A new extension with bifold doors

Should I have a house extension? 10 frequently asked questions

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I’ve redesigned hundreds of homes. House extensions and remodelling projects are a huge part of what I do as an architect. Changing your home can transform your living space, add value to your property and – importantly – enhance your lifestyle by changing the way you live in your house.

You might be thinking about building an extension, or you could be considering moving house and have never imagined how your current home could be changed to make it work better for you.

There are some questions I get asked all the time so let’s dive straight in:

1. I think I need a house extension so what do you mean by remodelling?
An extension involves increasing the physical size of a property by adding new rooms or extending existing ones. Adding a couple of metres to the back of your house to make a bigger kitchen – well, that’s an extension.

On the other hand, knocking your dining room and kitchen together to create a single larger kitchen-diner, that’s remodelling. It refers to reconfiguring your existing layout or altering the function of your current rooms without necessarily adding square footage.

knocking through two rooms into one

2. So how do I decide what I need? Consider what you want and what you can afford. Sometimes the issue isn’t a lack of space, but that your space isn’t working for you. When I visit people in their homes, they’re often surprised at the difference removing one or more walls and rearranging rooms can make.

If you definitely need more space, or have specific requirements that can’t be achieved by reconfiguring your rooms, a house extension might be the answer.

3. What will I gain with an extension? Increasing the physical size of your house, even just a little bit, can be transformational. People often tell me a three-meter house extension has totally changed the way they use their home. They find that the family congregate in the newly extended space or that they do more entertaining.

Check out some examples of how a well-designed house extension can transform a house, whatever its size and style.

family sitting in a redesigned space

4. Do I need planning permission for an extension? It depends! Mainly on the size of the proposed extension. You might be surprised by what’s covered by permitted development – a scheme under which some home improvements don’t need planning permission.

For example, you can build a single-storey rear extension of up to 6m for a terraced or semi-detached house. For larger extensions or those that affect the external appearance of the house you’re likely to need planning.

Always consult with local authorities or hire a professional architect to guide you through the planning permission process. Hint: I can recommend a good architect who will take care of all of this 😉

5. How much should I budget? Again, this depends on the size of the project, but also on the materials used and the level of complexity. To start with, decide what you want to achieve, then do your research, obtain detailed quotes from more than one builder and make sure you understand what’s included. It may not include items such as the new kitchen/bathroom units and other variables such as flooring and tiles. When you have your quotes, you may need to rethink your plans or increase your budget.

Then it’s about staying within budget.  A contract with your builder is essential and should cover all aspects of the project, including timelines, payment terms, and warranties. Communication is key. Have a regular catch-up with your builder and ask them to let you know if it looks like there will be some additional expense. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

It’s easy to get carried away once a building project is underway! I’ve seen it many times. Don’t cut important corners but do keep a record of ongoing expenditure.

Check out this guide to house extension costs that we update quarterly. Unexpected costs often arise during the construction process, so it’s wise to have a contingency fund. Regular communication with your contractor throughout the project will help to avoid too many surprises.

6. Should I hire an architect? Yes! But I would say that wouldn’t I? Seriously though, an architect will help you achieve what you want by designing the home that works for you. An architect will have ideas you won’t have thought of and will create detailed plans that a builder can follow. Getting the right design from the start will ensure you get the most bang for your buck and save you money in the long run.

Find an architect you feel comfortable with and who has a portfolio of work and an approach that you like. You want someone who will listen and offer several solutions to your problem.

7. How long will my house extension take? This depends on its scale, complexity, and any unforeseen challenges. While smaller internal projects may take a few weeks to complete, larger extensions can span several months. For most rear extensions and internal remodels including structural changes I recommend allowing 14 to 20 weeks. Some builders will claim it can be done in eight weeks. My experience of that is they mean the walls will be up and the roof on. You’ll be weather tight – but often, that’s only halfway there!

8. Can I live in my home during the construction process? It’s definitely possible and for most people, it’s the only way.

Building work in progress on a house
The level of disruption will depend on the scale of the work but make no mistake, it will be disruptive. Discuss this with your contractor and between you work out how to work around it.

I recommend that you (a) plan and organise a different way of living for the duration (b) be mentally prepared to live with some degree of mess and chaos and (c) remember that, when it’s finished, it’s going to be amazing! 

9. How do I ensure the quality of workmanship? Hiring a good builder can be a minefield. It’s not just quality of workmanship, although that’s fundamental. It’s about how you get along with them, how they work and their availability. You might have to wait for the good ones. My top tips include getting a recommendation and making sure you see some previous work. Read my other tips on finding a good builder.

10. Will a house extension add value to my home? In most cases, a well-executed extension can increase the value of your property. However, factors such as location, market conditions and the quality of the work will influence how much. If this is part of your objective, then consult with an estate agent before you start.

I genuinely get a kick out of helping people improve their homes by redesigning or extending their living space.  Let me use my experience and passion to make your house work better for you.  Contact me now for a free consultation.


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