Building additional living space on your current home can be achieved in a number of ways. You could convert a garage, for example, or turn your loft into an extra bedroom. Extensions that go on the front or side of a property are also possible although, in much of Ireland, you will need to seek permission from your local planning authority to do so. However, by far the most usual form of extension is to put a new structure onto the back of your house. This only needs permission if your home has already been extended or your planned extension will be over a certain size.
The problem with extending outwards from the rear of your home is that you will lose garden space. There is no getting around this – unless, of course, you can buy land outside of your current garden’s boundary to compensate. Therefore, you should think about the design of your garden and how you will adapt it once the extension is built. Of course, designing the structural and architectural elements of your extension is very important, both things that are part of the BIY service. Don’t only think about the building work, however. How the extension – and the rest of the home for that matter – will work with your back garden is just as crucial if the project is to be a success. What are the garden design elements you should be thinking about with a rear-facing extension?
Firstly, garden design is not all about choosing which plants you want to grow and selecting suitable places for them. Hard landscaping is just as important. If your back garden is not flat, for example, then your extension may have involved earthworks already. Levelling out a section of ground may have been needed even before any foundations could be laid. In such cases, you should also consider levelling the land that is adjacent to your extension. This will provide you with the opportunity, for instance, to lay a patio right next to it.
Patios are a popular form of hard landscaping which create a transition between the inside and the outdoors. To make the best of them, consider French doors or glazed bi-folding doors that open up onto this space which can become part of your living quarters – in summer, at least. If that is not possible, depending on the type of ground you have, then consider a deck instead. Not as long lasting as patio slabs, decking still provides a flat seating area for you to enjoy with family and friends. Only in the steepest of gardens will you need to opt for split level terraces. Bear in mind that it is better to conduct the earthmoving works you need to redesign your garden when the construction phase of your extension is underway than treating it as a separate project. It is generally cheaper and causes less disruption.
With the architectural elements of your garden’s design in place, it is time to consider soft landscaping. Here, you can make use of the planting you already have or start again from scratch. Established trees may not be allowed to be removed but you can certainly do away with any planting that you don’t like. In fact, some people go for soft landscaping which does not include any planting at all. Many Japanese-inspired gardens can be found throughout Europe these days which make use of pebbles and rocks to create a distinctive outdoor space that is devoid of planting.
For many people, the soft landscaping touches they will choose will come down to personal preferences. Some people like open lawns to the kids to play on while others want a jam-packed garden stuffed full of vibrant colours and foliage. When planning the design of your soft landscaping, try to avoid straightforward borders which run up and down the sides of your plot which will make your garden seem boxy. Opt for circles and curves to draw the eye onwards and plant in groups, or drifts, rather than in regimented rows. Taller plants should go to the back of your borders and smaller ones at the front where they won’t get crowded and out and be able to grow in some sunlight.
When an extension protrudes into your back garden, you may find that neighbouring properties can overlook you more than they used to. Of course, it depends on the orientation of the windows in your extension as well as the proximity of your neighbours. Garden design can achieve a great deal for you in terms of privacy without the need to put up high fences. A trellis with a rambling plant, such a clematis or ivy, running through it creates a much softer looking visual barrier.
Likewise, dense shrubs can provide you with more privacy if they are planted in the right spot and simply left to mature. Opt for evergreens so that your privacy is maintained throughout winter. If you want a temporary visual barrier that prevents prying eyes from seeing into your extension, then use a planter with tall plants in it. Even very large ones can be fitted with castors which allows them to be repositioned when you need them to. Of course, you can also prevent your extension or newly installed al fresco seating area from being overlooked by adding an awning which can be extended or withdrawn depending on when it is in use. All you need is a structurally sound wall to fit one to, after all.
If you are thinking about an extension but are unsure whether it will leave you with too little garden to use in the summer, then talk to BIY. Our expertise in extension design will help to maximise the space you have left to enjoy outside whilst meaning that you add as much potential value to your property as possible. We cover all aspects of home improvement design, from structural engineering and architecture to interior design and colour consultation.