How to upgrade the exterior of your home - Grand Designs Magazine

How to upgrade the exterior of your home

Turn a tired facade into a standout feature with these refurbishment and renovation ideas

By Kunle Barker |

From the outside, your home may be far from your dream Grand Design, but it may not requires major renovations or self building your own home to reach your exterior goals.

Whether it’s simple repairs and refreshes, or quick changes to elevate your home with a new look, both the front and back of your house can benefit from a little careful thought and planning.

Bear in mind that external works may call for planning consent. If it’s a listed building you will have to work under Listed Building Consent, or if you are in a conservation area you will need a discretionary grant from your local planning authority to carry out external works.

If you are uncertain of the requirements, speak to your local council, as projects carried out without the proper permissions can be subject to enforcement notices compelling you to correct unauthorised works.

Snug Architects exterior renovation Bruce Hemming Photography - grand designs

Snug Architects used standing seam zinc on the exterior renovation of this property. Photo: Bruce Hemming


Period brickwork can use a beauty treatment to tackle wear, dirt and water-damage every so often to conserve its heritage good looks.

Professional chemical cleaning will return bricks to their original splendour, and repointing (replacing the cement between the bricks) can improve the look of walls and make them more resistant to damp and leaks.

cdms architects rear property bricks in need of repointing - grand designs

Brickwork should last between 70 and 100 years before needing repointing again. Photo: CDMS Architects


A new coat of exterior paint is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to revamp a façade. Colour adds character and will instantly make a big difference to the overall look of the property.

Use experienced exterior decorators, as the skills, materials and processes are specialist, and poor quality painting will deteriorate after just one winter.

Alongside a striking bi-fold kitchen window and new side return extension by Studio 30 Architects, re-painting the original brickwork at the back of the property has helped to refresh the rear elevation of this family home in Shepherd’s Bush


Pebble-dashing made the whole idea of render particularly unfashionable, but smooth render is making a comeback. Some new versions come pre-painted and only require a wash down to clean.

BACK TO FRONT exterior design house with new render - grand designs - home improvements

This once uninspiring and dated home was transformed by Back To Front Exterior Design with new windows, brickwork, render, cedar cladding, a zinc roof and a new extension


Options include wood cladding, available in a choice of timbers, including larch and Western red cedar, and metals such as zinc. Contemporary cladding can be teamed with period exteriors and there’s no need to clad an entire property.

Take time to consider materials and how they will impact your project. Tackle the front and rear elevations as separate entities, as it’s sometimes easier to be more adventurous at the rear of a property than at the front.

paul cashin modern cottage build in countryside with timber cladding - grand designs

After a series of unfortunate renovations made in the past, Paul Cashin architects reintroduced natural materials to this 200-year-old cottage

Replacement doors and windows

Replacing windows and doors does not always require expensive and time-consuming structural changes. Opting for a bespoke design made to fit the width of an existing opening may actually save money in the long run.

Try to retain or reinstate period details where possible. Though expensive, installing reproduction-timber sash windows with double-glazed units, for instance, adds value and improves thermal efficiency.

zetland house manchester passivhaus renovation - grand designs

As part of the Passiv Haus Plus renovation of Zetland House in Manchester, 1980s PVC windows were replaced for timber-frame, triple glazed designs.

Green spaces

A beautiful, well-kept garden can add up to 20 per cent to the value of a property, but it’s important to be realistic about the level of maintenance you can manage, and choose plants accordingly, otherwise you may find it quickly falling into a state which does nothing to improve your home’s kerb appeal.