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  • Writer's pictureJulie Bliss

Top ways to gain more work space - without moving house

We’re now 8 weeks into lockdown, with many of us now working from home full time. This is likely to become the new normal in our post-covid-19 futures, so many of us are thinking about creating better home-working environments that allow us to separate work from family life.


There are several very good and cost-effective ways to add an office or work space to your existing home, without the need to build a huge extension – and usually without the need for planning permission. These are not only cost effective, but they will also add value to your home:

1. The garden studio

2. The side return / single storey extension

3. The loft conversion

4. The garage conversion

Julie Bliss takes you what these options entail....

1. The Garden Office

These are becoming very popular with many great companies around who offer brilliant solutions or garden pods for all styles – from classic and traditional to ultra-modern. Garden studios and pods are a low cost and reliable way to add more space without hidden costs. They will add value to your home as well, though not as much as an integral office.

Key points and considerations:

  • Garden pods generally don’t require planning permission and fall within Permitted Development if they remain within a certain size (max 2.5m high and if placed less than 2m from the boundary of your property) and are not self-contained and destined for AirBNB

  • Like any good garden building, they need to be on a flat and well drained area – built on a concrete or timber platform

  • Ensure roofing and walls are property insulated – you want to be in there all year round

  • Ensure you have plenty of light too – many garden pods are made with sloping roofs to maximise on the amount of light coming in the front but also allowing for good roof drainage

  • Ensure you can access electricity supply and internet (either via your existing WIFI or by a phone extension).

2. The Loft conversion

Converting your attic is one of the most cost-effective ways to gain extra living or working space and can make a very effective and comfortable office or multi-purpose room. As with a garden office, planning permission is not normally required unless you’re extending the roof space, increasing the height of the house or building in dormer windows etc.

In terms of adding value, if converted properly, you can sell it as a further bedroom (and ensuite if there’s space). It will add more value than a garden office.

Key points and considerations:

  • Ensure as much light as possible. You don’t have to go to the expense of Dormer windows, Velux windows in line with your roof’s existing pitch will add a huge amount of light with no additional building required.

  • Ensure you have got proper structural / architectural advice and have enough internal height for building regulations.

  • Ensure you put in enough power points for your office equipment and have tested WIFI coverage or put in a telephone extension.

  • Make sure you have considered the head height of stairs going up to the loft. To convert a loft properly as “habitable space”, you need to have fixed stairs. Otherwise it’s just a loft room and you can’t sell it as additional living space.

  • Be aware that in converting lofts requires reinforcing supporting structures, such as roof and joists. This can be a bit intrusive for a short time but generally speaking, loft conversions do not take more than a few weeks – definitely worth a bit of upheaval.

  • You do not need to lose all storage. You will still be able to have a lot of good storage within the eaves areas – so create access cupboard doors to these areas too.

3. The Side Return / Single Storey extension

Single storey side extensions are very useful for many houses (particularly Victorian terraces) that have that side return dead space as a corridor down the outside of the house. Generally speaking, as long as you stick to regulations and maximum size allowances (see below), single storey side or rear extensions will also be covered under Permitted Development and not require planning permission.

Side return extensions are great for adding offices, boot rooms, playrooms, downstairs bathrooms and extending kitchen areas.

Key points and considerations:

  • Ensure you factor in lots of natural light. Side extensions will generally be up against a side boundary wall, so the best way to ensure light is by using sky lights along the length of the extension.

  • Make sure you have built the extension with the same dual cavity and insulation as the rest of the house – you don’t want your extension to be leaking heat from your house.

  • Permitted Development allows single-storey side extensions up to a maximum of 4m high and a width no more than half that of the original house. If the extension is within 2m of the boundary, eaves height should not exceed 3m. 

  • If you live in a Conservation Area, national park, AONB or listed building, you may need to get planning permission, so check with your local authority.

4. The Garage Conversion

Most houses built more than 20 years ago will have garages that are too small for any modern family car to fit in and quite often just become dumping grounds for junk, bikes and garden equipment! How about making the most of your garage by turning it into an office or work studio?

This is very cost-effective being already built and part of your existing house – requiring no planning permission unless you’re thinking of extending it.

Key points and considerations:

  • Insulation – you may need to line and insulate the walls, roof and floor to habitable standards. Most garages will not have been built for human warmth, so you’ll need to bring them up to standard. This reduces the inside space a bit but it’s definitely worth it for comfort in the winter!

  • Consider flooring – You will most likely want to bring your flooring up to the same height as the rest of your downstairs. At this point, you could consider underfloor heating.

  • You must have adequate ventilation with windows that open and are compliant with building regulations.

  • Ensure maximum light – either by large windows to the front and back and/or skylights – particularly if your garage has a sloping or pitched roof. Make sure you have an external door to the front or back (fire exit).

  • Window / door styles should match those of the existing house.

As with any building works, even if you don’t require planning permission, you do need to be compliant with building regulations so always consult a professional structural engineer and architect or architectural designer to ensure your build is legal and will not cause any problems in the future (particularly for resale of your house).

All the above options will add space and value to your property and are great solutions to make the most of your existing home without the need to move to a new house.

If you’d like more information, please feel free to book a consultation with Julie:

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