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A Comprehensive Guide to Home Renovations UK

Building alterations and extensions are an excellent way to adapt your home to changing needs, add value to your property, and create your dream living space. Whether you're looking to expand your kitchen, add an extra bedroom, or modernise the layout of your house, this guide will walk you through the key considerations, legal requirements, and best practices for successful home renovations in the UK.


Transform your home with building alterations and extensions. Learn key considerations, legal requirements, and best practices for successful home renovations UK.

Understanding Building Alterations and Extensions Building alterations involve making changes to the existing structure of your home. This can include both internal and external modifications.  Internal modifications could be changing the layout of rooms, knocking down or erecting internal walls, or converting existing spaces such as a garage.  Exterior home renovations include modifying the external features of your home, for example changing the windows, doors, or structure of the roof.

Building extensions, however, are a different ball game entirely.  Extensions involve adding brand new space to your existing property. Common types of home extensions include:

  • Single-storey extensions: Often used to enlarge kitchens, living areas, or add utility rooms.

  • Multi-storey extensions: Adding additional floors to the property, ideal for extra bedrooms or bathrooms.

  • Side return extensions: Utilising the alleyway at the side of a property, commonly seen in terraced houses, side return extensions are often relatively small, but they can have a great impact on the look and feel of your home.

  • Rear extensions: Put simply, this is where your home is extended into the back garden.  There has been a high demand for rear extensions in recent years, particularly in and around London, as people seek additional space in the form of an open-plan kitchen or dining area to give their home the ‘‘wow factor.’’

  • Wrap-around extensions: Traditionally seen on period properties with alleyway space around the home, this dead space (common on Victorian buildings) allows homeowners to create an L-shape extension for a versatile space.

Legal Requirements and Planning PermissionIn the UK, planning permission may be required depending on the scale and nature of your home renovation project.

Minor home alteration projects, such as solar panel installations, conservatory builds, and loft conversions, don’t usually require planning permission.  That said, as a general rule of thumb, you will need planning permission if:

  • Your building extension will occupy at least half of the surrounding land area of your home.

  • You plan to increase the overall height of your building.

  • You are extending the side of your property across more than half the width of your house.

  • You intend to extend towards a road or construct a balcony.

  • You are using materials different from those used in the existing structure of your home.

  • Your home is either listed or situated in a conservation area.

The good news is that some extensions can be built under your permitted development rights as long as certain rules are followed. For instance:

  • For single-storey extensions, such as a conservatory, the rear wall can extend up to 8 meters for a detached home or 6 meters for a semi-detached or terraced house. The height must not exceed 4 meters to the ridge and the eaves, with ridge heights no higher than the existing property.

  • For double-storey extensions, the rear wall can extend up to 3 meters and must be at least 7 meters away from the rear boundary.

  • The building materials must be similar to those of the existing property.

Whether or not you need planning permission for your home refurb will ultimately depend on the overall size of the extension, its location in relation to your home, and the type of windows you want.  If you’re unsure, it’s a good idea to check your plans with your local authority.  And for any advice or to discuss your options, get in touch with Virtue – our experience team is here to help!

Building Regulations Regardless of whether you need planning permission, most building alterations and extensions must comply with building regulations. In fact, building regulations apply whether you are self-building, renovating, or extending - even for fairly minor alterations.  

For domestic properties, building regulations are standards designed to ensure that new constructions, renovations, alterations, extensions, and conversions are conducted safely and energy-efficiently. Key areas covered include:

  • Structural integrity: Ensuring the building is structurally sound.

  • Fire safety: Adequate escape routes, fire-resistant materials, and alarms.

  • Insulation and energy efficiency: Proper insulation, efficient heating systems, and energy-saving measures.

  • Ventilation: Adequate ventilation to prevent damp and ensure air quality.

  • Accessibility: Making sure new parts of the building are accessible to all.

Party Wall Agreements If your project involves work on or near a shared wall with a neighbour (a party wall), you may need a party wall agreement under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. This ensures both parties agree on the work to be carried out and mitigates disputes.  Good to know, eh?

Getting your Home Renovation Project Started First things first… you need to decide what you want to achieve with your home reno whether it be an alteration or extension. Here are 3 things to consider:

  • Purpose: Why are you undertaking this project? Is it for additional space, improved functionality, or aesthetic upgrades?

  • Financing home renovations: Determine how much you’re willing to spend, including a contingency for unexpected costs.

  • Timeline: Set a realistic timeframe for completion.

Secondly, you'll want to partner with a reputable home renovations contractor… that’s where Virtue Property & Renovations comes in!  We’ll create a detailed design that meets your needs and complies with regulations. Working with you, we’ll consider functionality (how the new space will be used), aesthetics (ensuring the design is in harmony with the existing structure), and sustainability (incorporating energy-efficient materials and systems).

Then we move onto the nitty gritty… obtaining the necessary permissions.  If required for your home improvement project, you’ll need to submit planning permissions and building regulation applications.  It’s important to know this process can take several weeks, but don’t worry, we can help you with this.

Once planning permission has been granted (if relevant) and the necessary building regulations are in place, the construction work can begin! It’s also a good idea to give your neighbours the heads up about the planned work and potential disruptions, and check the funds are in place to cover all home renovations costs.

During the construction phase of all our projects, the Virtue team will regularly check in with our customers to keep them informed of progress. We will also notify them of any necessary changes to ensure the work continues to meet the agreed standards and specifications.

Once construction completes, it’s time for the final inspection! This is an opportunity for you and your building contractor to identify (and rectify) any minor issues or defects. Your contractor will also confirm the work complies with building regulations and the necessary certifications obtained.

 

Building alterations and extensions can transform your home and even improve your quality of life. By understanding the legal requirements, engaging the right professionals, and carefully planning your home project, you can achieve a successful and rewarding outcome. Whether you’re expanding for a growing family, modernising your living space, or increasing your property’s value, the effort invested in a well-executed building project is well worth it.

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