Frequently Asked Questions about side return extensions

Do I need an architect?

Unless you are very skilled at drawing and have experience in this field, then you’ll almost certainly want to hire an architect. Your architect will help you visualise your ideas, they will walk you through every stage of the planning process and they will draw up your initial plans.

If you choose to appoint a design and build company such as Build Team, then a qualified and experienced architect will be presented to you, taking the hassle out of searching around for one.

How do I find a good architect?

If you choose to work with a construction company which offers a design and build service, then you will have an architect included as part of the deal. This is a good way to go about it because you know there will be a strong working relationship between your architect and builder and chances are, they will have plenty of experience in side return extensions.

If you are managing the extension project yourself, then the best way to start is to look for a recommendation. If someone on your street has already completed a side return extension, you could ask them. Additionally, ask around colleagues, friends and relatives. Once you’ve got a shortlist, speak with all of them and you’ll soon get a feel for who matches your vision the best. You’ll also want to get on well with them, as you’ll be working together closely for a few weeks.

What should I look for when choosing a builder?

Your first consideration will probably be price. However, you need to be absolutely sure of what is included in any quotations you receive, as companies do price things differently. For example, one builder may include glazing (windows and doors) where another doesn’t. You should also be cautious of any quote which appears to be very cheap. If it seems to good to be true, it probably is!

The other important consideration is personality. This builder and their team are going to be in your home for up to 3 months. You want to be sure you feel comfortable around them.

And finally, always check out references. If you want to see results for yourself, ask if you can go and see one of their recent projects – most reputable companies should have no problem with this.

Do I need to consult with my neighbours?

Absolutely – and you should do it as soon as possible, even before you’ve started contacting builders. It is important to be up-front with your neighbours about your plans and make clear to them that you will do everything possible to minimise disruption. As with many things in life, communication is key. You don’t want to risk falling out with your neighbours and souring future relations.

You should have an informal chat with both sets of neighbours (if applicable) before serving them with a Party Wall Notice. This is a mandatory communication and you cannot proceed with any work on your boundary, without this written consent. Please see the Party Wall section for more information.

My neighbour is not keen on us building – can they stop us?

If you are building under the permitted development laws (as is the case for most side return extensions), then no, they cannot stop you from building. If full planning permission is required, then they may be able to object to your plans if they have a reasonable argument.

Your neighbour will, however, need to sign a Party Wall Agreement, before you can proceed with building. If they refuse to sign this, then a Party Wall Award will be required, which is arranged via a surveyor. Your architect will be able to assist you with this process and it could take 2 weeks or more to finalise.

Can I proceed without contacting the council?

No. If your plans fall within permitted development rights, then you don’t need to apply for planning permission. However, you should still make the council aware of your plans and request a ‘Certificate of Lawful Development’. Please contact your local council’s planning department for details of how to apply and the fees, or speak with your architect who will probably take care of all of this for you.

How long will the building works take?

On average, a side return extension takes between 8 and 12 weeks to build. You normally need to wait a couple of weeks for your floor to dry before you can begin furnishings, so you should also add on another 4 to 6 weeks for everything to be fully furnished and decorated.

How much will a side return extension raise the value of my property?

This really depends on a number of factors, such as the area you live in, demand for property and current market rates. You are advised to book a valuation with a local estate agent who understands your area, before work commences – they will be able to give you a ballpark figure.

On average, a side return extension on a typical 3-bed Victorian house in London will raise the property value by around 10%.

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