Here are some questions I've been asked
Do I need more than one professional to alter my property?
If the work involves structural work for example taking down a load bearing wall then you will always need a Structural Engineer. Building Control insist on Structural Engineer's drawings and calculations. The architect is needed for creative design advice and for their technical expertise in all other aspects of the building.
Why do I need Planning Permission?
If you alter the appearance of the outside of a building(or the inside if your house is listed) you may require Planning permission.
New Permitted Development rights came into effect in March 2012 allowing more freedom to build without the need for planning permission. There are a number of rules to follow and I can advise on these.
Generally if the development is within a conservation area it will need Planning Permission and possibly Conservation area consent if it involves demolition, however there are some exceptions, so it is worth taking further advice.
Any development or alteration out with or within a Listed Building requires Listed Building Consent and possibly planning consent. I can advise on this.
Planning Permission expires after 5 years if the works are not started.
What is a Building Warrant?
A building warrant is the legal permission to start building work and effectively deals with the nuts and bolts.
Some works to a house are permitted without building warrant approval on condition that the works fully comply with the current regulations and meet certain criteria e.g. if the works do not increase the floor area or alter any structural element, effect the roof etc. If a warrant is required then you need to complete an application form and prepare plans and details of the proposed works along with a fee. It can take about 8-10 weeks to receive the Warrant and this is valid for 3 years. Once the work is completed the warrant officer inspects the work and issues a completion certificate.
Are there different methods of employing contractors?
There are many different ways depending on the size of the project and whether time or budget is more important to you. Two common methods are explained briefly below
1. Appoint a Main Contractor or a single Building Company. They will usually be chosen by providing the lowest tender. The contractor will agree on a fixed price which includes the cost of them managing other tradesmen in order to complete the work. The architect will provide a service to administer the contract if required.
2. Appoint separate Contractors or tradesmen to carry out the different parts of the work. This tends to be the cheapest option but should only be tackled by clients with knowledge and experience of the building industry or with very small projects. It tends to be stressful and extremely time consuming. It is the client's responsibility to order material and co-ordinate and program the various tradesmen to first fix, second fix etc.
My builder tells me he can Project Manage and therefore we don't need an architect to do this as well. Is this right?
Be wary of a statement such as this. It is possible that they simply want to get on with the project without quality inspections or receiving instructions from the architect. Typically when a builder for a domestic project talks about project managing he is referring to programming and organising various tradesmen or sub contractors, ordering materials etc. He should have included for this in his price anyway. Generally an Architect will not offer this sort of service. The architect will be the Contract Administrator and will make periodic site visits to inspect the builders general progress and issue any instructions to the contractor or to reject any obviously unsatisfactory work.
I'm thinking of converting our attic, what's involved?
As a general rule of thumb, the highest point in the roof space needs to be at least 2.3m.
The ceiling joists will not be designed to take the weight of people and will need to be strengthened.
Careful consideration needs to be taken in positioning the new stair. If there is no space within the hall or option to extend an existing stair then you may need to give up a room but you should try to utilise the space below to create an en-suite or a new utility or bathroom.
Note that if you are converting an attic in a 2 or 3 storey house that the fire regulations come into force and a protected corridor needs to be created directly to the outside. This is usually achieved by changing the doors off the hall to fire doors.
Also good to note that attic conversions don't have to be for bedrooms. Some of the best views are revealed and with the addition of a large dormer you could create an appealing family room.
Attic conversions require the floors or ceilings to be upgraded for sound insulation and most likely insulation will need added to the coombe and ceiling line with possibly the addition of roof vents depending on the detailing.