The Process

The Paperwork

At the initial visit, our project surveyor will discuss your brief and get an understanding of what you hope to achieve from the proposed project.

If you have architects drawings’, we will use them to develop a quote for you. If you do not have any architectural drawings, our experienced project surveyors are still able to advise on what is achievable and provide a quote based on our vast project database.

Once you have reviewed the initial quote, we will invite you to see some of our recent work and meet some of our existing customers. This will give you an opportunity to see what’s possible and also see the quality of workmanship as well as meet someone that’s been through the experience first hand.

Your local planning authority is responsible for deciding whether a development (anything from an extension on a house to a new shopping centre) should go ahead.

An architects will advise on the best way to approach the planning application as certain classifications of extensions and loft conversions can avoid going into a Full Planning Application.

They will manage the application process on your behalf and liaise with the Planning Department to ensure that any queries are dealt with immediately to ensure that the application is approved.

With applications for a loft or an extension, your attention is drawn to the requirements of the Party Wall Act 1996 which may affect your proposals. You must notify all affected neighbours and obtain their consent if the work you are intending to carry out falls within the Act. This may include:

  • Work on an existing wall shared with another property
  • Building on the boundary with a neighbouring property
  • Excavating near a neighbouring property

The requirements of the Party Wall. Act shall be observed at all times in respect of all works to be carried out to the party wall.

Our surveyors will advise on the best route forward when trying to gain your neighbour’s consent for the project. They can, for example, provide you with documentation that can help avoid the additional cost of employing a party wall surveyor.

If your proposal involves building over or near to public sewers or any new connections, the agreement of Thames Water Utilities Ltd. must be sought before work is undertaken. Where a formal agreement or a CCTV Survey are requested, a fee is payable.

Thames Water is responsible for maintaining 80,000 kilometres of public sewers, which are sometimes located within the boundaries of residential properties. Any building works over the top or within three metres of a public sewer require a prior agreement with Thames Water to ensure that no damage is caused to it or restrictions made to the use / maintenance of the sewer.

With the submission of a Full Plans Application the responsibility lies with your local authority to consult Thames Water when building over or near to a public sewer might occur. If a sewer has already been identified by your architect or engineer you can apply for an agreement personally and this can speed up the process of your Full Plans Application.

The Design Phase

If you’re happy to proceed based on our quotation for the build and you require drawings, We will arrange for a suitable architect to visit you to measure up the property and generate the planning drawings. Once you have approved these drawings, the architect will apply for planning permission on your behalf to gain local council approval. This process takes between six to eight weeks.

Our project surveyor will work with you during the council planning approval time to fine tune the details in your specification and ensure all aspects of the project are covered.

Once planning approval has been granted, we will then start preparing all the required documentation for the build, begin the preparation of materials and allocate the foreman to your project.

The Build Phase – Lofts

The average loft conversion from start to completion usually takes between eight to ten weeks. The construction of a new room within the existing loft space is relatively straightforward. The key tasks that we undertake when constructing a loft, these tasks work in three phases.
The scaffolding will be erected and the team will install the steel beams to ensure that the building is secure and that we can convert the loft into a habitable space. We will then install the new floor structure.
We then create the box structure known as a dormer. Once the frame is constructed, we then weatherproof the sides and roof of the dormer and surroundings. Once this is complete, we will have secured, insulated and weather proofed the loft area.
Once the exterior structure is weather proofed, the internal work begins with installing the internal walls, arranging drainage, plumbing and electrical points. We also break through to the existing house to arrange the stairs. This process takes about two days and can be a little dusty. Finally the walls are skimmed, the carpentry is completed and we paint the walls, ceilings and woodwork.
Throughout this process, you would have regular team meetings with the foreman to go through the project plan. Your project surveyor will be available throughout the process.

The Build Phase – Extensions

The average single story rear extension to completion takes between 10-12 weeks. The key tasks when constructing a standard extension that are split into six phases.
The first aim would be to clear space and dig the foundations. These are dug to a depth stipulated by the architect but approved by the building inspector. Once the depth has been approved, we then pour the concrete foundations and install any steels that are required to support the structure.
Once the concrete has dried we begin the brickwork. At an early stage of the brickwork, the building control officer will approve the damp proofing and once approved we continue the brickwork to the highest point, which we call the roof plate level.
We now have to knock through to the existing kitchen, remove the exterior wall and install the final steel beams to ensure the house is structurally sound. We will at this point move your kitchen into another part of the house and seal off the back area so it’s secure and does not leave you open to risk.
The key focus is to now weather proof the house and construct the roof. Finally we install the tiles or felt depending on if you choose a pitched or flat roof extension. Once this is complete the new floor will be installed into the new area.
Once the concrete floor is dry, the team will commence with the internal work, which includes installing the internal walls, arranging drainage, plumbing and electrical points. The walls will be skimmed and the finishing touches will be completed on the ‘shell’ of the extension.
Now we install the kitchen and install all of the skirting’s and doors. We also now install any floor finishing, such as tiling or wooden flooring, and finally decorate the room so it’s ready to use.

