Designing a refurbishment

This is a difficult topic to write on as each house is individual
– a sum of its parts, its history and of its future. So this will be
a set of ideas, hints, observations rather than a definitive guide.
For an individualised vision please give us a call to arrange a Home
Report (see page on this blog for information).

Layout – should you join rooms, split rooms, change function of
rooms? This is really down to a range of factors, including: family
size, location, style of house, orientation of building, size of
house, lifestyle, etc. Personally I think that we join rooms too
readily in the effort to ‘create space’. However, knocking through,
can lose a type of space. Physically it loses wall space (which might
be important), socially it loses separate space (could be important
if people want to do different activities – watch TV, listen to
music, play instruments etc), environmentally it can mean higher
heating bills because of not being able to concentrate heat into a
smaller space for those cool days during the year.

Sound – refurbishments give you a chance to acoustically insulate
(normally thermally at the same time) rooms from one another. This is
an important social element that is often overlooked. Isolating
floors from each other helps with sleeping, facilitating different
independent activities in the house and also with heating bills as it
allows you to only heat the rooms that you want to.

Social gradient in the home – homes should have an inbuilt social
map with the most social areas being closest to the main door and the
most private areas being the furthest away. This not an element that
most people have to worry about as their bedrooms are upstairs and
the main door takes you into a hallway with the kitchen and living
room off of this. However some homes do have to consider this. Making
a home feel right is important and so thinking about social
interaction within the family and friends is important. Location also
has a large impact on this, as situations next to roads, south facing
aspects etc can all complicate the social aspect as noise. light and
views might be in the ‘wrong’ place as far as the layout is

Draught proofing – this is a chance to get on a favourite hobby
horse of draught lobbies (independent porches). If you don’t have a
porch (by this I mean a proper one that is thermally independent from
the rest of the house and also of a reasonable size) think about
creating one. The best ones allow you and the family to gather
together to welcome and bid farewell to guests without losing all the
warm air from the rest of the house. They also have space to coats,
boots etc. They can be features in themselves and offer a range of
social and practical functions.

Light – maximising natural light is perfect for a sense of well
being, lower electrical bills and also creating a sense of space.
Increasing window sizes, creating new windows or installing sun pipes
etc are all ways of getting more light into the house, however you
need to bear in mind heat loss. So look at maximising glazing to the
south rather than the north.

Future proofing – think about what might happen in the future: larger family, new technology on the house, different fuels etc. Have a think about what might happen at a later date and possibly build in some features that will save you some money in the longer term. Rewiring might include provision for PV panels, an electric shower, circuits for a future extension. A ground floor extension might be built with foundations appropriate for a two storey structure etc.

Low maintenance – thinking about cleaning and life span of materials comes into play here. Do you fit cheap plastic guttering that will require maintenance / replacement every few years or just fit a steel system that might be more expensive initially put will save you time, effort and money in the long term. If replacing windows think about using inward opening ones on the first floor and above as they can be maintained and cleaned easily from the inside.

En-suites – research has shown that having en-suites is not ideal
for family life. It is actually better to have a larger shared
bathroom rather than lots of individual ones. It encourages
interaction in the house, a sense of sharing and being able to live
together rather than encouraging people to live apart. Having a
separate toilet though is a good idea as there are those times when
you don’t want to share!

These are all factors that can have a radical influence on refurbishment plans, so it is worth having a really good think about what you want the house to look like at the end of the whole process (bearing in mind that you might be doing it all in stages). Making a house a home takes more than just getting in the builders!