Why convert your bungalow?

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By Philip Saich

With the majority of bungalows dating back to around the mid-1900s, these little-loved homes tend to receive something of a bad press. As time passes, however, these dated, tired properties are now becoming increasingly sought after because of their raw potential and their relative rarity. As the number of new developments across the UK has risen by around 50% in the last five years, the amount of new bungalows being built has remained static, largely because they invariably command a larger plot and suffer from slightly negative preconceptions. The lack of availability has seen renovators achieve significant revenues from snapping up bungalow stock and carrying out simple development projects by adding an extension, converting the loft space or even creating a complete second storey. When you consider that as much as 40% of the available space in a bungalow can go unused, a sprinkling of creativity can work wonders, in particular, if you rework the internal space to take advantage of the dark corridors that can proliferate.

Recent National House Building Council (NHBC) reports indicate that bungalows account for just 1% of all new dwellings being registered, a fact that points to their potential as an investment vehicle alone. But when you consider the ability to add space they are a brilliant choice for young families, families with elderly relatives who would otherwise go into care and families with grown-up children who are not yet ready to flee the nest. As well as serving an immediate need for additional space, bungalows that have been converted or renovated will offer a significant return on investment over a relatively short period.

Bungalow extensions

Given the usually generous garden space that bungalows enjoy, it is possible to extend outwards in order to retain the convenience of single-storey accommodation, and planners are often more amenable to raising the aesthetic profile of bungalows in their local area. Building a sympathetic extension or even installing a wraparound terrace can add an air of refinement, especially if the exterior is improved and the interior converted to contemporary open-plan accommodation. Subject to planning consent, extensions can be constructed to the side or rear and, if restricted to less than 8m deep and remaining single storey, they can be allowed under permitted development, although local planning rules can differ from area to area.

Loft conversions 

If you would prefer to preserve the larger-than-average garden, then converting the existing loft is a sound option, especially as this will also normally be allowed under permitted development rules, assuming the property is neither listed nor located in a conservation area. From an additional ensuite bedroom or a playroom to a home office or home cinema, the options are not only affordable but also guaranteed to add value to your home. As with conventional houses, the minimum requirement to convert the loft into habitable space is that you have at least 2.3m of head height at its highest point. In general, bungalows constructed before 1960 have the largest lofts and also boast load-bearing walls that can support the new loft rooms. That said, by their very nature bungalows were neither designed nor built to support second-storey living, so some underpinning and structural support may be required.

Second storey additions

A more adventurous option is to add a complete second storey. Unsurprisingly this entails more research and a larger budget as you will need to investigate the property’s suitability for such development. If a second storey proves to be viable, it can be advisable to explore alternative materials rather than conventional brick which will carry a significant weight load. A timber frame construction would be lighter than standard masonry and, with careful design, would add visual interest, for example. Before proceeding with a project plan, it’s advisable to check your bungalow’s structural stability and investigate the property’s foundations to assess whether their shape and depth will accommodate the second storey. Suitability will also depend on whether the existing internal walls are load bearing.

Adding stairways

Whether you are converting the loft or adding a second storey, the staircase is an important consideration given that the bungalow was originally designed for one-level living, so no space will have been allocated for stairs. Overall, building regulations are slightly more relaxed for bungalow staircases as it is not always possible to incorporate a ‘fire protected stairway’. Given this, building regulations will usually stipulate that at least one escape window be included in the converted loft or second storey in order to aid compliance.

Roof terraces

Further refinement can be achieved by adding a roof terrace or balcony, although planners may have reservations if your remodelled bungalow overlooks your neighbour’s property. Nevertheless, a roof terrace offers huge potential for enjoying views that are inaccessible from the ground floor. At ground level, a creative way of enhancing any existing bungalow footprint is to bring the outside in by connecting the garden with the main building. Bi-fold windows or large French doors can help to create a visual link with the external space, and using the same colour of flooring inside and out can generate a flow between the two areas. Given that many bungalows can have odd layouts and may provide access to the garden via one of the bedrooms, reconfiguring the internal space can pay dividends and add value. Swapping reception rooms and going open plan can also help here.

Do your research

The potential that bungalows offer families excites Sergio Mesen of Bristol builders, Refresh Renovations, but he emphasises the need for thorough research and planning before embarking on any renovation project. ‘We believe that bungalows deserve careful consideration for families of all ages,’ says Sergio. ‘Whether you have an expanding family, a relative who needs care or a grown-up son or daughter who would benefit from their own space, buying and extending a bungalow is a great option. The generous garden will have potential, and there is also the possibility of extending upwards if you would rather not sacrifice that area.

‘At Refresh we are experts at maximising the benefits of renovating and extending properties, and we focus initially on the client’s vision before proceeding to outline design drawings and specifications so that we can assess and address any planning requirements. Only once these are approved do we begin the build with a view to completing the project on time and within budget. In our view, the time taken in planning and design is well spent as it mitigates against unnecessary delays and overspends, and it invariably delivers a much better outcome for everyone.’

Get in touch

Refresh Renovations UK are builders in Bristol offering design and build services for bungalow renovations and loft conversions. Check out Our Locations to find your nearest Refresh Renovations Branch. To discuss how Refresh can help with your project, please get in touch today using the enquiry form listed alongside, or if you would like to submit a more comprehensive enquiry, you can do so on the Get In Touch page.

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