House Extensions 101: Getting Permission, Getting Started & Getting Sorted.

2020 kicked off an increase in home extensions across the UK. Online interest in ‘home extension’ shot up that year, and the summer of 2020 saw a dramatic surge in home improvements. 

And without dwelling on the past too much, many attribute the growth in home extensions to COVID-19. Whether homeowners had extra spending money after lockdown or had to accommodate a novel working-from-home set-up, it seems that building an extension became a priority in London and across the UK.

Here’s the good news: Building an extension could be a simpler (and more affordable) process than you think, and the secret to just getting started is in this guide.

Is an extension worth it for me?

To move or to extend…that’s the real question. At least on the lips of many homeowners across the UK.

You might have a growing family, teenagers who want more of their own space, or even a home business that’s grown long legs. And while it’s tempting to scroll Rightmove for a relocation, the grass isn’t always greener outside a new property.

The cost of moving house gets in the way for many Brits nowadays, so more people are choosing to elevate what they already have. An extension accommodates your changing lifestyle needs and adds value to your property if you ever do decide to sell up. However, we have seen cases where space-seekers have moved and found a better property with less outlay than building an extension, so there’s no black-and-white solution here. It’s best to speak to a builder before doing anything drastic. They can evaluate the property you already have and provide recommendations about the best route to take.

Location also comes into play while you weigh up your options. Some of our clients don’t want to move house because they have an incredible back garden with an unbeatable view, live in a village they love, or are close to their children’s schools.

A couple of things to keep in mind:

  • May 2019 saw an update in Permitted Development Rights, altering planning laws affecting home extensions. The changes could mean you don’t need to apply for full planning permission for a single-storey extension, as long as it meets the limits set out in the criteria.
  • We know it’s boring, but higher interest rates, stamp duty and fees should be taken into account when you’re deciding between extensions vs. buying a house. They can drive up the cost of a new home fast.
  • If your property lends itself to further worthwhile development (in other words, does it need some extra bells and whistles on top of the extension itself?) then that changes the whole picture.

Our key tip: Engage a home extension builder at the conceptual stage, while you’re working out whether an extension is worth it for you. It will pay off further down the line, prevent you from wasting money and provide a steer for further development.

All about planning permission

The good news is you don’t always need to apply for planning permission if you want to extend your house. This HomeOwners Alliance list covers the occasions when you won’t need planning permission, which could save you some Googling and/or worrying.

However, if you’ve got your sights set on an extension that doesn’t fall under “permitted development”, you’ll have to go through a slightly lengthy process to get the go-ahead. This is when you’ll need to obtain planning permission.

It can feel daunting, so we always recommend speaking to specialist home extension builders early on. You might be pleasantly surprised at the options available, which can encourage you to push on with the process. Builders often work with architects who keep work streams moving, and you might be able to work with an architectural technician who can undertake planning permission on your behalf. 

Our key tip: Be prepared. It can take up to 18 months to obtain full planning permission, while permitted development is a much shorter process (as long as you stay within the restrictions of the policy). 

Where should I start with my house extension? 

You’re probably sensing a theme throughout this guide, but we suggest you start by speaking to a builder.

An experienced home extension builder can give you an estimate of the true costs of your home extension and will guide you through the entire process. 

At this point, you’ll also need to think about:

  • Budget: Make a list of everything you’d like to be included in your home improvement and share it with your builder to determine whether it’s aligned with your budget.
  • Building regulations: Even if you don’t need planning permission, your extension will have to comply with building regs. All work carried out has to be certified either by the professionals who work on your home or by local Building Control Officers at your council.
  • Home insurance cover: Let your home and contents insurance provider know about your big plans for your property. Otherwise, your policy could be void if something went wrong during the build.
  • Your neighbours: If the works require planning permission, your local authority will contact your neighbours to ensure they’re onboard. If you don’t need permission, we recommend giving the neighbours a heads-up anyway, as building work can be disruptive to everyone around.
  • Party wall agreement: Making changes to a shared wall or converting your loft? You might need a party wall agreement.
  • An architect: You don’t always need an architect but if your budget allows, it doesn’t hurt to have a professional eye helping to design your extension. An architect can make sure your ideas are viable, improve the flow of your home and help you make much better use of the new (and existing) space available.

How long does an extension take?

This one’s dependent on your extension’s size, complexity and design. However, as a rule of thumb, we find the build takes about 3 weeks for a 5m2 porch and around 40 weeks for an 80m2 extension.

Don’t forget to factor in time for planning permission, architect designs and unpredictable factors… like the UK weather and disagreeable neighbours!

This is where you chat to a builder…

There’s no time like the present to start your home extension process. And the first step is easy: Chatting to Heronlake about bringing some fresh space into your home.

We’ll come and check the place out and provide our take on whether we think building an extension is worth it, how much it might cost and how long it will take. Give us a ring on +44 1252 266126 or hit the contact button below.

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