Other than buying or building a new home, extending your existing home is one of the biggest things you’ll ever do in your life. Before making the decision to extend you’ve probably done at least one of the following:

  • Considered moving to a bigger house
  • Contemplated doing a new build
  • Spoken to your mortgage advisor
  • Considered releasing equity from your current home
  • Thought about the commitment and return on investment, both emotionally and financially

We’ve written a lot this year about the cost of extending, and whether you really need to extend at all. As the housing market in the north-east has toughened, it’s become a regular question that we get asked.

If it’s such a major decision and investment then ask yourself the question…. why would you risk not getting it absolutely right?!

So many of the prospective clients we talk to have had a bad experience. They either have an extension that is under used, doesn’t connect with the rest of the house, or worse still, actually creates a divide or disruptive element to the way they live - the complete opposite of what they set out to do!

Five pitfalls to avoid

Your architect should spend a lot of time listening to your needs and discussing options before embarking on any final plans. They certainly shouldn’t start drawing without your full buy-in and agreement to the design.

Here are 5 of the most common pitfalls that you should avoid when extending your home:

  1. Beware of a sun lounge that is accessed via a door to the rear, with no connection to the rest of the house. This makes the new area feel distant and will result in little or occasional use.
  2. A garage conversion is a popular choice. However, often there is little thought given to how it will connect with the rest of the house resulting in less use and making it seem like an ‘add on’ to the rest of the home.
  3. When adding additional bedrooms always consider additional bathroom facilities – bathrooms in the morning are a busy place for families and with room for guests to stay a separate bathroom is always a good choice.
  4. Additional living space should always come with a consideration for further storage. If you are going to be spending more time in a new area, this will most definitely come with the requirement for bringing items into the space. Clever storage ideas built into the surroundings can provide invaluable space and also add to the design of a room.
  5. The most frustrating, and mind boggling, pitfall of all is an extension that has been delivered with only profit and ease of build in mind, and no consideration for the clients needs. Always be vocal if your architect is pushing an idea/design that you do not feel comfortable with. It’s your home and your money!

Architects fees are part of the investment

One of the challenges we face as architects and designers is demonstrating value to a client who is on a budget.

Architects fees can be seen as a ‘can do without’ when compared to a company who offer a full design and build option, and who say that the “drawings are free”. Also, some people may have the perception that architects only perform the function of getting planning permission or a building warrant and a set of drawings should only take a couple of days. Quite often people think ‘what the neighbours did’ is just fine for them and they can copy their plans.

Don’t put yourself, your biggest asset, or your future happiness at risk by thinking the architect’s job is a necessary obstacle in the delivery of your dreams. Here’s how your architect should work with you:

  1. You should be part of the design team, and be given the opportunity to co-create your home;
  2. They should always be very clear and transparent about what the costs are, both for the build budget cost and for their fees;
  3. You should be involved and consulted at every stage of the process;
  4. Working with an architect can actually save you money and ensure that you get the home you had dreamed of. You don’t want the nightmare of feeling that you weren’t listened to, an extension that doesn’t do what you wanted, and having to move home in the future as a result.

Ultimately your architect should help turn your dream into a reality, using their skills and expertise to make sure that the extension meets all of your needs in a carefully considered way.

Extending your home should be fun, exciting, and the end result should be something that you are proud of.

Like the Green Cross Code Man used to say… Stop, Look and Listen before you cross the road…. or in our case decide how you should approach extending your home.