Help your builder to help you – part 1

Adding an extension, or a loft conversion to your home can be a lengthy and complex process, so the last thing you need is a delay when you think everything’s ready to go.

In this first of a two-part series, we look at some of the formalities that need to be completed before your builder can start work.

The first step is to apply for planning permission and it is imperative to involve an architect with local knowledge at an early stage.  Most architects will be familiar with what is permitted or not in a particular location, this expertise will ensure designs and drawings will be warmly received by the local planning authorities.  The planning authority’s concerns will be about the effects of your proposals on any neighbours, on traffic, if applicable, and on whether the proposals will blend well with the current setting, particularly where the buildings are of historical value, whether or not they are Listed.

However, the architect’s drawings and subsequent plans are not all that may be needed. If you have a tight timescale you can also instruct the architect to start producing Building Regulation drawings and obtain calculations from a structural engineer to speed up the process before planning approval is granted.  Building Regulations cover the specifics of the build such as materials, drainage and fire prevention.

It may also be necessary for you to collate a list of your infrastructure requirements, such as electrical and plumbing applications if they are needed.

Your builder will need all these details in order to estimate what may be involved and provide you with a reasonably accurate quote.

Once you have appointed your builder, they will need copies of A1 drawings of your plans, which can be provided by your architect.

It is also important to talk with your neighbours to minimise their inconvenience while the work is being carried out.

Having the neighbours’ agreement is crucial if, for example, scaffolding may be needed and may have to be placed on their property. For loft conversions, if you and they have a party wall you will also need a party wall agreement before work can begin.

Parking can be a fraught issue when building work is going on and while your builders will do their best to avoid inconvenience to neighbours, inevitably the work will mean more vehicles in the street.  If your home is in a restricted parking area you should ensure that you get at least two dispensation permits from your local council and additional day permits.

Also, before they start work, make sure you tell your builder of any other concerns the neighbours may have. Most builders would prefer to at least meet your immediate neighbours and talk through any problems or fears they may have before they start on the job.