Extensions: Top 20 Dos and Don'ts!
Updated: Feb 24
Building an extension is an exciting project. After all, it will deliver the extra space you need in your home without the hassle of moving to a new one. It might also help you create a more open layout and provide a better link from your home to your garden.
House extensions are an investment, so you’ll want to be sure you spend your budget wisely and achieve the results you’ve envisaged. It’s also important to minimise the disruption that a building project inevitably brings.
To ensure your extension project runs smoothly, here are the top 20 do's and don'ts.
1. DO: APPROACH A PROFESSIONAL
To guide you through what is likely to be achieved and within your budget. Appointing the right person to advise and draw up your plans is equally as important as selecting the right builder.
2. DO: GET DETAILED PLANS DRAWN UP
Good design is also about producing plans that clearly detail all the elements your builder will need to achieve. The more detailed the drawings, the less chance you have of the project rearing of course and costs spiraling upwards.
3. DO: MAKE A PLANNING APPLICATION
Is it better to avoid applying for full planning permission on an extension and follow the Permitted Development route? I would say no, a lawful development certificate will take the same amount of time as a full planning application and the costs are similar. Permitted Development is also much more restrictive.
4. DO: AGREE PRICES WITH EVERYONE UPFRONT
One of the most stressful moments in any project is when the invoices arrive, particularly if they’re more costly than expected. The blame for this may lie with you, for not being clear about what you want or changing your mind, or your builder, for not communicating how costs have been mounting up. The best way to avoid surprises is to keep all lines of communication open and be clear on variations to the original design.
5. DO: HAVE A POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE
How you approach the project mentally will have a massive impact on how it affects you. Despite all best efforts, things do occasionally go wrong. Are you a problem-solver and constructive, or are you predicting failure before it’s happened? Do you go from serenity to full-blown stress in a few seconds, or are you able to shrug your shoulders and deal with difficulties in a positive way? Manage your expectations – this is going to be a tricky few months with a mixture of brilliant epiphanies and a fair share of alarms. If you can ride the project roller coaster with a smile, it can make all the difference. The outcome, of course, will always be worth it in the end.
6. DO: PLAN AHEAD
Planning ahead, define your objectives and prepare a realistic time schedule.
7. DO: CONSIDER CAREFULLY YOUR FINANCES
Look at your finances, consider your budget carefully and also know how much value your extension will add to your property.
8. DO: CHECK INSURANCES
Check that the professional you appoint to obtain Planning Permission and Building Control Approvals, also your builder has the relevant insurance in place, past experience and is able to offer reviews by others.
9. DO: MINIMISE THE UNKNOWNS
When your builder quotes for work, they are gathering lots of individual prices for the dozens of mini jobs that make up your project. Everything in construction has a price and it's important to be clear about your project from the start. Try not to change your mind too many times as this could significantly increase costs.
10. DO: TALK TO KITCHEN COMPANIES EARLY ON
If your project includes a kitchen extension it’s important to make sure that the layout will accommodate everything you expect. It is a great idea to get an initial design and quote from a kitchen company early on in the design process.
11. DO: PLAN AHEAD TO MINIMISE DISRUPTION DURING THE BUILD
Unless you are moving out for the duration of the work, you need to be ready for the upheaval. Depending on the type of extension you choose, your daily life can be affected by the works and that is something you will need to anticipate. Setting up a temporary kitchen in another room for instance is something you may wish to consider.
12. DON'T: PAY FOR WORK IN ADVANCE
Reputable professionals and builders will not expect you to do this. Agree the time frame for payments and budget this into the cost of your project.
13. DON'T: CHANGE YOUR MIND
Try not to change your mind when work begins on site if at all possible. It may result in a hefty budget overspend.
14. DON'T: NECESSARILY GO FOR THE LOWEST QUOTE
Busy professionals and builders may not offer the lowest fee quote your receive. References and reviews by others are by far more important.
15. DON'T: RUN INTO MONEY PROBLEMS
Make sure your extension is properly planned, designed and costed within your budget.
16. DON'T: FORGET BUILDING REGULATIONS
Home extensions are subject to the building regulations, so you need to be aware of the rules. Your Professional will guide you through all the regulations. Building regulations have become increasingly tighter around house extensions that may affect a home's energy efficiency for instance. To comply with building regulations your professional will make sure that you have confirmation from Building Control that the drawings and specification meets the required standards before you start work on site.
17. DON'T: USE UNUSUAL MATERIALS
Asking a professional or your builder to forego their many years of experience to create something totally bespoke, or to use materials that are alien to them, is not the path to a smooth project. You are introducing unknowns into your scheme which can result in unpredictable cost and scheduling outcomes, listen to their advice.
18. DON'T: BE UNCLEAR ABOUT WHO'S DOING WHAT
If you're taking responsibility for individual elements of the project, be clear with your builder where the boundaries lie. You may be responsible for the the final fitting out, fitting the flooring for instance or painting / decorating. Agree these elements with your builder.
19. DON'T: BE WITHOUT DUST BARRIERS
To avoid getting dust in places where it's impossible to get it out, move furniture into storage during the project. If you can’t do that, then be strict about wrapping the furniture properly in dust sheets. Using dust barriers over doors will also help.
20. DON'T: LET CHILDREN AND THE BUILDING SITE MIX
It goes without saying that having tools, heavy materials and lots of activity around your home can be dangerous, particularly for young children. Keep your site tidy and ensure that tools get locked away every night by the tradespeople. Consider moving children away from the house during the most disruptive elements of the project.
With sufficient forethought you will have planned your extension so it will be a great source of satisfaction to everyone living in the house and also add to the value of you property.
If you need advice, I would be more than happy to chat to you, no obligation.
Contact me and check out the reviews section of my website. Thanks for reading my blog and I hope it's been useful to you. Glenn