Hello, sunshine: the ideal orientation for your home

North, south, east, west – which way is my home meant to face again? We explain which factors you should consider to make sure there are no unwelcome surprises when it comes to the direction of sunlight and similar issues in your new home.

Are you looking for a new home? Maybe you’ve already seen one you love – it’s got a good layout, an open-plan kitchen (a current must-have), a balcony, underfloor heating, and it’s affordable. But wait – wasn’t there something else you needed to think about…?

Consider the location of your new home

Anyone who is looking for a new flat, wanting to buy a house or even build one is well advised to think about the surroundings of their new home. Living by a stream or having a pub round the corner might be nice, but if you find you never get any sunshine, those apparent advantages might quickly lose their charm.

As a general rule, your home should get daylight from two different directions if possible. During winter, south-facing rooms will get the most sun, while in summer, west-facing rooms will enjoy the most daylight. Experts therefore recommend an east-west or north-south orientation.

Orientation: is south chic, north bleak?

There are several good reasons for a south-facing living space. In winter, even when there isn’t much sun, limited daylight exposure can nevertheless help keep your home warm. Which is a definite advantage, especially when it comes to heating costs. And in summer, when the sun sits almost directly above the house, you’ll avoid any additional heat from its rays. However, bear in mind that not all plants enjoy the heat. Be prepared to get the right plants for your south-facing balcony, and make sure you water them more than usual.

A west-facing orientation is also popular. It means you get sunshine throughout the afternoon and into the evening. This enables you to make more use of any outdoor space, both earlier and later on in the year. If you’re someone who likes to watch the sunrise from your bed, then an east-facing bedroom is a good choice.

Many people think that north-facing properties are the least desirable. And so they used to be, at least in urban areas. North-facing buildings are indeed usually darker, but city dwellers are increasingly appreciative of the fact that they stay cool. With all their concrete and asphalt, cities can get hot in the summer – increasingly so – and many people are concerned they’ll end up sleeping in a sauna.

Lots of sunshine, but…

Even the sunniest south-facing location isn’t much use if you’ve got a tree blocking your window, or a block of flats looming opposite. While a bit of foliage has its advantages – it will stop your home getting too hot in summer, and might provide a bit of privacy from prying eyes – looking out onto a high-rise isn’t particularly appealing.

A fourth-floor flat will get more light than one on the ground floor – so if you care about getting as much daylight as possible, think about which level you’re on. Bear in mind that any roofing that juts out over your window or balcony will reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches you.

Watch out for windows!

The modern trend is to have the biggest windows possible. Gone are the days of wanting small windows to protect you from heat, cold, wind and rain. But bad weather can pose a problem for modern windows, too. West-facing windows remain the most exposed – and the damage will show. Anyone who prefers cooler temperatures but still yearns for south-facing windows should consider whether any kind of external shade can be added to the windows on the south and west sides of the house.

Want to know the orientation? Check the floor plan

A property’s floor plan (now often available online) will tell you a lot about its orientation – provided it includes a compass showing you which way is north. This can be used to work out which way the rooms face. If this isn’t shown, it might be a sign – it could be hiding the fact that the balcony is exposed to the worst of the weather, or that the bedrooms are west-facing. If you’re able to visit the property in person, it’s best to bring a compass.

It’s a good idea to visit your desired property more than once, and at different times of day. Who knows, maybe sunsets through the west-facing window are a dream, but the streaky windows themselves are a nightmare. They’ll be in constant need of cleaning – which might be something you can live without.