12 things to know about house extensions before you start

Whether you are planning to extend for a bedroom, loft, kitchen, office or any extra space to utilize your living area, whatever your reason may be, you still need to make sure that you are properly prepared for the extension and that you have thought through the main considerations before you start.


Here are 12 things you should know about house extensions before you start.

1. Planning Permission
Before you even start you should consider whether your extension will require planning permission. The rules for planning in your area are detailed at the UK Planning Portal website and there, you can find out if your extension will come under permitted development or if you will need to go through the planning process. This could add as much as 3 months to the time it takes to complete your project, but it does ensure that your extension is legal and that your neighbours are aware of what is happening.

2. Building Regulations  

Even if you do not need planning permission for your extension, because you are using permitted development rights, you must get building regulation approval. The Building Regulations set out minimum requirements for structural integrity, fire safety, energy efficiency, damp proofing, ventilation and other key aspects that ensure a building is safe.
Most repair work is excluded from the Building Regulations, with the exceptions of replacement windows, under­­pinning and rewiring. However, apart from certain new buildings such as sheds, outbuildings and some conser­vatories, all new building work, including altera­tions, must comply with the Building Regulations.

3. Are you in a Conservation Area?
If your home is in a 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 authority for more information.

4. Insurance
Before you do any work at all you should check with your buildings insurer to find out what their rules are when it comes to building work. Most builders will have the necessary site insurance, but don’t take their word for it. Ask to see their certificates and get your own insurance if you are not sure. If you are leaving your home during the work you need a special type of insurance to cover this.

5. Know The Party Wall Act
Your neighbours cannot stop you from build­ing up to, or even on, the boundary between your properties, even if it requires access onto their land (providing you have planning permission to do so, and there are no restrictive covenants).
The Party Wall Act 1996 allows you to carry out work on, or up to, your neighbours’ land and buildings, formalising the arrange­ments while also protecting everyone’s inter­ests. This is not a matter covered by planning or building control.
If your extension involves building or digging foundations within 3m of the boundary, Party Wall or Party Wall struc­ture, or digging foun­dations within 6m of a boundary, the work will require you to comply with the Party Wall Act. In these cases, you may need a surveyor to act on your behalf. The act does not apply in Scotland.

6. Where is best to locate your house extension?
Where you put your house extension is the next decision.
The most common option for simply gaining extra space is either a single storey or two storey extension, for which you may want to build out to the side of your home. Consider current planning regulations for the available build size as each property has different rules regulations to adhere to.

7. Do you really need an architect?
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 spending plans.

8. How long will it all take to complete?
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.

9. Know the difference between an Estimate and a Quotation
An estimate is normally a contractor’s guess as to what your extension will cost. Whether given verbally, or in writing, is not legally binding and the final bill may exceed it.
A quotation is a definite price. When deciding which builder to choose, always get a detailed written scope that forms the quotations from at least two firms, ideally ones that have been recommended to you.
The written quotes should itemise the work to be done, provide a breakdown of costs and a total, and state whether VAT is included. When you receive the bids, check whether there are any caveats which might involve extra expense. Also, compare provisional sums for work such as foundations to make sure you are comparing like with like.

10. The Whole Project
Try to think beyond the extension itself. When organising an extension you can get caught up with planning the extra space and forget about the rest of your existing home. Your new extension can affect the rest of the house. Depending on what your new plans entail you may need to budget for spending money elsewhere to make improvements to the overall space.

11. Beware of Removing Trees
Some trees are protected by Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs). Even if an extension does not require planning permission you cannot alter or even prune a tree that has a TPO on it without planning permission.
All trees within a Conservation Area are protected by legislation and effectively have a TPO on them providing they have a trunk of diameter greater than 75mm. Altering a tree that is protected by a TPO is a criminal offence and can result in substantial fines so take care if you are extending your home near to a protected tree.

12. Learn From Others
Finally, if you are thinking of getting an extension, or are in the process of having one built at the moment, it can be very helpful to know about other people’s experiences. There may be pitfalls which they can help you to avoid or great tips that could save a lot of time and money: no advice is more valuable than that gleaned from experience.

Do you need to serve Party Wall Act Notice? We at Seven One Associates are happy to help with serving the correct Party Wall Agreement Notices for your works with our experienced Party Wall Act Surveyor.

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