Hove, Brighton

My name is Leigh, I live in Hove with my husband where I have lived for 12 years although I’m originally from Scotland.  We live in an old semi-detached Victorian house which we bought around 10 years ago.  


Our home improvement was a side return extension to our kitchen.  The side return is common on our type of house and generally doesn’t require planning permission as a standard extension would.  It felt like a wasted bit of space as it was too narrow to use for garden and we used to have a small shed and the wheely bins there so it always felt underutilised.  Having lived here for 10 years we had actually previously completed one kitchen renovation on the house where we knocked out an archway between the kitchen and dining area and fitted a new kitchen.  The room while long, always felt narrow and we always hoped to fit an island in one day and have bifold doors opening straight onto the garden instead of having a back door to the side return.  The gardens in our area are small so we felt this would give us more of a feeling of space and light without using any of the garden for an extension.  We had also started to notice some of our neighbours doing similar extensions and so we started to look into our options.  We loved our house and I love cooking and spend a lot of time in the kitchen so making it more of a room to live in was always something we wanted to do.  As there are only two of us and the house has good size rooms and is in a location that we enjoy, moving felt excessive and at a huge expense which is why we looked to maximise the space we already had.   


How did you manage this project? 

We used a builder who provided a fully managed service.  We both work full time and neither of us fancied the task of project managing and arranging all the different types of trades required, at different times.  This felt an impossible task to try and keep the build on track as of course there are many different trades required from plumbing, roofing, tiling, brickwork, steelwork, plastering, decorating, glazing and so on and to try and get the job to run concurrently felt too stressful.  


How long did the project take? 



The build itself took a little under 4 months which was a few weeks over the estimate we were given.  Some bad weather delayed the roof by a couple of weeks but that is to be expected in the UK!  We fitted the kitchen ourselves for cost savings and we couldn’t get a kitchen fitter to do it until after Christmas and we were impatient so with some help from family we got it done in time.  


Did you stay in the property while the work was being done? 



We did stay in the property the whole time, although at one point we were on holiday and the builders planned a rather messy fireplace removal in the bedroom above the kitchen during this time as it was also a noisy job but this allowed us to have a flat wall in the kitchen, instead of part of the chimney breast sticking out so it was worth it. We had anticipated that we would have to move out at some point but we always had electricity and water, although we didn’t a kitchen sink for a while.  They kept us a temporary sink for as long as they could and plumbed in the washing machine and dishwasher in a temporary area so we managed to get by.  We could have opted to move out and if you have family close by it might be worth doing if you don’t like dust!

What was your budget? 



The budget we initially had for the build was in the region of £50k, but really that was unrealistic and was a ballpark figure we used to borrow money on our mortgage.  It was nearer £70k in the end. We went over as we opted for the fully managed service, rather than the alternative which was for a builder to complete the shell and then we would have to arrange all the internal work ourselves.  Also, we opted for tiles in the end which resulted in an additional cost to level the existing concrete floor.  It’s worth noting that the quote was for the basics but we upgraded the fittings, lighting and therefore the electrical work required which all adds up.  


What would you do differently if you were to do it again?

I’d plan out the floor better to work with the garden.  This was the only thing we changed during the build was we went from wanting wooden floors to tiles however this meant we had to pay more money and the inside level is going to be more difficult to match the outside level when we eventually get round to doing the garden. Apart from that there is nothing we would change about the build itself or the design of the room.  

What advice would you give someone looking to do a similar project?



We went to see a few of the neighbours who had done a similar extension and this helped us really visualise it.  I’d also say plan the flooring as I didn’t realise the impact this would have on the building work required.  And be kind to your neighbours as I’m sure it had an impact on them, but we didn’t experience any of the noise as we were out all day!  We made sure to give them notice of any work that was happening that week that was likely to be noisy.  It’s worth getting lots of quotes or using a recommended builder if you’ve seen their work.  Our builder had done many side returns in our area so we felt confident allowing them to knock out the walls of our house!