10 May 2018

How to build your house extension successfully

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Are you happy with where you live but would like that bit more space? Extending your home could be the way forward. Here Architectural Designer at Studio SDA, Hayley Pearse, gives her advice on how to successfully extend your home.

It’s always best to be well prepared when planning any building work on your home, even more so when it’s an extension project. So whether you’re a young couple in the early stages of living together, a family of four whom have lived in the same home for many years, or anyone in between, here are some top tips to help your build run as smoothly as possible.

Get all approvals first

This is where the experts come in; depending on the size, shape and scale of your new extension, you may need to apply for planning permission but don’t panic. As each local council is different, there is no straightforward rule of thumb for designing extensions which can only mean one thing – find a designer who is willing to go the extra mile and push the boundaries. You will find that most council websites provide a lot of information and design guides which are provided to ensure your local area is complemented by architecture and not destroyed so it’s not a system to be knocked!

Even if your extension does not need planning permission, it will need Building Regulations approval which is there to enforce construction standards across the UK. Building Regulations safeguard designs by making sure the buildings are built correctly and inspections take place along the way which helps prevent unprofessional procurement and the dreaded ‘cowboy builder’ which is always a good thing.

Set a budget

This might sound a simple step towards making your dream a reality but it’s common to overspend on even the smallest projects. The general rule is to allow for £1000 to £2000 per square metre and then allow an extra 10 to 20% contingency fund. Even better practice would be to issue the designer’s drawings to a quantity surveyor for them to provide an accurate cost.

Also bear in mind that not only do you have the build budget, there will be the designer’s and consultant’s fees, Government VAT and also local authorities’ fees for the applications too. So, be realistic with your budget as to create the perfect dream home; it is not all about the new-build extension alone. Lots of factors collaboratively create a beautiful and functional space.

What is the purpose of the extension?

A question most people think they know the answer to, however, there tends to be more answers to this question than space and budget will allow, so compromising is generally required or a really good designer who will work hard with you to achieve your dream extension. Make sure you consider who will use this space, when it will be used and what it will be used for. Is it an extra bedroom you are looking for or are you craving a bigger, brighter kitchen/dining open-plan living space?

Consider the location and setting

Where your home is situated is paramount to the design of your extension. The best extensions out there are those sympathetic to their surroundings or, across the spectrum, those which contrast their surroundings. From a rural village to a city suburb, no one extension is the same so why not use your surroundings as an opportunity to push the boundaries of construction technologies and complement or contrast your innovative designs. Are you near a babbling brook? Noisy train line? Woodland wildlife? Busy urban street scene?

Research different materials

Material choice is crucial to the design of extensions as it is the material finishes that bring the structure to life. Whether you want your extension to stand out from the crowd or be a subtle improvement, there are many options to choose between with many manufacturers and suppliers of the same product all who offer different services, so be sure to do your homework before entering the minefield.

Think outside the box

An extension can be upwards into the loft, outwards as an addition or downwards to a basement – therefore, no extension is the same. Maybe add some quirky details to the design that sets yours aside from the typical extension – whether it is the shape of the extension or a hidden glazing panel where the new meets old. Remember to keep on pushing them boundaries and proving why residential architecture is exciting!

Choose the right builder

Choosing the right builder is crucial to constructing your dream. So make sure you research builders, visit previous projects they have done, carry out numerous chats with them (as let’s face it, you have to be able to work with them) and take a look on websites for reviews. Some local council panels have set up schemes in their boroughs to assist with this decision and created directories for you with only the local builders who meet the high standards and are recommended by other people in your area so search through them.

Finding the right designer or consultant

If you want to stand out from the crowd and have the best extension on your street, choose a designer with a mountain of experience in residential architecture.

You will go through many designers’ websites looking through portfolios of previous work but be sure to notice if the company have won any awards for their work. Awards indicate not only that they are experienced and creative at what they do, but also they are highly respected within the industry too which is second to none for you as the client.

To get the most out of your experience with the designer you must be open and honest because your dreams will be made reality in the hands of their interpretations from your brief.

Extending your home can be immensely rewarding and can make a big difference to your lifestyle and, with a little insight and some useful advice, you will soon be well on your way to living the dream.

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