Build an Extension for Less

Money Saving Ideas to Keep Extension Costs Down

An extension can be a cost effective alternative to moving house, especially if you follow these tips to minimise the spend.

If you’ve been thinking of adding an extension for years but have balked at the cost, maybe it’s time to think again. Adding another room to your home doesn’t just bring convenience, it can also add thousands in value. Here are some ways you can give yourself and your family a little more living space without breaking the bank.

Take the permitted development route

Planning permission adds time as well as expense to a project, so avoid it where possible. Check what permitted development is allowed in your area, and keep within those limits to avoid the bureaucracy and costs. Under permitted development you can convert a loft, build a single storey rear extension of 3m in attached houses, and 4m in detached houses (and these rules have been extended to 6m and 8m respectively until May 2019). Various other rules and restrictions are listed on the Planning Portal website.

Note that even if you don’t require planning permission, a party wall agreement is still going to be necessary if yours is a semi-detached or terraced property.

Follow the KISS principle

Coined in the 1950s by the US Navy, KISS stands for “Keep It Simple, Stupid,” and it’s great advice when planning an extension. Avoid complicated unusual shapes or curved corners – a square or rectangular design with a pitched roof is quickest, simplest and therefore cheapest to construct.

Design it around standardised sizes so that you can install off-the-shelf doors and windows. And when planning rooms, think about carpet widths – they tend to come in 3m and 4m widths, so avoid building rooms that will leave you with a 90cm strip of leftover carpet – this can amount to hundreds of pounds wasted. You can also easily plan your own extension, without the need to hire expensive architects. A good builder will ensure that your plans meet building regulations, but if you manage the build yourself, work closely with council building control and consider having a engineering drawings made and approved before you start building.

Do your own project management

If you ask a contractor to oversee the project, it will add around 25 percent to the cost. Managing it yourself is not difficult as long as you follow a methodical approach and plan every step of the construction well in advance. That means arranging for material supplies and contractors to be on site as and when you need them, and constantly tracking progress to ensure you stay on schedule.

Use small traders

If you use self-employed tradesmen, the chances are, they will be trading below the VAT threshold, so that immediately slashes your labour costs. Typically, they have reduced overheads, too, meaning they can undercut the big names. Just make sure you take time choosing the right people. Get personal recommendations, or alternatively ask them to provide references or introduce you to past customers. If they are reliable, they will be happy to do so, and if they are reluctant, walk away.

Consider reclaimed materials

If you have an older property, an extension can sometimes stick out like a sore thumb. Reclaimed bricks are every bit as good as new ones, but will blend in better and are vastly cheaper. And if you buy them privately, that’s another VAT saving. Sometimes, reclaimed materials are closer to home than you think. Old floorboards and doors, for example, can easily be reused with a little love and attention.

Take your time

“Measure twice, cut once” is a well-worn adage in the building trade. That applies to more than just pieces of wood. Really take time over the planning stage and go over everything multiple times before you lift a finger. Often the biggest money trap is in redoing work, or having to make last minute adjustments. With a little extra attention, you can eliminate these costs entirely.

Author: Editor

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