Extending your property upwards: A 2020 guide

The only way is up, especially if you’re looking to create a bigger home without compromising outside space.

To increase the square footage of your property, you don’t always have to sacrifice your garden or driveway by extending outwards. Building upwards can give you the extra space you want and sometimes be more cost-effective – especially if you buy a property that has untapped extension potential.

It’s not just a privilege enjoyed by house owners either. As long as you own the top floor or the rights to the roof space in your flat, you might be able to use it more wisely – and potentially without the need for planning permission.

So, before we share some upwards extension ideas, here’s a short explanation about permitted development rights…

What are permitted development rights?
Permitted development rights give property owners the opportunity to make changes to their homes without applying for planning permission. Generally, these allow for modifications such as conservatories, outbuildings, extensions and loft or garage conversions, as long as certain limitations are met.
They only apply to houses that are not listed – not flats, maisonettes or properties in ‘designated areas’. If a property has had an extension since 1948, part of the permitted development allowance may have already been used.

To account for the lack of home building over the last few years, many changes have been made to permitted development rights, including the ability to change the use from commercial to residential for example. The latest amendment will allow for many purpose-built blocks of flats to be extended by up to two storeys to create bigger or a greater number of homes.

Great as they are, however, permitted development rights do not mean property changes aren’t subject to other types of permissions and approvals, such as neighbour consultation, building control regulations and the Party Wall Act 1996.

So before you ‘raise the roof’, so to speak, you should definitely seek professional advice and consult with your local authority.

3 ways to build upwards in your home

Convert the loft
The majority of loft conversions fall under permitted development and can add around 20% to the value of your home, according to Nationwide.

However, loft conversions will need to meet certain volume restrictions and window types. You’ll also need to consider whether you have enough space or look at other types of loft conversion options that require planning permission.

The sky really is the limit though if you have rights to the roof space – even in a flat – and could give you that much needed extra bedroom or a home office with a view. But remember to think about the space you might have to lose to access the upper floor.

Add a second storey to a single storey
Another great way to create more space is to build up above any existing single-storey – perhaps on top of your garage attached to the side or to a previous rear extension.

The first thing to find out is whether the existing foundations can bear the additional load. You then need to find out if extending upwards in this way will require planning permission. Currently, a second storey to the rear may come under permitted development but a second storey to the side will not.

Converting bungalows into houses is also a popular option but adding a full second storey will most certainly need planning permission. If neighbouring properties have done something similar, there’s a good chance you can too.

Create a roof terrace
If you don’t have the option to extend outwards, why not create some extra space with a roof terrace?

Roof terraces are synonymous with trendy cities, like New York and Barcelona, but have grown in popularity in the UK more recently. People are now keen to utilise wasted flat roof space and turn the area into rooftop gardens.

Planning permission is highly likely (and possibly a permit) and you’ll need to investigate the load bearing capacity of the roof and how you will access it. If approved though, you could be increasing the value of your property as well as creating a highly sought-after and stunning outside space.

Whether you want to create a home office or gym, extra bedroom or playroom, extending upwards may not be as difficult as you think. Not only will you be able to enjoy a bigger space without using up any extra land, you’ll also make your home more appealing when selling to future buyers.

Just ensure you have the right certifications and approvals, as retrospective applications could be costly or worse – you could be forced to reverse the improvements made!