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Replacing extension - what to ask builders to quote for? (scared!)

(12 Posts)
notcitrus Fri 19-Oct-12 23:19:24

We have a crappy 70s extension which makes up half our kitchen as well as the lounge and shower area of a granny flat. Not only did it never meet any building regs, it's freezing (outside the fridge is colder than inside in winter...), and is now falling off and needs replacing. Luckily the banks seem quite amenable to lending us more money for this.

However after the loft conversion saga from hell (short version, recommended builder vanished half way through, then I gave birth, interiors still not finished 4 years later), I'm really nervous about them suddenly finding extra problems or the planning department complaining half way through.

A national chain guy has had a look and is returning tomorrow to show us what they can do (figured they may be expensive but at least won't disappear on us!)

Can people tell me what questions to ask, what to specify, and generally how to get the work done as swiftly as possible? Many thanks.

Hoti Sat 20-Oct-12 00:02:19

I would start by looking on the public access planning applications on your local councils website. Look at the plans submitted by the different agents/architects, hire one to do your plans and they will advise and go from there.

Pendeen Sat 20-Oct-12 18:01:40

Do you want to increase the size or change anything e.g. drainage, or simply rebuild on a like-for-like replacememn (built to the correct standards of course)?

notcitrus Sun 21-Oct-12 12:24:22

Not increase size, basically replace but with mainly a glass roof.
Had first guy yesterday: would be expensive mainly because of doing the separate showerroom plumbing as well as kitchen. But would include all dealing with planners.

Hoti - the plans seem to be the easy bit. Part of the loft problem was the architect was crap, and the plans weren't feasible to build from - eg the outside didn't match the inside!
The area is about 5 feet times width of the house, and the issues are figuring out where utilities etc go and practicalities of working on a tight site - the builders we've talked to seem to regard architects as irrelevant? Especially as architects don't seem to bother themselves with specs of materials or the planning process?

notcitrus Sun 21-Oct-12 12:29:49

Pendeen - would need to improve drainage, put in damp course, move random waste pipes sticking out, but from the floor up should basically be a replacement.

Also apparently Anglian are the only company in the UK who supply solar glass, so if you don't go through them you have to source decent glass from abroad and it's not just pretentiousness of the people on Grand Designs??

tricot39 Sun 21-Oct-12 13:30:56

anglian are most definitely not the only supplier of solar glass in the uk. someone has been spinning you a line!

startlife Sun 21-Oct-12 14:33:56

For a 'simple' extn I would look for a architect technician (if that's what they are called?). They will draw plans and get them submitted for approval. They can also draw up building regs. I'm not sure about using a national firm (Anglian). I think you will pay considerably more. We've had an extn built and it can be straight forward. We had a good technician (he was on the council's approved list - does your council have something similar?) We needed structural changes to support the new extn and plans were provided by a qualified structural engineer.

As you know a good builder is key - someone experienced can work out the pitfalls. Foundations maybe critical here - were they dug to sufficient level? I think the only way to determine that is for a trial hole if no building approval was ever given.

Pendeen Sun 21-Oct-12 16:32:50

"Especially as architects don't seem to bother themselves with specs of materials or the planning process"

I can assure you that we most certainly do! smile

On a practical note, you mention "...basically replace but with mainly a glass roof."

Does the existing extension have a glazed roof?

You also mention "solar glass". This expression has more than one meaning - are you referring to slar control or photovoltaic glazing?

Pendeen Sun 21-Oct-12 16:33:12


notcitrus Sun 21-Oct-12 17:55:41

Startlife - will ask the council re technicians and recommendations. As for current foundations, there essentially aren't any! About a foot...
So yes, making them will be a significant part of the job, along with making the walls attach to the sides of the house in a way the current ones don't.

Tricot - a quick Google has confirmed that, yes. Presumably there are tiny differences in the 'units' to enable Anglians claim to be legal.

Pendeen - solar temp control, not PV. Current thing is all tiled, without proper support so the tiles are sagging and starting to leak.
Re the role of architect - how do they best fit in with the builder and/or project manager on this kind of project? Everyone we talk to seems to have different ideas and seems to risk major decisions falling through gaps, or confusion where all are arguing over things.
Also what accreditation if any should we look for in a builder to ensure they can manage this sort of job? While DP did a great job project managing the loft in the end, we really want this done faster.

Pendeen Mon 22-Oct-12 10:46:01

notcitrus - ah OK solar control. I put some links on another thread about this which may be of interest: solar control glazing

As regards architects and builders - never the twain shall meet? smile

We usually work to the RIBA Plan of Work however this covers all sizes of projects and is a little cumbersome (it's currently being reviewed anyway) so I usually make things a little easier for me and clients and offer 3 levels of service:

1. Drawings for statutory consents only i.e. Building Regulations and if necessary Planning Consent. My involvement stops there. So far, about 2/3 of domestic clients opt for this.

2. Detailed drawings and a specification to enable a client to obtain competitive quotes. Again, once I have completed the documents I have no further involvement unless the contractor has a query. About 1/3 of homeowners opt for this.

3. Full service including all of the above, conducting a tender exercise, preparing contract documents and administering the contract, site inspections, reports, dealing with payments etc. Hardly any homeowners go this far but all my commercial and public sector clients insist on full service.

BTW this is not an advert - just offering my opinions! smile

As regards builders, unfortunately unlike professional services there is no single body which regulates builders. Like most architects I have built up my own 'local' list and certainly bodies like councils and housing associations simply tell me who to approach but for most people a personal recommendation is the best way to find a reliable and competent builder however I appreciate that is not always easy if you don't know anyone who has had recent work.

There are trade bodies like the Federation of Master Builders, the Chartered Institute of Building, Trustmark, Quality Mark etc however there are no absolute guarantees I'm afraid.

notcitrus Tue 23-Oct-12 23:35:48

Many thanks Pendeen - have read up on glass and will be asking much more precise questions about it!

Interesting to see what your clients do, not surprised commercial and public go for the single-contact option. Surprised few get the full spec, but suppose I'm only really familiar with small jobs where the design and planning are a minor part and the materials are a proportionately larger concern?

Good news is the banks seem happy to lend more money than we need, so at least have the choice of getting it project managed. Will certainly phone all trade orgs a builder claims to be in, seeing as the last lot werent members just nicking the logos! But they had done a great job on two houses in our street. And probably would have done ours fine too if the guy's partner hadn't nicked all the money... guess some things you can't predict.

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