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New conservatory roof guide

New conservatory roof guide available

Conservatory roof guide

A newly re-issued guide clarifies how you should go about replacing a translucent conservatory roof with any solid roof systems that have LABC Registered Details certification, and outlines the conditions you’re expected to meet to ensure the structure complies with the Building Regs.

Whilst most existing conservatories will be able to support the increased loads, potential pitfalls include inadequate foundations that could move and cause settlement differences between the conservatory and the existing house, leading to cracks and water leakage; inadequate window/door supports to take the loads.

What building control will look at:

  • Building control will inspect the existing conservatory to ensure it can take the additional load of the new roof. If there are no signs of distress then it’s unlikely the new roof will cause a failure of the structure to the conservatory. This should already have been assessed by the surveyor of the company before carrying out any work.
  • Building control will also check that the existing door supports contain steel inserts to distribute the roof load down to the floor slab. Again, this should already have been assessed by the surveyor of the company before carrying out any work.
  • Signs of distress may mean that the existing foundations aren’t sufficient to carry the additional loads and so additional requirements are likely to be imposed on you.
  • Your LABC surveyor will also want to ensure that the new roof and supporting structure fully complies with the Regs and the remainder of the extension should be no worse than before.

Get more information by downloading your free copy of LABC’s re-issued guidance on solid roofs to conservatories or porches attached to dwellings.

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FMB Choosing a builder


Finding a builder doesn’t need to be difficult. Here are some handy hints for finding the right builder for your project.


Find a Builder consumer

There’s nothing better than a recommendation from a friend or family member who’s had building work done. If family and friends can’t help, use our Find A Builder service search for professional builders in your local area. FMB Members are checked and inspected at the point of joining, and can offer you a warranty on your work through FMB Insurance Services.


This is your project so make sure you get exactly what you want. Produce a written brief, including detailed drawings where possible, and give a copy to each builder who quotes.


Ask at least 3 builders to quote on your job and don’t just go with the cheapest. Look at the breakdown of costs, if some seem a lot cheaper than others ask how they will achieve it for the price without cutting corners.


Read the quotes carefully and check that they include everything you would like done including the removal of rubbish, site waste and the specification of any fixtures and fittings.


Go and visit some of the builders’ previous jobs. Most reputable traders will be more than happy to show off their previous work and while you’re there you can get a personal reference from a satisfied customer.

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Retaining wall basics

Retaining wall basics

Retaining walls can be tricky to build as they need to be strong enough to resist horizontal soil pressure where there are differing ground levels.

One of the things you must get right is the thickness of the wall. It should be at least 215mm thick and bonded or made of two separate brick skins tied together. This should be enough in most cases with minimal water pressure or where the ground level difference is less than a metre.

You also need to consider the effect of ground water, which can create huge pressure on the wall and soak the brickwork if allowed to accumulate behind. Create a way out for the water by adding a gravel trench and pipes through the wall.

If not properly constructed, water can also penetrate the brickwork structure from above through the mortar joints, affecting the long-term durability of the wall. So add brick copings, which must always be F2, S2 (frost-resistant low soluble salts), with an overhang and drip groove to minimise water damage.

Important points

  • Don’t forget to include movement joints in the wall and use piers on either side to increase strength at the movement joint position.
  • If you’re using two separate brick skins in stretcher bond, you have to provide reinforcement by tying them together. Use stainless steel bed-joint reinforcement every third course to boost the strength.
  • Use a high-bond damp proof course below the capping/coping and sandwich the DPC in mortar.
  • Waterproof the retaining side of the wall and allow water to drain away from this side through weep holes/pipes.
  • Slope paving away from the wall and provide gravel drainage strips where possible.
  • Don’t forget to protect waterproofing from damage while you’re building.
  • Don’t build higher than one metre without involving a structural engineer

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How to avoid condensation

How to avoid condensation

This is what happens where there isn’t enough ventilation – the roof covering offers very good waterproofing, preventing rainwater from getting into the building. But it also prevents water vapour inside the building from escaping.

In this case, insulation was fitted between timber rafters, creating an unventilated space between the insulation and the underside of the roof covering. As a result, moist air from within the building has been condensing on the underside of the cold external roof covering.

The problem

  • The void isn’t ventilated, which means water vapour and condensation can’t escape and so ends up being absorbed by the timber structure, causing it to rot.

The solution

  • When insulating existing roofs, ensure there’s adequate ventilation of the space above the insulation.
  • Remember to provide a suitable vapour check layer on the warm side of the insulation.