Top tips and inspiration

For any family, the space plays a vital role in how and when you interact together. For those with young children, an open-plan family room or one that can be easily seen from the kitchen is a great way to keep an eye over kids as they play while parents can cook or work.

As children get older, in addition to having a room to enjoy time as a family, parents and teenagers alike appreciate their own privacy—kids want a space to relax, play music or hang out with friends, while parents want a quiet space to watch TV or a room for entertaining. Put simply the layout of your house will have a massive impact on how your family spends time together. We spoke with some of our previous clients to see how their family utilises their new space.

Helen Butterfield and her husband had a kitchen conversion that transformed their former (galley) kitchen in their Earlsfield Victorian home into a large open-plan kitchen and dining room, with a huge island in the centre. The living room is still a calm room to watch TV and relax but the kitchen space has become the central point of activity in the house and allows the couple to spend more time together. As Helen explains, “We use the space for everything. Typically, during the evenings one of us will be cooking while the other is also in the kitchen using the laptop or whatever. Before we would have been in separate rooms. It means we spend more time together as a couple.”
With a new baby about to join the family, Sally Porter and her husband had a loft conversion built on their Teddington town house. The loft conversion was made up of an additional bedroom with en-suite bathroom and a study. Now with four-bedrooms, a study, and two sizable bathrooms, Sally explains that her family will be able to grow into the house, “We know that we can grow into it without having to lose any of the bedrooms to create a playroom or a study. Everything now has its place.”
With two daughters aged 9 and 13, Julie and Dean Adams decided to create a more adaptable family space on the ground floor of their semi-detached home. A extension on the back of their property has created a bright, spacious kitchen with a huge breakfast bar and kitchen table which means mum can spend time with her family as she is preparing food or working in the kitchen. “The girls can eat breakfast at the island and Dean can sit at the table with his laptop while I am preparing food in the kitchen,” says Julie. “We also get the sunlight coming in at the front of the house. It’s much more of a family room now.” Also important is the living room that can be opened up to be part of the open-plan kitchen space, or closed to create some quiet time for mum and dad when the girls have their friends over.
A clever loft conversion on Dominic Byrne and his girlfriend’s New Malden maisonette has converted their property into a three-bedroom home complete with playroom for their two young children. Two additional bedrooms, an en-suite bathroom and useful utility room added to the roof meant one of the former bedrooms could be used as a playroom. The playroom is easily accessible from the kitchen and means mum and dad can keep an eye on the kids while giving them their own space to play.
Living in London the desire to gain more space takes up a lot of our thoughts, conversations, time and money. Extensions and conversions within the house can easily create some extra square meters but what’s more important is the quality of the space. If you are thinking of changing your home have you really thought about what impact the extra living space can have on your family life? We meet up with Nikki Smith, an L&E customer who says that changing her home has transformed her family and social life.

Nikki had her side return filled in on her midterrace, Victorian property in Ealing. Previously the back of the house had a small, (galley) kitchen jutting out on to the garden while the living and dining rooms were at the front of the house. “The old kitchen was damp and quite dark as it had no windows looking out onto the garden. When we ate I had to cook in the kitchen alone and then carry the meals through the house each evening. It really wasn’t practical,” says Nikki. “After having the open-plan, living and kitchen conversion we now live in this room all the time. We use it for everything from living to eating, relaxing, and socialising. It’s become the heart of the house. I can be preparing food for my son or talking to friends at the same time,” says Nikki. “It has added extra value to the house but it’s more about the value it has added to our daily living. I wish that I had done it years ago.”

Architects and Designers work with clients to create the extra space they need on their property. When they are drawing plans, either at the design or structural stage, they always ensure it works to the client’s needs. They also consider how it will look outside of the property. They would always run through this with a client at an initial consultation to give them an understanding of what they can achieve. Finding solutions to maximize space is an important role of an architect or designer. With a loft for example, you can have your bathroom in the front area and your bedroom behind which creates more space. Most people tend to work the other way around and put the bedroom in the front.

