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Adding an custom built extension to your home? If extension & building expenses are proving an issue, it might be time to rethink your plans and extension design instead of your finances. There could be ways to trim a bit of cash off various aspects without ruining the look or purpose of the room.

Here’s how you can save cash on property extension prices and still get an excellent end result.

How Much Money Does An Extension Cost?

There are various methods to calculate prices if you’re planning a single storey extension but average extension build costs are as follows:

  • For an extension of practical quality, expect to pay about ₤1,500 to ₤1,900 per square metre, or ₤30,000 upwards for an average 4m x 5m extension.
  • For good quality, you’ll pay ₤ 1,900 to ₤ 2,200 per square metre, or from ₤38,000 for an average 4m x 5m extension.
  • For excellent quality, expect to pay around ₤2,200 to ₤ 2,500 per square metre, and from ₤44,000 for an average 4m x 5m extension.

Bear in mind, this is without skilled professional fees, which come in at around 10% to 15% plus VAT. With these added, the lowest cost for a 4m x 5m single floor home extension would be just shy of ₤40,000, with the upper end closer to ₤58,000. This price also excludes the cost of interior furnishings, for example, a new kitchen or bathroom.

1. Keep Your Design Simple To Lower Building Costs

Curves and corners are expensive to build, so keep your extension concept as straight forward as possible. A rectangular or square footprint with a basic pitched roof will be most cost effective. Design the build around off-the-shelf materials, like standard-size windows  and doors.

Avoid any items that have to be custom made; as an alternative, choose materials that are readily available and easy to use. So, stick to cast concrete for the sub-floor; concrete block-work for the walls, brick, render or timber cladding, and a softwood timber roof structure. Try roof-lights as an alternative to dormer windows and interlocking concrete tiles for covering the roof.

When possible, steer clear of intricate foundations, such as building near to trees or drains and sewage systems, or other buried services, as these will raise groundwork fees. Remember, though, that if you live in a dated or character property, your options will be restricted.

2. Project Manage Yourself To Save On House Extension Costs

A tradesman will add 15-25% on to the total cost of labour and building materials to pay for their time for overseeing the job. You can save some of this cost by effectively undertaking the role of building contractor yourself. This will mean liaising with your designer/architect and your local authority’s building control department, finding and hiring the right tradesmen, managing the workload and supplying each of the essential building materials, and also scaffolding, skips and so on.

Though time-consuming, it can be very gratifying. To do it well, you need time and flexibility, and also confidence, management skills and some knowledge of building and construction. The job may take more time to finish overall, but the cost savings could be enormous.

3. Save Money On VAT To Reduce Home Extension Labour Costs

The majority of extension work will involve VAT at 20% on labour and materials, however if you use self employed tradesmen who each turn over less than the limit for VAT registration, you will not be charged this tax, saving you money on labour costs. Used materials sold by private individuals on the web will also be free of VAT.

4. Ask Next Door Neighbours To Sign A Party Wall Agreement Waiver 

If you are developing on or close to the boundary of a neighbour, your house extension will need to abide by the party wall act 1996. If a party wall resolution is needed, it will cost approximately ₤700 per neighbour; more if they choose their own private assessors, which they’re well within their rights to do, and for which you bear the cost.

You need to notify your neighbours in writing about your building plans 8 weeks before you begin. If you can get them to write back that they do not disapprove or carry out a party wall agreement waiver, you can avoid using a surveyor to organise a party wall settlement and save money on fees. It’s a good idea, therefore, to keep neighbours on board with your plans, going over the works and being sympathetic about any concerns they have.

5. Save Money On Fees

While it’s a false economy not to invest in expert design, some building professionals know various ways to keep costs down, while others only create very complicated and attractive plans that are incredibly pricey to build. For a basic, inexpensive build, choose a designer, architectural specialist, chartered surveyor or structural engineer who will produce planning and Building Regulations designs for a set, one off fee is possible. Look for a track record in designing inexpensive residential extensions.

6. Avoid Cowboy Building Contractors

There are no shortage of cowboy builders (just like in any profession) and they may significantly miscalculate prices, through inexperience or, possibly intentionally to secure the work. They may then ask for more money for changes or add-ons. They could even demand some or all of the money up front, leaving you without comeback if they cannot complete the work to a high standard.

To avoid being conned, always ask for references and make sure to check them. Never pay for building work in advance; pay solely for work that has been finished and that you are satisfied with.

For a modest project, pay when the job is finished. For an extension, decide fees at fixed periods, or interim payments based on a verifiable list of labour and building materials used up to that date. Never transfer funds for materials ahead of time. A reputable builder should have access to trade accounts for building materials. If a contractor does not wish to supply building materials, purchase them yourself but make sure to ask for expert help from a recommended builder.

7. Measure Twice, Cut Once

Making adjustments or mistakes that waste labour and materials is a significant aspect in the final costing for many home improvement projects. Measuring everything on site, rather than off your plans will help eliminate material wastage. Providing exact, scaled blueprints to begin with will help.

The more time put in at the design period, visualising the end outcome, the more challenges could be anticipated and avoided. Precise and complete design will ensure that you have services, for instance water lines and wiring, in the right places, get floor levels correct between rooms, and make sure that doors are hung to swing in the most space-efficient direction.

As soon as you have made up your mind, stick to it; changes always incur extra costs, often in ways that don’t reveal themselves until much later. Over-ordering building materials can also waste funds, but it’s better to have marginally too much than to fall short and have challenges making up the difference. This will incur setbacks and additional delivery costs; worse, you might not manage to get the exact same materials required again.

8. Recycled & Repaired Materials 

Existing materials could be reused or sold instead of thrown in a skip. Existing floorboards, doors, radiators, towel rails, kitchen units etc. can all be rejuvenated and reused, tidied up and given a new lease of life. Sell or trade what you can’t make use of.

Buying reclaimed building materials on the internet or from salvage yards can be a lot cheaper than buying new. It will at the same time add instant character. Second-hand products that offer excellent value include roof tiles, bricks, internal doors, timber floorboards, fireplaces and roll-top baths. Some people even hunt through skips, although you should ask the home owner before removing anything.Cutting down on wastage will also reduce costs for skip hire and disposal. Bear in min though, that as a private consumer, you can dispose of waste in your local authorities tip free of charge.

9. Negotiate Trade Discount Prices

Find out where people in the trade purchase their building materials and aim to get the same wholesale/trade prices. Always negotiate and see if there is any price cut for paying in cash, making sure you get a receipt. Bulk-buy from a specific vendor for a further price cut and ask about reduced delivery prices. Purchasing end of line deals like kitchens or bathroom suites will save you a small fortune, particularly on larger costing items.

Getting the best deal will typically mean moving away from the major brand names and getting equivalents without the brand price. If you are clever, though, you can save money on cost without compromising quality. To keep costs down, stick to a basic spec, so choose radiator-based central heating, carpets for floors where possible and standard white bathroom suites.

10. Reduce The Relocation Of Internal Works

When you’re planning an extension, consider the position of fittings, for instance, a new toilet. If yours can be installed in a convenient place for the existing soil stack, you’ll save on labour expenses. Always ask your builder about the ideal positions for things like sinks etc and if you need to compromise, discuss the options first before committing to anything.