Thinking of moving because you need more space? Why not extend instead…

April 15, 2022

The current situation has seen most of us spend more time in our homes than ever before. Extending your home could be the perfect solution to making the most of your living areas. Why spend money on moving costs ? Our advice is to invest in the property you’re in and you will still be reaping the rewards when you retire.

We somehow always seem to need more space at home, especially when living with children or preparing to start a new family.  More space at the rear of your home could really make a difference to the way the whole family lives.  Having a light, bright and spacious kitchen/dining/living area that leads out onto the garden or small urban patio will really bring the family together. This new space will become the family hub or if your children are teenagers and just want to lounge about away from their parents then this space could really just be for you.

What about a workshop – lots of people are creating and selling beautiful handmade products from home. Just look at the success of websites such as Etsy and Pinterest. Home office? These are becoming more and more popular as we are asked by our employers to work from home – me included! Music room? Reading room or library? Having extra space really does make a huge difference in your home – you’ll wonder how you lived without it for so long!

Already got a rear extension?  Then why not add another storey on top? The possibilities are endless for this extra room on the first floor. Especially if you have an elderly family member that needs more support.  Or a gym or again – a home office – just think of the possibilities!

Whatever you’re thinking, any extension to your home needs careful planning before you start knocking down walls or choosing a paint colour. From setting your budget to employing trades; to the legalities and logistics of a project — there’s lots to navigate.

Here are a few pointers before you start dreaming of you new light bright spacious home:

1. Do all home extensions add value?

The simple answer to this one is NO! For any home extension to make economic sense, you need to make sure the value added is greater than the cost of the project. Easy right? Not exactly, It can be difficult to assess. A good idea is to have a look at the houses for sale and those that have already sold in your area. You can find out all sorts of useful information on RightMove or Zoopla. Remember that all homes have ceiling values, be prepared to compromise your plans if necessary.

2. Building Regs

These are required for any alteration to your home, extensions, garage conversions, loft conversions or even a replacement roof.  The regulations are in place to protect you but it is a hurdle that needs to be jumped.  The Building Regulations set out minimum requirements for:

-fire safety


-structural integrity

-energy efficiency

-damp proofing

Some repair work is excluded from Building Regulations, with the exceptions of replacement windows, under­­pinning and rewiring. However, apart from certain new buildings such as sheds, outbuildings and some conser­vatories, all new building work, including altera­tions, must comply with the regulations.

3. Get the professionals in.

When adding an extra room to your home the design is really important. Employ a professional.  People tend to focus more on the square meters rather than the design.  Bigger isn’t always better and professional design will make all the difference and if you don’t need to add such a large extension you could save money on the build. This is often achieved through clever design, not only of the new space, but also what is already there. This is where choosing the right experts for you is important.

4. Choose the right designer.

When it comes to the design of your extensions, there are a number of options you can choose from. One of the most important things is that you like the person that is going to help you design your dream home and they have successfully completed similar projects. Ask for recommendations from friends, family and neighbours, but also look online for practices that have designed projects similar to what you are hoping to build. Get lots of quotes, ask exactly what you’re being quoted for and make sure you can change your mind. This can be a costly process but it is one of the most important steps.  If your project is not perfect on paper it will always end up costing you more. Spending money on an architectural designer is a very good investment.

5. Understanding the Party Wall Act

Neighbours can be fantastic until you start building. Always protect yourselves with formal agreements and professional advice.  Neighbours cannot stop you from build­ing up to, or even on, the boundary between your properties, even if it requires access onto their land. However, everything needs to have the correct permissions and research should be done to make sure there are no covenants in place.  Do not make an agreement by having a chat over the garden fence, circumstances change and having a 6 month building project going on in your garden can be a testing time. The Party Wall Act allows you to carry out work on, or up to, your neighbours’ land and buildings, formalising the arrangements while also protecting everyone’s interests. This is not a matter covered by planning or building control.

If your house extension involves digging or building foundations within 3m of your neighbours’ boundary, or digging foundations within 6m of a boundary, the work will require you to comply with the Party Wall Act. In these cases you may need a surveyor to act on your behalf. Employing a professional to act on your behalf is the best advice we would give in these circumstances.

6. Building an extension on or near a sewer

If your house extension will be built over or in the area of a sewer then get in touch with your water board. You will need to contact your water board before work begins. The location of sewers can cause problems, especially if the sewer you want to build over is shared with more than one property and is within 3m of your planned extension. If this is the case then you will need a Build Over Agreement from your local authority. These can be tricky – and costly – especially if a new manhole is needed, or an existing one needs to be moved.

