Monthly Archives: August 2012

Tips for your home extension

Many home owners dream of adding a home extension, but the challenge is to know that your home extension design is the best it can be. Of course there are always home extension budget constraints so the key is to spend your building project budget widely. A good architect and building contractors will be able to offer great advice brought from their previous work and other building projects. The key is to get the designs ideas in that you want and let your building contractors and architect give you advice on how to add these in budget. For instance for cost purposes you might be forced to run pipe work or other services upstairs through your stairwell. With some clever planning these can be incorporated into a design feature, you could have your stairs manufactured with a curved edge and hide the service pipes behind this feature. Visitors to your home will marvel at this simple but different design not knowing that it has replaced some potentially ugly boxing in. Also you can add recesses behind stud partion walls and light these and give a real feel of quality design these recesses can be backed with inexpensive made to measure mirrors to give a sense of space and reflect light around your room. Windows and roof lights can make a huge difference to a home extension. These can be offset or added to give day time task lighting above tables or other home features. Again rather than just opting for a central light pendant or a few spot lights use your imagination and do some online research to give you some ideas on innovative but inexpensive lighting design. Even down to the decorative finishes not just the choice of colours but the use of techniques and fabrics to change the look and feel of a room. Adding a fully tiles wall in natural slate or using reclaimed bricks or engineering brick can really give a room a feeling of quality. If you get these features wrong they will detract from your new project so take advice from your design team and building contractors after all this is what they do every day. Building contractors and architects also work on a variety of projects from commercial properties through to high end domestic houses. So this lets them borrow ideas from a wide range of background experience and allows them to suggest material and design choices that would not be obvious choices for most home owners.

Need extra space for Christmas? Time for a home extension?

No one likes to think about Christmas too early and retailers are often accused of starting Christmas too early. With that said many families are starting to plan who is visiting who and many hosts are wondering where their guests will stay or how they will all fit round the dining table. So what are the options for extra space in your home? Well adding a bedroom can be done in a few ways, converting an existing garage or a loft conversion. Or you could go for a house extension there is still time to get this build before Christmas if you get going soon. If you are considering a home extension why not get it built and start enjoying your investment. Home extensions can often add more value to your home than they cost to build and be a good way to take your first steps into the world of property development. Planning a home extension lets you experience the process of planning, building regulations approval and the building stages of your home extension project. Many home owners enjoy the creative process of choosing the design and selecting the finishing touches like tiles and bathroom fittings. It is important to find good professionals you can work with to make your home extension project the best it can be. So chose a design and building team that are as enthusiastic as you are about your home extension. Take some time to discuss your project with your architect and your building contractor. There experience on other projects will put them in a good position to give you design ideas and help you get the best value from your home extension project budget.

Full renovation and modernisation building regulations

When you undertake a full house renovation the chances are that some aspect of these works will trigger the need for a building notice. This is when a member of your local authority or an appointed private building inspector is required to sign off the works as completed to current building regulations. This is important for many reasons, safety, efficiency, it makes your property easier to sell and remortgage. So what will a building inspector be interested in? Well there are many aspects to the UK building regulation from the thermal efficiency through to the correct electrical regulations. One thing that many novice property developers under estimate is how much impact the need to do certain works to meet building regulations can impact renovation budgets. For instance if you are doing works to external walls like re-plastering the building control officer can ask for these walls to be brought up to the current UK building regulations under part L covering thermal efficiency. This will involve these walls being insulated usually with thermal backed plasterboard and another layer of insulation under that. This can suddenly add thousands of pounds of building costs to the renovation budget. With items like drainage just adding a further en-suite to a bungalow could add thousands of pounds to the costs as fall or invert levels as they are called can require deep excavations and the requirements for additional chambers or man holes. So what is the best way to set your budget against the desires of the building control officer? Well as with many things you get what you pay for so make sure you chose a competent building contractor and do not just opt for the cheapest. Experienced building contractors can save you money in the long run and their quotation may only be higher because they plan to do the job properly meeting the correct regulations. It is also true that when a building control officer feels that your building contractor has a full understanding of the current UK building regulations they are less likely to be picky. If on the other hand they have little confidence in a contractors work they will pick fault and make sure that every detail is correct so they feel confident signing off the works. Good building contractors know from experience how to get a building inspector on side and how to get free advice and ideas that can save thousands of pounds.

