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Home extensions - what procedures should be followed?

A kitchen extension on a houseIf you’re extending your property, you need to get all the necessary permission and regulatory approval. If you don’t, the council could order you to tear your extension down, with you footing the bill.

Most people know they have to apply for planning permission before building an extension, to make sure the work matches the existing building, and won’t harm the look and character of the local area.

You also have to comply with building regulation standards, to ensure your home is built to a decent standard, and is safe, energy efficient, properly soundproofed and physically accessible.

If you don’t secure all the necessary approval before you start pouring concrete or knocking down walls, all your spending could be money down the drain.

What permission do I need?

Whether you need planning permission depends on what you are going to do. As a general rule, if the work will change the external character of your property, you need to get approval from your local council. Some smaller extensions may not need planning permission, but check with your council first.

You may not need planning permission for a loft conversion, for example, but you will if you plan to extend your roof or install new windows, if the conversion will constitute a change of use (say, you plan to use it as an office), or if you live in a conservation area.

You typically won’t need planning permission for a conservatory, unless you are extending a listed building, or again, live in a conservation area. But you may need permission if it has more than 30m² floor space, no connecting doors to your home, or is a kitchen/conservatory extension. The rules are fiddly, as you can see, so do your research carefully.

If you are hiring an architect, they should explain what approval you need. Otherwise visit your local council’s website to bone up on local planning regulations.

How do I get my plans approved?

If you need planning permission, your local council’s planning department should supply the relevant forms. They will almost certainly demand several copies of your drawings, and will charge a fee.

Your application will then be placed on the local planning register, which can be seen by members of the public, who may raise objections. It should take around two months to get approval, or longer if you run into problems.

It is worth speaking to your neighbours first, to check they are happy with your plans, and prevent any nasty disputes later.

Follow building regulations

Even if you don’t need planning permission, the work must comply with building regulations. If you’re converting your loft, example, you will need install ventilation and fire escapes, and sound insulation if you live in a terraced or semi-detached property. You must also give any adjoining neighbours at least two months’ notice before you start work.

Speak to the building control department of your local council, which will demand several copies of your drawings and place your application on the building register (again, there is a fee…). This register is publicly available, and anybody can lodge an objection. A final decision should take about five weeks.

You should also consider the aesthetics of your build: do you really want uPVC windows in your conservatory if the rest of your home has traditional wooden windows, and do the new bricks match your existing ones?

Talk to your insurer

You should also tell your household insurer before you start building, both to get its approval for any work, and to make sure your home insurance covers you for any incidental damage during the build. Your insurer will also want to check that the work has been done properly, otherwise it may refuse to cover your home afterwards.

A conservatory, bedroom or loft conversion could add tens of thousands of pounds to the value of your property, and your insurer may charge you a higher premium as a result. Don’t neglect to tell your insurer what you have done, or it could refuse to pay for any subsequent claim for fire, theft or other damage.

You may have lofty plans for your property, but you have to do the right groundwork first.

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