7. Extending above a single storey

While it may seem appealing to extend above a single-storey extension or garage, these structures may not be able to support the load. It’s all about foundations. There are options once you ascertain what the foundations are like on the original extension. It is possible to underpin existing foundations, strengthen using steel frames bedded in new concrete footing or even demolish and rebuild.

8. Can your current boiler cope in your new home extension?

Not many people even consider this. A larger kitchen or extra downstairs loo or a bathroom upstairs will put extra strain on your boiler. Heating, hot water and water pressure all need to be taken into consideration. Think about boiler output, size of the radiators needed in the extension and how long your hot water cylinder will take to reheat.  Combination boilers are popular but you need to make sure their output is sufficient.

9. Positioning of services in your home extension

Here comes the exciting part – where is everything going to be once your extension is built? You need to think of functionality as well as design if you are extending your kitchen.  Plug sockets, built in white goods, cooker sockets and plumbing all need to be decided before the build starts so the contractors get everything right. The same will apply if you’re building a two-storey extension and are including a new bathroom or en suite in the design. Get these decisions sorted out and your build will have fewer delays.

10. Should I live on site?

Tough one this.  I think it all depends on your current circumstances and whether you have young children or pets.  Personally I wouldn’t fancy living on site during a build project but not everyone has a choice.  If you do need to live on site it could potentially slow down the build as the builders try and work around your life. Temporary accommodation, living with friends or relatives, caravan or even a hotel are all possibilities worth looking into.

11. Access restrictions?

Do you live in a terraced house, or are you converting a barn at the end of a wobbly path? Access for contractors is key as is storage of building equipment, skips and vehicles. If you live in a terraced house with restricted access, this could  affect your options in terms of extension design. For example, you may not be able to use certain construction methods, or you may need to make arrangements with your neighbours to temporarily use their garden for storage of building materials. Most problems can be resolved with good communication but it’s worth taking into consideration.

12. Can I project manage?

This is a decision only you can make. You know your home and how you want to live in it better than anyone.  Project managing any building project requires high levels of patience, organisation, problem-solving and decision-making skills. If this doesn’t sound like you or you simply don’t have the time then employ a professional project manager or a company that offers this service within the design package.

13. What is the Community Infrastructure Levy?

Before dreaming about your home extensions you should establish if you will be liable to pay the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). Some councils operate this scheme, and it’s applicable to extensions over 100m² in gross internal area (even if they are built under Permitted Development).

There is an exemption from this tax called ‘the self builders relief.  To apply for this relief you must first assume the responsibility of the CIL and then apply for the relief before the build has started. You cannot claim retrospectively. You must also intend to live at the property, as your main residence, for at least 3 years after the completion of the build. Always check with your local authority before any work starts.

14. Site insurance is important.

When carrying out a new home extension you need to have site insurance. You’ll need to cover the existing structure and the new works until you complete the project.

If you are vacating the property during the build, you will require site insurance for unoccupied buildings which will usually be a minimum six month policy. Always contact your existing insurance provider to notify them of work before you start. It just makes sense to protect yourself. There could be a flood or fire during construction, we don’t want you to be in an insurance nightmare – a smooth build is a happy build.

15. Planning rules in conservation areas

Permitted Development rights are restricted in Conservation Areas. Each local authority has its own policy for areas like this, but generally the basis of the policy is to prevent the loss of character of the area. So, if you’re thinking about a house extension, always contact your local conservation officer first.

16. Trees!

Some trees are protected by Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs). Even if house extensions don’t require planning permission you cannot alter or even prune a tree that has a TPO on it without planning permission.

All trees within a Conservation Area are protected by legislation and effectively have a TPO on them providing they have a trunk of diameter greater than 75mm. Altering a tree that is protected by a TPO is a criminal offence and can result in substantial fines so take care if you are extending your home near to a protected tree.

17. Contingency budget

All sorts of problems can be uncovered during any build.  Rather than cutting into your build budget and making unwanted compromises we suggest having a contingency budget. 10-20% of the build cost is a perfect sum to have put aside just in case.

18. Building Control

Before any works begin, you will need to submit either a building notice or a full plans application to building control. You need building control to sign off on your design. Otherwise you will be liable for any alterations needed to meet the building regulation standards once the inspection has been done.