Renovating a semi-detached home isn’t quite as simple as you might imagine.
This was highlighted when we spoke with Chris Books, owner of Addbuild Additions, on the occasion of the company’s recent 40th Anniversary celebrations.
“If you don’t know what you are doing, renovating a semi is a potential disaster,” Chris noted.
“There are all sorts of factors to consider, and many of the issues you face are crucial to how quickly and smoothly the project will go.”
Issue 1: The Common Wall
Probably the biggest challenge of renovating a semi is that you must consider the easement, or common wall, that separates your home from your neighbour’s.
By law you can’t build over common property, so a specific system must be designed to ensure your builder creates a stable addition without encroaching on your neighbour and their property.
It’s one of the reasons Chris strongly suggests you use a builder with extensive experience of adding a floor to a semi.
“Over time, Addbuild has developed a strong and stable system that ensures we don’t rely on the common wall for support and use our own strong brick support. We also know how to incorporate that efficiently within the project’s planning.”
“It took Addbuild several years to perfect the ideal system to use, and even then, no two renovations are alike.”
“Addbuild has completed hundreds of different projects involving semi-detached homes, so we’re able to use that experience to ensure we can adapt our system to any particular scenario.” Chris explains.
Issue 2: The Neighbours
All renovations have an impact on neighbouring homes, but renovating a semi-detached home will also have a specific and greater impact on your neighbour in the other half of the semi.
Having your neighbour on side can be very important as a part of the whole renovation process.
“If you already have good relations with your neighbour, discuss the idea with them before you put your plans into your Local Council,” Chris suggests. “You might even be surprised to find that they also entertain ideas of renovating their home, and it’s then possible to renovate their semi at the same time as yours.”
Whilst uncommon, this does happen. Addbuild has built additions for a double-semi on several occasions and in one case, the neighbours agreed to stick to the same aesthetic which helped get their plans through council approval.
Issue 3: The Design
When designing an addition for a semi-detached home, you need to consider the streetscape.
Local Council’s will often look for designs that are sympathetic to both the streetscape and your local heritage style.
“This has further advantages because not only do we have designers with the experience of drawing up plans for semi-detached homes, they also understand how to create plans that minimise the ‘back and forth’ with your Local Council.”
“For example, our designers understand how the most successful designs with many Local Councils are those that build beyond the ridgeline.”
Issue 4: Access
The nature of a semi means that at least one side of the home won’t be accessible for your builder and tradespeople.
Your builder has to be resourceful and mindful of the potential problems.
Construction materials can be brought in through the laneway if there is one – most semi’s have a small laneway to the side of up to 1metre wide.
They can also be taken through the home’s hallway, even if it is narrow, as is often the case with a semi.
Again, this is where experience counts, and Addbuild’s history of working on hundreds of different semis means that we have had to work out the best solution to a myriad of access issues.
“Access can be a real hurdle if you don’t understand the options. It’s very easy to upset neighbours without intending to,” Chris notes.”It can happen with any renovation, but semis pose that extra conundrum of having even fewer access options, so once again, experience counts.”
Issue 5: It’s All Too Hard?
Chris implores homeowners not to give up if their dream is to expand their existing home because they love where they live.
“Whilst a semi does have its challenges, we’re confident we can find a great solution for anyone who owns one but has run out of space for their growing family.”
“Don’t give up and look to move home without exploring your options. Addbuild designers can create, at no cost to you, an obligation-free Design Proposal along with a preliminary estimate.”
Get In Touch
If you are considering expanding your semi, the Addbuild team is ready to apply the benefit of their experience to help you design and build your dream home. We’d love to hear from you. Contact us by calling (02) 8765 1555 or use our online form.