How To Choose And Plan An Extension

For countless homeowners, the addition of an extension to their property is high on the ambition list. But with such a variety of design choices available, and numerous different elements to consider for the planning of your extension, it can be hard to know where to begin.

While choosing and planning an extension can be a complicated process, the most important thing is to prepare thoroughly before making any decisions. You’ll need to know exactly what kind of extension you want, and understand all of the necessary steps you’ll need to take during the planning stages.

Thankfully, this doesn’t have to be an unpleasant process – in fact, it should be an enjoyable one. Here are some of the most useful tips on how to choose and plan an extension.

Choosing your extension

The word ‘extension’ might for some conjure up images of conservatories. Others might imagine single or even multi-storey annexes. The thing to bear in mind is that ‘extension’ isn’t a specific term: any addition you make to your home is an extension, whatever size or design you choose. When deciding what to opt for, there are a few important things to consider:

What do you intend to use your extension for?

Arguably the key question for any homeowner planning an extension is simply ‘what will you use it for?’ Adding space to your home can open up all kinds of opportunities – having a quiet area to relax or read, a study to work in, or a space dedicated to a hobby can all be achieved with the addition of an extension.

Figure out early on the precise reason you’re interested in extending your property. If the answer is simply ‘to have more space’, then decide specifically what you’re going to use that space for. With some slightly more elaborate designs, you could even add new living areas, bedrooms or bathrooms to your home.

These decisions should then inform your further choices – will your extension need heating, for example? Will you need to factor in plumbing, or electrical access? Will you need to make provisions regarding materials (for instance, a glass extension might not be the best environment for a workshop, but could be perfect for a dining area)?

How big will your extension need to be?

The size of your planned extension will inevitably determine the type you choose. Some materials and design options work best, or are only available, for projects with a certain scope.

The size will also play a significant part in the overall cost of the work, and will affect how long it will take to construct. Be realistic about how much space you will need for extension, how much time you’re willing to dedicate to the project, and how much space you have available – when you’ve made these conclusions, you’ll be ready to proceed to deciding the specifics.

Who will build your extension?

A crucial element of the process is deciding who will build your extension. While the idea of getting hands on and tackling things yourself might seem cost-friendly (and even romantic), it’s important to be honest about your skills and expertise. If you’re confident in your ability, there’s no reason why you couldn’t build your own extension – but be wary of taking a ‘how hard can it be?’ approach.

If you decide to opt for a professional construction service, consider your options and do some research first. Check a variety of sources for any potential services you’re considering employing, including examples of their previous work, testimonials from previous clients and online reviews.

What type of extensions can you choose from?

There are all kinds of extension options available for the modern homeowner, but here are a few options for some inspiration:

Glass Extensions

One of the most popular and commonly seen extensions to a home is the humble conservatory, or glass extension. These home additions are endlessly appealing not only for their aesthetic attraction, but also for their practical applications. Structural glass extensions can be used as spaces to eat, read and write, work in, or even just as a relaxing area to unwind in a comfy chair.

They provide a fantastic source of natural light, which has been associated with improving our sleep and overall wellbeing. They’re also ideal environments for growing plants indoors, and can be some of the most straightforward extensions to plan.

Flowing design extensions

One of the most aesthetically appealing extension designs is a continuation of the style of your existing property. While contrast can be effective, choosing materials and styles that blend seamlessly with existing structures can produce some spectacular results.

If your property is an older, more traditional building such as a cottage, then you could circumvent some of the difficulties of replicating design styles by including roofing that matches your home.

Timber clad extensions

For a more rustic and traditional approach, you could consider opting for a timber clad extension. These design styles can add a rural or quaint charm to your home, and can be a great fit for older, or more classically designed properties.

Timber and other claddings are a great way to add a personal stamp to your extension. This makes it easy for you to create a design that’s not only practical, but gives your home a personal stamp – whether it’s a modern townhouse or a listed building.

Planning Your Extension

One of the slightly less exciting, but nonetheless crucial elements of adding an extension to your home is the planning stage. There are several different components to planning an extension that all require attention; making an error or missing something important early on can cause all kinds of issues, from financial loss to damage to your property itself.

Who will be responsible for your designs?

One of the first things you’ll need to decide upon is who will design your extension. While you may well have a vision for how you want your extension to look, you’ll still likely need to employ an architect or other design professional to draw up the blueprints and specific designs for you project.

Of course, if you’re opting for an out-of-the-box solution, this might not be necessary, but you’ll want to check exactly what information your builders will need before construction can begin. This area is key to preparation – you should aim to make sure any and all questions regarding the design of your extension are answered long before construction begins.

How much are you willing to spend?

For many, budget is top of the list of considerations when it comes to planning an extension. When setting your budget, you should be realistic about the maximum amount you’re willing to spend. When liaising with architects, builders, and any other professionals in the process, you need to be frank about exactly how much you’re willing to invest in your extension.

There are a few areas that might not initially jump to mind, such as insurance, planning permission fees, and the cost of things like unforeseen additional materials and time. When making estimates about how much things will cost, err on the side of caution, and don’t be afraid to be conservative. Assume things will cost slightly more than you’d hope, and you can cover yourself in case any unexpected costs are incurred in the process.

Miscellaneous considerations

There are all kinds of other minor things you will likely need to bear in mind when choosing and planning your extension; many of them will be specific to you and your situation. For instance, you might need to consider safety – if you have young children or pets, hazards like sharp drops or large windows could present risks.

There are also property-specific ramification of choosing and planning an extension – the ‘right to light’, which restricts planning rights if they encroach upon the minimum natural light requirements of adjacent property, is actually embedded in the law in the UK. Rules and restrictions like this are often location specific, and it’s worth consulting local advisory services to make sure you don’t make any plans that are then thwarted by red tape.

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