Clever lighting is a fantastic way to brighten up your home and to bring light into a room that is starved of natural sunlight. As Mary, from lighting experts Lighting Design House, reminds us: “Think about lighting as you would your plumbing—you need to consider the installation right from the onset.” We caught up with one of our favourite lighting consultants to get more ideas on how to bring more light into your home.  Here is a summary of our interview with Mary from Lighting Design House:

What lighting options are available to brighten up dark areas in a house?
A simple solution is to add a plug in lighting into a corner. Down lights have always been popular too— if not a little passé. These days it’s more about layering with light. You can create some great installations by integrating lighting in to the sidelines or adding low level lighting to the island in a kitchen for example. Other options include lighting up individual features in the home such as a shelf, kitchen splash back or individual treads of a staircase.

How can LED lights be used in a home?
LED technology has come a long way in the last few years. The compact size of LED lights makes them easy to conceal in bookcases or other joinery. With a life of up to 50,000 hours (nearly nine years of continual light), the need to frequently change bulbs will soon be a thing of the past. You do still need to use LED lights carefully. Check that you are using a good quality light, for example, to create a soft, warm colour—otherwise you will end up with a harsh, white light. LED lights also need a proper heat sink designed into the fitting to ensure they do not get hot and deteriorate in light quality or lamp life—something that is usually ignored in the cheaper fittings.

When should we start planning our lighting installation?
Think about lighting as you would your plumbing— you need to consider the installation right from the onset. At the Lighting Design House we offer a lighting designer who will work with your plans from the outset.

Are there any regulations we should be aware of?
New building regulations from 1 October 2010 say that three out of four fixed fittings must be energy efficient. It’s more important than ever to incorporate energy efficient lighting into your design. Good quality LED fixtures can be brilliant for this. In the past for example, we would have used 200-watt fixtures, while today we can use just 11-watts fixtures to get the same effect. Energy saving can be tremendous if used correctly.

It’s natural that before a build takes place on your property you will have concerns about budgeting. The most common concerns are having enough money to pay for the build or worry that fees will escalate to be more expensive than the original quote.

It’s important to get detailed quotes from potential building companies to understand what is reasonable and accurate. If either you or your building company underestimates the time and money needed to complete a build, it could lead to further problems down the line. At worse it may halt the build altogether.

Luckily reputable building companies will offer comprehensive payment plans to avoid any unexpected fees. This should be offered at the same time as the initial quote and account for all details, right down to the fixtures and fittings, as well as the estimated dates for each stage of the build to be completed.

L&E is one such company that allows their customers to pay for each stage of the build, as it is completed and satisfactory. As existing customer Dominic Byrne pointed out, “the build was done to budget and only cost £310 more for the extra radiator that we asked to be fitted.”

Top budgeting tips

1. Don’t over-stretch yourself financially. It’s easy to get carried away to create elaborate architectural designs but only take on a project that suits your budget. Keep back around 10 percent of the cost of the build in case there are any unexpected emergencies. You can always use it for your furnishings when it’s left over.

2. Get quotes from a number of building companies and don’t be afraid to ask more questions about their quotes. They should be able to account for every detail.

3. Use trade accounts. Many building companies such as L&E have built relationships with their favoured suppliers to receive discounted prices and will be able to pass their savings on to you. Ask your building company if they can do the same.

4. Re-use some your existing items. Just because you are changing the layout of your home it doesn’t always mean you need new fittings and furnishings. You can also break down the materials from your old interior fittings to create new ones. For example, an old kitchen cupboard could easily be used to create a small cupboard in a utility room.

We also caught up with Tom Platts, another of L&E’s customers, about his experience in budgeting for a build.

What kind of worries did you have about budgeting for the build before starting the work?
The main issue was ensuring that funding was in place to be able to make each payment. L&E gave us a very detailed timetabled and thorough list of payment dates including the three-month retention payment. This meant that we were able to budget accordingly and it made life easy when it came to making payments.

By how much did the quotes vary when you were researching quotes from building companies?
We spoke with over ten other building firms and had quotes from them all. L&E’s quote was in the middle. But it was the best and most detailed by a considerable margin. This instilled confidence in us in their approach and attitude towards the job.

What advice would you give someone else to budget and find a good price for his or her build?
Look around. We didn’t know what we necessarily wanted at the start but over time you get a good understanding of what design ideas builders will be offering. That means it will be easier to make proper comparisons.

