How to survive: A side return extension
The side return area of a home has become one of the most maligned features of Victorian and Edwardian properties. That alleyway to the side of the home, once presumably there to provide easy access to the ‘out house’, is today more often than not an area of ugly, redundant space. It’s no wonder then that side return extensions have become one of the most popular home improvements, particularly in cities where outside space is at an absolute premium. While it’s a relatively simple project, all home improvements carry with them certain stress, hassle and inconveniences. So, here are a few tips on how to survive a side return extension…
Talk about access
It’s never easy getting used to a small army of strangers coming into your home every day, so it’s a good idea to talk about access with your builders before the start of the project. If you’re lucky enough to live in a detached or semi detached, your side return may be accessible from the front, in which case the builders won’t need to be physically inside your home until the start of the breaking through process.
If you live in a terraced house, in many cases the tradespeople will need to enter your home to physically gain access. Be sure to discuss with them which route would be most convenient for them to take through your home so there are no muddy boot prints on pristine white carpet for example. In these cases it can be a good idea to leave a key for the builders, so they can come and go without disturbing you.
Also, discuss parking with your builders. If they can park in the drive then let them know when you need use of your car so you’ll never find yourself blocked in.
No matter whether your side return is becoming an extension of the kitchen, a bathroom, or other living space, the smart thing to do is ensure that all of your materials, fixtures and fittings have been ordered before work begins. This will minimise the chances of work being prolonged because those dreamy tiles you simply 'had to have' are on back order.
If your side return extension involves construction on or near a wall or boundary with your neighbour (many will) you’ll need to secure a party wall agreement.
It’s easy to say and hard to practice, but even with workmen in your house, strive to keep things normal. If you normally have breakfast in the conservatory with your partner in the morning, keep doing that, even if the builders can see you from the garden. If you like to spend Tuesday afternoon teaching yourself (badly) to play the violin then keep it up, even if they'll hear you!
Don’t change the dynamic or routine of your household because you feel embarrassed around these strangers. They’ll be too busy grafting to create your dream home improvement, to pay any attention to what you and your family are getting up to inside.
While much of the initial work for this kind of extension goes on outside, when it comes to breaking through and joining the spaces, you’re going to want to completely clear out these rooms to protect your belongings from dust and muck. If you're creating a new kitchen or bathroom with your side return, check out our handy guides on how to survive these projects too.
Remember, it’s easier than moving
If the sound of power tools does get a bit overwhelming, let 'it's easier than moving' be your mantra. While you may be briefly disturbed by this project on your home, the alternative to getting more space involves solicitors, banks, estate agents and removal companies. A side return extension is a faster, cheaper, and less disruptive option.