Renovation 101: choosing a layout, materials and finishes
Once your planning is well underway, it’s time to choose your layout, materials and finishes. When making decisions, consider the architectural integrity of your home and street. A high-tech steel and glass exterior will stand out in an area of classic buildings, while developing a flow between the original part of your home and an extension will be tricky if you mix two different styles. Read on for sound structural advice.
Detailed drawings will make your build easier and help to negate the chances of later revisions, especially in a more complex renovation. “Be certain you’re happy with the final plans – any changes after the build begins may cause costs to skyrocket,” says interior designer Laura Dimambro of Studio LDM. A key element of any extension is room size.
Mentally translating a 2D drawing into a 3D vision can be tricky, so try marking out a similar-sized area in your existing home to help you decide whether you need more or less space for the new room’s function. Design tricks such as built-in storage in a bedroom might allow you to make an adjacent bathroom larger. To minimise costs, keep as much of the original configuration of your house as possible. Changing it will mean new electrics and plumbing, as well as alterations to walls, windows and doors.
Ceilings and insulation
When choosing your ceiling, there are plenty of options to consider: do you want low or high, flat, raked or pitched? Tall ceilings add a sense of spaciousness but create more area to heat, while lower ones, though cosy, might mean there’s not enough room for a pendant light fitting or ceiling fan. Pitched ceilings with exposed roof beams lend wonderfully rustic appeal, but you’ll need to consider how you’re going to deal with cobwebs up high, while raked ceilings, which follow the line of a sloping roof, are chic and contemporary but create issues if you want downlights.
A new build or reno is the perfect time to insulate walls, floors and ceilings and amp up your home’s energy efficiency. Insulation is relatively easy to install if making changes to ceilings and floors, and wall insulation can be placed during cladding or replastering. For a warm to hot climate, reflective insulation (or silver foil) is the best choice, while bulk insulation (also known as batts) is effective in any season. For an extra green home, look for insulation products made from recycled content or natural materials such as cellulose.
Exterior windows and doors
When choosing windows, you may be influenced by existing ones and the age of your property; as with exterior finishes, heritage homes may be subject to restrictions. If not, there’s a vast range of styles to choose from – casement, louvre and sliding amongst them – with different types delivering different degrees of cross-ventilation: “Louvred or pivoting windows that can be opened 90 degrees provide the best ventilation,” says designer Laura Dimambro.
Similarly, doors come in a variety of designs to suit different architectural styles. French doors provide a classic look that works well in traditional homes. Stacking slider doors deliver a broad opening, come in units with built-in flyscreens and have modern appeal. Bi-folds can be folded right back for undisturbed views, but they tend to cost more than stacking doors and flyscreening is less straightforward. Always consider the practicalities: you might love the idea of high clerestory windows, but operating and cleaning them, not to mention finding the right window treatment, could be tricky.
Vast windows will make a vision of your views, but you may need curtains or blinds to avoid the feeling of living in a fish bowl and for added insulation – glass is a major source of heat loss and gain. For energy efficiency, check the Window Energy Rating Scheme (WERS) which rates products’ heating and cooling properties; visit wers.net. Viridian Glass has great tips on choosing and using energy-efficient glass, visit viridianglass.com. Don’t forget skylights, which can deliver natural light to an area without an outside wall or provide a boost to a bathroom, where windows might be minimal for privacy.
The materials used to create internal walls will have a significant effect on your home’s aesthetics and determine factors such as insulation and acoustics. Plasterboard or Gyprock, the most common interior wall surface in Australia, is economical, easy to install and gives a smooth finish. Acoustic plasterboard is a great option if a bedroom shares a wall with a living area.
Timber boards add warmth and richness but are more expensive and require specialist installation. You could also try pre-finished timber boards, which come in a tongue-and-groove design for ease of installation. Plywood sheets are a less expensive option. Bill McCorkell of Archiblox suggests using hoop pine in transitional spaces to provide a contrast to white plasterboard.
Going green: orientation
An important consideration of any good renovation is capturing the most northern light possible. To keep your house cool in summer, warm in winter and your energy costs down, aim to keep out summer sun and let in winter sun. If possible, position frequently used rooms, such as living areas and kitchens, along the northern aspect so they can be heated by the winter sun. In summer, deep eaves, glazed windows and reflective blinds will keep the temperature down inside. If your house is not ideally positioned, more creative solutions are available. Architect Bill McCorkell of Archiblox suggests planting deciduous trees to the west, as they will screen the summer sun but allow winter sun to penetrate when the trees have lost their leaves.
The colours and materials you choose will have the biggest impact on your home’s overall look. Different elements should speak the same language aesthetically. “Over-designing a space with a cacophony of textures can be confusing, particularly with small spaces,” says Bill McCorkell. It’s also important to blend old and new when extending a traditional home – it’s a chance to “extract elements that will be relevant in the new part of the house,” says Albert Mo of Architects EAT. Try replicating a period feature, such as an ornamental balcony or a ceiling light feature.
Solar panels provide a cost-effective renewable energy solution to help power your home. They work most efficiently when the sun strikes them at a right angle. To achieve this in Australia, the ideal conditions are for the roof to be pitched at about 30 degrees and facing north, although it depends on your location. If your roof does not meet these requirements, the panels may need tilt frames.to form a visual link with the original build.