“I just need help getting planning permission” is something we hear a lot at Cityzen, but we know there are plenty of pitfalls to avoid when it comes to home improvement projects.
If you’re a homeowner then it’s quite likely you’ll want to make some changes to the property at some point. After all, it’s quite rare to find a ‘perfect’ house that will meet all of your current and future needs.
Most renovations / extensions cost tens of thousands of pounds; in 2017, UK households spent a massive £31bn on home improvement projects. When done right, they can give you transformed spaces that don’t just look great but are functional, comfortable and energy efficient. This requires good, coordinated construction design (not just drawings for the Planning Department!).
Lighting, heating, ventilation, electrical outlets and any technical gadgetry you want, like AV and home automation, should always be included in the overall design scheme before any construction begins on site, so that you can:
We’ve put together a list of starter questions for you to think about if you have a home improvement project in mind.
1) Does my project fall under permitted development or require planning permission?
Every house and project is different (even if you think you’re doing something identical to a neighbour or friend), so make sure your design is lawful!
2) What Building regulations will apply and what is needed to meet them?
Building regulations exist for the health and safety of the occupants and you’ll need to prove sign-off from Building Control when you sell the property. When it comes to elements such as insulation and water use, it’s well worth exceeding current regulations to reduce your running costs.
3) Do I need to obtain consent from my neighbour(s)?
If you share a boundary then your works may be relevant to the Party Wall Act, in which case you’ll need to seek formal permission from your neighbour(s) – if you don’t, your neighbours can stop works. And a responsible builder will ask to see their permission before starting work.
4) What’s most important – high quality, speed or low cost?
Sadly, you can only have two of the above. You can’t have the highest quality build completed in a very short timescale on a limited budget – think about the number of people (= labour costs) it takes to do a DIY SOS TV makeover in a matter of days! So, be realistic about your expectations and clearly communicate them to all those involved in the project.
5) Can I make time to promptly respond to tender queries, and do I know the answers?
If you’re planning to run the tender yourself to save money, know that tendering takes time and builders ask a lot of questions during a tender process to ensure they price correctly (you should be suspicious if they don’t!). Any misunderstandings at this stage could cost you dearly.
6) Do I need a written contract with my builder?
They may come highly recommended, but you can’t know for sure what will happen during and after the project. A written contract = no misunderstandings from the beginning and avoids any unnecessary awkwardness in the event of delays, changes to the scope or cost overruns (because all these eventualities will be covered in the contract).
7) Can I / my family realistically live on site during the project?
Don’t underestimate the disruption! Building work is messy, dusty, and there may be periods where certain rooms can’t be used. And unless the builder is contracted to provide alternative facilities, you may be sharing your bathroom and kitchen for longer than you’d like!
8) Can I honestly afford bespoke fixtures and fittings?
With building costs currently starting around £1900/m2, it’s worth considering where you want to spend your money. Bear in mind that an inexpensive kitchen fitted by a skilled builder can result in that kitchen looking deceptively expensive if it has been thoughtfully designed and installed to a high-level finish.
9) Does VAT apply to my project?
Unless you are planning a new build, the answer is unfortunately yes. 20% of your available funds will be spent on VAT, so be realistic about how much you actually have for professional fees and building work.
10) Am I prepared (financially) for the unexpected?
There are always ‘secrets’ hidden in existing houses, that usually reveal themselves once work gets underway. Contingency is so important, so be sure to have a backup plan if all your budget gets used up and you need to find additional funds!
Hopefully those questions have given you some useful food for thought. Forewarned is forearmed, so we have a free guide you are welcome to download that contains lots more information and advice. We also have a free project planning pack you might find helpful.