A guide to house building in South Africa

Case study 3: An extension

Cape Town, Hout Bay 2011.

We managed to build a compact, cool house on the mountain by investing all our money, and precious weekends. We created the garden one meter at a time, built a veggie patch from the left-over pallets and picked plant slips where we dared to fill our garden (you’ll be surprised how many things grow from a twig).

A few years down the line we added a pool, deck and cut the old pine tree that had died into huge furniture pieces. But with two raucous boys joining the fray, we realized we needed more space.

The TV/Play room and guest suite was the missing link. People that build also famously start feeling restless down the line and want to do it again once they learn all the tricks of the trade. Guilty as charged. I was ready to make the next house happen and we needed to make our house as marketable as possible.

I have to say, for resale value, four bedrooms is where it’s at. Two bedrooms is a hard sell (even if you don’t have kids), three is ok, but maximum value sits at four. Be it three beds/study, two beds/study/play room, three family bedrooms/guest suite – it’s an easy sell.

Renovating on an existing house while you live in it is hell. The best option you have is to enclose the entrance to the affected area with full shutter board and then tape it up (this is very important, because building dust gets in, no matter how small the gap).

I also got emergency tape and demarcated the no-go areas for all workers. Rest assured, if there is a beautiful flower bed you are trying to preserve, they will be sure to walk through it. Talking and asking nicely means nothing – demarcate rubbish/delivery/walking areas carefully.

The renovation was relatively painless as I’d found a great builder. A few months later our house felt twice the size.

Antique door combined with aluminium.

The good

I added a stone chimney to the corner where the new extension started. It provided a nice detail and made it look like a natural addition.

The extension created my first L-shaped house design. Great for intimacy, and more importantly in Cape Town, wind protection.

Also found some amazing reclaimed timber doors and shutters that added real charm.

The bad

Possibly played it too safe and used the same building materials/finishes as the main house. It could have been an ultra-mod extension – all glass and steel.

The ugly

There is no getting around the horrible mess a building renovation creates around you.

The final word

The extra living and bedroom area allowed us to sell our house quickly and we were set for a new project 100m away on one of the last remaining plots in our complex.

For more on the next project, click here.

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