The ex­tend­ables

It’ll be pricey, stress­ful and may take over your life – but be­ing pre­pared is key to hav­ing an ex­ten­sion done smoothly, says LUKE RIX-STAND­ING

Gloucestershire Echo - - YOUR HOME -

EX­TEN­SIONS have be­come an in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar op­tion among home­own­ers look­ing to up­grade. In­flated prop­erty prices have made mov­ing more dif­fi­cult than ever, and en­hanc­ing an ex­ist­ing prop­erty with a con­ser­va­tory, loft con­ver­sion or base­ment build can be a more af­ford­able, if not nec­es­sar­ily less stress­ful, al­ter­na­tive to a re­lo­ca­tion. Nat­u­rally, projects can vary wildly – but what­ever your ex­ten­sion of choice, there are a few is­sues ev­ery would-be ren­o­va­tor will face. From paint­work to pa­per­work, here’s what you need to con­sider...

A FEW HOME TRUTHS

LET’S start with the bad news. Ex­ten­sions are ex­pen­sive, time­con­sum­ing, and of­ten headachein­duc­ingly com­pli­cated, so it’s es­sen­tial to go in with the right mind­set. Ev­ery ex­ten­sion is, to a greater or lesser de­gree, spe­cific to home and home­owner, so you’ll need to be closely in­volved in the project, right up un­til the last brick is laid. Dur­ing longer projects, it’s tempt­ing to slip into a hands-off ap­proach, but con­stant com­mu­ni­ca­tion is a must to en­sure that you and your trades­peo­ple are work­ing to­wards the same goal. Se­condly, you’re in it for the long­haul, and must be ready for the stress and dis­rup­tion that will in­evitably en­sue. Un­less it’s a very small project, ex­pect about 20 weeks’ worth of pa­per­work from the mo­ment you sub­mit your de­signs, plus three or four months of build­ing work at least. Most of all, you need to be very clear on what you want. Are you try­ing to add value to your home? Are you cre­at­ing a self-suf­fi­cient space for a lodger or rel­a­tive? Are you try­ing to ful­fil your own do­mes­tic am­bi­tions? All of this should in­flu­ence the de­ci­sions you make and how much you’re pre­pared to spend. Any de­signer worth their fee will ask these ques­tions, and the more de­tailed your an­swers, the hap­pier you’ll be with the re­sult.

GET THE RIGHT PEO­PLE ON BOARD

THIS, more than any­thing else, will de­cide the suc­cess or fail­ure of your project. Even for sim­pler ex­ten­sions, it’s strongly ad­vis­able to hire a qual­i­fied ar­chi­tect, and it’s im­por­tant to find some­one who takes the time to lis­ten and un­der­stand your vi­sion for the build. “Ask friends and fam­ily for rec­om­men­da­tions, and search the in­ter­net for com­pa­nies that have worked on sim­i­lar projects,” says Rebecca Lewis­chap­man, di­rec­tor at the IAD Com­pany (theiad­com­pany. com). “We sug­gest speak­ing to at least three firms.” Once your de­signs have been drawn up, you’ll need the sign-off of a struc­tural en­gi­neer – which is “re­quired for your build­ing con­trol ap­pli­ca­tion”, says Rebecca – and, of course, a good builder to make your plans a re­al­ity. For larger projects there’s a whole range of case-by-case spe­cial­ists you might want to call on, from in­te­rior designers to elec­tri­cal con­sul­tants and land­scape ar­chi­tects. This may feel like ex­trav­a­gant cash-splash­ing, but you can’t put a price on peace of mind, and if they can pre-empt any po­ten­tial prob­lems you’re prob­a­bly sav­ing money down the line.

CHECK PLAN­NING PER­MIS­SION

“PLAN­NING per­mis­sion should be the first thing a home­owner ap­plies for once they’re sat­is­fied with pro­posed de­signs,” says Rebecca, “and it’s im­por­tant to have ap­proval in place be­fore spend­ing any more money.” Some small al­ter­ations fall un­der ‘per­mit­ted de­vel­op­ment rights’ and shouldn’t re­quire con­sul­ta­tion, but the only way to know for sure is to check. Do not as­sume that a) no one will no­tice, b) no one will mind, or c) you can deal with it later.

OTHER REL­E­VANT PER­MIS­SIONS

EVEN if plan­ning per­mis­sion is un­nec­es­sary, you’ll still need to abide by build­ing reg­u­la­tions – in­dus­try min­i­mums for fire safety, struc­tural in­tegrity, ven­ti­la­tion, en­ergy-ef­fi­ciency and more. Check your builders can either self-cer­tify with a trade or­gan­i­sa­tion, or have cleared their work with the coun­cil. If you own a lease­hold – as op­posed to a free­hold – you may need to check your lease and no­tify your free­holder. Don’t for­get to no­tify your home in­sur­ance provider as well. Con­sult your neigh­bours too, partly as sim­ple cour­tesy, but also be­cause if you do need plan­ning per­mis­sion, they’ll be of­fi­cially con­sulted. No one en­joys trudg­ing through moun­tains of ad­min, but you re­ally don’t want to re­alise you’ve left a box unchecked af­ter knock­ing down walls, so do all your home­work first.

YOU’LL NEED TO OVER-BUD­GET

IF YOU’VE ever seen the TV show Grand De­signs, you’ll know that mak­ing – and stick­ing to – a bud­get on a con­struc­tion project is about as easy as build­ing the thing your­self. As ever, you’ll want to shop around. Pre­pare an itemised list and get quotes from at least three dif­fer­ent com­pa­nies to help you com­pare and con­trast. Re­mem­ber to check that VAT is in­cluded, and be­ware of overly op­ti­mistic builders of­fer­ing up num­bers too good to be true. Be lib­eral in your es­ti­ma­tions, and make sure your ar­chi­tect un­der­stands in de­tail your bud­getary con­straints. If you can, keep a con­tin­gency fund in re­serve for hid­den costs.

PLAN FOR DIF­FER­ENT EVENTUALIT­IES

HOME ex­ten­sions are 1% in­spi­ra­tion, 99% prepa­ra­tion, and the more time you de­vote to the plan­ning process, the smoother your project will be. “As a project pro­gresses, there can be many bumps in the road,” says Rebecca, “and the speed at which de­ci­sions need to be made when the build­ing work be­gins of­ten catches peo­ple by sur­prise. “As a con­se­quence, de­ci­sions are of­ten made in a rush, due to timescale or prod­uct availabili­ty. We al­ways ad­vise peo­ple to have a range of ideas for all fin­ishes, and one back-up for each prod­uct to cover the pos­si­bil­ity of an item go­ing out of stock.”

RE­MEM­BER IT WILL ALL BE WORTH IT

THERE’S no doubt that ex­ten­sions are daunt­ing, but the more you put in, the more you’ll get out. “It is go­ing to be dif­fi­cult,” says Rebecca. “It may well take longer than you think, it will be dirty, it will be stress­ful, and you’ll re­gret start­ing in the first place. Prob­a­bly more than once. But be­fore you know it you’ll reach the fin­ish line, and you will be liv­ing in the house of your dreams.”

Your de­signs will need to be signed off by a struc­tural en­gi­neer Go in with the right mind­set Worth it: All the ef­fort will pay off in the end

It’s strongly ad­vis­able to hire a qual­i­fied ar­chi­tect

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