Many people decide to extend their home to accommodate a growing family rather than moving house. This can be the ideal solution, but give serious thought to the possible problems that may arise. Although planning regulations have been relaxed, restrictions still apply and need consideration.

Extensions that do not need planning permission.
The rules on planning permission were changed in 2008, but they do not apply in all circumstances. For example, people living in listed buildings, conservation areas and World Heritage Sites have different rights, as do those in National Parks, Areas of Outstanding National Beauty and the Broads, so if you want to extend in these areas, you need to check with your local authority first.

Broadly, the rules state that extensions to houses do not need planning permission as long as they do not cover more than half the land around the original house. Any existing extensions count towards the allowance. By “original house”, the planners mean as it was built, or as it was at 1 July 1948 if older than that.

Extensions must not be forward of the face of the house that fronts the road. There are slightly different rules for terraced, semi-detached and detached houses. If you intend to import materials for your extension, you need to consider the rules for dangerous goods packing.

Terraced Houses.
A rear extension of one storey or more can extend to 3 metres maximum beyond the rear wall of the house. A single storey extension can be a maximum height of 4 metres. If you decide to extend by adding a loft conversion, this can have a maximum volume of 40 cubic metres.

Semi Detached Houses.
Rear extension rules are the same as for terraced houses, but loft conversions are allowed a maximum volume of 50 cubic metres.

Detached Houses.
A rear extension of only a single storey can extend to a maximum of 4 metres beyond the rear wall, with a maximum allowable height of 4 metres. An extension of more than one storey can go to 3 metres. As with semi detached houses, loft conversions have a maximum volume of 50 cubic metres.

If you are in any doubt at all about what you are allowed to do, it is worth checking with the planning and building control departments of your local authority, to ensure that your plans do not require planning permission.

Finding a reputable builder.
A good start is to listen to recommendations from people who have used the company. You may be able to view projects they have completed previously for an idea of the quality of their work. Which recommend a scheme called “Buy with Confidence”, which has been set up by a number of trading standards services in the south of England, but this is not available throughout the UK.

Another consideration is how you would be protected if your builder got into financial difficulty. Work out a schedule for payments and release the money after each stage has been completed to your satisfaction. Using a credit card gives you extra protection if any problems arise.

Smith writes regularly on home improvements for a range of construction websites and blogs. The planning rules are very complex so to know more visit this page.