Could my home extension be finished in time for Christmas 2022


We have had a number of clients in Newcastle and the North East unsure about timescales for their build projects as contractors, designers and materials are becoming increasingly in demand. Let’s take a look at the situation in our area.

2021 has certainly been a strange time for wannabe home extenders. A number of factors have come together to form a bit of a perfect storm. In this blog post, I (Alistair Crerar, MD here at Acre Design) wanted to give my thoughts on the situation, having spoken to hundreds of  stakeholders in the industry in 2021 (and over the last 8 years of running Acre Design). Every day I speak to builders, agents, clients & planners about the residential extension sector, this small part of the construction industry that Acre Design works within, and loves with all its heart – if a small architectural practice can have a heart (I think it can). 

 Many people have been able to save money during the past two years where usual spending behaviours (holidays, going out…) have been restricted.  This, coupled with massive changes in working patterns (working from home becoming commonplace) led many to think about extending their home. At Acre Design, we saw an incredible demand peak early in the year. This made sense, a lot of people spent ALL of their time within the four walls of their home (the one exception was that one hour exercise window in lockdown one). Of course we started to look to see what we can do to improve our lives at home, or at the very least, adapt things to make things a little more comfortable and organised.  

With this extra cash in the bank and being locked away 23 hours of the day, a rise in house prices also really started kicking in at the start of the year as people sought greener pastures. Estate agents we spoke with told us that in North Tyneside and areas of Newcastle, houses have gone for £80k over the vendors’ asking prices! This isn’t on mansions either, these are pretty standard houses, which happen to be in truly lovely parts of our beautiful North East of England. House price inflation has certainly ramped up over the last 12 months, meaning that by re-mortgaging, more equity could be released should funding be needed for extending. And if credit isn’t required, it makes extending much more viable, as our future clients wouldn’t be breaking the ceiling price anymore.  

One other unquantifiable with limited data is the feeling that there is a bit of a migration North, possibly due to high prices down South, and the ability to work from home. It looks as though many people are cashing in their chips, selling their properties in London and the South and buying up large, period homes in the North East – Northumberland and North Tyneside in particular.  At Acre Design,  we have had half a dozen clients who have done that this year. Can we blame them? It’s a glorious place to live!

Things have died down a little since the end of the Summer, when the kids went back to school, and people tentatively started heading back to the office. However, in many cases, this return isn’t as permanent or full time as it once was, and with more time spent at home, the little bug bears about lack of space, storage, number of toilets, washing machine rumbles in zoom meeting backgrounds continues to grow and demand remains consistently high.  

We are now in October, and people are getting in touch, hoping to find a builder for a spring start. I am afraid that even in normal times that is just not realistic. We monitor closely each of our clients’ projects and the average design process takes eight weeks. There are big decisions to make, and clients need to make the right decisions as they will be the ones living with them when works are complete. With a hard working team and regular weekly meetings with clients, we can move quickly at each stage of the design process, but we will usually need to wait whilst clients mull over their options.  

For clients who go ahead today with Acre Design, we can forecast that in eight weeks  (December now… yikes!) there will be a detailed set of technical & construction drawings ready to go to a contractor with. These plans really are the minimum the contractor will need to be able to submit the quotes back to Acre Design or directly to the client dependant on the level of services a client has opted to use us for.  

Last week I spoke with Neil at Modern Living Projects  and also James Dickinson from JWD and they both agreed with me about the demand peaks at the moment, and that their order books will be full until September and late August respectively. That doesn’t leave much availability to get a build project complete in time to celebrate Christmas in 2022. 

These time frames are from two large, local contractors, but this is synonymous with what I’ve heard from others in the industry. There will be availability left for next Summer, but I think Spring is now out of the question. If you are thinking of extending and you’d like to try and find a gap in a diary for next year, the best bet is to start the design phase now, and be at peace with an early 2023 start on site, because if you can’t have Christmas in your extension, you certainly will be able to look forward to relaxing and enjoying your brand new extended dream home, whatever gets thrown at us over the coming years! 

As part of our mission to keep our customers updated with industry developments, we will continue to monitor the situation. For more information on extending your home or to find out how we can help design your next residential building development, get in touch with us at Acre Design on 0191 680 8088 or e-mail Our friendly, experienced staff are waiting to take your call.

We hope that you find this information helpful, at Acre Design Newcastle we are passionate about all things sustainable and innovative.
Take a look at our recent projects for further inspiration! Get in touch to arrange a free feasibility discussion with Alistair. 

