Unless you have been on an expedition to planet Mars in the last 12 months or so, you must have experienced the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic in the country and the world in general. Our professional life has been hit harder than most. With what we have come to define as normal life thrown out the window before our very own eyes.
No thanks to Covid-19, we have realised that many jobs can be done from home. Thanks to technology, we can still stay connected with our colleagues or partners through the many excellent communication and collaboration tools available today. Sound easy? Not quite. Working from home, it won’t take you much time to realise the shortcomings of using the default configuration of your home surroundings for work purposes.
You Need The Right Space
When the architect or developer was brainstorming the design of your house, the idea of a home office probably never crossed their mind for more than a second. And that’s very much expected. I mean, the majority of Irish homes were designed when things were ‘normal’, as normal can be. The reality of the present situation means more and more companies and individuals are joining the work-from-home bandwagon. No doubt, working from home can be very fruitful and fulfilling. However, it can be a real challenge distinguishing between work time and home time.
For you to be productive and effective working from home, you’ll need to mentally and physically differentiate between work time and home time, while blocking out the distractions that are bound to be present in the home. Hence, a dedicated office or work area has never been more crucial for your professional life.
The clamour for a dedicated home office has never been more feverish than we are experiencing now. If you’re one of the homeowners across Ireland that are looking to extend their homes to create space for a much-needed home office, you are reading the right blog. Here at JEArchitecture we have the experience and skill to help with your new home office.
Assessing The Options For Your Home Office
If you’re desperately in need of more space in your home without having to break the bank with a costly renovation, there are quite a few options available to you. 90% of the time, one of the following option would be enough to create ample room for your home office purposes:
- Attic Conversion
- Garden Room/Pod
- House Extension
If you’re very lucky, your home may be suitable for all three options mentioned above. One of the reasons for their appeal to Irish homeowners is that you may not need planning permission before you can carry out the alterations.
For the rest of the article, we will explore these options in-depth to help you decide which one works best for your home office requirements.
Attic and Loft Conversions: All You Need to Know
The typical home comes with an attic. To some, it gives the rooftop a beautiful structure. To most, it’s just a big, messy space at the top of the house that is good for nothing other than storage for junk stuff. You probably have been using it for nothing!
You need to have more lofty ideas! If you need more space in your home, looking in the direction of the attic should probably be your first call. In our experience, it’s the easiest and straightforward option for most homeowners. It can be the perfect solution to your home office problems.
By working on your attic to create more space for your home office, you do yourself two important favours: first, it stops you from going into your garden or take on an expensive extension. Secondly, it increases the value of your home – making it a smart investment.
But first things first, before you even start drooling over how beautiful you’re going to make your attic look more than your sitting room, let’s address some important hurdles, shall we?
Strictly speaking, your contractor or architect would be in the best place to tell you whether you can squeeze a home office out of your attic without falling foul of any regulations. However, here’s how to see things like a professional.
Is The Attic a Suitable Candidate For a Home Office Conversion?
By converting your attic or loft to an office, you will invariably add more weight to your home. Hence, you must know that your house’s foundation can withstand the additional weight, in the vast majority of cases and attic conversion will make not cause any additional load to your existing foundations. However do understand that failure to do due diligence could be catastrophic.
Even if you’re just flooring the attic, which is going to add less stress on the building, you’ll still need to be sure the ceiling joists can hold any other additional weights they’ll be subjected to.
Since you’re converting for a home office and not a storage, it means you’re going to be doing far more re-engineering on your attic to make it useable. If you solicit the help of an architect or structural engineer, they will advise you on how to reinforce the structure: this may be adding extra steel or joists to give the attic more strength.
Is There Enough Room in The Attic To Fit A Home Office?
The first thing you want to check is whether your attic has enough headspace to allow you to stand up fully. Because there’s little point in creating a work area where you can’t move or walk about freely.
One of the major eaters of space in the attic is the presence of an overhead water tank or plumbing systems. If you still have enough space even in the presence of those, you’re lucky. Otherwise, you’ll have to move them to another location. But that is not always possible or straightforward.
Whether your attic is suitable for a home office depends on the type of work you do and the work environment you need in place. If you’re that person on a desk pressing keys on a laptop, taking phone calls, and making sense of a bunch of documents – then an attic conversion may just be the perfect fit for your home office. A good number of work-from-home employees fall into that category from our experience.