Whether you plan a loft conversion, ground floor extension, to adjust the layout of your rooms or even if you are not sure how to extend your home, having the right architect or designer with you is vital to make the build run smoothly.

Choosing an architect or designer can seem confusing – after all there are so many out there and many will claim to have the right credentials for your build. What’s equally as important is finding an architect or designer that is compatible with you. Good relationships with your build team are what make a build run smoothly. What may have worked well for a friend or colleague is not necessary going to be perfect for your build and so make a few phone calls and speak directly to potential architects.

A good architect or designer will have a balance of understanding design elements and understanding what the client wants. You need one that understands your budgeting as much as knowledge of planning and building regulations.

They would always run through this with a client at an initial consultation to give them an understanding of what they can achieve.

When choosing an architect or designer it’s worth asking if they are able to work with you throughout the entire build. Some architects or designers will be more design-orientat-ed while others will have expertise in the structural elements.

Our associate architects or designers are able to do everything, which may make the process run smoother. Ask your architect or designer not only to draw up the initial designs but also ask if they can work through second stage designs with your building company such as L&E once planning permission has been obtained.

Following this path may help reduce costs. Clients often go direct to an architect or designer to get the initial design work. Once planning has been approved it goes to the structural and building stage and costs at this stage are cheaper to go through L&E as we subside their costs.

A good place to start looking for an architect is the Royal Institute of British Architects online directory on www.ribafind.org

If you are extending your home, building a loft or digging into the foundations, there is a very strong possibility you will run into the Party Wall Agreement (PWA)

The Act says that you must gain an agreement with your neighbour prior to building or working on a particular wall. Without it your build will not legally be permitted to move forward.

We spoke with our RICS accredited Party Wall Surveyor, Don Varcoe from London Surrey Surveyors, who has worked on a huge number of our builds, about the Party Wall Act and how it may affect your build.

As we were chatting with Don he did joke that The Party Wall Act may not be one of the most interesting features to consider during your plans—but it is vital to complete your build.

What is the Party Wall Act and why do I need it?
The Party Wall Act dates to 1996 and relates to any work on a wall or structure within three meters of a neighbour’s property.

That means building a freestanding wall, raising or working on an existing wall and also excavating near a neighbouring building. The Act says if you are doing any of these things you need to ask a neighbour.

Do I need it for an extension and loft conversion?
Yes, if it’s a party wall or within three metres of a neighbour’s property.

On a loft conversion, for example, if you plan to cut into a wall to take the bearing of a beam; if you want to insert a damp proof course all the way through the wall; or if you want to underpin the whole of a party wall, you must inform your neighbour.

On an extension, for example, if you plan to raise the height or width of a wall or increase the thickness of a party wall, you must inform the neighbour.

What happens if I start building without obtaining an agreement?
There are no fixed penalties for an owner who builds without an agreement but a neighbour can go to court and get an injunction to stop the work. Once work has been suspended they can hold up a build and create complications for a very long time.

How do I get a Party Wall Agreement?
The easiest way is to employ a surveyor to draw up a notice. This will include a comprehensive description and plans of what you propose to do, when you propose to start, and all names and addresses of the owners and the buildings involved.

The neighbour should then respond within 14 days by giving his consent in writing. If both neighbours are happy it’s easy to move forward.

Your neighbours other two options are to explain in writing why he or she doesn’t approve to the build going ahead or they may chose to do nothing. Both mean you can’t build on the wall.

When should I get the Party Wall Agreement?
You should issue the notice two months before doing any work to the wall in order to complete the necessary paperwork. In reality this rarely happens. Most are done around one month prior.

What happens if an agreement cannot be made?
At this stage you should employ an agreed surveyor—someone that you and your neighbour both agree to work with—to draw up an ‘award.’ Here the surveyor awards you the right to make changes to the wall with the written agreement with your neighbour.

Alternatively, each neighbour can appoint separate surveyors to draw up the award together. It’s their duty is to resolve matters in dispute in a fair and practical way.

In most cases the agreement between both neighbours is come to very easily. he Party Wall Act

How much does it cost to get a Party Wall Agreement and how long does it take?
It’s usually around £650 – £1,000 but it could be more or less.

If the neighbour consents to the agreement, it’s often obtained within two weeks. If there are complications it can take longer. It’s just important to get the agreement before you start building so to avoid further complications and disputes

When it comes to creating extra space in your home, the options for extensions are endless. Even on properties where it seems there is no extra space to be gained, a good architect or designer will nearly always be able to create something impressive.

