The Do’s and Don’ts of Home Extensions
Does your home need a little more space? Extending your home could be the answer. Home extensions can be a simple and cost-effective way to spruce up your living area.
Despite extensions increasing in popularity in the UK, finding answers to your questions can still be challenging. Do you need planning permission? What will be your upfront costs?
Learning how the extensions process works can help create a stress-free Self Build and get you the best value for your money. ACA are here to give you a list of do’s and don’ts when extending your home.
DO – SET OUT YOUR BUDGET
Setting an appropriate budget is the most important factor in a successful Self Build or extension project. Your budget should encompass all costs and fees before work begins to give you an idea of how much will come out of your pocket. This step is important not only for you, but also for everyone involved in the extension process.
In the UK, a basic single-story extension can range from around £1,000 to £2,000 per square meter. However, this figure can increase depending on a few factors, including:
- Extension Size
- Choice of Materials
- Labour Costs
- Extension Type
When setting your budget, you should be mindful of the type of extension you are after. Generally, starting from scratch is more expensive than extending an existing building. Older homes also tend to bring more challenges than newer ones. Do your research on what kinds of things add to the cost before beginning the initial designs,
Your budget is not just made up of the cost of the build, but for all fees that will need to be paid to complete the extension. This can include architect fees, contractor fees, VAT, or even local authority fees. If you’re prepared for all potential expenses, you’re already on the way to creating that dream space.
DON’T – GO TOO BIG
This should go without saying, but larger extensions will tend to cost more. These increased costs comprise the additional labour needed, the extra materials, and the higher architectural fees.
When planning your extension, make sure your design is an appropriate size for your needs. The last thing you want is a finished extension filled with unnecessary space and a bigger hole in your savings. Taking time to chat about how you want to use the space can help you to maximise the use of the space.
When planning an extension, assess the essential needs, adhere to local regulations, and consider its environmental impact on your surroundings. That is where an architect can help…
DO – HIRE AN ARCHITECT
An Architect can do more than design the extension. They are also there to make sure the proposed extension meets the necessary approvals and to assist in appointing trusted local contractors.
Working with an experienced architect will help you reach any specific requirements you have for your project. You won’t just be getting a drawing, but rather a plan that is tailored for all your needs. Architects are also experts in maximising the use of available space, meaning you can potentially save thousands by keeping the sizing appropriate. Once you have created your design together, stick with it. A concrete design means there is no ambiguity in terms of the sizes or finishes later.
DON’T – RUSH THE PROJECT
The process of extending your home from start to finish is a long and intricate journey. Days turn to weeks, which turn to months. It can be a strenuous process that can disrupt your day-to-day life. This is where one of the most important aspects of Self Building and extending a house comes in…….patience.
Outline your timeline at the beginning to give everyone involved an understanding of the length of the process. If you’ve hired an architect, they can help guide you through this. For example, here at AC Architects, we split our projects into 5 stages:
STAGE 1 – SURVEY & EXISTING DRAWINGS
Estimated Time – 1 Week
STAGE 2 – INITIAL DESIGNS
Estimated time – 2 Weeks
STAGE 3 – PLANNING OR CERTIFICATE OF LAWFULNESS APPLICATION
Estimated Time – 2 Weeks
STAGE 4 – BUILDING WARRANT APPLICATION
Estimated Time – 3/4 Weeks
STAGE 5 – ON SITE SUPERVISION
1 Visit Per Calendar Month
Taking the time to plan out your extension will increase the likelihood of a smooth and successful project. Trying to cut corners and rush through things will lead you to problems in all departments. Safety regulation concerns, low-quality work, and maintenance costs are just a few problems that can crop up during a rushed project. Take your time!
DO – HIRE A STRUCTURAL ENGINEER
We often get asked this question: ‘I’ve already got an architect. Do I need to get a structural engineer as well?’
Yes, you do.
The involvement of a structural engineer is essential from the early stages of your extension project. They are there to analyse the structural components of your proposed extension, ensuring the finished product is safe and comfortable.
If you aren’t starting from scratch, a structural engineer can assess the existing structure to ensure its foundations are solid. If you go into a project without a structural engineer and the foundations are found to be unsuitable, the build time and cost will increase exponentially.
Appointing a structural engineer for your project is not a legal requirement. However, we at AC Architects and AC Structures highly recommend having one on board for any project involving structural modifications, alterations, or any new construction that will impact the safety of a building.
DON’T – JUST COPY OTHERS
You’ve seen an impressive extension online or in your neighbourhood, and you think, ‘Yeah, I want that’.
While taking inspiration from other successful projects is a good idea, remember that no two projects are ever the same. Your land, budget and needs could be completely different from that other person. This gives you an opportunity to be unique while making sure everything is done right.
DO – BE REALISTIC
We know how you feel. Building an extension is a complex task that’s layered with intricacies and regulations. Before you jump to extending, you should conduct all the research you can, and surrounding yourself with experienced professionals will help you keep your project grounded.
“My advice would be to be sensible about what you’re requiring. Every project is slightly different. Those requirements need to fit the budget, which is why we always set the budget in the early stages”.
Iga Panczyna, Senior Chartered Architect
Make sure the goals you set out to achieve are…achievable. There’s nothing worse than dreaming up a grandiose design that you find out can’t be met. Keeping yourself realistic will lead to a more satisfying experience.
Being realistic is not just good advice for your design, but for your budget too. Keeping an untidy budget can lead to endless hidden costs, and even potentially having to remortgage.
DO – GO IN WITH THE PLAN
This may seem like a rather obvious step, but you would be surprised at the number of people who constrict themselves and their extensions by not specifying their requirements. Some extra living space? Another Bathroom? An extension can be used for a variety of things. When it comes to the design, you should make it clear why you are extending your home.
Once this plan is in place, stick with it. Straying from your original ideas can halt the building process and make the whole process a little bit longer. A great plan will save you time, money, and effort in the long term.
DO – BE A GOOD NEIGHBOUR
A lot of extensions don’t require permission from your neighbour. However, issues such as privacy and overshading can come into play. Keeping your neighbours out of the loop will increase the likelihood of them objecting to your proposed build if your application for an extension doesn’t pass development rights.
We recommend you reach out to them as early as you can. Letting them know your intentions will make them more content, and less nosey!
Taking our points into consideration, a meticulously planned home extension sets the stage for a successful and stress-free construction journey. Make sure to take everything into consideration. Timescales, budget, planning permission, materials. These aspects lay the foundation for realising your Self Build dream. We hope this guide brings confidence to the prospective self-builder and helps them in their exciting extension journey.