Knocking through to open up two rooms

Many home owners want to knock out walls between rooms down stairs to give themselves more room and let more natural light in between rooms. Many are put off by the cost and disruption but it can be less than you would think and completed in just a few days. So where do you start? Well you will need building regulation approval this is relatively simple and your building contractor should be able to take care of the building regulations approval. This is usually done through a building regulations notice application and only take a few days but be wary of builders who do not mention building regulations or advise against it. It is usually a sign that they will cut corners and can leave you with a home that is difficult to sell or re-mortgage because surveyors and conveyancing solicitors check these details on sale or remortgages. So if you have any doubts contact your local authority building control department they are always please to assist home owners with any questions. So what happens when you have your building notice in place? There is one more step before you or your building contractor gets the tools out, you will need structural engineer’s calculations. This is simpler than it sounds and usually costs a few hundred pounds, you need a structural engineer to specify the details of the works often just the beam or RSJ size. Again no builder of any quality would guess at what size beam is required because there are many variables that a structural engineer will check like if there has already been an additional loading placed on your house structure like heaver roof tiles or a loft conversion. The structural engineer will conduct a site visit and then work out the loadings and provide the information to your building contractor so he knows just what needs to be done. He will pass this information onto the building control department and they will check to make sure he has done his sums correctly. So then you are ready to get building, the first thing your building contractor will need to do is make sure that he provides adequate temporary supports to prop up the weight of the structure above. This is usually done by using acro props, needles and strong boys which are a cantilever type of prop. Once this has been done and your builder has checked all the temporary supports the wall can be safely removed. Then the new steel or RSJ placed in position making sure that the bearing points are up to standard, these are usually in the form of a concrete pad stone that stops the loads on the beam end crushing the masonry directly below the point loading. This is one of the items that the building inspector will check when they visit site to check your building contractors work. They will also check that the beam is suitably protected from fire by being encased in plasterboard to the correct standard. They check various other elements like if rooms need extra fire detection like mains smoke detectors of it the electric that where in the wall that has been removed have been dealt with by a qualified electrician and the correct certification has been issued. Dependant on the size and design of your home removing the wall between two rooms can cost between £2000-£5000 pounds.

How much will a home extension cost?

When planning a home extension home owners are always keen to see how far their budget will stretch. The costs are split between the design stage and the construction or building phase, starting with the costs for the design stage. During the design stage there is the obvious costs of the architect’s fees and usually some disbursement costs. These are usually payable to your local authority planning department although not all home extensions need planning applications due to changes in planning laws in recent years. Also you will need building regulations approval usually in the form of a building regulation full plans submission. So there are the architect’s fees, the planning application fee and a building regulation application fee. There will also be a fee for the building regulation site visits this is when the building inspector will visit your home at various stages through the building process to asses that the work is being carried out to the correct regulations. You may also need the services of a structural engineer but your architect or building contractor will be able to advise and recommend a suitable structural engineer. That should take care of most of the design stage costs but if you have unusual ground conditions, or are building near a main drain or other unusual issues it can be higher. If you reserve £2000-£3000 for the design stage costs you should have some change. Obviously home extensions vary greatly in cost, size, specification and design so it is a challenge to give accurate costings to cover all builds. With that said the majority of home extensions are single story home extensions to add extra space for an additional room or to enlarge kitchens or rear reception rooms. These usually start from around £20,000 dependant on the design, size and specification. For a two story extension you should budget from £40,000 upwards although the addition of another story does not appear to be twice the work. It can often lead to other alterations like tying in with the existing roof structure or knocking through additional rooms and inserting RSJ steel beams. These of course all add complexity and costs to the build as well as the need for additional scaffolding lifts and other costs. The best course of action is to speak to good established building contractors who should be happy to visit you and discuss your home extension project. They should be able to give you a price range based on your ideas and their experience of similar house extensions they have completed. They usual work with architects and structural engineers so they should be able to recommend good professionals to help you get your home extension project off the ground.

