How We Help You
Even a small building project requires careful planning and a methodical approach to working out the details. Planning and Building Regulations approval are usually required to be in place before work starts.
We not only assist you with design ideas but also guide you through the process of obtaining approvals and help you to find a builder who is well matched to your project.
The whole process of design and building falls into a number of stages and our fees are based on these so that it is straightforward for you to choose how many (or how few) stages you would like our help with. Use the buttons below to see more detailed information of each stage.
1. Initial visit
Before building, or even before you decide to buy, we will visit your property and advise what alterations will be practical, which may be difficult or costly, and what is likely to get planning approval. We can then issue you with a quotation setting out our fees for the project.
2. Survey and scheme design
We carry out a detailed measured survey of your property in order to produce an 'as existing' drawing that is used as the basis for design proposals. The initial proposal drawings may be simple sketches exploring alternative ideas, which are discussed with you and revised until a final scheme is agreed. At this stage, further detail is added so that the drawings are suitable for submitting for Planning Approval.
You will find that builders will not give quotations against these drawings as there is still much more information needed to arrive at an accurate price such as choice of materials, finishes and fittings. However it is advisable at this stage to get two or three builders to give an estimate of the cost to check that this matches your budget. Also, good builders usually are booked for many months in advance so it is useful to let them when you are hoping to start building in plenty of time.
Also at this stage you need to obtain plans of public utilities (gas, electric, sewers etc.) that may cross the site of your proposed building. We can assist you in obtaining these.
3. Planning and other Approvals
Most projects require Planning Approval. Planning controls the use, scale and external appearance of buildings; one of the main concerns is how the proposals will affect your neighbours.
Some extensions are considered to be 'Permitted Development' and therefore don't need Planning Approval. In these cases we strongly advise clients to apply for a 'Lawful Development Certificate' which will provide you with a legal document that confirms that no permission was required and therefore avoids any queries if you come to sell the property. See the Planning Portal website for further information on what is allowed under Permitted Development.
If your property is a Listed Building or in a Conservation Area then further restrictions apply. In these cases there is a presumption against making changes unless they can be justified, but this doesn't mean that the property can never be altered.
The scheme design drawings are submitted to your local Council for approval along with any other information necessary and the application fee.
It normally takes the Council eight weeks to issue a decision. It is never possible to guarantee an Approval but during the eight weeks, Planning Officers usually give informal advice as to whether Approval is likely, and the opportunity to change any aspects of the design that are considered unacceptable.
Should the application be refused, you can re-submit a second scheme within 12 months without having to pay a further application fee to the Council.
4. Building Regulations Approval
The Regulations apply to new building works, alterations to existing buildings and in some cases if the use of a building changes. There are rules on structure, fire precautions, heating, ventilation, drainage, access and facilities for people with disabilities, the safety of stairs and glazing, sound insulation and electrical installations.
These details are added to the drawings once Planning Approval has been obtained, and then submitted for checking that they comply with the Regulations.
Rules for limiting energy use are increasingly more stringent, and many works will now need complex calculations (known as SAP calculations) to demonstrate how much energy the building will use and how much carbon will be produced as a result.
There are two stages to obtaining Building Regulations Approval: first the checking and approving of the plans, this normally takes four weeks. Then, when the building work has commenced a Building Inspector will visit the site at certain stages to check that the work is being carried out in accordance with the approved plans.
The details produced for this stage will also be useful for obtaining costs from your builder. However it is important to note that these don't include items such as fittings, decorations, and your choice of finishes.
5. Quotations and managing the building work
The previous stages are required for nearly all building projects but from here there are different ways of taking the project forward:
Some clients are happy to manage the project themselves, using the Building Regulations details as a basis for agreeing a price with their builder. This often works adequately for simple projects; the key factors for success are the builder being competent and you having a good working relationship with the builder, based on a mutual understanding of the extent of the works.
Additionally to ensure that the extent of the works is clear, we can produce a 'Schedule of Works' which includes all the relevant information (such as floor finishes, decorations, lighting, kitchen and bathroom fittings, heating appliances) in a format suitable for builders to insert exact prices against each item. This is a very useful document to compare quotes from different builders and to use as a basis for agreeing the cost of extra items or variations.
Other clients ask us to manage the whole process on their behalf. In addition to producing a Schedule of Works, we can organise obtaining quotes (tenders) from a range of builders, appoint a builder using a standard Form of Contract and monitor the progress of the construction work.
The Contract sets out clear rules for insurance, regular payments to the builder, compensation for the project overrunning and responsibility for making good any defects.