If a home does not function well, there are three choices. Two of these are thoroughly defeatist and may also be impractical: learn to live with it, or move to a more suitable house. The third is much more positive; alter it so that it gives the extra living space and the additional features needed. The average home is basically a box, within which internal partitions create individual rooms; doors allow movement and windows let in light and air. Various services are included within the structure – heating, plumbing, wiring and so on. All these features can be altered, within reason, to make them work better.
When planning alterations, there are two considerations which should constantly be borne in mind: are the changes feasible and are they legal? It is essential to check with the local planning (coning) and building control bodies to find out whether the work requires official approval.
Where to Improve
Alterations to the use of space in the home are of two kinds. The first is intended to create an entirely new living space. The second is to alter the present layout of the interior and to change or improve the services. These are some of the possibilities:
In the attic, unused space beneath a pitched root could well become valuable extra living space. Remember, though, that providing access to the new rooms will mean losing some space on the floor below.
In the existing upstairs rooms, re-arranging internal walls could create an extra bedroom or bathroom, while providing plumbing facilities in bedrooms could ease the pressure on the existing bathrooms.
Downstairs, removing dividing walls to create walk to create large through rooms or partitioning large rooms to create two smaller ones, moving doorways to improve traffic flow, or altering the kitchen layout could all be considered. It might even he possible to turn an integral garage into extra living space.
Converting an Attic
A full-scale conversion into one or more habitable rooms that is, bedrooms and the like rather than just a hobby space is one of the biggest and most complex indoor home improvement projects. It involves altering the room structure to make space for the rooms.
You can strengthen the existing attic will provide access from the floor below, installing roof windows and extending existing services to the new moats. Professional advice is needed here, and it is advisable to hand over the main structural alterations to a builder or specialist conversion firm. This still leaves plenty of room for do-it-yourself finishing and faring of the new rooms.
In many older homes, the space beneath a pitched (sloping) roof can be used to provide valuable extra Wing space, often with spectacular results. Reorganization can bring dramatic improvements to the way the house works.
Creating a Through Room
Creating a through room means removing an existing dividing wall, and may also require the repositioning of existing doorways and the formation of new windows. If the existing wall is load bearing, a steel beam will have to be installed to carry the load, and lintels will also be needed over new windows and over new doors in other load bearing walls. It may be necessary to reroute existing plumbing and electrical services that cross the wall that is to be removed. Once the new opening has been formed, there will be extensive upholstering, to be done, and the floors in the two rooms will have to be linked smoothly. The original color schemes of the two rooms will also probably be different, which may entail complete redecoration.
Partitioning an Existing Room
Subdividing an existing room into two smaller ones means building a new wall, possibly adding a door or window to one of the new rooms, and perhaps altering, or extending existing, plumbing, heating and electrical services to serve the separate rooms.
The new dividing wall will generally be built as a timber-framed partition wall faced with plasterboard (gypsum board), but a solid block cork wall could be built on suitable foundations, which may well need to be inserted.
Creating a New Door Opening
If the new opening is to be made in a load bearing wall, a lintel must be used to bridge the opening. However, if the wall is a non-load bearing partition, simple alterations to the wall framing are all that will be needed. The job will also involve some replastering work, snaking alterations to skirtings (baseboards) and floor surfaces, the fitting of architraves (trims) around the opening, and possibly alterations to existing plumbing, heating and electrical services if pipes or cables crux; the area where the new door will be installed.
Altering the Kitchen Layout
The amount of work depends on how extensive the rearrangement will be. At the very least there will be new base and wall units (cabinets) and countertops, and these will probably involve some work on wall and floor surfaces. If repositioning sinks, cookers (stoves), dishwashers and the like, there will have to be alterations to plumbing and electrical services.