Attic or Loft Conversions Options
There are a few options you can choose from when converting your attic to serve a more useful purpose. Some of these options are more complicated than others so they do free up a varying amount of space for you to fit in a home office.
The type of attic conversion most suitable for you will come down to the following;
- The shape and line of your existing roof
- Your budget
- Your existing planning permission
Here are the 3 basic types of Loft or Attic conversions prevalent among Irish homes:
Non-habitable Loft Conversions
This is the simplest and most straightforward option where you don’t have to alter the existing external structure of your roof. Hence, from the outside, your roof and building structure would remain the same. Only the addition of windows and floor reinforcement is needed to transform the attic into a conducive environment for your home office.
- Less likely to require planning permission
- Ordinarily cheaper than other types of loft conversions.
- Easy and quick to complete. You can have additional storage space by utilising the eaves.
- Require about 2.25m of head height in the middle of the room.
- Doesn’t open up any more useful space that wasn’t there before.
- The stairs are more likely to come up in the middle of the room where there’s usually more headspace.
- Cannot be classed as habitable when selling your house and must be clased as a storage room.
Dormer Loft Conversion
Most Irish homes spot a dormer conversion, specifically the simple flat-roof dormer. The result is a box-like structural extension that projects vertically from the slope of the existing roof. Despite the description we have given above, expect no dramatic changes to the roof of your house.
- You get conventional windows
- Increase the amount of additional space
- Good natural lighting and ventilation
- Suitable for most Irish home
- You get a straight-walled and flat roof home office
- More expensive compared to Straightforward Loft Conversions
- If you’re the artsy type, you probably won’t like the look of your roof
- It will defiantly require planning permission
Mansard or Gable Loft Conversions
A Mansard or Gable loft conversion is constructed by raising the wall shared with your neighbour, usually on the rear side of your house, with the roof remaining flat while one outer wall slope gently inwards. They are most commonly found in terrace houses. Although, they are suitable for most type of houses too.
- Can be very stylish
- There’s usually more headroom and even more space compared with any other type of attic conversion.
- You have more lighting options to incorporate
- You need planning permission to do A Mansard loft conversion and this can be difficult
- The most expensive type of attic conversion you can encounter
- Usually takes a long time to finish compared to the other options discussed
Garden/Rod Home Office: All You Need to Know
Working from home can be a very new experience for those of us who are not used to it. Even though for most of us, Covid-19 did force the decision on us.
However, it can be a very pleasant experience yet. It does get too routine working from conventional offices or buildings. Sometimes, as humans, we just crave something different. If you’re idyllic like me, a Garden Home Office may just be the perfect fire to help rekindle your professional enthusiasm. Working while being surrounded by mother nature feels like a great environment for a productive and enjoyable session. Also, having a dedicated work area separate from your main building helps you manage work time without the distractions of your home.
Before we go start thinking that far, there are some important hurdles to overcome…
Planning Permission For Your Garden Office
Planning and development regulations allow for certain exempt when erecting structures around the house. In the exempted development regulations schedule, proposed developments are grouped into classes that are differentiated based on size, height, purposes and proximity to neighbours.
Generally, a garden office with a maximum floor area of 25sq m is within exempt developments. Once you move above those restrictions, you are no longer exempted and planning permission will have to be obtained.
Also, the form of construction, whether the roof is flat or pitched, the external finish will all have an impact on the planning permission or exemption. Also, you should clearly define whether the room is commercial and if you’re going to be receiving visitors from there.
Our professional advice; if you’re not going to be doing the designing and development yourself, you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble by contacting a registered architect and or a registered building contractor to handle the development (everything) for you. Similarly, for every significant project, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
How to Turn a Shed Into a Garden Office
If you have access to a shed, great! You can easily reconfigure your shed to serve as a comfortable garden office with a few tweaks here and there. So, it’s time to get our hands dirty!
Step 1: Plan Before Diving in With a Hammer
First, ask yourself the type of office you want and what essentials you need to do your work comfortably and effectively.
Do you need lighting? What about electricity? Also, will you need your laptop? And does the internet go with it? Once you have a list of all the things you need, then you can proceed with the next steps.
