Imagine arriving home to your stylish and characterful home that oozes Victorian period charm. Your roof a crowning example of good taste and fine design that will last long into the future. Imagine your dry and warm home, beautiful and comfortable, inside and out.
The problem is you have no idea how to get there. You don't even know what decisions you need to make. Or, you have an idea, but it's so overwhelming that you don't know what to choose.
This much you do know. You know you need to replace your roof. Slates have slipped, the battens have snapped, there's no roofing felt left if there ever was any, and it's leaking in several places. You know you need some more insulation. It's freezing in winter and too hot in summer.
You call some roofers out to take a look, and to give you a price for re-roofing. You tell them you need a price for a new roof, leaving the details up to them. You get a standard looking roof. Thick concrete slate-look tiles, modern featureless ridge, black half-round UPVC gutters, UPVC fascia and soffit, just like every other bland mediocre roof on the street. Unlike the original roof that lasted somewhere around 100 years or more, this roof could last only 25 years.
Imagine you have your roofer working away already. The scaffolding is going up. Your roofer is asking you for some decisions and needs an immediate answer. They want to get on with the work and you want your new roof completed before the next rainfall. You've got an hour to decide, tops, because they need to get the materials from the builders merchants this afternoon so they can make a start tomorrow.
Then imagine lying awake at night worrying if those were the right decisions and not ones that you'll live to regret.
It doesn't need to be this way. You can make the decisions before you get a roofer in. You can take your time to think about how you want your ideal roof to be, not rushed into snap decisions.
Imagine taking your time to think about it over the weekend. Chatting about it with your other half over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Filling a Pinterest board with beautiful photos of your favourite options.
You write a list of the things you want, and get your roofer to price for everything you'd ideally like. You get your contract in place, and then sit back while your roofer delivers what you want.
Minimum stress. Maximum chance of your best roof outcome.
If this sounds good to you, lets get started making decisions for your Victorian roof with this ultimate guide to Victorian Roofs in the North West.
Victorian roofs come in many different forms. Around Manchester and Liverpool and throughout most of the North-West of England, most Victorian homes are in the Gothic style, or for older homes the Regency style. This means that, generally in the North West, parapet roofs are not so common and it's more likely that you'll have an overhanging eaves. Gothic styles tend to have a usable or inhabited loft space with steep roof pitch, pitched dormers, tall decorative chimneys, and fancy detailing for every element. Older Victorian homes in the Regency style tend to have bigger overhanging eaves, with simpler detailing overall, a lower pitch and less usable loft space. Consider the overall style of your home when deciding the details. If it's a simpler regency style, don't choose overly complicated details. If it's a gothic style then let yourself get fancy and choose more decorative details.
Take the opportunity to repair and refurbish these while the scaffolding is up so you don't need to deal with these again for a good few years. You don't want your beautiful new roof damaged by other trades dealing with your chimney in a few years time. The buddleia and other plants that have made their home on your chimney need to be dug out. Think about repointing the brickwork, replacing the flaunching, and replacing broken or missing Chimney pots. Decide how to deal with your chimney pots and the flue depending on how you choose to use the fireplace inside: open fire if it's not a smokeless zone, wood burning stove, gas fire, decorative only with no fire, or chimney breast removed inside or blocked up.
The highest point on the roof is the ridge and is often the most visible. Gothic ridges can be super decorative with added cresting and you can still get elaborate ornate ridge tiles with cresting to use. Check if your home has an original ornate ridge, or if old photos of your home show that it did, or if other houses similar to yours in the street still have their original ridge. You can get similar cresting or even the original copied to replicate this detail and add a really special quality to crown your roof. If your home is more regency style or you prefer a modern look then a simpler ridge is a good option. If you like you can add some distinctiveness by having a contrasting colour or use a similar colour to the main roof if you prefer a simple unified look.
If you're in a conservation area or your home is a listed building then you are likely to be restricted in the materials you can use. Most Victorian roofs in the North-West are slate from North Wales, but stone can be found, along with clay tiles. There are many types of slate available. Slate comes in different colours and strengths, which depends on where it comes from. If there are no planning restrictions then you can look at alternatives to slate that give a similar look. Manmade slate-look materials will be cheaper, but most will not have the same longevity/durability as natural slate and rarely look as good. Consider colour, texture, size and laying pattern. If you want to add more decorative detail you can use a combination of different slate colours or even add in different shapes.
