trick can be using a property price checker tool online to help you find out if neighbouring houses have gained much value after adding an extension or reconfiguring internally to more rooms but with similar square meters.

Do I need planning permission for internal alterations?

Planning can sometimes be another tricky part for any project. In most cases, internal alterations do not require planning permission, whereas an extension may require permission. Most of the internal changes we do to our property fall under the permitted development rights, and it’s worth checking the government guidelines to make sure (for England click here, for Scotland click here). If you’re still unsure, you can always ask one of our Interior Architects.

A good way to check if extensions are approved in your area is by checking what other neighbours in similar types of properties have done. This can be done by having a walk in your neighbourhood or by using Google Maps! Just search your own postcode and see what nearby properties have been up to. You can also search the council’s planning portal online, all planning applications are listed there and you can usually see the drawings for what is being approved around you.


How much space is available for an extension?

Either to the rear, the front, or the side, the area available for development can be a limitation. Factors such as the natural light and ventilation can be affected by an addition. Moreover, building control can also limit how far you can extend. You would usually need at least one meter distance from the edge of the property to the new wall to be able to put a window or door. Also, for fire regulations it is required that there is always walkable external access from the rear to the front of the property.

Some of our homes were designed many years ago based on a different lifestyle. It could be that by making some few wall rearrangements we can end up with new, previously unthinkable, spaces that are more functional, but it’s always worth remembering that sometimes an extension is the best way to definitely add that extra area that we need.

We understand that identifying what’s the best solution for you can also be challenging, that’s why we encourage you to get in touch and a chat with one of our architects, who are specialists in the use of space and can guide you to make the right decision. Sometimes we are so used to our own homes that we are not able to imagine all the possibilities, and some fresh eyes with experience can make a huge difference.