Information on Planning Permission Impact from Leading Newcastle Architectural Design Firm

17 Aug COVID -19 and the planning process in England – should we expect delays

Most industries have had to make changes to their processes and the way they work due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I write this information from my own home; which seems to have become the new norm for a number of workers in Britain. A number of clients have been unsure of the impact of the pandemic on planning applications and the planning process in England and the North East, so we have put together a brief bit of information which will hopefully offer some reassurance to those wanting to undertake a home extension, renovation or self-build project.

Former Chief Planner, Steve Quartermain, summarised the situation well, stating that we need to be ‘practical’, ‘pragmatic’ and ‘plan for recovery’. This seems to be exactly the line taken by our local councils (Northumberland, Newcastle, Gateshead, North Tyneside and South Tyneside). At Acre Design, we have found that applications are moving forwards at a steady and, on the whole, ‘normal’ pace.

Planners working at our local Councils seem to be keeping up with applications and communications and like many businesses, working from home seems to be suiting their process well. All local councils have been responsive and helpful, which has been reassuring and has enabled us to maintain usual timescales on most of our projects. Some local authorities have taken a little longer to respond than others, however it hasn’t been too problematic for our clients. We have seen a very pragmatic response to the extension of applications due to lapse where this has been necessary.

Understandably, the public can no longer visit a Council office/library or send comments by letter and Acre Design cannot submit hard copy applications at this time. However, this is not our usual process, our preference has always been for a speedier, electronic application.

In addition, temporary legislation has been introduced to assist businesses during the recovery period, for example, by granting temporary permitted development rights for a range of developments that would normally require planning permission. Further guidance on these and other measures introduced to make it easier to operate the planning system at this time  is available on the Government’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Planning update webpage here :

I hope this offers some reassurance on the impact of Covid-19 on Planning Applications in the UK. We have been delighted by the level of communication and support given by our local Councils during this unusually challenging time and expect no serious delays in coming applications.

As part of our mission to keep our customers updated with industry developments, we will continue to monitor the situation. For more information on the cost of building materials or to find out how we can help design your next residential building development, get in touch with us at Acre Design on 0191 680 8088 or e-mail Our friendly, experienced staff are waiting to take your call.

We hope that you find this information helpful, at Acre Design Newcastle we are passionate about all things sustainable and innovative.
Take a look at our recent projects for further inspiration! Get in touch to arrange a free feasibility discussion with Alistair. 

2021 Building Materials

The cost of building material in 2021

It is no secret that the cost of building materials has risen sharply over the past year. For companies working in the construction industry, sourcing materials at a competitive price has often been a challenge due to a lack of supply and steeply rising costs. All construction firms large and small have witnessed this impact. For residential and commercial customers requiring building work, there is no denying that the cost of materials has increased prices overall. While it is still possible to provide customers with value for money, unfortunately, higher material costs inevitably mean paying more — at least in the short term.

There are several reasons for this, most notably the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020/21. But other issues, such as the uncertainty and extra paperwork surrounding ‘Brexit’, leading to longer lead times for deliveries from the continent, have also had an impact. Similarly, issues surrounding the supply chain and a lack of lorry drivers have played a part. As has the so-called ‘pingdemic’ of workers self-isolating due to coronavirus. This ‘perfect storm’ of factors has resulted in a shortage of supply of materials and greater demand, which in turn has skyrocketed prices to levels we have not seen for decades.

In the UK, construction is one of the few industries that continued to fully operate throughout the coronavirus crisis. Demand for materials has therefore been consistently high throughout this entire period. And since approximately 60% of building materials are imported from the EU, this has created even greater challenges. Supply chains have been strained and uncertainty surrounding Brexit means suppliers have had their own challenges to deal with.

Timber, roofing tiles, bagged cement, and even steel are among the building materials that have seen significant price rises due to insufficient supply. The cost of timber, in particular, has increased considerably. Imported plywood, for example, is almost 30% more costly than it was at this time last year, according to data from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Industry experts predict that material prices will continue to be inflated in the latter part of 2021 and possibly into next 2022. As production increases, we may see prices eventually levelling out, especially if supply chain issues are resolved.

As part of our mission to keep our customers updated with industry developments, we will continue to monitor the situation. For more information on the cost of building materials or to find out how we can help design your next residential building development, get in touch with us at Acre Design on 0191 680 8088 or e-mail Our friendly, experienced staff are waiting to take your call.