The gutter is usually highly visible and choosing a suitable profile, considering the material and colour can make a huge difference. Most people choose black o white UPVC for the gutter but not only do they look terrible on a period home, they will also need replacing sooner than more traditional materials. Victorian gutters were usually cast iron and half round or ogee profile. Cast iron needs more maintenance and once it has rusted will need to be replaced but it can still last for many decades and longer than plastic with the right maintenance. Aluminium gutters can be made in heritage profiles and come ready finished with a paint coating. You can even get specially finished versions that have the same texture as cast iron. Aluminium is relatively low maintenance and long lasting. Copper is also an option and although it the most expensive choice it is likely to last the longest and has a very unique look as it weathers naturally to a green finish, needing little to no maintenance.
The gable and the eaves are where the roof meets the wall. Some have a parapet, some have an overhang, some have highly decorative gothic bargeboards, others have classical brick details, some have decorative brackets, and others have a flush fascia. In short Victorian roofs, and how they finish at the wall, can be very different. Take a good look at yours. Chances are you haven't really noticed it much, soffits and such details are often overlooked. These simple details are an opportunity to add quality and distinctiveness to your home. Modern roofs now often use verge tiles to finish a gable in a simple way. These were not commonly used by Victorians, especially not on a slate roof. Modern soffits and eaves are often covered by plastic strips that only have low maintenance in their favour. Consider your options and think about the shapes, materials, colours and textures that you could introduce here to give your home that refined Regency look or the decorative Gothic look, whichever suits your home and your tastes.
The roof typically represents about 25% of the heat loss in your home. Improving the way the roof performs can make your home both much more energy efficient as well as considerably more comfortable. Simple and sophisticated changes can have a huge impact and if you are replacing your roof anyway will not cost a significant amount more to add in than doing it the standard meeting building regulations way. All works that involve a change to the “thermal envelope”, such as the roof, do require building regulations approval so make sure you factor this in. You can simply add more insulation. You can go further and improve airtightness, for example by changing a vented roof to an unvented roof. When carrying out energy improvements works it is important to get it right so that you don't add problems like condensation and rot risks in where they didn't previously exist. Check with product manufacturers or get specialist help to design your new build up. It is really worth considering making these changes because, although this is the bit that you don't see, you will really feel the difference both to your comfort and your heating bills, especially in the depths of winter.
Making the right decisions will help you to take your roof refurb from standard to stand-out.
There are lots of things to take into account but don't become overwhelmed. If you need help speak to a specialist eco-refurbisher. Look at The Green Register where you can find us and other fellow professionals. If your roof is leaking and its time for a refurb, you can increase the value of your home by making this key visible element a bigger and better asset that adds to the character of your home and makes your life more comfortable.
Instead of losing character and keeping the same existing and typically poor quality of energy performance you can enhance the original features of your Victorian home and make it easier to heat and feel more comfortable at home, both during the winter and the summer.
To help you visualise all these elements and options follow iarchitectuk on Pinterest, where you can see my Victorian Roof Pinterest board and other architectural design boards to inspire you on your home improvements journey. You can also join my free Facebook group Design Your Home Vision, for homeowners of period property with potential, to share advice, support and inspiration with other homeowners like you.
This first step is the most important, not only for every home design project but for any and every building project from a 2-bed holiday cottage to a teaching hospital or even an international airport! This is the key to building design success.
In this blog post I'm going to explain why you need to take this step, what this step is, what the benefits are, and how you can take this step today.
Many clients come to me feeling overwhelmed with ALL THE DECISIONS! They are not sure where to start or who can help them. I know it can seem confusing and complicated to design your home but there are some simple steps that you can take right now and a few decisions to make at the beginning that will get your project off to the right start.
You need your characterful Victorian / Edwardian home to work for your modern family life instead of a typical family from 100 years ago. This is the first step that you need to take to reach your goal of living in a comfortable and beautiful home.
This first step is the most important as it lays the foundations for all that is to come. Think of this as being like the strip of concrete that goes into the ground that the rest of the building is built off.
So what is this significant first step?!
This first step is the foundational work that you need to do to create your vision for your home. Architects call this 'The Strategic Brief'.
Put simply, it is a description of what you need and want.
I call this designing your vision and I've created some worksheets and checklists to help you.
Design Your Vision
You vision needs to be clear and include the following:
1. Your Needs
Describe your needs, as a family and for each individual. Your ages, hobbies, daily habits and routines at home can all be included. Also any special events that you celebrate at home. Think about how many people need to spend time in each space and how they want to use those spaces in your home.
2. Building and Site Information
Gather together all the information you have about your home and garden. Put it in one place so its easy to get to. If you can make this digital even better.
3. Decide your Priorities
The three key priorities for a project are time, cost and quality. You need to decide what deadline you want to meet, what your budget is, and what quality means for you. Then decide which of these is the most important to you.
