The “Sexy Shed” Debate

There is a debate raging around my kitchen table:  Should the €5000 extension be connected to the house or should it be a stand alone structure? And if it is a detached structure, can it be called an extension at all or will it be an elaborate “sexy” shed?

Tree red and blue

The red shape represents the building that will connect to the house. The blue shape represents the stand alone structure. We have discussed the possibility of creating a glazed link or a corridor connecting the stand alone structure to the house. (see The Glazed Link Idea)  There is dissent on that point too.

Garden View SThe one thing we all do agree on is that it is essential that we preserve, if not enhance the view down the garden from the french doors in the kitchen.

So let us look at the pros and cons of an attached structure vs a stand alone one:

Attached: Pros

  • Access without having to go outside in inclement weather
  • Access for the user of the extension to the existing toilet and bathroom, which will certainly help the budget
  • More secure for younger users, can keep an eye and ear on the teenagers!
  • No need for planning permission (if it is under 40 sqm and if we do not demolish along shared boundaries: eg demolition of shared/adjoining buildings such as shed with the water meter and gas boiler.)

Attached: Cons

  • Forming a connection that works well is tricky as the result would block the view from the kitchen down the garden or take light from the bathroom which would take from the existing house instead of adding to it. To effectively connect via the utility room would mean demolishing along a boundary which requires planning permission anyway.
  •  Demolition is often expensive
  • Services such as the  gas boiler or drainage may need to be moved or relocated which can also be expensive and would take money from the budget which could perhaps be better spent.
  •  The house as it stands is fine. This is an experimental project using experimental construction techniques and materials. To interfere with the existing structure on such a tight budget for something so unpredictable is very risky.
  • The budget does not allow for reconfiguration of the existing ground floor to aid a more successful connection. Connecting via the utility room for example might require a redoing of the kitchen or flooring- we cannot afford that

Detached: Pros

  •  No demolition or altering of existing structure in any way. This allows the project to be as experimental as it likes and take as long as it needs to be built. My day-to-day life will not be affected and the existing house will not be affected by way of: structure; services; insurances; fire safety; layout; resale value, etc etc
  • The budget will feed 100% into the new build.
  •  A detached structure is more flexible in terms of placement in the garden and is not hampered by the need to create a connection. Probably better for neighbour relations.

Detached: Cons

  • New build will need to be fully serviced in terms of plumbing etc but this is not a particularly big problem according to our building team.
  • Planning permission will be necessary which extends the time scale and has the risk of being denied. This also requires the involvement of an assigned certifier to sign off on the finished product. This may in turn extend the budget .
  • Access to the existing house is exposed to the elements, unless we create a sheltered link, That link will not be heated as that would be totally outside our budget.
the boiler and services in the utility room which may have to be demolished if we attach here

The boiler and services in the utility room which may have to be demolished if we attach here

view of coal shed which now houses the boiler

Exterior view of the utility room, which may have to be demolished to make way for an attached extension

For those of you who want to look at the architects drawings click Survey 

When I put the question Is it still an extension if it is a stand alone structure? to the young architects on the team, they replied by defining the word extension and leaving the answer open:

“There are a few definitions for the word ‘extension’ for example: ‘a component that is added to something to improve it’ or ‘a room or rooms added to an existing building’. Neither of these states explicitly that the extension is physically attached to the existing. Perhaps it depends on what the extension is doing for its owner and how it is adding to what they already have. By the first definition if it is ‘improving’ what is already there then it is an extension. On the other hand an extension traditionally describes a physical ‘extending’ of an existing dwelling through attachment. It seems like the term is open to interpretation and really depends on how it is fulfilling its users needs and what they view it as. “

And you dear reader? What are your thoughts? Bearing in mind that we only have 5 grand to spend -Do we attach? Will we go for a stand alone? If we do go for a separate structure is it still an extension? Let us hear what you have to say.


4 thoughts on “The “Sexy Shed” Debate

  1. Aisling

    It’s a very tough call with so many pros and cons on either side. I think that it really comes back to why you are extending and what you’d like to gain from the extension apart from the experience of the challenge. In practical terms I’d say you’d use it a lot more if it were attached but I hear the issues of light being affected in the bathroom as well as the view of the garden. Maybe ask yourself the question – what one day-today living issue would I really like to have solved by this extension and which solution best meets that need?

    The blog is great – very clear and interesting, lovely photos too. Keep up the good work…

    1. natasha5kextension Post author

      Thank you Aisling. Food for thought! The issue of light is indeed very important. Given the poor Irish weather I do need to maximise on light.
      I suppose the one day to day living issue I may like to have solved is the potential somehow to be able to earn an income from the space, either by renting it or using the space to free up a room in the house or a workspace to help grow my own practice. Good question!

  2. Mads

    Great blog with many interesting ideas. I love the idea of recycling items to use in the build. Re the argument for extension attached or not to the house. I would go for unattached with that budget as you could build something really interesting for 5K with less hassle. It would be nice to have some structure linking the extension to the main house even if that’s just a roof to protect from rain. If your ‘shed’ is a peaceful nice space then no amount of awful Irish weather will keep you away from it.

    1. natasha5kextension Post author

      Thank you for the lovely comment and opinion, Mads. Indeed,it is in the human condition to take refuge and shelter in a welcoming, useful, and beautiful space. A sheltered walkway would be good, I think that may be extraneous to our budget for the moment, maybe later


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