We hope that you find this information helpful, at Acre Design Newcastle we are passionate about all things sustainable and innovative.
Take a look at our recent projects for further inspiration! Get in touch to arrange a free feasibility discussion with Alistair. 

Robie Evans

Senior Architect Joins the Team at Acre Design

Last week, we welcomed Robbie Evans, a Senior Architect based in Newcastle, to our team of creatives at Acre Design. Robbie is going to be an asset to our team and we can’t wait to share some of his projects with you – keep an eye on our Recent Projects page.

I asked Robbie a few questions to give you an insight into his values and background as an Architect…

What inspired you to become an Architect?

This is always a tough question as I’m not completely sure. I think subconsciously it was from my childhood. My neighbour was a builder and was constantly renovating and extending his house and I used to go over and help. As I got a bit older though, I decided that I was more interested in the design aspect, rather than the hands-on labour.

What are essential qualities that an Architect should have?

A good eye for detail, good communication skills, both verbally and visually. But most importantly be able to party. We work hard, but we play harder!

Where did you study and what were your highlights from your student years?

I completed my entire architectural education at Newcastle University. The highlight of this was being involved in a live build project as part of my Masters degree.

What have been the highlights of your career so far?

My biggest highlight would be the live build project in Kielder Forest. I was part of a team of 9 students that designed and then built a new bird hide on the edge of Bakethin Reservoir in Kielder.

What do you love most about your job?

The thing I love most about my job is the process of designing something tangible. Taking the client on a journey from an initial idea in their head and making it a reality for them.

What are your goals for the future?

My goals for the future are all about progression and making myself the best Architect I can be. There is always something new to learn and that is what makes the job so exciting.

Are you concerned about environmental and social sustainability in your work?

Absolutely. As an Architect we have a duty of care and need to think about the wider impact of our work. It is not all about providing beautiful architecture for the client.

Who inspires you?

Personally, I think the people around me (colleagues, friends, family) are the ones that inspire me most. They are the people that will always provide support and advice and push you to produce your best.

What are the most interesting recent developments in architecture?

I think the most important developments in architecture are to do with the improvements in materials and technology that enable us as designers to create beautiful designs that are sustainable. The regulations are becoming more stringent with a big change coming in 2025 to lead the construction industry in the UK to net zero carbon figures.

Tell us a bit about yourself… What are your hobbies and interests outside work?

Outside of work I enjoy cooking, eating and drinking as standard, but I also enjoy DIY. I plan to get into a little bit of property developing alongside Architecture in the next few years. I have also recently started making furniture as a little side hustle in my spare time.

Robbie Evans Designs

"Robbie(You can check out Robbie’s furniture and DIY on his awesome Instagram page here)

If you had just one piece of advice for an aspiring architect, what would it be?

Try it out first, and get some work experience. It is a highly rewarding job and a great career, but it is also a massive commitment. You are setting yourself up for 7 years more of education and learning at university to become qualified and you need to make sure it’s 100% what you want to do.

Thanks, Robbie!

We hope that you find this information helpful, at Acre Design Newcastle we are passionate about all things sustainable and innovative. We would love to discuss your project with you in detail.

Take a look at our recent projects for further inspiration! Get in touch to arrange a free feasibility discussion with Alistair. 

Useful Rainwater System Information

Some helpful rainwater system advice from Yeonman rainguard

We love working with other local businesses to help provide our clients with the best advice possible. Here, Yeoman Rainguard give us their tips on choosing the right rainwater system for your self-build, home extension or house renovation project…

Yeoman Rainguard‘s head office and warehouse is based in Leeds and they have been providing quality rainwater systems for over 30 years. They are happy to discuss any project in detail from initial concept for new developments to full surveys for existing projects or refurbishment.

Yeoman Rainguard

There’s an abundance of choice when it comes to selecting rainwater systems, with a wide variety of aesthetically pleasing products available for any building project. However, it’s important to consider the environmental hazards your project will be exposed to when deciding on the right system.

While aesthetics are important, selecting guttering and downpipes require a deeper consideration of the environment the system is going into. You’ll need to consider:

  • If your project is taking place in a heritage or conservation area – you may need to select a material that respects the original character of a property
  • Level of water flow – in areas that receive heavy rainfall, some materials will be better suited.
  • Snow load – again, when snow and ice are a factor your material selection will be affected.
  • Expected lifecycle – some materials offer a longer lifecycle and more lasting durability but may come at an increased cost.