4. Your Desires
These are the would like to haves. Describe the materials, styles and colours you love. Gather inspirational images from magazines or online. Pinterest and Houzz are both good ways to do this online and you can easily share these with your designer.
Why is this such an important first step?
Research by the Royal Institute of British Architects, shows that the clients brief is fundamental to the buildings success. ('Working with Architects' Client Survey 2016)
A great brief creates a great building
Getting a great building can mean many things, some of them more wide ranging than you might expect. Here are some of those benefits:
Studies have shown that quality design has a positive impact on resale and rental values, which can be as much as 11% to 20% higher for quality designed buildings.
Comfort, air quality, noise and privacy all contribute to your enjoyment of your home, as well as to your health and well being.
The 'Wow' factor is known to encourage people to visit, so could help make your homelife more sociable with friends and family wanting to pop round.
There is a lot of evidence that shows that good quality design can support better community spirit, a sense of pride, identity and even mental health. Although it is limited how much you can affect your entire neighbourhood with your own home, it is possible to uplift the image of your street, especially if your neighbours follow your lead, and this can have a positive impact for you and your neighbours.
You can reduce energy and water use as well as protecting local wildlife and the planet through good design. This doesn't always have to cost more and even if it does initially it can save you money in the long term.
If you own an historic building that you are custodian of, or you want to pioneer outstanding contemporary design, then your project could contribute to local and national culture and create a long term legacy for future generations to enjoy and be inspired by.
Are you ready to take the first step for your project?
Get yourself a copy of the Design Your Home Vision Checklist for free so that you can get started today.
Once you've completed this checklist email it back to get a free 20 minute phone consultation, when you can discuss your project further and find out how iarchitect can help you take the next step to achieving your dream home.
You're wondering if iarchitect is the best architecture practice for your project?
Stick around and you'll find out why it is!
At iarchitect we can be a bit too modest about shouting about our achievements and as the architect director I realise that this needs to change. Now the tax returns are in and 2018 is in full swing I am going to give you an update on our successes from the past year and hope you'll join me in some virtual toasting and celebrating.
At the beginning of last year I transformed iarchitect from a sole trading entity to a limited company and am now celebrating nearing the end of a first successful year as a limited company. After setting up the practice 9 years ago as a sole trader in the depths of recession, through perseverance and optimism it has thrived. Now it feels like iarchitect is growing up! Cheers to transformations and developing!
Over the course of the last 12 months iarchitect has received a number of awards and completed many successful projects for our customers.
Best of Houzz for Service Award 2018
Our latest award is from the online residential design platform Houzz. They have awarded us “Best of Houzz for Service” for which we must thank our kind customers, their glowing reviews and 5 star ratings.
Houzz also awarded iarchitect with “Best of Houzz for Design” in 2017 as our project photographs were among those most shared on the platform.
Houzz has also marked iarchitect out as an “Influencer” as we regularly help out members of the Houzz community through the dilemma forums.
We use Houzz with many of our customers to create ideasbooks which are great for communicating ideas and visualizing options. Cheers to communicating beautiful ideas and delivering good customer service!
"Jane's help and advice has been invaluable" Caroline Ellis, Homeowner
"Jane was able to come up with some fabulous ideas that ticked all our boxes and then some." Trasie Einig Jones, Homeowner
"Made the whole build process much less stressful and delivered on every level" Tracey Gibbs, Homeowner
"We are very pleased with the result" Elise Watson, Homeowner
Best Full-Service Architect Firm, Manchester
Featured in Ideal Home, Dream Homes Edition
Another highlight of 2017 was a beautiful editorial piece published in Ideal Home, August edition. This piece showcases one of our completed projects in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, South Manchester. It is a lovely example of a Victorian Terrace for which we designed the extension, reconfigured rooms and refurbishment throughout to create a striking and comfortable modern family home. Cheers to warm, energy-efficient and characterful homes that meet the needs of modern families!
If you'd like to read about this project you can still get a digital copy of Ideal Home August 2017 edition:
Read about our project on page 100, August 2017 edition.
and every day...
We are expanding
It has been filled with many achievements including:
- a successful application to the War Memorial Trust, funding works to Northenden War Memorial
- several successful planning and building control applications for homeowners and businesses
- opening of the first Sultan Ahmet restaurant - an exciting new UK franchise
- helping worthwhile causes with Landaid though their pro-bono programme
This year has also had many memorable moments such as:
- meeting the latest in voice controlled technology with Steve and Siobhan
- many Home Design Consultations during which I have loved getting to know homeowners and their homes
- chasing around after a toddler whilst discussing bandstands with Joy and the ups and downs of projects with Julie
- behind the scenes in photoshoots for completed projects
- catching up with past colleagues starting new adventures like Sally
It's been a fantastic year and I hope it has been for all of you too. Lets hope that 2017 brings more of the same.
