Side Return Extension

Our clients (a pair of neighbours) took the opportunity to collaborate on this side return extension project. Each wanted an open plan kitchen diner and looked to save money through economy of labour and scale.

side return extension

Side Return

A side return is the area formed by the main part of many period UK homes and the narrower projection which usually contains the kitchen. This design worked in the Victorian and Edwardian periods when terraced houses were booming, but they don’t always work in the modern day. Many side returns end up as a general dumping ground, yet they offer so much potential for developing a family home. Most of our side return extensions create large open plan kitchen diners.

Side Return extension designs

We presented several concepts to our clients in the form of rendered 3D visuals. Both neighbours agreed on the external configuration; this would comprise bifold doors and a large glass transom to the end elevation, with three rooflights on a flat roof. Together this design would flood the space with natural light.

3D sketch of proposed side return extensions

The construction would meet at a new party wall, with existing side walls removed to create open-plan spaces. The key difference between the properties was that one neighbour would have a separate utility room, whilst the other preferred a large kitchen island.

gloss grey kitchen diner in side return extension with aluminium bifold doors

Planning Permission

extension site before start of works

Once the general concepts were accepted, and following pre-app advice from the planning office, we obtained formal planning approval. You can read more about this process on our planning applications page.

planning application for side return extensions

Having written the technical specification with construction drawings, lighting and electrical design, and plans for fixtures and finishes, we invited a number of local contractors to tender. There was a 20% variation in price across the various bids. Having reviewed the different tenders and met with the individuals, we agreed on the winning contractor with the clients. You may find it interesting to read our page on home renovation which includes a section on choosing a contractor.

Building the Extensions

Our contractors started work on groundworks and drainage in Spring 2016. They pumped concrete to save time and money forming the new foundations and slabs.

concrete pumped over fence to create new floor slabs for extensions

Bricklayers then built the walls, before carpenters constructed the roof with a series of joists and noggings; below, you can see how they formed apertures for the roof lights.

wall plate and joists on hangers create new flat extension roofs

The clients lived without any upheaval for the first 2 months as all work was taking place outside. When the time came to remove the side wall, we set up temporary kitchens with washing machines in both sides. It was cosy but worked well, and the clients remained protected from the heavy work in the new space.

temporary kitchen during works

The contractor then supported the first floor with acrows and strongboys, before inserting the main steel and removing the side wall in both properties. We’ve written a more detailed page on deciding how to fit your structural steel in a house extension.

new steel inserted to create open plan opening to original building

One property already had a steel across its width from a previous renovation (just visible in the shadows of the photo above). As this was below the ceiling line we had to install the new steel also at this level;  the two were then bolted together. Usually we would have inserted the steel within the ceiling space to avoid any downstands. We were able to do this for the second property, which gave a much cleaner ceiling line (see image below).

fireboard applied to new steel over opening to original building

First Fix Electrics and Plumbing

Plumbers laid wet underfloor heating pipes to heat the new spaces, along with a new boiler for each property. With the insulation, screed and floor finishes, the floor level continued to rise.  At the same time, we had to ensure that the finished floor level and external patio were flush to avoid a trip hazard across the threshold.

screed piled on floor for new underfloor heating

Electricians carried out first fix once the powder coated aluminium frame, bifold doors and roof lights were fitted, making the extension weather proof. Plasterers also set to work on the walls and ceilings.

fitters install powder coated aluminium frame, bifold doors and transom window

Fitting the New Kitchens

We spent many hours with our clients selecting kitchen units, appliances, worktop, splashback and wall colour.  All surfaces and finishes had to work together. Later, you can read more on our detailed advice for kitchen design.  When the plaster had dried, kitchen fitters fitted the kitchens. One client chose a modern gloss grey kitchen with integrated handles.  The other chose a more classic shaker design in pale green.

new kitchen cabinets being installed

Over the next week or so, or contractors decorated the rooms and commissioned the appliances. They fitted the worktops before templating and fixing the splashbacks.  One neighbour chose a white quartz worktop with brilliant white glass splashback, whilst the other opted for a combination of oak (for the dry areas) and carrara marble (for the wet) with a raspberry red glass splashback.

oak worktop for kitchen peninsula

One client wanted to retain access directly from the rear reception room on one level to the new dining area on another.  We designed and fitted this set of oak steps.

new solid oak steps to kitchen diner from original house level.

Project Completion

The clients moved into their new kitchen diners in early August 2016, whilst minor finishing touches carried on around them. They each now have a wonderful new space to enjoy with family and friends. Below is the kitchen diner in one property.

side return extension with grey kitchen and dining area

Here is the second kitchen diner.

green kitchen with red glass splashback

This case study exercised our total service – we produced initial concepts, obtained planning permission, produced the detailed design with technical specification, ran a competitive tender, oversaw delivery of the entire renovation, project managed the delivery; then handed back the completed renovation.

We estimate that collaboration  saved each client around £10000, largely through economy of labour.  They saved a further 50% on our project management fee!

Here is a potted chronology of the project taking shape; click on the first image then scroll through:

Side Return Extensions

You can see how a side return extension can transform a family’s way of life. If you’d like to see another of our side return extensions, please read about our glass extension and basement conversion.  Here is a sneak preview:

lean to glass extension