First of all, congratulations!!!! It’s going to be an amazing experience and you will genuinely learn so much!!! I’m sure you’re feeling excited but also fairly overwhelmed (I know that I was), you’re about to be faced with hundreds of decisions and not knowing whether you’re making the right one can be stressful but remember – things that seem like the tiniest detail to you will be totally unnoticeable to others so try not to worry!
There is loads to think about at the start of a build but the key one is – wtf do I actually need to do to get started?! I found it super difficult to navigate so hopefully this quick summary helps:
Before you start, you need a really clear idea of what you want to do, that’s not to say that you can’t make changes but changing your mind lots of times will cost you money so before you get any professionals involved, make sure you’ve got a good initial idea. Doing some research on Instagram, Houzz and Pinterest can really help and making a board on an app like Canva can really help!
Once you’ve got a good initial idea you need some professionals! The key ones are an architect, a structural engineer and a party wall surveyor – all before you can start your build! Some companies will do all of this which is great as they will manage the planning permission etc. but can be more expensive. If you want to do it yourself (which we did, to save the pennies) then:
- Find a reputable architect – we were lucky as my brother in law is an architect but there are tons of firms. Try and go for someone nearby so it’s easy to interact with them and get a good few quotes! Make sure they’re qualified and that you like their style and portfolio of work too before you start. Once you’ve found one, it sounds obvious but make sure you listen to them on options and advice – there’s a reason they spent 7 years qualifying!
- Get planning permission, there isn’t much point spending money on anything else unless you know you can do the work. Your local council website will say how to do this but essentially you just need to send your plans in (evidence in the local area can help) and pay the fee – you need to factor in 3 months for this!
- Once you have planning permission, you need a structural engineer. They will look at the architect’s plans and calculate how many steels you need, the size and weight of them etc. and essentially design plans for the builders to ensure you have the right materials and your house doesn’t fall down. There isn’t much point getting a builder to quote until you’ve got these plans (which I totally didn’t realise when we started)
- Get a party wall agreement, if you’re in a terraced or semi and you’re doing anything that could impact your neighbours you need a party wall agreement. This can be super simple but can also be a bit of a nightmare. Essentially your neighbours need to agree to the work and sign documents confirming this. If they want to, they’re legally entitled to have their own surveyor to assess the work (which you have to pay for and can take time) so I’d recommend popping round and chatting through the plans informally (with cake and alcohol) to try and ease the process along and answer any of their questions. If you can get photos of their walls etc. too then that is great (just in case they say your work has damaged anything). Overall, this process can be super quick but you should try and do this once you get plans finalised as it can take a few months if there are issues and could delay your build
- Get a builder – this is potentially the hardest part but also the most critical (and the one that tripped us up) so I’ll do a full post on this next time!