Best Christmas wishes to everyone.
Part 1: Which Architect?
1. Is an architect really what you need?
- Where you want a single structural opening, or a wall removing, perhaps to create a more open plan space. While it is beneficial to get an architects input to decide the positioning of an opening or which wall to remove, to create the space the best suits you, once these are decided then what you really need is a structural engineer to check structural stability and provide calculations for building regulations. It's important to note that any structural alterations require building control approval.
2. What kind of architect do you want?
- Form: strong sculptural approaches to design often using unusual shapes. Think Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry. “Less is a bore.”
- Function: clear to understand spaces that are easy to use and move around in. Think Mies Van de Rohe and Luis Kahn. “Form follows function.”
- Technology: cutting edge use of materials that push them to their limits or integrate the latest technological advances. Think Norman Foster and Santiago Calatrava. “Machine for living in”
3. How involved do you want your architect to be?
4. What have they done before?
5. Do you feel relaxed, comfortable and confident with your potential architect?
Has this been helpful? What criteria will you use to select your architect? Comment below.
"I needed some professional drawings for a small extension to my kitchen and advice on building regs, etc. I had a rough plan with my initial ideas and someone to build it but needed some more accurate plans that my builder could build from. The house is 300 years old so nothing is straight!"
- new downstairs loo
- larger dining area off the kitchen
- new entrance hall
- covered unheated porch
- to feel like sitting in the garden
- maintain maximum light into the kitchen
As this was a small project, not requiring planning permission, of traditional build and our client had a competent builder in place, it was possible for the project to progress with only our sketch design. The client and builder made all decisions on detailed design, although we were available should our support be required during construction. Building regulations were dealt with on notice by the builder.
- new downstairs loo, with easy access giving more privacy upstairs
- new front door position, visible from the road making it easier to find especially for deliveries
- larger space for dining, with better light and direct views and access into the garden
- cloakroom area with dedicated space for coats and storage in the new hall
- gallery space
"I really enjoyed our discussions and solutions and everyone was really excited by the plans. The extension took 5 months but it is now finished and we have the final sign off certificate."
"It is gorgeous, really gorgeous and has made a massive difference to our lives. Thank you so much for the design - you did a fab job."
Sitting down over the Christmas holidays
watching the terrible scenes of flooding across the UK made many of us realise how lucky we are not to live in a floodplain. As our facebook feeds filled up with affected friends and family, telling us of their difficulties dealing with the rising water, we could sit back in our lovely dry living rooms and help ourselves to another mince pie and cup of tea.
There are some things we can all do to help reduce the risks, extent or severity of future flooding.
1. Make your drives and patios porous so they don't add to surface water run-off
You do not need planning permission to lay a permeable (or porous) drive as this is permitted development. You do need planning permission to lay a traditional non-porous driveway.
Examples of porous materials are: gravel, reinforced grass, specially laid block paving, and permeable asphalt, concrete or resin bonded aggregate.
Alternatively you can drain to a soakaway so that the water will soak into the ground nearby.
You can find more information in this government guidance document.
2. Fit water butts to your rainwater downpipes to slow water flow
This is a simple example of rainwater harvesting and easy to retrofit. You can then use the water stored in the water butt to water your garden or wash your car and windows.
There are many rainwater harvesting techniques, which can give you a store of water to flush toilets, wash clothes and for other non-potable needs. These can also reduce your water use costs. The options vary in complexity and ease of retrofit for existing houses.
We have a focus on sustainable design and can advise on ways to both save water in use and by rainwater harvesting, along with other energy efficiency measures.
You can book an i-architect Home Design Consultation to discuss your options.
3. Plant trees and thirsty plants
Landscaping your garden can help, both in flood risk areas to direct water and floating debris away, and in other areas to control wet areas and flow. There are many ways to use landscape to control water, such as creating a rain garden with wet-tolerant planting, an area of lower ground which fills up during wet weather and dries out during a (hopefully) sunny summer.
Trees are especially good at taking up water with some mature trees taking 50-100 gallons a day. If the ground is often very wet then you need to use trees and plants that won't die when roots stay wet for extended periods.
Be careful to plant trees that are sized appropriately to your garden and placed where they will not cause damage to foundations and drains.
What actions will you be taking to stabilise the water table in your area?