After all, until a few years ago most people had never thought of filling in the side return on their Victorian properties. Fast forward to today and by filling in the narrow side return, some of which are as little as two meters in width, thousands of families have been able to create large, open-plan living spaces with skylights, kitchen islands, and folding-sliding doors opening out onto their gardens. Some even go further to have a bedroom or two added above.

Extensions can be single, double or multi-storey and can be added to the front, side or rear of your house. That’s not even listing conservatories or outhouses.

Gaining extra space on one part of the house doesn’t mean simply moving more stuff into that room. While you are extending it’s a good time to think about changing the internal layout of your rooms. If, for example, you have three or four small to medium-sized rooms on the ground floor, why not convert to one or two large, open-living spaces.

The beauty of having an extension is that your home can grow with you as your family does. Most homes that were built for Edwardian or Victorian lifestyle are not perfect for today’s modern living. You don’t need to move when you love the area so much, just change it!

What roof options are available for an extension?
Pitched roof: Generally this has a pitch of 15 degrees or above and is tiled with clay, slate, asphalt or concrete.

Flat roof: This has a pitch of 1 to 15 degrees. Each roof has to drain slightly but it can be a very small slope.

Glass roof: This can look very effective but unless you have a very thick glass you can lose a lot of heat.

Instead you use different materials on your roof to create a multi faceted roof. For example you can have a pitched roof that goes to a flat roof with some glass.

What exterior options are available for extensions?
Facebrick is the most common. Otherwise render, which is an external plastering that can be painted to match your home. Wood cladding can also look very effective by using timber on the outside of your home.

Of course there is the option of pebble dashing but it’s generally agreed that should be avoided these days!

How do you go about getting planning permission and approval to build?
It’s the same as when building a loft conversion.

You need approval from the local authority on what you are going to build. All households have a right to develop unless it breaks any of the following regulations. There are two main applications:

1. The Householder Application for Planning Permission: Your design plans must be in keeping with the existing property and comply with supplementary guidelines. This is not the same as planning permission but looks at fire resistance, structural stability, ventilation, thermal insulation and drainage, rather than the siting, design and external appearance of the building. An architect or designer will understand these regulations.

2. Permitted Development / Certificate of Lawfulness: As a property owner you have an ‘allowance’ of what you are able to build. These are black and white regulations that if followed allow you to build without neighbours objecting.

Loft conversions are not only one of the easiest ways to make the most of your existing space but can also gain you some much needed extra square meters on your property.

Often blessed with daylong natural daylight, this calm and airy space at the top of your home is ideal for additional bedrooms or creating a home office.

Most homes are suitable for a roof extension although those with less than 2.2 meters from the floor to the ceiling will be more difficult. Simply take out your tape measure to get a good idea how your build can begin.

Roofs with a steeper pitch are more suited for a conversion as they offer more possibilities in the types of roof extensions.

What different types of loft conversions options are available?
There are three types of lofts that most conversions tend to fall into:

Velux: This is an existing loft space that you may have in your home and usually works within the boundaries of the inverted ‘V’ shape. Velux windows are easily added to create an additional room or floor.

Dormer: a dormer roof is created by adding a flat roofed box, with vertical walls that jut out of the pitch.

Mansard: mansard is similar to the dormer but the pitch on the box replicates a 70 degrees pitch on the roof. Often there will be two pitches, the steeper pitch of the lower slope (where the window of the box may be) and the higher slope (on the top of the roof) with a smaller pitch. Local authorities tend to favour this type of roof as it blends in with existing buildings more easily.

How can you use a loft conversion to create new space in a home?
It depends on the property but basically you are adding an extra floor to your home. It’s easy to create an en-suite bedroom, study or playroom. Some people like to have a room to relax at the top of their home while you can even create flats in larger properties.

What tile options are available for a loft conversion?
There are a variety of tile options from authentic clay to slate, metal and asphalt. There are also artificial versions and concrete tiles that are cheaper but don’t look as nice.

The pitch will determine what tiles you can use too. There are certain tiles for certain pitches. For example, there is a 15 degrees pitch for the front tiles and a 90 degrees hanging on the walls of a dormer roof. Your main concern is looking at this and choosing the right tiles or the roof will leak. Your architect or designer will be able to help with this.

What types of storage is available in a loft bedroom or office?
You should speak to an interior design expert but bespoke solutions are always best as they work with the pitch better than pre-fabricated furniture.