Time for making changes?

The beginning of a new year is often a time when people consider making changes, including to their homes.  This actually makes a lot of sense, as it allows time to get all the designs done and permissions in place.  But how much time do you need to improve your connection to the garden in the spring or add space before retreating into the house for winter?  Rather than waiting until later in the year, when it will be a rush, why not start the process now? 

There can be a bit of wishful thinking around timing and unfortunately also some misinformation.  This blog will therefore attempt to address some frequently asked questions and dispel a few myths.  

Timing FAQs.

Some common questions we are asked about timing include:

  1. How long does it take to get drawings done?
  2. How long does planning permission take?
  3. Can I start building without permission?
  4. How long should building work take?
  5. How long will an extension or house take from beginning to end?

Lets answer these FAQs and address some common misconceptions along the way.

1. How long does it take to get drawings done?

To answer this, we need to clarify that Architectural drawings are the product of a design process and therefore not a single event.  This process starts with a survey and concept design drawings, with each stage thereafter requiring increasingly more detailed generations of drawings.  Depending on how quickly it is possible to arrange meetings and what changes are required, we can usually produce each set of drawings within a month of being asked to do so.  These stages are covered in more detail on another page, but can be summarised as follows; survey, concept design, detailed design, planning application, building warrant, pre-construction and construction.

2. How long does planning permission take?

The short answer to this, is that once submitted, local authorities have eight weeks to determine an application.  Not all local authorities meet these targets, however, and more ambitious proposals may take longer to be assessed.

The slightly longer answer, is to address the common misconception that Planning Permission is all you need before building work can start.  The other main type of permission is a Building Warrant.  This requires more technical drawings, which are used to ensure compliance with the building regulations.  Preparing an application is likely to take around a month, but this is the quick bit.  Once an initial submission is made, the Local Authority will issue a report, with technical queries for the Architect and other consultants to answer.  This is a dialogue, which continues until the local authority are satisfied.  Depending on the local authority's workload, each report can take six to twelve weeks to produce, meaning that the process of obtaining a Building Warrant typically takes around four months.

3. Can I start building without permission?

The short answer is no, but lets address the myths that lead to this question being asked.

Firstly, there is Permitted Development, which allows some small projects to go ahead without obtaining Planning Permission.  In the case of very minor alterations, it is indeed that straightforward.  However, on extensions and other small projects below the Permitted Development threshold, best practice requires this status to be verified.  Not doing so would leave the project open to challenge by neighbours and any future purchaser, which ultimately creates delays.  There are a few approaches to verifying Permitted Development, which are all quicker than if the project required Detailed Planning Permission, so it is worth taking a moment to ensure everything is above board.

The second misconception, is that a contractor can get started using Building Warrant application drawings, before these have been approved or pre-construction information has been produced.  Whilst a competent contractor could get a good understanding of what's involved in a small project from this information, it remains subject to change during the application process and much more detail is produced in subsequent generations of drawings to assist with pricing and construction.  Quite apart from it being illegal to start without a Building Warrant, the Local Authority will not inspect the site until one is granted.  This risks delays when the Local Authority do eventually inspect the site, at which point they could require opening-up to be done.

4. How long should building work take?

Once all the designs are agreed and the permissions are in place, the project will move into the pre-construction and construction phases.  Tenders are obtained and a contractor is appointed.  So how long will the building work take?  Of course, the answer will vary between projects, but it is important to have realistic expectations.  Everyone wants it to be quick, but unfortunately this can lead to some wishful thinking.  In our experience a small extension project will on average take around four months to complete, with larger extensions and houses taking longer.  After this point, it is likely that small imperfections (commonly referred to as "snags") will become apparent.  This is to be expected from even the best contractors, but the requirement for them to return to your house after you move back in can lead to a feeling that the project has taken even longer.

5. How long does an extension or house project take from beginning to end?

So what does all of the above add up to and how much time should you allow?  Naturally all this depends on lots of variables, but here's an idea of how long the average small extension or house project takes from beginning to end.  In our experience it will take on average six to nine months from the time we are first appointed to the beginning of building work on site.  The time it takes to build will then be a further four to six months, leading to a total time of a year or more.

We hope that you have found the above of some interest and hope that it will inform your decision about getting started on your project.  It might feel like time to make changes, but these take time!  Please feel free to get in touch if you have a project you'd like to begin discussing with us.