Frequently Asked Questions

We all have our own ideas and needs for our home. We would be delighted to answer your questions directly. Here are some common questions below:

What is the process of getting something designed and built and how long will it take?

How much will it all cost?

Will I need Planning Permission?

What other approvals will I need?

How do I find a suitable builder?

Will I need other consultants?

Q: What is the process of getting something designed and built and how long will it take?

A: For many people the process of getting something built will be new, and perhaps a little daunting. We are here to guide you and to take as much of the work off your shoulders as we can. You are in charge and you will be making the key decisions. However we will make sure that you are properly informed and are able to make those decisions in a structured way. Here is an outline of the likely stages of the process:

1. Briefing, surveys and sketch ideas (RIBA work stages A and B/ JCT stage 1)

Allow 3 to 6 weeks depending on the size of the project and the number of options that need to be reviewed

    • Decide on the main purpose of the work – what are you trying to achieve?
    • Survey the property – understand the opportunities and constraints
    • Develop sketch ideas – there is often more than one way of meeting your brief so we will prepare options and discuss which one best meets your needs
    • Decide if further specialist advice is required (such as structural engineers and party wall surveyors)

2. Planning application (RIBA work stages C and D/ JCT stage 2a)

Allow 2 to 4 weeks for preparation plus 8 to 10 weeks for approval

    • Develop the design of the chosen idea (early input from an engineer might be appropriate)
    • Review and agree that this design will meet your needs
    • Prepare drawings, forms and other supporting documents for a Planning Application to your Local Authority
    • Approach planners for initial comments, submit application and respond to feedback

3. Approach builders for quotes & submit Building Regulations application (RIBA work stages E to H/ JCT stages 2b to 3)

Allow 4 to 8 weeks for preparation depending on complexity and scale of work. Note that Building Regulations approval may take a further 6 to 10 weeks and can be carried out in parallel with the construction work (see 4 below), but the more that is reviewed in advance the less risk of issues arising on site.

    • Develop detailed design and specification
    • Obtain specialist design input from engineers if required
    • Approach utility companies for consents if required
    • Prepare a plans submission for Building Regulations approval if appropriate
    • Research suitable builders and approach them for quotes

4. Construction and completion (RIBA work stages J to L/ JCT stage to 4)

The best judge of the construction time required is the builder. Typically smaller extensions may take about 2 or 3 months and larger domestic developments can take up to 9 or 10 months. The speed will be affected by the size, complexity and methods of construction chosen.

    • The chosen builder is appointed to carry out the construction work
    • Many people carrying out small extensions feel comfortable to manage this process themselves, however larger works will often benefit from continued involvement of the architect:
      • a meeting to brief the builder,
      • regular site visits and progress meetings,
      • a formal contract may be required which we can administer
      • inspections on completion and up to a year after completion to deal with the possibility of defects

The time that it will take to get your development built will depend on many factors but it is wise not rush the process unnecessarily. Time spent at the beginning, making sure you have the right solution, can save much time and money later trying to put right things that were ill prepared.

Q: How much will it all cost?

A: There are many potential costs, but the largest is likely to be the construction cost. The best way to judge the likely construction cost in advance is to approach builders for a budget quote. It should be understood that this will only give an order of magnitude and should not form the basis of a firm offer. You will only get an accurate quote by providing the builder with detailed construction information, such as the drawings and specification that we would produce for you at stage 3 (quotes and Building Regulations application stage) – see process above. Other costs to allow for may include:

  • Land costs – if you are purchasing a site to build on, plus associated estate agent and legal costs
  • Covenants may require you to seek permission from estate owners and a fee could be payable for this
  • Consultant costs such as the architects, engineers and party wall surveyor if required
  • Local authority Planning Application fees
  • If you are building a new house then Planning approval might be granted subject to a Section 106 agreement which requires a one off contribution to the Local Authority for local services
  • Other approvals fees such as Building Regulations
  • Utility companies – permission to build over or connect to public drains and the cost of new connections for water, electricity, gas and phones if required
  • Fittings and furnishings not included in the construction budget
  • If you are not living in the premises while construction work is going on you will have other accommodation or storage costs. Alternatively if this is a commercial venture then you may have estate agent and marketing costs

Q: Will I need Planning Permission?

Sample extract of a planning application drawing
Sample extract of a planning application drawing

A: Most development is governed by planning law. The aim is to ensure that development is appropriate to the context: a suitable use, not too dense or high, using the right materials and providing sufficient parking and access. Basically it is about being a good neighbour, and you would do well to consult your neighbours before applying for permission.If your house has not been extended before and your plans for expansion are modest it may be that you do not need planning permission. Some development is allowed under the General Permitted Development Order, which sets out the limits related to the size and context of your property. The best way to check this is to talk to us or the duty planner at your local authority. If you are contemplating a new development, a substantial extension, or alterations to a house that has already been extended then it is very likely that you will need to apply to your local authority for planning permission. Building in a Conservation Area, near trees with preservation orders, or developing a listed building will all require special attention.Most applications will benefit from professional input to increase the chances of success. It is never a foregone conclusion that planning permission will be granted.

Q: What other approvals will I need?

Sample extract of a detailed drawing for construction and Building Regulations approval purposes
Sample extract of a detailed drawing for construction and Building Regulations approval purposes
A: It is very likely that you will need to apply for Building Regulations approval. These regulations control how a development is built: is it safe, structurally sound, will it keep the rain out and the heat in, does it meet current best practice standards? The process is intended to protect you and anyone who uses the building.You can either apply through your local authority or approved independent inspectors. If the works are relatively small or straightforward then it is quite normal to issue a Building Notice to the building inspectors a few days before the work starts on site. The inspectors will review the work as it progresses and issue a certificate on completion if required.Larger or more complex projects will benefit from a separate Plans Submission to discuss compliance before starting on site, or before it has progressed too far. This should avoid the need for expensive and time consuming alterations during the works. Other approvals may include:
  • Thames Water permission for building over an existing public drain or making a new connection to it
  • Legal covenants governing the use of the land – your property deeds may include a requirement to obtain permission from an estate owner, housing association or local authority

Q: How do I find a suitable builder?

A: There are a wide variety of building services available and it is important to choose the right one for your needs. Personal recommendations from friends and colleagues are invaluable. Help can also be sought through professional bodies such as the Federation of Master Builders. Good results can be obtained by negotiating your requirements with a builder that you know and trust. If you are going through the process for the first time it is a good idea to obtain more than one quotation and ask for references.Domestic builders will often be committed to a number of current projects and it is sensible to approach them well in advance of construction to allow for booking a start time.We are able to guide you through the process of selection, provide detailed information for obtaining accurate costs and assist you through the construction stages.

Q: Will I need other consultants?

A: If any significant structural works are envisaged then it is usually necessary to obtain specialist design input from a Structural Engineer. We have good working relationships with many local firms and would be happy to obtain quotes on your behalf. It may be necessary to serve a Party Wall Notice on a neighbouring or adjoining owner to notify them of the work you are about to carry out and ensure that both parties understand their responsibilities. If there were any dispute over the works affecting your neighbour it may be necessary to involve a Party Wall Surveyor. If you require specialist lighting or heating design it may be appropriate to obtain input from Mechanical & Electrical Engineers or Environmental Engineers. Their help can also be beneficial to clearly define the scope of the heating and electrical work, obtain more accurate prices for this element and ensure that you get exactly what you want. We would advise you of any specialist input needed, obtain quotes for you and co-ordinate their design contributions.