What to consider when planning an extension

Before you start any exciting home improvement you should find out if you need to apply for planning permission first.

Before you do this, it’s a good idea to check on a few things first:

  • Have you let your neighbours know that you intend carrying out building work?
  • Can you reassure them that there won’t be too much disruption?
  • Will the design of your planned extension fit in with the overall look and style of your house? Not only will you need to be happy with the design, but so will prospective buyers if you do decide to sell in the future.

Whatever plans you have, make sure they involve keeping your home secure against burglary for the duration of the building works. Ask your local Crime Prevention Officer for advice before you start.

All part of the plan

The consequences of carrying out work without gaining planning permission first could mean being forced to put things right later and this could also affect your home insurance. If you are in any doubt at all then contact the planning department of your council to check.

Typical things you will need permission for are adding an extension to your home, dividing off part of your house to use as a separate dwelling or for commercial purposes, plus work that might obstruct the view of road users. You are unlikely to need it for small alterations to the outside of your house, and putting up walls and fences below a certain height. If you live in a conservation area or a listed building, further restrictions may apply.

The right person for the job

Once you’re sure everything is OK to go ahead with your plans, you’ll probably need to choose a builder. Having one recommended by a friend who has had similar work done and was happy with the results is a good idea. You can also contact the National Federation of Builders (www.builders.org.uk) for a list of members in your area.

Obtain estimates from at least three firms. Ask for quotes in writing, references (which you should follow up) and to see their public liability insurance. When you’ve chosen a builder ask them to draw up a written contract, which should include an outline of the work to be done, hours of work, completion date and so on. It’s also a good idea to agree a payment schedule up front.

Following the rules

The Building Regulations set standards for the design and construction of buildings, primarily to ensure the health and safety of all those involved but also for energy conservation and access to and about the buildings.

Complying with Building Regulations is a completely separate matter from getting planning permission. If you are employing a builder it is usually their responsibility to make sure everything complies, but you must ensure that you have confirmed this with them at the beginning of the work.

Also, do bear in mind that as the owner of the building it is you who could get an enforcement notice if the work does not meet with the regulations. Finally, when you are surrounded by rubble try and keep in mind how lovely it will all look when it’s finished!