Step 2: Mech & Elec Systems
Lighting, electricity, heating, and insulation systems are essential requirements to make your garden shed conducive for living and working.
You want to be able to work in your office, no matter what time of the day it is. The heating system will make it possible to work whatever the time of the year. While insulation protects your installations from weather conditions like dampness and excessive sunlight.
Step 2: The Office Essentials
Furniture, tables, work desks, storages and other accessories fall under the office essentials. Whatever type of job you intend to do in your home office, you’ll need a good number of those. Remember to only take what’s needed. Space is a premium and you don’t want to accommodate two chairs if you’re only going to be working alone.
Step 4: Consider Your Particular Work Tools and Equipment
Of course, this largely has to do with what your work entails. Things like electricity and internet connectivity are just some of those things that cut across Jobs.
If you’re an artist, then you will need natural light with a lot of space to allow unhindered movement.
If you’re a writer, a particularly large office desk may just be your most essential piece of furniture. Enough table area for your writing materials, books, and gadgets like laptop, headphones, etc.
House Extension: All You Need To Know
When we purchase our homes, it’s hard to predict how much space we will need down the line. Yes, that’s even before Corona Virus came and turned everything on its head.
There are many reasons why you may want to extend your house to create more space. Although, at this unprecedented time of our lives, office space seems to be everyone’s reason.
Extending For An Office Space
Extending your surrounding space for a home office can make all the difference for your work life. Having a dedicated workplace shut out the distractions and allows you to work productively. The good thing about an extension is that you have the most flexibility for your requirements.
If you’re considering adding an extension to your home to maximize every available space, we have analysed some of the common routes most Irish homeowners take to get there.
Cost of An Extension
Certainly, the cost of any extension endeavour largely depends on the type that you opt for. Even your location and finishing can impact the cost too.
Popular Options to Consider
- Ground Floor Extension
A n extension to the rear of the house which is under 40 sq.m will not require planning permission. Any extensions to the side will require planning permission. Although this option is going to be more expensive per square foot than the other options, it is likely the option that will add the most value to your house. The design and size of your extension is ultimately going to be decided upon by your budget. Expect to start at €40,000 for the simplest of office extensions.
- Basement Extension
Your basement can serve more purposes than housing, say, basement stuff. Extending to your basement is a riskier option, especially if no basement is there before. Aside from your preference, extending into your basement may be the only viable option if you have very limited space around your house.
To protect your property above, a basement excavation will require specialized knowledge. So, ensure that your plans are being executed by an architect, engineer and registered building contractor.
This is not really feasible in most Irish properties and from a cost perspective we found in our experience to always be ruled out. Expect to pay twice what you think if you are looking to create a basement.
- Garage Conversion
A garage Conversion is a prudent choice in many ways. A lot of the essentials are already in place: roof, walls, a floor and a foundation. You just need to do enough to make it suitable for living.
Your garage will most likely be large enough to be sufficient for most of your work area requirements. You just have to know what you need and allow an architect to draw up a plan for you. You can generally not expect to pay more than €20,000 to have everything set up for a home office.
Common Cost to Expect No Matter The Type Of Extension
Regardless of the type of extension, here are the common costs you should budget for:
- Mech & Elec System:
Things like heating, ventilation, cooling and insulation are all essentials that keep whichever option you opt for conducive and liveable. It’s advisable to seek expert advice on such issues so that you’re sure your work area is healthy and safe to stay in.
Plumbing systems and water heating would need to be installed if you want a bathroom and kitchen within your home office.
This ramp up the cost somewhat so you should be sure you absolutely need it. The idea of having almost everything you’ll need in your work area is tempting, but ask yourself the pertinent questions: do you need to install a separate bathroom or kitchen? You can certainly do anything else you want inside the main house aside work.
So, there you go. Making a choice out of the 3 major options for a home office is not going to be easy, or straightforward. However, an attic conversion generally is the cheapest and simplest choice. While a house extension provides you with the best opportunity to be flexible, but you pay the highest price. A garden office seem like a middle ground between two extremes here.
Have a hard time making a decision? Give us a shout at JEArchitecture, we are a Dublin based architects practice specialising in domestic architecture.