Planning Your House Extension – 10 Things You Need To Know

With a slow housing market that doesn’t show any signs of picking up soon, many people are opting to stay put and extend their existing home, rather than up sticks and move.

This may seem like a great idea and a good way to save both money and time, but before you jump in and start buying breeze blocks to get started on that house extension, there are a few things you need to consider.

So here, produced with the benefit of over 25 years of continuing experience in the business of planning and managing property extensions, is the Harvey Norman Architects 10 Point Guide to what you need to know before heading off towards your new house extension:

#1 – What’s your budget?

This is probably one of the most fundamental questions – and it’s usually the first thing we have to ask our clients.

So before you do anything (and ideally before you call in your architect) sit down and decide exactly – or if you can’t be exact, come up with a good idea – of how much you have to spend.

Don’t forget to include extras such as your architect’s fees and the costs of your planning application if necessary. Also most architects and many builders will quote net of VAT, so don’t forget to add the 20% on if need be.

Once you’ve given yourself a budget, stick to it – it’s all too easy to let costs creep up on that house extension.

#2 – What do you want to achieve with your property extension?

Are you looking for a new living area that the whole family can enjoy, an extra bedroom for a new arrival or a home office?

What you want to use your extension for and what you want to do in it will determine what kind of alteration you make to your home.

#3 – How long will it take?

House extensions don’t happen overnight – and even getting planning permission and building regulations approval can sometimes take months. So be patient, and expect some upheaval and interruption to normal family life while the building is going on.

You may want to consider the time of year, factor in things like holidays, family events and other occasions for which you will want full use of your house without the builders being in.

Once you do decide the best time window for you property extension to be built, the secret is to plan it ahead as far as possible.

#4 – Do you need planning permission?

For some property alterations such as loft conversions and single storey extensions, or certain types of sun rooms, you may not need planning permission.

But you are well advised to check all local planning regulations and requirements first before making any definite plans to proceed.

Check with your local planning officer for more information – or just ask your architect.

Harvey Norman Architects offer a Kick Start Consultation meeting that covers everything from planning permission, building regulations and how to go about finding the right type of builder to the smallest questions. The Kick Start Consultation can save weeks of your own time in researching everything yourself.

#5 – Does your property extension mean you need an architect?

It’s not just because we’re architects that we say you should use a professional.

Big projects such as loft conversions or external home extensions are not simple DIY jobs, and we’ve seen them go wrong too many times when even skilled DIYers have had a go themselves.

You will need the services of an expert if you are planning on making major alterations to your property, and in fact part of the planning application may have to include plans produced by a qualified architect and other consultants such as structural engineers.

You will need to factor in the cost of an architect and, if required, an engineer, to your overall budget.

#6 – Will your plan impact on your neighbours?

This is a particularly important consideration, especially if you are making major alterations to your property.

Do you share a party wall with your neighbours, and will your alterations potentially damage their property?

There is also the social aspect – your plans may impact on their quality of life during the construction period, so it’s wise to keep your neighbours fully informed of your intentions right from the start.

Once again, your architect will be able to advise on any potential issues.

#7 – Are you in a conservation area?

If your home is in a designated conservation area or is a listed building, there may be very strict controls governing what alterations you can and cannot make.

You may not know if you’re in a conservation area, so check with your local council – or use your architect’s local knowledge – for further details.

#8 – Up, down, or out to the side?

Where you put your house extension is the next decision. Loft conversions are increasingly popular – so if you have the option of converting your attic space into a new room without any external signs of extending the property it’s definitely worth considering.

The most common option for simply gaining extra space either is either a single storey or two storey extension, for which you may want to build out to the side of your home.

Again, talking to an architect will help you decide which is the best option for you.

#9 – Know any good builders?

Unless you’re an experienced builder yourself, the likelihood is that you will need to get a professional building firm in to do the work – even if it’s a smaller job like a loft conversion.

Choose wisely, and take note of the recommendations of friends who have had work done on their properties, or see if your architect can provide contacts.

Word of mouth is often the best indicator of a quality tradesman, but make sure you have a first-hand look at examples of their previous work before taking the plunge.

#10 – What’s your timetable?

As we said earlier, it’s wise to plan well in advance.

Set yourself a strict timetable for completion. The chances are that it will over-run, but if you lay down the ground rules for completion at the very start of the project you can avoid living on a building site for months on end.

Don’t underestimate the impact that building an extension can have on your quality of life, and try to minimise that impact.

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