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Building Onto a Side Return for Extra Space

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 3 Mar 2017 | comments*Discuss
Side Return Extension Space Kitchen

If you own a Victorian or Edwardian property it is more than likely that there is a side return running along the side of your kitchen or dining room. Renovators commonly use this space to add to the value of properties by extending a kitchen or dining room, adding a conservatory, building a garden or summer house, or even just putting up a shed to provide covered storage.

History of the Side Return

When these houses were built the side return was a necessary addition, giving access to the outside toilet and providing space to store wood or coal for the fireplace and cooker.

Nowadays people can go to the bathroom indoors when nature calls, and electricity or gas has done away with the need for a personal stash of coal or wood.

New Uses for Old Space - Kitchen

A popular choice when enclosing a side return is a kitchen extension, although it is one of the more expensive options. The existing kitchen wall running along the side of the house can be knocked down to create a large open area that can then be utilised in any way you see fit. The expense comes from the removal of this wall and the installation of new supporting structures to replace the strength.

Combining a kitchen extension with a new kitchen design and re-fit can transform the space into something quite spectacular. Some examples include using glass sliding door at the rear of the kitchen so that it integrates with the garden.

Bring in the Light

Being at the back of the house, the kitchen is often small and gets less natural light compared with other rooms, like a living room with tall bay window. By enclosing a side return and extending your kitchen you can change this, giving your kitchen a light and airy feel.

As well as lots of glass in the new end wall you can install glass skylights into the new roof covering the side return. This should all provide stacks of natural light to brighten up the kitchen.

How About a Conservatory?

If you decide on a conservatory as the most suitable way to use the space provided by your side return, get some advice from some reputable conservatory installers. Check to see if they have experience of building a side return conservatory before, and look at some photos to see what can be achieved. If possible try to visit some homes that have already had a conservatory installed in their side return to get some ideas on design and layout.

Conservatories can be built around the existing wall, or you can knock the wall down and link your conservatory to your kitchen and dining room. If you do decide on keeping the wall separating the two, make sure you use plenty of glass in the conservatory so that the kitchen still receives a good deal of natural light from its side window.

Garden Rooms

A garden room is another way that the space wasted by a side return can be made useful again. A garden room provides a place to sit and enjoy your garden when the weather is not quite desirable enough to sit outside. These can be quite cheap to build, especially if you use wood and clear plastic to construct it. Also you don’t have to worry so much about insulation and damp proofing as you would with a kitchen extension or conservatory, as effectively it is an outside construction, not a full part of the house.

Shed or Summer House

A shed is an option that should not be overlooked too. These can be constructed without spending a great deal of money and will provide plenty of space for things like bicycles, sports equipment, tins of paint, garden tools, and whatever else you have cluttering up the house. You could also build a wooden summer house in the space if it's wide enough to take it.

A lean-to shed is probably the most suitable option. If the shed is going to be used purely for storage you could use wood for the walls and door, and cover the top with a clear plastic roof to save money. If you want to use the shed as a workshop or plan to spend lots of time in there, perhaps consider using bricks and glass to improve its looks and length of life.

Consider the Options Before Acting

You have a variety of options when deciding what to do with the new space in your home created by building on a side return. Think carefully about how you can best use the space and how much money you have to spend on the project before making a decision.

Once you have decided what you want to use your side return for you can go about making the necessary arrangements. By enclosing your side return you can utilise wasted space, enjoy a new room to spend time in, and add to the value of your property.

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Ann - Your Question:
Hello. I want to have a side return built onto my end of terrace victorian home. Will it be cheaper to have a flat roof, full extension with the appropriate roof lights, or a pitched roof with velux windows? Thanks for you help. Ann

Our Response:
There are pros and cons to all the options, sometimes it's best not to always opt for the cheapest, you might for example, want to factor in re-sell value etc. We don't have all the information relevant to give a helpful answer, you'd be better asking a builder for an opinion.
ExtensionBuild - 6-Mar-17 @ 2:34 PM
Hello. I want to have a side return built onto my end of terrace victorian home.However, would it be cheaper to have it with a flat roof extension- like a rectangular attachment- (with the appropriate roof lights) or a pitched roof(at an angle) with velux windows? Thanks for your help. Ann
Ann - 3-Mar-17 @ 9:40 PM
Hello.I want to have a side return built onto my end of terrace victorian home.Will it be cheaper to have a flat roof, fullextension with theappropriate roof lights, or a pitched roof with velux windows?Thanks for you help. Ann
Ann - 3-Mar-17 @ 3:34 PM
hi am hoping you can help me my grandson has recently purchased a solid annexe to add to an existing building however they are not to sure how to attach thisi have searched the net for videos on how to do,this to no availcan you recommend a site that will have a dvd to show them howmany thanks regards cath
cath - 23-Jun-12 @ 5:55 AM
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