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Choosing an Architect for Your Home Extension

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 25 Apr 2013 | comments*Discuss
Extension Build Planning Permission

For anything other than the most basic of extensions, it's really worthwhile considering hiring an architect. Apart from the fact that they are knowledgeable about the building process and what is achievable, they can bring fresh new perspectives to what can be done to enhance as well as extend your home.

Restricted Areas

An architect may in fact be crucial if you are building in an area where planning is restricted, such as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or a Conservation Area. A local architect will be well versed in the specific regulations that apply and will have experience of the sorts of extensions that will be able to get past the planners.

They are also likely to have built up relationships with the planners at the local planning office and will be able to chat to them unofficially when working out what can and can't be done at a detail level.

What Architectural Knowledge Can Bring

The alternative perspective is important too. You should have clear ideas about what you want to get out of the extension, say an extra bedroom and bathroom, or more kitchen space and a garden room or conservatory, for example. You should also know what sort of budget you can afford too. An architect can take your aims and then come up with ideas that will give you what you want but in a way that you perhaps had not thought possible.

An architect, for instance, will know that the roof is a major part of the expense of an extension, particularly if it's a pitched roof (which is why so many single-story extensions have flat roofs). Bearing this in mind, an architect may be able to come up with a two-storey design where you had only imagined doing one. If this adds a bedroom, then because of the weird way, in the United Kingdom, that houses are valued, it can put a house into another price league, increasing its value significantly for a relatively small increase in build cost.

The Architect as Project Manager

The other major contribution that an architect can bring is to be an advisor through the project. The architect's drawings will be used at the planning permission stage, should you need that permission, and will be used to instruct builders and other trades throughout the job. They will also be aware of the latest building regulations and be able to design an extension that conforms.

Many architects will also take on the role of a project manager for the job, taking control from start to finish and calling in each trade as and when they are required, making sure that everything is in place for them to do their work without hindrance. It should be realised that this is a separate job and not a standard part of hiring an architect. Although as such it will be costed accordingly, it could well be more economical in the long run, as fewer mistakes will be made.

Even if your architect doesn't project manage for you, they will be there as a source of information and guidance that you can call on if things go wrong or you are uncertain of what you next step should be.

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