We frequently save our clients thousands of pounds through our Home Design Workshops. This project is an example of how our analysis and assessment of our clients needs and their homes ensure that we design solutions that suit both lifestyles and budget.
In this home our clients wanted a better connection from the family room to the garden and kitchen. They enjoy entertaining and wanted to host their legendary barbecues in a sunnier patio with quicker kitchen access. The old conservatory was blocking the garden view and the lean-to store was blocking out evening sunshine from the patio.
Existing Ground Floor Plan
Our clients felt they would need an extension to achieve this. So we looked at how an extension might work to create more room, to link to the steeply sloping garden and between the kitchen and family room. They also wanted to move the laundry and freezer from the lean-to store room and into the house to make them easier to access.
We discovered that they had an unused space under the stairs ideal for storage and that their kitchen was brand new and that they were happy with it, apart from the poor link to the family room.
As an alternative we showed them how to create additional storage space within the kitchen, improve the connection with the family room and create a sunnier and easier to access space for entertaining in the garden. This option would simply mean some minor internal alterations, garden landscaping and demolition of the dilapidated conservatory and lean-to store. An option which would save them over £20k in construction costs.
We love improving our clients lives and whenever possible saving them money at the same time. We could help you to do the same with one of our Home Design Consultations.
Light Touch Option
After a fortnight at home with the family, many homeowners decide that they need to make changes or add more space. Space to host large dinners for a growing family, a spare room for visitors or somewhere to work on all those new years resolutions - perhaps a home gym or project room.
There are lots of things to consider when improving your home. You need to think strategically when deciding what work to have done to make sure you get what you want and need and it's within your budget.
To help you with your decision making here are some tips to consider when deciding how to improve your home.
1. Decide what you need
Sometimes a big extension is not the answer to giving you the home you need. Ask yourself the following questions to help identify what you need and how your home can meet this:
- What do you want to be able to do but your space is not allowing you to do?
- How many people does the space need to work for?
- What spaces do you have now and how do you use them?
- Are there any unused or underused spaces?
- Where do you get the best light and views and are these important to you?
2. Set a Budget
When considering how much to spend make sure you include costs for the following:
- professional fees: architect, structural engineer, quantity surveyor, party wall surveyor, etc
- local authority applications: planning and building control
- possible extras: storage, rental / holiday elsewhere during the work, professional deep cleaning afterwards, more takeaways and meals out while the kitchen is out of action
- VAT: remember to take into account the likely extra 20%
- contingency: setting aside an extra 5-15% is wise, particularly if the work involves an existing building
I recommend getting cost estimates based on sketch designs early on to ensure that the works carried out are in budget and give you the best value. The Home Design Workshop gives you sketch designs that meet your needs and are a good basis to check out practicalities like cost.
To give a finger in the air idea of how much the extra space might cost to build I use a rate of £2k per m2. Although nowhere near as accurate as a quantity surveyors estimate, this calculation helps guide initial decisions on how much space is worked on to suit the budget.
3. Consider build options
These are some of your build options with pros and cons:
- design and build: one company that carries out everything from the design to the completion of the build. This gives you the least design and quality control but the most cost certainty. Typically this is the most expensive option as the companies which deliver this option take on all the risks of keeping the project on time and in budget. There is the potential that they may reduce quality to offset unexpected expenses incurred during construction.
- main contractor: you employ a design team to carry out the design and apply for permissions, then a contractor to manage and carry out the construction. This gives you full control of the design and quality and allows you to make changes during construction. However, I recommend that changes during construction be avoided by making the right decisions during the design stage. Be aware that the later changes are made the greater they impact on cost and time.
- self managed with sub contractors: you employ each member of the design and construction team separately, giving you maximum control on design, quality and cost. For inexperienced project managers there is a big risk that the project will take longer and cost a lot more.
- self-build: you employ specialists as required but largely carry out the work yourself. This gives maximum control of design and cost but quality can suffer unless you have sufficient skills and it can take a lot longer to complete construction, especially if you have a full time job to fit the build around. Remember that to comply with legal requirements some work must be carried out by a fully qualified tradesperson.
This helps you address key decisions from the start so that you can take your project forward with confidence. You can get that like-new home you've dreamed of!
Click on the button below to get your copy of the checklist.
Pinterest is a fantastic way to organise and share images and videos in “boards” online. We find it a very useful way to collect images to inspire our projects, most importantly it's a brilliant way to discuss ideas with our clients.
We can discuss or create clients boards during our Home Design Consultation and refer back to them throughout the design of the project. If you're considering any home improvements creating your own Pinterest board of ideas is a great way to start.
You can see what inspires us by following our Pinterest account.
Jane Leach, principal architect at i-architect