The scope for conversion and extension schemes is enormous. But, in spite of the variety of individual circumstances, in practice there are a fairly limited number of alteration works that can be carried out on a building. The unique flavour of a conversion depends more upon the way in which these basic alteration works are combined, on the way spaces are enclosed and on design detail.
There is no reason why a determined home improver should not design a full conversion scheme on his house from scratch and go on to carry the building job right through to a triumphant conclusion. Indeed, many people have done just this. But, as you are probably only too well aware, your home is likely to be the most expensive possession you will ever own and, if anything goes badly wrong, the potential consequences, both to your pocket and to your family, could be devastating.
Whom to consult
You may wish to consult a professional before making any major structural alterations.
- An architect will be able to help you with arranging your space, and with the design and detail of finishes and fixed furniture. He will be able to give advice on selection of materials from a range of sources.
- A building surveyor or an architectural technician will be able to advise on structural alterations, on construction and on good building practice.
- Structural engineer. If you feel that only structural advice is needed, consult a structural engineer. He will have a good knowledge of building construction, although weather-proofing, insulation, finishes and architectural detail will not really be of primary concern to him.
Whether you decide to consult professionals or not, you should take the following preliminary steps if you intend making major alterations to your house:
1 If the alterations you are proposing will alter the external appearance of your home, or you wish to construct an extension or outbuilding, you may need approval under the town and country planning acts. Speak to the planning officer of your local authority.
2 Apart from redecorating, nearly everything you are likely to do which involves structural alterations, new building work or alterations to drainage, has to be approved under the building regulations and public health acts. You will have to submit drawings and you should make an appointment to discuss them with the building inspector. He will also be the man who inspects the work as you are carrying it out. So it is worth establishing a good relationship with him from the start.
3 Probably the building inspector will be able to advise whether the Fire Service will wish to look over your proposals, particularly if the conversion involves addition of an extra storey. It is possible that you will be obliged to provide some sort of fire escape and the earlier you know that kind of requirement the better.
4 Take out a policy against third-party risks to cover all damage to persons or property that may be caused in the course of working on your house.
5 If you hire rubbish skips and if they are to be left on the highway, you will need a licence (free). The local police will tell you where and how to get one.
6 Safety precautions. Always make sure that any excavations or structural alterations are safely and securely shored and propped to prevent collapse. If you are working from a ladder make sure it is properly secured and wedged to prevent it slipping. Do not carry out any structural work on your own in an empty house— you never know when you will need an extra pair of hands.
Here are five safety points to observe when you use a ladder.
1 Never lean a ladder on a gutter, which may give way; use a ladder stay to support the ladder.
2 Secure the base of the ladder to a stake driven into the ground.
3 If the ground is soft, stand the ladder on a board, tilting the board so that the ladder will not slide to the back of it.
4 Always work within the width of the ladder styles. Do not stretch out on either side, or you may unbalance and fall.
5 If you are painting the outside of the house, attach your paint kettle to a ladder hook and do not put sharp tools in your pockets.