As well as creating much-needed living space, building a new ground-floor addition to your home could revolutionise its layout and brighten up the rest of the interior.
1. Decide essential elements
Use this checklist to consider your design options for the new space:
- Work out the kitchen as a proportion of the extension
- Will it have a separate utility room?
- Work out the dining area as a proportion of the extension
- Work out the seating area as a proportion of the extension
- Work out the home office as proportion of extension
- Will it have a store room?
- Will it have bi-fold doors/sliding doors?
- Will it have an adjacent outdoor dining area?
- Will it have an adjacent outdoor seating area?
- Work out the bedroom as a proportion of the extension
- Work out the shower room as proportion of extension
- Work out the bathroom as proportion of extension
2. Appoint a designer
‘As well as finding a designer you can talk to easily, make sure that they will carry out small-scale work,’ says Alan Cronshaw of Acronym Architecture & Design.
‘Choose someone who can demonstrate completion of similar schemes that impress you. You may want to choose a firm that is located fairly near to your house. Some designers charge for an initial visit; others do this for free. This may inform how many you decide to get into an initial dialogue with.’
3. Map out the build
Discuss the features you want as well as your goals.
‘It is good to have a brief for your designer, but this can be loose,’ says Alan. ‘If you want an open-plan layout, a better relationship between house and garden or simply more space, your designer will advise you on how to achieve this, perhaps with options. If you want expensive items, such as a certain brand of kitchen, or bi-fold or large sliding doors, let the designer know so the added cost can be factored into your budget.’
Think about the future, too. ‘Single-storey extensions usually need less substantial and, therefore, cheaper foundations and steelwork/lintels over openings than a two-storey design. However, if you think you may build another storey above your extension one day, it may be worth planning for this expansion from the outset,’ says Alan. ‘If you are thinking of doing this, make it clear to the professionals you hire.’
4. Choose your planning route
You may be able to make use of permitted development (PD) rights for your extension, which allow you to build without having to make a planning application.
‘However, under PD, you cannot use contrasting materials for an extension — they have to be similar to that of the existing house,’ says Alan. ‘If you want something different, permission will be needed. The footprint and height of the extension will also have to meet PD criteria.
‘If building under PD, you may want to apply for a certificate of lawful development from your local authority. You can build without one, but it will give you paperwork to prove that your scheme met requirements and did not need planning permission.’
The general PD criteria is detailed on planningportal.gov.uk, but check with your local authority as well, because some areas have more restricted rights, such as in Conservation Areas. Local authorities can also use Article 4 Directions to remove rights.
5. Get other approvals
Building regulations approval is essential. ‘Any extension will have to demonstrate compliance and this usually comes in the form of making a Building Control application to the local authority,’ explains Alan. ‘Each authority has its own table of charges or you can use a private certified Building Control firm if you prefer.’
If you are building near neighbours, to meet the requirements of the Party Wall etc Act, a surveyor (rics.org) may be required, although you may be able to undertake the notifications yourself; see planningportal.gov.uk.
6. Find a builder
Recommendation, as well as trade bodies such as the Federation of Master Builders, can help you to find contractors.
‘Decide if you want to use a larger, faster but more expensive firm that may be more flexible, or a smaller firm that will be less expensive,’ says Marta de Sousa of property developers Lux Reality.
‘Make sure that any contractors you use have warranties in place, such as Masterbond. Draw up a watertight contract using a template, such as a JCT homeowner contract, and make sure to state in it that payments be made following the completion of specific parts of work and not at different stages, as it is usually very hard to define when you are halfway or a quarter of the way through an extension project.’
The costs of the work depend on the result you’re after. Use these figures, based on a finished cost per square metre (£/m²), from experienced renovator Michael Holmes:
- Basic quality £1,380 to £1,680
- Good quality £1,680 to £1,920
- Excellent quality £1,920 to £2,160
Professional project fees
Budget for design fees from three to seven per cent of the construction cost, with a minimum of around £2,400 to £3,600 for the planning drawings. Construction drawings will typically cost the same and you might need a structural engineer to size roof joists and foundations. Factor in £500 to £1,000.
A measured survey of the existing house will cost from £500 to £1,500 depending on the size of the property.
If you are employing your designer to put the contract out to tender, appoint the builder and administer the contract, budget for a further three to seven per cent of the build cost. Alternatively, agree a day or hourly rate for ad hoc site attendance.
The planning fee for a residential extension in England is £172. A certificate of lawful development is £86 and the fee for discharging planning conditions is £28 per request. Bear in mind that other reports may be needed:
- Tree report, £720 upwards
- Flood risk assessment within flood zones, £720 upwards
- Ecology report that may be required by your local authority, from £720, but can be much more
- Archaeological report if in an area of archaeological interest, possibly several thousand pounds
- Historic building report, likely if your home is listed
The size of your extension will affect the fees for building regulations approval. Plan for from £250 for one to 10 square metres, and £900 for 80 to 100 square metres, whether you go for a full plans application with everything approved before you start, or a building notice application, where you need only give 48 hours’ notice of commencement.
‘If your neighbours consent formally, you won’t need a party wall settlement and can save money here. If not, having a surveyor arrange party wall agreements for you typically costs from £700 to £1,000 per neighbour,’ says Michael.
‘It may be possible to extend your existing central heating system,’ says Alan. ‘Or you may opt for underfloor heating.’ If you need a new boiler to meet the demand, the Energy Saving Trust estimates the cost of a gas boiler replacement at around £2,300.
The cost of fitting out your extension will depend on the rooms within it.
- For a kitchen, budget from around £4,500 to £16,500, depending on the specification; if you go high end, costs can increase significantly on this.
- For a bathroom, factor in from around £4,000 to £10,000, according to the level of fittings.
- For a shower room, plan for between £4,500 and £11,000, again depending on your level of fittings.
- For flooring, budget in the region of £24 to £96 per square metre.
- For wall and ceiling finishes not included in the build costs, set aside from around £77 per square metre for plaster or dry-lining plus paint.
Bi-fold or sliding doors
If you’re including bi-fold or sliding doors in your extension, factor in £1,400 to £1,800 per linear metre.
Creating an indoor-outdoor link
Opt for the widest panel possible when you’re choosing bi-fold doors for uninterrupted outlooks to your garden space. ‘The maximum panel width for this door style is 1.2 metres, providing a large expanse of glass and maximising the view outside,’ explains Neil Ginger, chief executive officer at Origin.
Having a stone floor that looks as good in the extension as on the patio can create an expansive feel. ‘Make sure the stone you choose will work outside and in, and make sure both are fitted to a solid substrate,’ says Jo O’Grady, marketing director at Stone Age.
‘Often the exterior stone will be thicker than the internal and it may require a slightly coarser finish. Depending on the climate and surroundings of the area you live in, bright and dazzling limestones work well, as they help to open up the space and illuminate when the sun hits it — try creamy Brabazon or Piedra Plana Extra.’
Try to think of your furniture choices for the interior and exterior together. ‘Choosing matching finishes, colours and textures for outdoor and indoor furniture is a great way to keep a coherent look that flows from within the home and out into the garden or patio,’ says John Sims Hilditch, co-founder of Neptune.
Image: © Phil Tragen