What You Need To Know For A New Build On A Narrow Site

What You Need To Know For A New Build On A Narrow Site

As our metropolitan areas fill up, free land is becoming scarcer, and as a result, lot sizes are shrinking. Narrow block homes are typically between 5 to 10 metres wide and are often located in the inner city. Narrow home design is not easy. Often these blocks require specific architectural skills, knowledge, and expertise to be able to maximise their potential when building the perfect home for you. Building a home for one of these tight spaces requires thought, careful planning and great design to overcome the challenges presented by size and room requirements, light limitations, poor orientation, car accommodation, and storage requirements. 

Here is everything you need to know if you are thinking of building a new home on a narrow site.

You’ll need to get creative with space

While narrow blocks usually come with plenty of location appeal and charm, there’s one thing they don’t come with much of – space. When building on a narrow block, you’ll need to make the most of the space you have available with good design. 

How many of the rooms you are planning for the home to you truly need? Get smart with your floorplan by creating multipurpose rooms, rather than separate areas for things like living, dining, or study. For example, living and dining areas can be combined, and a dedicated office can be swapped for a study nook somewhere in a quiet area of the house. With design prowess, you can separate these zones visually with carefully placed rugs, plants, furniture, shelving or room dividers. 

Storage is critical in narrow home design. You’ll need to make sure that your home is making the best use of every spare inch of space it has available. You’ll need to think beyond built-in wardrobes, and plan to incorporate storage understairs, and concealed in ceilings. Multi-functional furniture that includes storage functions is a great way to add more storage into your narrow home. These include ottomans, coffee tables, and beds with drawers – make use of every nook and cranny available!

Height is critical for making your narrow home feel bigger, not smaller. The standard height of ceilings is usually 2,550 mm, but some people choose up to three meters. While increasing the height of your ceilings can add additional costs, homes with higher ceilings are said to sell at better prices when compared to similar homes with standard ceiling heights. Consider using higher ceilings in living spaces used by many occupants, and lower ceiling to bedroom zones typically located on upper levels.

Narrow block homes are generally multi-storey, which can pose challenges for less mobile occupants. If stairs are going to be an issue, consider including a bedroom and bathroom onto the ground floor for easy access. If mobility isn’t an issue and stairs are required, have you selected a location which will not impact on the flow of the home?

Orientation and light

Two of the biggest considerations when building a narrow site home are orientation and light. Lighting a narrow home is more challenging than lighting a traditional home and requires a little more creativity. 

Orientation has a critical role to play in how much natural light you capture in your home. To make the most of the sun for warmth and natural light, try to position the main living spaces to the north. Access to northern light may be restricted by a party wall, or due to limited space between dwellings. This is where skylights, courtyards and light wells can help.

Consider adding skylights or roof windows where possible to open the roof up to the sky. This creates a lovely expansive feeling and adds a sense of luxury to the home.

For rooms located in the centre of the home, light wells are great for spaces which would traditionally have no outward-facing windows. Staircases with open tread and glass balustrade allow light to filter through to the ground floor effectively. Read more about how to maximise light in narrow block homes.

Taking In The View

Views – often a rarity in narrow block homes, can significantly raise the value of your home. It’s worthwhile exploring how you can capture any views you might have available. Many narrow block homes are near the city, and a slight reorientation or height increase to the home could result in million-dollar views.

You can get creative here – think beyond windows. You may want to invest in a rooftop deck. American real estate agents believe that incorporating a rooftop deck to a home can increase the value by 6-8%.

Space For A Car

Off-street parking is a rare commodity in the inner city and can add thousands to the value of your home. In Sydney’s CBD and parts of the eastern suburbs, garages can add up to $150,000 to the value of a home. Inner-city homes in Melbourne with off-street car spots can add up to $70,000 to the price of a home – well worth the investment.

Incorporating car accommodation to the floor plan of your home often requires some compromise based on the size of your block, but it’s not impossible. It requires some creativity and intelligent design. Consider exploring a tandem garage (a two-car garage where cars can park one in front of the other), or carport which has space designated for storage. 

For inspiration on you can incorporate a carport in your narrow block home take a look at the home we created in Hawthorn.

How neighbours can impact your narrow block home

Neighbours can have a big impact on elements of your home, and this is especially relevant to narrow block homes. Neighbours can guide your window selection, landscaping plans, and if you have shared walls – your build.

A party wall (also referred to as a partiwall), is one that is shared between two or more residents of individual dwellings. If you require a party wall in your residence, you will need to make sure it complies with Australian building regulations – meeting the minimum thickness and insulation requirements. Unfortunately, party walls often cause problems between neighbours. Even if you are the sole owner of the wall, you are restricted from commencing any work or renovations on the wall without first getting the consent of your neighbours. You can read more about your rights and responsibilities here.

Sound transfer between party walls is something you need to consider in the planning stage of your build. You will need to insulate your walls to minimise the sound transfer between dwellings and follow some good design practices such as; placing quiet areas in areas adjacent to quiet areas in adjoining dwellings or using acoustic grade insulation in sound-rated walls and ceiling cavities. More on this here.

Good lighting will make or break a narrow block home. They’re essential to opening up spaces and giving homes a sense of space. There is, however, one caveat – not all walls are suitable for windows. Make sure you consider the room’s purpose and whether you’re opening up the space for your neighbours to see. After all, sometimes you need your privacy.

Finally, make sure you identify any trees or services located on your neighbour’s site that may be impacted or impede your plans. You have the right to trim back any branches or greenery that enter your property (at your own cost) which is known as the ‘right of abatement’. Be sure to take care when you are trimming back any neighbour owned trees – you will be liable for any damages. If you are based in Victoria, you can find out more about your rights here.

Hidden costs of building on a narrow block

Unfortunately, the complexities that come with narrow block homes, make them more expensive to build. The lack of storage on-site means that all building materials will need to be delivered just in time can which can add additional transportation costs. Additional cost drivers include the premium added working in confined spaces, site access limitations, and the custom material required for the shape of your narrow block home.

While they come with complexities, a narrow block home when thoughtfully designed, can capitalise on the natural features of your block. 

At Destination Living, we create bespoke home designs for you. Our designs work with the land, your brief and budget, and champion the elements of your narrow block site. We have continuously perfected our processes working with narrow blocks over the last 20 years to ensure we can design and deliver the very best home for you. Find out more about Destination Living’s approach to building on a narrow block.