Yeoman RainguardGuarding Against Weather

Protect your property from the ingress of water by selecting a durable rainwater system that guards against water damage and damp. Combining aesthetic value with durability is important – as even the best-looking system must also be able to handle heavy downpours.

A good system must also be able to retain its aesthetics when the sun comes out not discolouring or cracking when the temperature rises. One that can withstand a heavy snow load if required without becoming misshapen and which is also the right size to take the water flow from your roof.

Heritage and Durability Through Metal

All the above considered, a metal rainwater system is the only way to attain the right combination of hardwearing durability and aesthetic properties that can withstand the factors we’ve covered.

However, there are lots of different choices when it comes to metal guttering. How do you select the right one for your project? We’ve broken it down for you:


Aluminium guttering is supplied with either a smooth or textured finish adding a stylish touch. The range of gutter profiles, pipe shapes and sizes along with a choice of colours and ornate accessories such as ear bands, will help to tailor this product to the character of your dwelling.

A deep flow gutter is available to cope with high volumes of water flow from the roof, avoiding overflow and splashing.

The gutters will also be strong enough to accommodate heavy snow loads – through the addition of extra fixing brackets in areas of concern is recommended.

The addition of a joint clip fixing method on the gutters which doesn’t require mechanical fixings or welding joints will make it both quicker and easier to install. Aluminium offers a long service life of over 30 years and is fully recyclable.

Cast Iron

This classical rainwater system which has been popular since the 1700s is acceptable for use on listed and heritage buildings. A heavier material than aluminium, cast iron guttering offers the same durable properties with a 40-year or more life expectancy, however, a small amount of maintenance such as repainting can further extend this.

A range of traditional gutter profiles, and decorative ear bands along with the addition of stylish rainwater hoppers can certainly ensure that the feel of old and historical buildings is reflected.

Cast iron is fully recyclable and through the natural oxidisation process, it aids in the growth of green and planktonic life.

Yeoman RainguardCopper

These materials are chameleon-like, changing patina over time adding depth and colour to the rainwater system. They are a great choice for structures that are timber clad, oak framed or indeed garden houses whose exteriors also change colour as the wood ages, adding to their beauty.

The attractive patina caused by oxidisation also functions as an exceptional, natural defence against the elements, making them a good choice of material to be used on coastal properties where erosion by the salt in the atmosphere can be a concern.

Copper gutters & downpipes have proven durability having been used successfully for many generations offering an almost unlimited life service.

A natural truly sustainable and 100% recyclable material, copper also acts as an algaecide and fungicide helping to keep moss and lichen growth to a minimum, proving to be a maintenance-free system. It’s also a great choice for those wanting to harvest rainwater.

These rainwater systems are made from lightweight materials and do require a little more care to be taken when delivering and installing, with the use of gloves at all stages a necessity.

Yeoman RainguardAdvice from the experts

Still, confused over which system to select? We’d be happy to talk through your project’s requirements and discuss our recommendations. Get in contact with Yeoman Rainguard on 0113 279 5854,, or download a brochure from

Yeoman RainguardWe hope that you find this information helpful, at Acre Design Newcastle we are passionate about all things sustainable and innovative. We would love to discuss your project with you in detail.

Take a look at our recent projects for further inspiration! Get in touch to arrange a free feasibility discussion with Alistair. 

Building a Timber Frame Extension


At Acre Design, we love timber frame as a construction method for building an extension. Timber frame construction is great because it can often save you money and it is nice and quick to build. On top of this, it is a sustainable building material. When people are choosing to extend their homes, timber frame is becoming more and more popular in Newcastle and the North East, due to these benefits. It is also becoming a really popular method for constructing new build homes. Masonry is still a favoured choice for many, however we will discuss the pros and cons when compared with timber frame.

What is timber frame construction?

Timber frame is the term for a construction system utilising panelised structural walls and floors. These are constructing using small sections of timber studs, clad with boarding. The timber frame carries the vertical and horizontal loads to the foundations of your home. If you require your structural shell to be erected quickly or if you are expecting poor weather conditions (common in Newcastle), a timber frame is a great solution.

The timber frame can be prefabricated and brought on-site to be erected or using the ‘stick build’ method, your carpenter will construct the frame onsite. Platform frame is the most commonly used method in the UK. Using this method, each storey is framed with floor-to-ceiling height panels and the floor deck of one floor becomes the erection platform of the next.

