4. Write a brief
A brief will help you communicate your aims to your architect. A brief should answer these questions:
- Why are you extending your house?
- What are you hoping to achieve?
- What will the new space or spaces be?
- How will this cater to your lifestyle?
- Do you have any design preferences? For example, will it be an open plan? Will it be
- Modern or fit into the current design of your house?
Writing a good brief will help the architect design your extension and get a feel for what you want resulting in great designs for you.
5. Be open to ideas
During the design process try to be open to ideas. Remember your architect is the professional and knows what they are talking about so do try and listen to their suggestions. Of course, if it’s something that you don’t want then to voice that, they are there to help you after all.
6. Live in your house before you start the extension
If you buy a new property and it is in a condition where you could move in and live comfortably, consider spending some time in the home before you start the project. Experiencing a property for 2-3 months will help you assess any issues with the property.
Having lived in the property you will be able to see exactly which renovation building projects will make the most effective use of your time and resources. I'd even suggest keeping a record or journal as light, weather, and noise conditions change throughout the day or week.
If it is not possible to live in the house before renovating it, multiple visits are recommended. Bring a notepad, tape measure, and your imagination.
7. Have a plan
Have a plan and don’t rush. Carefully think about the layout, how will the extension fit. What walls will you keep or knock down? How will the extension fit into the design of the rest of your house or will you be making changes to the rest of your house. This will help ensure that the design is cohesive throughout.
Think about lighting, think about where the sun is throughout the day. This may affect where you put windows, how many lights that you will put in. If you don’t have a plan like this, you might realise something little that bothers you a month into having your beautiful new extension.
Have a contingency plan Of course the ideal situation would be that everything runs on time and exactly to budget but the reality is this is very unlikely to happen. Extensions require remedial work to the existing property, it’s unfeasible to predict all aspects until the build work has begun.
8. Avoid making last minute changes
Making changes to your designs once you have started building can be costly and can slow down the project. Try and make sure that you are happy with your designs, and they are perfect. This will make your project run as smoothly and quickly as possible.
9. Finding an architect
When finding an architect make sure that it is someone who understands what you want and are willing to listen to all your ideas and work with you and your budget. Again, look at reviews and previous work. This will help ensure that this is the right person for you.
Regarding the design process, an architect will think of everything you don’t. They will run the project for you and fully understand building standards and regulations so can quickly identify any potential project issues. Alongside the design benefits, they will also be able to inform on likely costs, simplifying the process of hiring a builder.
It’s important to get a competent architect that has worked on similar projects to the one that you desire on your property so that it matches your taste. If you have friends or family that have had extensions that you admire, don’t be afraid to ask for the contact details of their architect.
10. Choose the right builder
Withholding some of the final cost is a good idea. If you have little tweaks that you want your builders to take care of before they leave, holding onto the final payment gives them a strong incentive to stay and do it. If you pay upfront there is little stopping them from moving on to their next job.
When choosing who will do your work for you have to be careful. Make sure that you ask around, see if any of your neighbours have had work done and if they have any recommendations. Look at reviews online, ask for references or to see images of other job sites. This will allow you to choose someone that will do your work well.
Doing your research to find the right information about completing your project can play a huge part in reducing stress throughout the process.
Read reviews, ask friends & family, go and see their previous projects. When it comes to picking the right builder there’s never too much research.
Employ a competent and reliable builder with great online reviews. You want to be able to call them at any moment, for them to provide a clear and fixed payment plan, and for them to have a consistent positive attitude to their work. Choose a builder whose work you can view and see if it matches your taste.
Be wary of the trap of builders who give a low estimate and be sure to check any reviews. Low-quality builders may work slowly, raising productivity issues with many interruptions on the way. Any issues they face may lead to them demanding more money, taking you out of your budget. Avoid builders who give a cash-in-hand quote, as you won’t have a paper trail if things go wrong.
11. Take care of all the approvals and agreements
Before you start planning your extension have a look at any restrictions that you will have to adhere to. This can change depending on where you live so make sure you do your research. This can help cut costs, you won’t have to change the designs or stop work later on.