What building work to do before you let your house

When becoming a landlord you have either ended up with an additional property usually by moving from your home or inheriting another house. Or perhaps you have purchased a property in an auction or from an estate agent. It is unlikely that the property is ready to let there is usually some level of building work required. The first consideration is making sure the property has no maintenance issues, have the ridge tiles been pointed is there any slipped slates or tiles? Is there any re-pointing required are the gutters in good condition? Take some time to carry out your own survey or ask for some advice from a building contractor. Next before you let your property you have a duty of care to your tenant so make sure that you have all your electrics and gas checked out and that your building contractors provide suitable certification for their work. The best advice for internal decoration is to opt for white ceilings and gloss work with matt magnolia on internal walls and silk or kitchen and bathroom paint to kitchens and bathrooms. Although kitchen and bathroom paint is more expensive than silk is can prove a little more tenant proof and could save you decorating costs in the future. The next consideration is items like locks it is best to convert your existing doors to have euro barrel locks. This provide a couple of advantages one they are easy to change when tenants leave and also a thumb twist can be provided to the inside of the doors. This means you can still have a 5 lever lock to satisfy your insurance requirements but tenants can get out in the event of a fire or other emergency without searching for the front or back door keys. Then we move onto more permanent fittings like kitchens and bathrooms budgets can vary greatly but in most lets a standard Howdens, Magnet or B&Q kitchen will be cost effective. Avoid patterned or stark colour wall tiles as this could put some tenants off, chose simple and neutral designs. Make sure you fit a shower this can even be achieved in small bathrooms with the use of a ‘P’ shaped bath. Another consideration is the installation of a positive pressure unit this is a clever device that controls condensation. This can often be an issue even when the house has not suffered previously because busy tenants often forget to open windows and allow adequate ventilation for kitchens and bathrooms.

Do I need building regulations approval?

This will depend greatly on the individual home improvement or building project, if in any doubt it is best to call your local authority building control department they are always happy to answer any enquiries. There is however a few simple items that can help you decide if you will need building regulations approval. This is if you are effecting any of the many parts of the building regulations these are divided into sections like part ‘A’ for structural issues, or part’L’ thermal regulations. In fact it is it is often part ‘L’ that catches out both building contractors and home owners. Part ‘L’ covers the thermal efficiency of the building envelope so if you are carrying out any works to any external walls roofs or floors you should make sure that you check. You can offset some elements against other improvements in thermal efficiency with the correct thermal calculations. One item that home owners often under estimate is if you carry out plastering or rendering to more than twenty five percent of any wall or room this can trigger the need for a building notice application. Again if you plan to re-roof your home you will need to upgrade the loft insulation to the current regulations. The other consideration if you are making any structural alterations like the installation of a new lintel or RSJ building control will want to check that it is correctly fitted and fit for the job. Even alterations to the properties drainage system can trigger the need for a building regulations approval. If you are changing the layout of your home this can also affect the safe means of escape as moving a kitchen could affect the fire safety of your home. Many home owners will trust the judgement of their building contractor but many contractors like to avoid the involvement of building control as this allows them to cut corners and offer the home owner a cheaper contract price. The best thing to do is to do some research then play dumb and ask the building contractors who are preparing your quotations if you need building regulation approval. It is also a good opportunity to test the knowledge of your building contractors and their honesty.

Modernising houses

When modernising a house it is important that you do not cut corners on some of the essential items that can have been half done in the past. Items like drains, roofs and electrics are often bodged up or added to without due care and attention. So take the time to check these items carefully before you set a modernisation or renovation budget. When checking the roof do not miss items like the re pointing of chimney stacks or the lead flashing around chimneys, take some time to check the performance of the gutters during heavy rain. With drains the best way to check these items is to have a professional company carry out a CCTV drainage survey. These are usually less than two hundred pounds and could save you thousands in the long run as a leaking drain can undermine the foundations of a property. With the electrical installation make sure you get a qualified electrician to carry out a periodic inspection and provide you with a full report and recommendations. For properties that are in a worse conditions or show tell tale signs like cracking get a structural report carried out by a structural engineer. It is also a good idea to get a few quotations from good building contractors use their different experiences and opinions to suggest any further defects that may require attention. Also a common mistake is to forget a budget for external works this is less of an issue if you are developing the property for your own use. If you are developing and modernising the house for resale or to let out you will need some budget for external works. This might simply be patch pointing or some landscaping but these items soon add an additional strain to renovation budgets. The challenge is how much to spend on the survey works prior to purchasing the property. If it is your first project or you are a novice developer at least get a friendly building contractor to give you some advice on the estimated refurbishment costs. If you are buying at auction don’t get too caught up in the moment and run out of time to check important details prior to purchase. There will always be other properties that can be both profitable and rewarding so take your time to avoid buyer’s remorse.