Unfortunately, you may find it tricky to find a manufacturer who will prefabricate a timber frame for your extension, they tend to prefer to construct whole homes. Extensions tend to require quite a bit more technical input than new builds. However, where very accurate measurements of the existing home are provided, this is sometimes possible. Prefabricated timber frames can also be very costly to transport, which puts a lot of buyers and manufacturers off.

So, the vast majority of extensions in England are built using stick build timber frame construction. The carpenter would then be able to make your panels to suit your project, onsite. Timber frame construction usually requires less deliveries of materials when compared with other methods, this means happier neighbours too!

Environmental impact

Tress lock in carbon dioxide and expel oxygen so are a means of combating global warming. Therefore, if we increase the use of timber in the construction business, we increase the need for tree planting. On the back of this, more carbon dioxide emissions will be absorbed by these trees. Furthermore, timber is a renewable building material – in principle if one tree is felled, another is planted in its place. Hopefully, an increase in the use of this construction method will result in the growth of forests to supply the demand.

The use of bricks and concrete rely on the extraction of finite raw materials. Steel is also less environmentally friendly as it takes far more CO2 to process than timber.


The cost of a timber frame extension is generally lower than where other methods are used. This is mostly because it takes a lot less time to construct, meaning a lot less charge for labour. For builders, it is cheaper to price as the timescale is more predictable as it can be constructed in pretty much any weather conditions – builders don’t have to worry about missing days of work because of the weather. Factory costs and availability are more predictable and fluctuate a lot less with timber. This means you can price your construction a lot more accurately than with other construction methods.

Timber frame strength and suitability

As long as they are designed properly by a good architect, timber frame structures are strong and robust. At Acre Design, our designs ensure that we optimise the amount of material for the required strength. This means that the design is both the most cost efficient and reduces waste materials as much as possible.

Speedy construction

When compared to a brick and block construction, a prefabricated timber frame can come together far faster. Speeding up this part of the process means that your plasterer, electrician and plumber can get started far sooner than they would with brick and block. If you are cladding in dry plasterboard, once the building is watertight, the frame must be left to allow it’s moisture content to stabilise. However, this method is still far quicker than using mortar.

Timber frames can also be constructed in low temperatures, which brick and block work can’t.  Though the architectural design of your timber frame may take more time than the design of a traditional build, meaning a possibly slower start on site if you are in a hurry. Your timber frame structure can be made wind and watertight in a matter of days, as opposed to a number of weeks when other methods are used.

Quality of timber frames

Higher quality can often be achieve with timber frame than that of other construction methods. As it is fabricated off site, the process is done in a controlled, dry and optimum environment. When compared with methods constructed onsite, this generally provides a better quality level as things such as weather, site muck etc. can impact on on-site construction methods. Sometimes, the fabricators will also erect the timber frame on-site, this is really good continuity as they will fully understand your design.

Acoustic performance

You may not get the same level of sound insulation with timber frame structures as you would with concrete or masonry. Timber frame is not as dense. However, you can improve this by constructing two separate wall leaves with a gap between them. This gap can then be filled with sound absorbing material. You could also use a slightly denser material than plasterboard or use more than one layer of plasterboard.

Fire safety with timber frame

Often, there is a perception that timber frame structures are at more risk of fire. All forms of construction need to comply with the fire performance requirements laid down by national building regulations. Timber frame dwellings have no difficulty in meeting the required levels, given correct design, standards of manufacture and workmanship. However, additional fire protection can be added by boarding it. You can also install fire-stops within the cavity to protect your home further.

As long as they are designed and erected safely, meeting the relevant regulations, your timber frame construction would be perfectly fire safe and comparable to other construction methods.

Heat efficiency

The low thermal mass of timber frames allows them to heat up quicker than masonry constructed builds and to cool down a lot quicker too. However, efficient insulation can combat this substantially.

You can increase the insulation by using: deeper solid wood studs or deeper engineered studs, additional layers of insulation (internally and externally). You could also: ensure maximum air tightness is achieved, increase roof insulation, use double and or triple glazed windows, adding floor insulation or using very high quality wall insulation.

We hope that you find this information helpful, at Acre Design Newcastle we are passionate about all things sustainable and innovative. We would love to discuss your project with you in detail.

Take a look at our recent projects for further inspiration! Get in touch to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation at your home!

Ground Source Heat Pumps



Ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) use pipes that are buried in the garden to extract heat from the ground.

