A Beginner’s Guide to Cost/Price of Building a House/Home Extension
A Beginner’s Guide to Cost/Price of Building a House/Home Extension
A Beginner’s Guide to Planning an Extension…
Why Get An Extension? (Stupid Question, Right?)
I won't insult your intelligence by outlining all the reasons you have chosen for deciding to have an extension to your property - you know why. The house is now too small, little Johnny has just come along or maybe you just need more space for your Hornby train set.
If it’s the latter, then you are a bit sad and we should move on.
Let's come at it from another angle.
Although it seems hideously expensive at the time and you will spend many weeks nervously reading your bank statements, an extension is an excellent way of increasing the value of your property. As a builder I have done many extensions and the day you finish, and the last tool has been put back in the van, the homeowner can pretty much look forward to re-couping their money and then some. And then some more. In fact many smaller property developers will buy a place, do all the usuals, stick on an extension "a box" and sell it on at a profit. Thus they move up the ladder rung by rung. I’ve done it myself. but I’ve tired of sleeping in mess and debris and so I now write scintillating articles about building instead.
So, I bet if you are reading this, you are pretty set on having an extension done?
Let’s see if we can help.
Now. Put the kettle on and pull up a chair.
First things first.
It's amazing how many extensions I have been to see where the customer (sorry, potential client) has looked at me blankly when I ask if they have had any plans drawn up. The first thing to do, assuming that you are not an architect, is appoint an architect.
The architect will be able to guide you through the whole process, tell you what is and what isn’t possible and generally be the helping hand you need. Try and get a local one who knows the foibles of the local authority. You may have to reign him in on a few issues, (they do enjoy spending your money) the architect on our current job keeps trying to insert portholes in every available wall. I wouldn't mind but these are in the basement.
Remember, he is there for you, to listen to your ideas and to liaise with the builder.
But above all, use your common sense. Try and keep a perspective of your property and design something that is sympathetic to the area. Use the same or similar materials wherever you can and try and build a continuation of what is already there. Sometimes it costs a bit more,but it sure is worth it. The Planning people will like you a lot more as well.
Planning Permission, Building Regulations and all that stuff.
Right, so lets assume that your architect has created some beautiful drawings of which you thoroughly approve. He may have even drawn some trees in your garden and some beds upstairs with the sheets neatly turned back just so you know that they are bedrooms.
He/she will now take them to the Local Council where people in offices will rub their chins, lean back in their chairs and generally make out that they are trying to figure out the secrets of the Universe. In reality, all they have to do is say yes or say no or ask you to change that bit and before they let it through.
They will also put the plans on the Planning Register and notify neighbours of your intentions. (You may need a Party Wall Agreement.) They plaster notifications on trees as well in their own see-through waterproof jackets.
The planning process should take about 8 year..I mean weeks and if you get the go ahead, you are then obliged to complete the project within five years otherwise permission will expire and you will have to start the whole sorry process again.
The Building Bit...
Let's say you have got your Planning Permission and you have emerged on to your front doorstep like a modern day Neville Chamberlain clutching that piece of paper. But wait, that’s not all, you also need Building Regulations and these are just as important.
A Building Inspector doesn’t really give a monkey's about planning or the design. He is only concerned that your erection is going up according to the book. He will come to visit the job at different stages to assess that what is being done is being done properly and that complies with all current building regulations. He may also have a clipboard. It's worth being nice to the Building Inspector. We are on first name terms with our local Inspector and it makes life a whole lot easier. A good builder, hopefully your good builder, will know all this already and besides, compliance in this respect is his problem not yours - it will all be factored into his quotation. See our guide to the process of building an extension for details on the construction of a project.
There I’ve said it. Good builder. You heard it here first.
Good Builders and Bad Builders
How long have you got? Better boil that kettle again.
This one has been done to death, but with a bit of common-sense, recommendations and a soupcon of good-luck you will pick a good builder. There are a lot out there. The whole Builders-from-Hell scenario has put many people on permanent guard, and they very often assume that all Builders are inherently dodgy. I have always argued that there's room for a Customers-from-Hell programme too - but that’s for another day.
Just remember - you are not always right and neither is he. Give-and-take is the key.
I tend to get all my work through recommendation. I’m not blowing my own trumpet here, (I'm more of a percussion man) it's just common sense. I am constantly amazed how many new clients seem surprised when I turn up to quote on a potential new job, on time and on the right day. They will tell me that 3 builders who were supposed to come round had failed to turn up without any explanation. Now it might just be me, but that doesn’t bode too well. Furthermore, some builders may turn up, not fancy the job and are never heard of again.
How Do You Make That Choice?
Try and pick a builder who has done some work for friends or neighbours. Then you can talk to them and ask yourself all the relevant questions.
- Did he turn up on time?
- Can you view the quality of his work?
- Is he expensive?
- Does he return your calls? Go on, make some to find out.
- Does he smile? Nobody wants a miserable so-and-so in their home for 16 weeks while they bleed money from their savings account
- Do you seem to get on?
I would also recommend getting at least three quotes for the work but don’t automatically plump for the cheapest - it's not always the best way.
Make sure that everything is laid out in a quotation:
- How much will be paid at different stages of your extension?
- How long the job will take and such like.
- Does he have Public Liability Insurance
- Will he do the work himself?
For a broader explanation of this, see our Universal Builders Checklist.
Very often, the architect will be involved in this process, but never forget it is your job and it is your money and you are the ultimate boss. And beware a builder who wants a huge amount of money before starting anything. Hopefully a relationship of trust will be built up as the job unfolds.
And give ‘em plenty of tea.
For larger projects, and if the bank balance allows, it may be worth employing a project manager to take some of the load of the builder. Smaller projects can be easily run by the builder, but you want your builder doing what he does best - building - not standing at the bottom of a trench with a mobile phone pressed to his ear shouting “it was supposed to be here at 10 o' clock!” whilst 3 blokes are standing around leaning on their shovels.
So that should be pretty much what you have to do to give yourself the best chance of getting off to a good start. I could chuck in a couple of other things like keeping your neighbours up to date and in the loop. But I don't know your neighbours. You may live in Ramsay Street and suburban living is a bowl of cherries! If in doubt, talk to them. Make sure that they are happy and that their property is unaffected or at least try and make it a smooth operation for them too. But above all, communicate with them. They will appreciate it all the more if they know what's going on and that they are not going to be awoken at 8a.m. one Monday morning by a Kango hammer, scruffy men swearing and the piercing reversing beeping of a concrete delivery truck.
Good luck and don’t forget the tea, please!
The Process of Building an Extension