8 questions to ask when designing garden extensions

comfortable garden room orangery

Make sure you gather all the information you need

Home extensions can be ideal for those looking to add some extra space to their home, as well as adding value to a property. But it can be a stressful time for a homeowner, especially if they have no previous experience of this type of project. However, things can be made a lot more straightforward, if they only knew the right questions to ask their chosen contractor at the outset.

If you want your extension to go as smoothly as possible, you simply must know the answers to the following questions;

1. Who will manage my project?

A great project manager is an essential part of any successful extension. If you’re offered someone with inadequate experience, or no-one at all, it could be a major risk. You’re going to be dealing with this person a lot so make sure you feel comfortable with them.

2. Will the designer complete the building work or do I have to source my own builder?

A common misconception is that the company you choose to design your extension will also be the company that manufactures, builds and finishes it. Many design companies will do just that: design. As a result, this can often mean that the homeowner has to source their own builders and electricians. This is one of the most important questions to ask at the project outset as it can obviously take a lot of time and effort to find a builder you can trust. If the company doesn’t complete any building work, it is worth asking if they have recommended builders who they are used to dealing with and also whether previous customers are happy to provide a testimony of their work. It’s also important at this stage to keep a close eye on the costs of sourcing separate builders and designers or whether it is more cost effective to choose a company that can complete all stages of your project.

3. What planning permission(s) will I need?

Getting planning permission in the UK can be a real headache if you don’t do all the necessary research beforehand. It can be a real frustration to spend time completing detailed paperwork only to find you’ve not completed all the necessary forms or that your paperwork is incomplete. An end to end designer/manufacturer will offer a full turn key project including applying for planning permission.

4. Will the designer/architect use CAD to show me what the finished project will look like?

The best companies can provide an exact 2D graphical representation of what the extension will look like across all elevations. This can really help the homeowner to visualise the completed work and to make informed decisions regarding the aesthetics of the extension, and can also offer some peace of mind, safe in the knowledge of what the end result will look like.

5. What guarantees can you give me about safety during the build?

Safety is paramount, in terms of the finished extension and during the build. The builder should be able to offer assurances about their ability to manage the hazards and risks that present themselves during any construction work. And as a client, the builder also has a responsibility to you, to meet your own personal standards of safety – particularly if you are living in the properly during the build or have young children on site. These standards should be agreed upon before any work commences.

6. Do you have examples of similar work you’ve completed in the past?

When planning an extension, there’s nothing that eases the mind more than seeing examples of previously completed work, especially if it’s similar to your own personal project. If the builder has a huge portfolio of completed work and a great reputation then they are usually the best person to go with. Run a quick Google search on their company and check for any negative publicity they may have had in the past. If you can’t visit other projects, most builders will allow you to have a telephone conversation with their previous clients too.

7. What will the overall cost be?

It’s common to hear construction horror stories on television programmes such as Watchdog and even from friends and family where budget and time scales vastly over run. By using a company that offers all services under one roof (design, manufacture, build) you will be better able to budget for the project and will not be in a situation with one contractor blaming another for any problems that arise during the build.

Even on the most complicated of extensions, no supplier should expect you to go ahead without giving you a very specific breakdown of costs.

8. Will the extension increase the value of my house, once construction costs are taken into consideration?

It the past, uPVC conservatories have actually been known to have little effect, or even decrease the value of a house. However, if you have sufficient space and the extension is aesthetically pleasing, an extension can actually be an investment, with the cost of the build being outweighed by the extra value added to the house.

No extension can override other factors such as the street, neighbourhood, type of property but a well designed extension can certainly make a property more desirable and potentially add value. And in many cases it is much more economical to add extra living space to a property than move house and pay stamp duty.

If in doubt, seek the expert opinion of several local estate agents who are usually very willing to value a property and give advice about the potential benefits of an extension.