This heat can then be used to heat radiators, underfloor or warm air heating systems and hot water in your home. There has been a lot of speculation about the government’s proposals to ban gas boilers in new build homes from 2025. This means that designers are looking for other, innovative ways to heat our homes.

A ground source heat pump circulates a mixture of water and antifreeze around a loop of pipe, called a ground loop, which is buried in your garden. Heat from the ground is absorbed into the fluid and then passes through a heat exchanger into the heat pump. As the ground stays at a fairly constant temperature under the surface, the heat pump can be used throughout the year. Longer loops can draw more heat from the ground, but need more space to be buried in. However, if space is limited, a vertical borehole can be drilled instead.

What are the benefits of installing a ground source heat pump?

Installing a GSHP could lower your energy bills – who doesn’t like saving a bit of cash? You could gain additional income through the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). Furthermore, you could also lower your home’s carbon emissions, depending on which fuel you are replacing. You won’t need to have any fuel deliveries and the GSHP can heat your home and your water with very little maintenance costs.

Air source heat pumps are usually easier to install than ground source heat pumps as they don’t need any trenches or drilling, but they can be less efficient. Water source heat pumps are another consideration. They can be used to provide heating in homes near rivers, streams, and lakes. It’s quite exciting to think about the potential of using naturally occurring resources to heat our homes and water.

You can find some stories from homeowners who have installed heat pumps via the Green Homes Network.

Size is an issue

Are wall-hung heat pumps the future of home heating systems?

Small homes and low energy homes are the challenge here as rural homes have utilised heat pumps for years. Rural homes often favour heat pumps over oil and liquefied petroleum gas due to the cost-saving benefits. One of the reasons why smaller homes are a technical challenge is due to space. Heat source pumps require quite a bit of outside space for the working unit. With many new build homes being built upon rather cramped plots, this may be problematic. These units can also require quite a bit of space on the inside of the home. For this reason, lots of companies are beginning to develop smaller, boiler sized units. This makes them handy for installing in flats as well as small houses. Excitingly, it also means that a number of these units in close proximity could be connected to the same bring loop, allowing for cheaper running costs for the homeowners.

We find the development of heat pumps pretty exciting, we hope you do too!

At Acre Design Newcastle we are passionate about all things green and would love to discuss your project with you in detail.

Take a look at our recent projects for further inspiration! Get in touch to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation at your home!



At Acre Design, we often find that when our clients are building a self-build home, home extension or renovation, the garden design is left until last. You probably have a long list of things to plan and consider including: bathrooms, kitchens, materials, fixtures and fittings, furniture and so on. However, with even the smallest budget, spending wisely on your garden can have a huge impact on your satisfactions with your project as whole. A well thought out garden space can also have a big impact on the value of your home, so it is well worth considering! Even if you plan on carrying out the gardening and landscaping work yourself, developing a plan early on will be beneficial.

When you begin your project, you will have an idea of the funds you have available to spend. We recommending allocating some of your budget to the garden space at the start of your project. Who wants large, beautiful bi-fold doors if the scenery beyond them is a disaster?

Practical considerations

If you’re a self-builder, this is a really advantageous position to be in, in terms of landscaping. However, you may also come across a few challenges here. You’ll need to consider: access, driveways, garages, and storage, as well as the normal garden wants. If your budget is limited, you may consider focusing your budget on permanent fixtures such as access and your driveway. Greenery, turf and landscaping can always be completed in the future, once your budget has replenished a little. You may be surprised to learn that a well-built driveway can cost around £20,000.

If you are building an extension to your home, you will need to consider how to maintain privacy in your new space. Will any new windows be more visible to your neighbours? Do you need to think about screening off?

Planting early on is a good idea if you wish to use hedges and plants for privacy or protection from the elements (as a windbreak perhaps). Most hedges can take around 5 years to grow to their full height and provide the desired screening effect. It is also far more cost effective and easy to purchase and plant younger, smaller plants than it is to purchase and plant established, larger hedges and plants. Mature plants are readily available to purchase, however the cost of this is significantly more than a young plant or seed.

Fences are a great, short term, cheap and easy option for your boundaries but they can lack kerb appeal. Brick and stone walls can cost upwards of £300 a metre. Therefore, fencing and hedgerows can be a very cost-effective solution. Also, studies show that looking at greenery and plants boosts our mood. Good garden design is good for your health too!