Kitchens, bathrooms, alterations and repairs

Many home owners can find smaller home improvement projects a challenge to manage finding that even for a small job it may require a series of trade people to arrange. The end result is often that 95% of the work is complete with all the trades done and paid and the home owner having to do that last little bits. It is often better to find a building contractor who can carry out a project to suite your budget and requirements and complete the whole job. This not only has the benefit of a reduced composite price but also you know that the whole job will be well planned and carried out in a timely and efficient manner. There is no gap waiting for the right trade’s person to turn up for a small job they may put off. Building contractors who can carry out these smaller but multi discipline jobs often have better buying power with suppliers and more after sales support. So if you are under taking a smaller home improvement project why not get some quotes from firms that have the back room staff to make your project well planned and executed. Many home owners do not realise that larger companies can be competitive as they often install bathrooms and kitchens for larger projects as part of bigger contracts. This means they have the experience and correct trades people on tap to cover most alterations and repairs to houses. There are some excellent plumbers, kitchen fitters and joiners available but they are perhaps not the best placed people to start plastering or electrical works. Where a kitchen fitter may hold accounts with kitchen supply companies like Howdens or Magnet they will not have the same buying power with building material suppliers or plumbers merchants. A larger contractor can pass these saving on to you, as well as having a more detailed quotation so there are no nasty surprises or additional costs added on. Trades people are well known for those famous words “sorry that’s not included”, where a building contractor will look at the whole project and quote accordingly. There is nothing more frustrating for a home owner than getting a contractor started only to find that they say “sorry mate I don’t do any of that”. It is also worth considering that if you start a project and find an issue like a rotten joist under a bath. The last thing you want to hear is “OK I will come back when you have found a builder to sort that out”, leaving you visiting friends to get a shower for the next two weeks.

Would you like your renovations project filmed for TV?

As one of the midlands leading building contractors we have been contacted to appear on TV as part of a television programme on the renovation of properties in the midlands. If you would like to put your project forward just drop us an e-mail or call and we will do the rest. We have experience of renovations to a wide range of properties from commercial properties through to listed cottages. We have undertaken projects such as barn conversions the conversions of retail properties to apartments and the renovations of individual period properties. We can provide full renovation services from the design stage including advice on structural engineering, architectural and cost reporting. You can enjoy your project televised or not knowing that a team of seasoned professionals will be able to deal with any issues that renovations can create. We have overcome 14mtr deep wells working in close proximity to mains drains working with the conservation department and in town centres. This gives you the peace of mind that your contractor has the experience, network of contacts and professionals to complete your project in an efficient and timely fashion. Renovation projects are not like a new build project there are often unforeseen issues that require experience and ingenuity to overcome on time and in budget. When undertaking a renovation project you need to make sure that you pay attention to the details. That you’re chosen contractor thinks about how to finish those little details that can make or break the final look and feel of a renovation project. How the final detail of how the eves are finished or the type and look of the door furniture will affect the overall finish. Even down to paints you need to not only chose the colours but particularly with period property renovations even the sheen on timber details and the look of render finish. The use of lime based paints and other breathable materials also require consideration. Your chosen contractor should be able to discuss the options for lime render and plaster even items like lecca floor insulation. Your contractor should also be able to tie in these heritage building techniques with modern interior solutions. The use of air source heat pumps and mechanical heat recovery ventilation are now being used even on period renovations with the use of clever design skills. So if you would like the fame of having your project filmed and shown on TV or you simply want an experienced contractor to assist on your project just give us a call and get some advice.