Think about the potential restrictions and be proactive to ensure you aren’t held up by waiting on approval. Do you need planning permission? Have you contacted the local authority to ensure it complies with any building regulations? It’s better to have these questions answered early to reduce the risk of any hiccups once the work has begun. If in doubt, check out the government webpage here.
Check whether you need planning permission. Before going ahead with an extension, it is vital to get in touch with your local authority and be sure that your plan is approved. You may find yourself in deep trouble if you don’t as you will have committed a planning breach.
If you’re building a house extension or loft conversion, your project may not require householder consent through submitting an application for planning permission. Most projects that can be built under permitted development rights will still need to comply with building regulations.
Party wall agreement
A party wall act is necessary if you share a wall with your neighbours, if you live in an attached or semi-detached house. One is usually needed when building an extension.
You have to tell them if you are building on or at the boundary of your two properties, if you’re working on an existing party wall or structure, if you are digging below and near to the foundation level of their property. A party wall act needs to be obtained before building work can start.
You’ll usually need to give your neighbours at least two months notice before you start building.
Your neighbour can then either give or deny consent within 14 days of you giving notice. You must avoid causing unnecessary inconvenience to your neighbour and protect your neighbour’s property from damage and pay for any damage that occurs.
Your neighbours must let workmen onto their property during normal working hours.
12. Inform your insurance
Inform your home insurer of the renovation project as works that are potentially dangerous and increase security risk could invalidate your homeowners insurance if not reported, or if not covered, additional temporary cover may be required.
The best thing to do is give your insurance provider a call to check if the policy covers typical renovation work like kitchen extensions and loft conversions.
Make your home insurance provider aware of the extension, even if the builders have their own cover, it is important to keep your provider in the loop.
Get site insurance. Make sure that you get site insurance with a top insurance provider to cover both the existing building structure and new builds up until the end of the project. An extension comes with many risks such as collapses, floods, and bursts, so it is vital that you are fully covered.
13. Communication is key
Having everyone on the same page is essential for the success of the project.
Jim Duncan, who recently finished his second house extension says:
“One of the key learnings was on communication between the various sub-contractors, or more lack of. The electricians had drilled all the holes & fitted the wiring for the light fittings. The next day the plasterers arrived to plaster the ceiling, covering all the holes left by the electricians. Never assume with communication, double check to avoid extra, unnecessary work.”
Avoidable mistakes can negatively impact relationships between client and contractor. Luckily for Jim, this was a relatively quick and inexpensive fix. However, poor communication can sometimes lead to mistakes costing thousands of pounds, as well as driving projects to a halt.
Keep a record of conversations onsite and on the phone. No need to carry around a voice recorder, but taking notes to summarise a conversation, then typing it up later can go a long way.
Create a new folder or tab on your email account to separate project specific communication, or go a step further and create an email address for the project.
14. Consider any site access issues
It is important to consider any restrictions where you will be building and whether the materials and equipment can be delivered to your property.
You must make sure that there is enough room on and around your property for builders and suppliers to park their vehicles and store materials.
It may be wise to dedicate a low-priority and infrequently used room to the storage of their materials so that they are out of the way. Additionally, be sure that there aren’t any site access issues.
15. Live off site
While it is possible to live in your house during renovations, it is often less stressful to move out and rent a flat or house locally if you’re looking for ways to reduce stress while renovating.
Living on a building site for one to three months can take its toll, especially if you have young children and/or work from home.
Moving into rental accommodation on a short-term contract can insulate you from the mess, noise and general chaos of major building work. It could also speed up the renovation process as builders won’t need to work around you and your family.
Renting a place locally means you’ll have quick access to the property which can be extremely convenient if you are managing the construction project yourself. The best and quickest way to answer questions from builders and subcontractors is usually in person onsite.
Ofcourse, moving out can create a significant added expense that may not have been budgeted for initially, which in itself could generate a new source of stress if you’re on a tight budget. If you know this to be the case, or simply cannot afford to account for rent during the building process, there are things you can do to reduce stress living onsite during a build.