Budgeting for the highest quality that you can afford for your garage, shed or driveway is a good idea. These elements will all add to the value and overall aesthetics of your home. Thinking of your project as a whole plot is key – you want to feel delighted every time you pull onto your driveway in front of your beautiful new home, for example. You may think that your front door and hallway will give that all important first impression. It is more likely to be the overall appearance of your home from the outside that will impress you, your family and friends and even perspective buyers in the future.

Utilise your existing garden design

If you have some garden items in place already, it is worth working these in to your plans to save money and effort. You can then spend your budget on other upgrades! Often, when you extend your home it can be disruptive to your garden. The building work can take its toll on plants and grass and the new structure can disturb the layout somewhat. If there are some plants you know you would like to keep, make sure you protect these during the build. You could even move them out of the way where possible. Working alongside your project design, you could plan pathways and terraces that flow from and to your new extension.

Lastly, research suggests that a well-designed garden can add up to 20% to the value of your home! consider your garden as a long term investment, one for your enjoyment and for future financial gain.

We hope that you find this information helpful, at Acre Design Newcastle we are passionate about all things design and would love to discuss your project with you in detail.

Take a look at our recent projects for further inspiration! Get in touch to arrange a free, no obligation consultation at your home

How to choose the right fireplace for your home extension

Why do we love a fireplace?

More and more of our clients are opting for a striking fireplace or hearth. Our post on inspiring design ideas  discusses the idea of Hygee. If you haven’t already read about the Danish idea of Hygge (pronounced “hoo-ga”), get reading. What freedom is to Americans, Hygge is to the Danes. The idea of Hygge is about finding joy in simple, cosy things. These things include: candles, blankets, fireplaces and so on. There is even a word for that favourite pair of jogging bottoms that you would only wear in the comfort of your own home – “Hyggebusker”. To us, a crackling fire is the epitome of cosy calm. Our busy lives can impact on our health, so planning spaces which invigorate and recharge us both mentally and physically is important.

With so many styles and fuel options to choose from, how do you know which to pick?

Firstly, the fireplace needs to be suitable for your property. Secondly, you need to decide upon its primary function – heat, aesthetics. Or do you need both of these needs to be met?


Wood burners and open-flame fires will, of course, require a chimney or flue. Wood burners are very efficient and are currently very fashionable. Obviously, real fires will require some level of maintenance (cleaning out etc.) but some even have built in boilers enabling you to heat your water and radiators too! Check with your local council before getting your heart set on a real fire. Some areas are smoke-controlled and burning wood and coal is not permitted.

You can find information on Newcastle Council’s smoke-control policy here. If you are in North Tyneside, have a look here, for Northumberland council, it’s here and for Geteshead, it’s here.

Modern fires are often gas-fuelled and you can find flueless options. Bioethanol fires have very low emissions and don’t require a chimney or flue, however, they can be exceptionally expensive to run! Bioethanol is considered one of the greener fuels. With so many realistic-looking electric options out there, they are a good option too. However, it is questionable whether an electric fire has the same relaxing, stress-busting effect as a real, burning fire. For a fuss-free real flame, a gas fire is your best bet, as an open-basket gas-burning fire with ceramic “coals” is virtually indistinguishable from a real coal-burning fire. It’s a relatively simple task to run a pipe to the fireplace opening. However, this will need to be installed by a CORGI-registered fitter.


It is important to love your fire when it is both active and inactive.  During the summer months, will it still be beautiful to look at when putting it on or lighting it would make your home hotter than hell? With more contemporary designs, we find that they can look a little odd when unlit. Think empty fish tank with some coals in the bottom.

Traditional fires tend to suit most spaces and Architectural salvage and reclamation yards may offer the best chance of finding something appropriate. We have found that traditional designs in light-coloured stones such as limestone and marble are very popular at the moment. If modern styles are more your thing, they offer flexibility of scale and proportion. Whether the fire is gas, gel or electric, contemporary surrounds use sleek and minimalist modern materials. Glass or polished steel and lots of other materials are easily available. A hole-in-the-wall design does away with the hearth completely, and often the surround, too. These fires are usually gas, and can consist of a burner providing a regimented row of flames, a firebowl, or a pile of driftwood or pebbles. Hole-in-the-wall designs are often more suitable if you have a smaller room, where floor space is limited.

The size of your fire surround is important – too large and it will overpower your room but too small and it will look insignificant and lost. If you are renovating or altering rather than building a new space, the size of the existing opening, chimney breast and flue will influence the size of fire and surround that will be suitable for the room. If possible, it may be worth considering structural alterations to get exactly what you want.

