Gary Lewis, national president of the Federation of Master Builders, says: “The internet is a great source of information, as are home-building and renovating publications. The favourite inspiration, however, is a neighbour or friend that has recently completed a project. Seeing a transformation take place in a similar house to your own is great to understand what is possible.”
In terms of what’s trending in the UK, classic glass and orangery-style conservatories are still popular, many with tiled roof extensions that match the original building, giving the appearance of a built extension. Another popular trend is the addition of fully glazed walls in extensions, with concertina or pivoting glazed panels, allowing the rear wall to effectively be removed in the summer. Timber cladding can be used to conceal doors, particularly useful for making subsidiary rooms, such as walk-in wardrobes, utilities, and en suites blend in with the interior design of the main room.
A major decision in any home improvement project is whether to use an architect. It usually depends on the scale of the project, Lewis explains. “If you are applying for planning permission then it is definitely a good idea to involve an architect who will supply the detailed technical drawings and work out all the structural information.”
There are plenty of firms to choose from. However, choosing a RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) accredited chartered practice will give additional peace of mind. “They comply with strict criteria covering insurance, health and safety and quality management systems,” says a RIBA spokesperson. “Architects are highly skilled and professionally trained to turn your aspirations into reality, and will guide you through the design, planning and construction process.”
Meeting the challenge
Setting a budget and sticking to it is arguably one of the biggest challenges for homeowners embarking on a major project. The key lies in creating a clear plan for construction, says Paul Matthews, director at Auburn Hill Orangeries.
He says: “You need high quality working drawings clearly showing all key details and enabling tradesmen to estimate accurately and eliminate potential ‘extras’ once work begins. Building projects fall down when there is poor information at the front end and a lack of understanding of the overall scheme, which then means the build becomes a bit of a ‘shoot from hip’ process taking twice as long and costing twice as much.”
One thing that can get overlooked is insurance cover. Research by specialist insurer Hiscox found that 44% of people planning to do building work didn’t realise they had to tell their existing home insurance provider. As head of direct home insurance Philip Thorn says: “Home renovations or extensions can reduce or completely invalidate the protection. So if your brand new kitchen, sitting on your drive waiting to be installed, is stolen, or your home is damaged while the work is in progress, finding out you aren’t covered only adds to the hassle of an already stressful time.”
Three top tips
1. Get inspiration from websites, magazines and friends’ houses
2. An architect will supply technical drawings and structural information
3. Make sure your home is insured while work is in progress