Building an extension is probably the best way you can add value to your house. Most of us don’t need to go as far as Londoners, who are busy excavating their basements and extending downwards, like moles. In Kirklees, where things are a bit saner, we tend to like living above ground if possible. So with a bit of space to spare around the house, and a need for more living space in the house, an extension is the obvious way to go.
Then comes the headache – do I need an architecture company? And if I do, how am I going to choose one? Read on for a complete guide to the process, and a warning on some of the potential pitfalls you need to know about before you start.
Well the answer, obviously is no. You could design the extension yourself, sketchup is a great 3d tool for designing with, and there are lots of tutorials available to you. Although you could end up with something that looks like a bunker and adds much less value to your house, but that’s not the builder’s fault. Many will build what you specify, although Huddersfield Masonry Ltd would advise against the build!
A poorly conceived and ugly extension can actually detract from the value of the house because some purchasers will want to get back the cost of knocking it down, from the purchase price.
You see these sorts of extensions all the time – often built with materials that are completely out of keeping with the area, or the rest of the building.
Plans for extensions may also come to grief if the extension is put up in a conservation area, or somewhere with covenants restricting permitted development rights – the planning permission system is riddled with special circumstances. And unless you have building regulations approval, you may have trouble selling the house and may even have problems insuring it.
There’s a lot of legislation around building houses and adding to existing ones. If you feel that you have the skills to develop house extension drawings and designs that meet planning regulations, specify the building materials and techniques, run a tender process, select a contractor, put a contract in place, manage the project, inspect the work in progress, satisfy the buildings inspector and complete a snagging list – well frankly, hats off to you.
But most people look at the list of skills involved, and realise they’re going to need professional help.
Probably the chief anxiety people have over using an architect, is that they fear being overridden by a fanatical modernist who turns your modest plan for an extra bedroom into a cross between The Shard and an installation you’d see in Tate Modern.
Fear not. There may be some designers who act like this, but the majority of firms are well aware that to make a living they need to build a reputation for working harmoniously with people to help them realise the vision they have.
In Huddersfield, we’re particularly lucky to have a number of firms who manage to combine visual flair, a sense of the potential of a space, an understanding of the local Huddersfield environment, knowledge of local materials – and a healthy dose of pragmatism.
We at Huddersfield Masonry would highly recommend the following designers
Ask around, call them and take a look at their websites, to see if what they do strikes a chord with you.
Once you’ve chosen an architecture company, you don’t have to rush into the entire project and get builders starting on site the following week. You’re far less likely to make a mistake, if you spend some time thinking about it.
Yes, you want plans for an extension drawn up. But have you thought about all the angles? Do you want the sun in the room, or not? Does the dog need a door to get out into the garden? Do you want a wood burner in there? How are you going to use the room? Is it overlooked? Is security a big issue? Are you an open plan type, or a huddle in a cosy corner person? Do you need to baffle noise?
If you think about all of these things, the architect can take them into account before they start producing any design drawings and they’ll have much more of an idea of what you are like and how you want to use the space.
If you need a chat and some ideas before you choose a designer contact us and we’ll gladly meet to give you some advise.
Don’t be surprised if the architect starts by doodling in front of you, producing something a bit like a child’s drawing – they’re trying to get a really broad sense of the kind of thing you want. Detail is expensive – so detail comes later! At this stage , the architect will be able to supply a ball park figure for the job, but again – the detailed costings will come later, once the design becomes more established.
Once you’ve got the designs, take them home and walk through them a few times, imagining the position of the doors and windows. Once you’re happy, you’re ready to instruct the architect to proceed.
Architecture firms have up to date knowledge of the amazing range of new materials that are available for use in houses. But they also understand the local vernacular architecture, and will take a good look at the materials in your house, to ensure that any extension is sympathetic. Although some people have a period Victorian house, but want a glass cube as an extension. It all depends on your taste and how you like to live.
It’s all too easy, if you’re not a specialist, to specify say, “stone”, or “brick” and then find that your “builder” has used stone – but a completely different colour and type from the stone in the rest of the house and the extension sticks out like a sore thumb, so choose your builders wisely! An architect’s office will draw up a very precise specification, in which each material is described in technical detail and is then included in the contract as a requirement. They’ll also say whether the material should be new or reclaimed, so there’s no uncertainty about what is to be used.
At Huddersfield Masonry, we have a wealth of experience with the different forms of stonework & brickwork, whether its reclaimed Delph, Pitch faced grit, wire-dragged bricks or dyed and tumbled, we will source the closest match to your existing masonry.
To some extent, this is an easier job because the architect and builder don’t have to work round an existing building. But when it comes to regulations, it can make plans for extensions look like child’s play. Some people have managed this themselves, but if you work, and there’s a sudden problem on site, it can be very stressful to have to leave work and go and trouble-shoot the project.
In particular, energy efficiency requirements for new builds change fairly frequently, and you need to be up to date with all of this.
“We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us”
So said Winston Churchill, and as the owner of a historic house, who did bricklaying for relaxation, he may well have had excellent insight.
So go for the best result you can, and remember that professionals can relieve you of most of the stress, and all of the boring detail, and leave you with the best bit – working to achieve a better living environment.