Chim chiminey, chim chiminey, chim chim cher-ee

If you are fitting a fire, getting your chimney swept and assessed is very important. When renovating an existing property and using the current chimney, you’ll need to ensure you choose a suitable fire. However, if you are extending or building a new-build home, you have a lot more flexibility. It is worth bearing in mind that a chimney must be at least 4.5 meters tall.

If there’s no flue in your home or design, or even no fireplace opening, there are still some electric and gel models that can create an interesting focal point in the room. There is a choice of flue-less gas fires available too, where the waste gases are taken out of the room via a pipe that is ducted through an outside wall.

Look at our recent projects in Newcastle and the surrounding areas for further inspiration! Get in touch with the Team @ Acre Design to arrange a free, no obligation consultation at your home!

While you’re mulling over all of the fabulous fireplace options out there, here’s a nice warming fireplace video…

Extension Design: Lighting


Pendant lights add a lovely, stylish finish to a room. We often see them places elegantly over dining tables or kitchen islands in the extensions we design. There is good reason for this – they look great! Whether you decide to make a statement with your lighting or subtly complement your colour scheme, there is a pendant lighting style for everyone’s taste. If your budget is IKEA or a high end designer supplier such as Chaplins, there are some beautiful options available. However, it is important to ensure your proportions are correct. Our 3D modelling software makes it easy to understand the dimensions of your project (whether it’s a self-build, extension or loft conversion) and build your interior design scheme. Ask your architect about this if you are not confident about the size of your spaces.

Tynemouth-Extension-3D-and-floorplans-examples                                  Tynemouth Extension, Newcastle, Acre Design


Choosing a pendant light that is too big may overwhelm the space and a smaller option may end up looking lost.

Sizing up:

Width of pendant: If you add the length and width of your room together and then divide this number by 12, it will give you an ideal pendant width for your space. For example, if your room measures in at 3m by 5mm, added together this makes 8m. 8m divided by 12 = approximately 67cm wide. If you are thinking of opting for a multiple pendant light, you can simply divide this by the number of pendants you’d like. So, using our example, a three pendant piece should measure in at around 22cm per shade.

Height (or drop length) of your pendant light: Firstly, multiply the floor to ceiling height of your space by 3. For example, a room that is 3m high would equal 9m. Next, divide this measurement by 12 to give the ideal height of your pendant light. Our example would therefore need a drop of 75cm to suit the space.

How low can you go? Can you go down low?

Ensuring you have adequate clearance for your furniture and family, these rules are helpful:

Where people may walk underneath your light, allow 2.13m from the floor to the bottom of your pendant. If you’d like to place your pendant above a dining table or kitchen island for example, allow around 71cm to 91cm from the bottom of the fitting to the top of the surface. For a hallway, your pendant should be at least 15cm higher than the top of your front door, unless you have a very large amount of floor space of course.

Choosing the right style

There are so many different styles of pendant lighting, so it’s wise to begin by considering the function of your lights. Thinking about the type of illumination you want for the space will also depend on the other light sources in the room. A room with large windows or bi-fold doors will need less illumination for daytime use, however you may also require task lighting in certain areas and ambient lighting in others.

Types of lighting

There are four basic forms of lighting: task, ambient, accent and decorative.

Task lights are functional, helping you to see clearly whilst working (chopping, writing etc.) If your pendant lighting will help illuminate tasks such as children completing homework, reading or chopping food, you want a fixture that aims light downwards, preferably with an open bottom. Open bottom fixtures can create too harsh a light if paired with powerful bulbs, so bulb choice is also important. If the light proves too severe, you can always swap in a lower output bulb or install a dimmer to adapt to the use of the space and time of day.

General lighting which gently illuminates a whole space is called ambient lighting. A softer, ambient fitting will create a nice intimate mood for socialising.

If you want to highlight a design feature such as an art piece or an interesting building material, you could use accent lighting. Typically, accent lighting will be a picture light, however you can target your pendant lighting if you want to draw attention to the material of your worktop or table for example by having it closer to the surface or with a brighter bulb.

For simply adding a bit of sparkle and interest, decorative lighting is effective. These do not usually cast targeted light or serve any particular purpose other than to add to the feel or mood of the room.


We hope that you find this information helpful, at Acre Design Newcastle we are passionate about all things lighting and would love to discuss your project with you in detail.

Take a look at our recent projects for further inspiration! Get in touch to arrange a free, no obligation consultation at your home!