A Beginner’s Guide to House Extensions.

There are many reasons why you may want to update your home’s layout or simply find more space. Perhaps you have a growing young family, or older relatives to look after? Maybe you are looking to optimise your living spaces for quality family time, create storage or room to enjoy a new hobby?

Reasons to invest in a Home extension.

Many homeowners also choose to extend for the sole purpose of adding value to their property. Whether you are extending for space, functionality, value or aesthetics, making changes to your existing home can be a great (and cost-effective) alternative to a full-scale move. Despite the benefits, this can be a daunting task – especially for those taking on a home extension project for the first time.

With this in mind, we’ve put together our top tips and key considerations, including planning permission, professionals, budgeting, construction types and more.

What types of home extension are available?

To a certain extent, the type of extension you choose will be dependent on your budget and existing home layout. As a starting point though, treat your home like a blank canvas and sketch out some plans that really inspire you. These can always be refined by a professional.

Single Storey Extensions.

Single storey extensions are one of the most popular and affordable choices, as they have minimal impact on your existing structure yet offer vast potential for increasing interior spaces.

Double Storey Extensions.

Double storey extensions can completely redefine a house, maximising both living and sleeping space. These do come with additional costs and considerations in terms of floor plans, planning permission and construction, but provide long-term value for money.

Another option.

Conservatories and garden rooms are another, simpler option for those looking to add just one room to their existing house. With modern developments in glazing, it is now far easier to control internal temperature and minimize glare from windows – making such extensions a cost-effective, practical option.

The materials and overall finish you opt for will have a massive impact on both the speed and budget of the project. The possibilities are endless, but this could be entirely glass (for light, bright spaces), brick built (matching your current home), timber framed (great for insulation and energy efficiency) or utilising modular extension kits for high-speed projects.

Whatever materials you’re envisaging, it’s best to discuss feasibility with your main contractor at an early stage of the project.

What are the key considerations when hiring a contractor?

Once you have a clear idea of what you want, put your plans out to tender and contact several teams for quotes – thinking about reputation and reviews, interpersonal relationships and budget.

You can opt for a main contractor for the entire project or hire various trades and sub-contractors (either yourself or via a project manager, depending on the complexity of the build).

No matter how many parties you are working with, ensure that a clear contract and pricing structure is established in advance. This should avoid any disagreements further down the line, especially regarding timing and schedules.

Builders should also offer details on specifics such as your ‘defects liability period’ and timescale for post-completion fixes. If you’re not sure about anything, just ask. This may be your first home extension, but a trusted building contractor is likely to have done this many times before.

How much do home extensions cost?

This is understandably one of the most common questions. Look at your own budget first. The amount you have available will ultimately define what’s possible and the complexities of the project.

As a very rough guide, a basic extension could start from as little as £1,000 to £1,500 per metre squared, but this can easily increase to £2,500 (and above) per m2 if you are seeking a luxurious finish.

Other alternatives to keep costs down…

If you are trying to keep spending to a minimum, remember to work with what you’ve got. For instance, your existing garage or loft space are both great candidates for renovation. These types of extension can add 10% to the value of your home (at comparatively low expense), allowing you to keep the project as simple or as high-end as you like.

Do I need to hire an architect?

Creating your own plans may save costs, but don’t underestimate the value a professional architect can bring to your project. Any home extension will significantly alter the appearance of your home, so getting it right is crucial.

Architects offer a fully managed service.

Depending on your needs, an architect can just draw up plans, or assist with anything through to navigating planning laws and building regulations, guide on ergonomics, research fixtures and fittings and liaise with builders and craftsmen.

Whatever you require, it is essential this arrangement is in writing, setting out the specific responsibilities of each party. Check that your architect is registered with the Architect’s Registration Board (ARB) as well.

Membership of the ARB is compulsory and making sure they are also part of an accredited RIBA Chartered Practice will provide further assurance.

Are there any legal requirements I should be aware of?

Building regulations.

For any home extension project, you’ll require approval under Building Regulations. This includes issues such as checking the structural strength of floors, safety of stairs and the stability of the existing structure.

Having a fully approved Building Regulations plan will also allow builders to provide fixed quotations rather than estimates, and reduce risks involved. This is separate from planning permission, which is generally required if you are extending the footprint of your home.

Permitted developments.

Permitted Development Rights do allow for a certain amount of work without lengthy planning applications (such as building to the highest point on your existing roof, small side extensions or installing glazed windows on upper elevations), but it is always advisable to check with your local planning department before getting started.

Additional considerations include the Party Wall Act 1996, under which you must give adjoining owners notice of any construction. Building Control Officers will also inspect the project throughout (looking at issues such as structural integrity, safety and insulation) and will issue a final inspection certificate.

Final thoughts.

Starting any home extension project can be a time-consuming but incredibly rewarding task. Getting it right can completely transform the value and way that you use your home. From project managers to main contractors, architects and designers, there are myriad professional services to help you achieve your perfect extension.

With so many possibilities, making sure that you’re clear on your own budget, goals and motivations will help you narrow down the options and create the home extension of your dreams. Good luck, and happy extending.