The Ins and Outs of a Home Extension Are a Little Trickier Than You May Think

Before extending your home, do be aware that if you live in a conservation area, your development rights are going to be limited. Each local authority has its own policy for Conservation Areas but generally the basis of the policy is to prevent the loss of character of the Conservation Area. So, if you are thinking about extending your home, always contact your local conservation officer first. 

Have You Really Thought Through Your Loft Conversion?
Before embarking on an expensive attic con­ver­sion, think carefully about the cost relative to the amount of useful space that can be gained, and the impact on the existing accommodation. If the usable space is limited, consider raising the roof height by rebuilding it, or even lowering the existing ceiling height below. Accessing a habitable loft conversion requires a permanent staircase and this will need landing space.

Extending a Listed Building Can Be Problematic
Permitted development rights do not apply to listed buildings, so any extensions will need both planning and listed building consent. The design of any extensions to a listed building need to be of a very high quality and it will be necessary to use the services of a specialist architect or surveyor.

It will be essential to work closely with the local authority conser­vation officer if you are extending your home. Each officer will have their own perspective on what will alter the character of a listed building. It is a criminal offense to alter a listed building, inside or out, without listed building consent. 

Permitted Development is Not Always Straightforward
Under the new rules, the rear wall of a detached home can be extended by up to 8m in depth with a single story extension; this is reduced to 6m if you are extending a semi-detached home or terrace. If your proposed new extension will be within 3m of a boundary, then the eaves height is limited to 2m under Permitted Development.

New extensions must be built of materials ‘similar in appearance’ and with the same roof pitch as the main house. So while Permitted Development rights are beneficial, there’s a lot to consider before extending.

Minimum Room Sizes
It can be tempting to try and subdivide existing and new space into as many bedrooms as required, particularly if budget or the size of the extension permit­ted is restricted. However, there are minimum sizes beyond which rooms will not function. 

When considering applications for conver­sions, most local authorities have recom­men­ded minimum room sizes which planning applica­tions must conform to. However, the rules about sizes are more applicable to social housing and are usually relaxed for private accommodation, but you should still bear them in mind if you are extending.

Know the Party Wall Act
Your neighbours cannot stop you from build­ing up to, or even on, the boundary between your properties, even if it requires access onto their land (providing you have planning permission to do so, and there are no restrictive covenants). 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 extension involves building or digging foundations within 3m of the boundary, party wall or party wall struc­ture, 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.

There is a Difference Between an Estimate and a Quotation
An estimate is normally a contractor’s guess as to what your extension will cost. Whether given verbally, or in writing, is not legally binding and the final bill may exceed it. A quotation is a definite price. When deciding which builder to choose, always get written quotations from at least two firms, ideally ones that have been recommended to you. The written quotes should itemise the work to be done, provide a breakdown of costs and a total, and state whether VAT is included. When you receive the bids, check whether there are any caveats which might involve extra expense. Also, compare provisional sums for work such as foundations to make sure you are comparing like with like. 

Beware of Removing Trees
Some trees are protected by Tree Preservation Orders. Even if an extension does not 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.

2 thoughts on “The Ins and Outs of a Home Extension Are a Little Trickier Than You May Think

  1. I am absolutely on board with converting the attic into a loft. We did it. If you have a huge attic, it’s almost a no-brainer to add a loft. Especially when it comes to retail value. And guests LOVE it. Converting an attic into a suite is much cheaper and easier than building an entire attachment to the house.

  2. So true. When we bought our house, the previous owners had already converted the attic. It’s really a big hit. Right now it’s actually my sons room, and we use his old room as the guest room. He’s the oldest of our kids, and he kept begging for the loft, so we gave in! Which is fine by me, since I don’t have to hear his music so loudly.

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