Extending an old house in a conservation area with a need for disabled access
This project posed several major challenges: extending an old building in a conservation area, complex site conditions and a need to incorporate features for disabled access.
We dealt with the conservation requirements through our experience of sourcing heritage materials, preparation of test panels and close involvement of conservation officers and client in the complex choices.
The difficult site conditions required skilful engineering. We excavated 180 tonnes of topsoil to deal with the levels in the garden that were higher than floor levels in the house. Footings for the new structure had to be designed around two wells in the garden that had to be capped off.
To meet the need for disabled access, we widened doorways, created a new disabled bathroom, constructed a lift shaft to house a new lift and provide level access and ramps to external areas and generally modernise throughout to make mobility easier.
None of the challenges stopped us from creating a beautiful space. Although a cottage, the planners allowed floor to ceiling windows and timber bi-folding doors to the back elevation. This flooded the property with light and brought the magnificent views of the surrounding countryside into the kitchen.
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This was a challenging project for many reasons. Firstly the cottage was in a conservation area. This meant that all the materials used had to be strictly approved by local conservation officers to ensure that the extension was in keeping with the other buildings within the village. The type of stone, mortar mixes, feature bricks, cill details and roof tiles all had to be sourced and approved. Test panels were built to identify the best match and finishes, so the conservation offers and customers could view and sign off the finish of the stonework.
The house was built in the 1800’s and was formatted into smaller rooms. This design isn’t always compatible with modern living. The modern day family home tends to be designed with an open plan incorporating large spaces. The customers also had a disabled child and the house didn’t accommodate his needs. We therefore had to widen doorways, construct a new disabled bathroom, construct a lift shaft to house a new lift, provide level access and ramps to external areas and modernise throughout to cope with his needs.
The ground works were extensive as the ground levels within the garden were significantly higher than the finished floor levels within the house. We had to excavate 180 tonnes of top soil from the site to achieve the correct levels. There were also two wells on the site. Our structural engineers had to survey and format a design to allow us to build close to the wells. This involved pumping the water out of the well, layering the well shaft with hardcore and then capping off the well with concrete. The footing was then designed with a metal framework to counteract any movement.
The two ends of the original cottage also needed to be underpinned. This allowed us to fit posts onto the new concrete pads to carry the new steelwork when we knocked through from the original cottage into the new extension.
The superstructure was built in a rubble wall lime stone using a heritage mortar mix. We also used some ironstone above the window and door openings to match the original cottage.
The windows were a pre-finished soft wood construction. The front window was a joiner-made sash window to match the existing. The other windows on the build were a standard casement window.
The traditional build with a modern touch generally works very well and in this case an aluminium bi-folding door was added to great effect to give a panoramic view of the garden. We used an A-rated laminated glass within the door to improve the U values and greatly increase noise reduction.
The roof tiles were reclaimed Welsh slate. This blended perfectly with the original roof and provided the heritage look that was needed.
Velux windows were fitted to the original roof to improve the light for the middle bedroom. The Velux windows needed to have a tunnel finish internally as the original ceiling wasn’t vaulted. This detail worked as both a design feature internally and provided a great light source.
Because of the age of the building the structural work had to be well planned and designed to ensure safety and good results. The combination of 600mm thick walls, weaker lime mortar mix and a lack of bond on the original stonework meant the walls had to be pinned every 400mm. We had to knock out the original gable end to elongate the lounge area, knock through an access door for the bedroom on the first floor.
We also had to fit a crank beam and additional steelwork to form the chamber of a lift shaft to house the new access lift.
Although a cottage, to the back elevation within the kitchen the planners allowed floor to ceiling windows and timber bi-folding doors. Our team of specialist suppliers and fitters are experienced in supplying and fitting both timber and powder coated aluminium, quality bi-folding doors. This flooded the property with light and brought the magnificent views of the surrounding countryside into the kitchen.
To achieve a great finish and a good design required a great deal of forward planning both prior to the works starting and during the project. With all the best will in the world sometimes things that look good on a drawing aren’t always practical when you undertake the work on-site. This is why we always encourage regular site meetings and dialogue to ensure that the customer gets the best design and finish possible.
On this occasion it wasn’t practical for the clients to stay in the property whilst all of the work was carried out. This is why we always produce a detailed build schedule, thus enabling the client to forward plan throughout the build.