Remember, whilst insulation will improve the thermal efficiency of the building and result in lower fuel bills for the homeowner, doing it incorrectly can lead to problems such as condensation, mould growth, poor internal air quality and damage to the building structure.

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10 things you need to know before building a house extension

10 things you need to know before building a house extension

Posted by Sarah Croft on 26-Jun-2015 13:48:00

So, you’re considering extending your home?

Dream Home

Most people are full of enthusiasm and keen to crack on with any new project, but with a little thought, careful planning and patience you will be much more likely to get your desired end result. Before you get carried away with the excitement of the project and start choosing new kitchens or furniture, there are many, more important things that you need to know and understand. Here are just 10:

1. Quality

One of the first things we ask clients is “why do you want the extension?”There are a multitude of answers but they usually fit in with one or a few categories:

a) This your forever home and you’re extending to maximise the space for your long term enjoyment.


b) You want to change the building into your final dream property?

You may already have your home in a great location with no intent on moving again. If you’re settled in your location the reason to extend may simply to be gain extra space and create your dream home. If that’s the case the project is much more about maximising the value of day to day experience of your home, and usually a better quality building would be required.

c) You want to add value to you home.

If the project is all about increasing the property value, it would be worth speaking to an estate agent to get a feel for what value potential your home has. Inevitably there will be a glass ceiling in the area, and in relation to your property plot and setting. A careful balance needs to be struck between producing a high standard of finishes and not spending more than will be recouped upon sale.

d) You need to create much needed extra space in the short term until you can afford to move.

Think how much you will spend on your extension against the cost of moving.Consider that after removal costs, legal fees, stamp duty and resettlement costs, you’re going to want to redecorate and make some changes to the property you move into. All of that money is often dead money by the time you’re up and running. How far would that money go in improving the home you’re in. If you would be altering the property you are considering moving to, then spending that extra money on improving the property you’re in could make a home that your would never consider leaving!

e) There’s just that bit of your home that niggles you every time you see it / use it.

Unless you have a home you really hate (in which case move now!) then for a modest budget, you can usually make some really effective alterations that provide the space you want and makes the whole property work for you, look and flow much better.

2. Cost

Home extension budget

What budget do you have to deliver the project? It’s time to be honest and up front.

Many people clam up at the mere mention of the budget but the purpose of setting a proper budget is so thatdesign time isn’t wasted and so the final design is something that can be afforded by you, and actually delivered.

Your budget is not to do with setting architectural fees, or your consultants and contractors spending up to the top end of your budget. If you know from the outset what your budget is, and what you would be prepared to spend, then a professional architect will always try to bring projects in under budget and provide best value.

However, most people want more than can actually achieve with their budget. Unless you tell your architect what your budget is, then there is no way that they can tell you whether your expectations are realistic.

As exciting as your project may be, try to be realistic and honest about the money available. Another point to remember is that generally speaking extensions and alterations are not zero VAT.

Therefore bear in mind that your spending power is reduced by 1/6th of your budget. VAT will be charged on all builder’s fees, materials, building control fees and professional fees. It is commonplace in the building industry for all prices to be quoted nett of VAT.

The good news is that there is no VAT charged on planning application fees, works to adjust a home to suit the requirements of a person with disabilities or works to create a new dwelling. However legislation changes all the time, it is worth consulting HMRC for the latest information.

As a rule of thumb indication of the overall cost of your extension, you can expect to pay approximately £1000 to £1250 per square metre for the building cost. This will of course vary in relation to the quality and complexity of construction.

3. Time

How long is it all going to take?

A typical project might take;

  • 1 ½ months survey and design time prior to planning
  • 2 ½ months in the planning process.
  • 1 ½ months to produce working drawings and submit for building control for approval.
  • 2 to 4 weeks to tender a project
  • 2 weeks to mobilise a contractor to start.

If there are additional requirements associated with gaining planning permission and building control approval, this can delay the process. However, a good architect will usually foresee planning and building control issues before they arise and be able to address them when they do.

Try to plan when you want the work to commence on site. For obvious reasons most want their projects to start in the spring or summer. Bear this in mind and allow time to design, get your permissions, tender and get the builder scheduled.

When the project starts on site the duration of the build will depend on the size of the project, whether works need to be phased (such as when you are still living in the home through construction) and also the complexity of the project.

Other impacts on programme are the ‘good old British weather’ and the availability of the contractor’s resources.So before contractors even start on site it could take a minimum of 6 ½ months unless the proposal is permitted development. For permitted development projects you can reduce the programme by 2 ½ months.

Key point: If you want to be “in for next Christmas” like everyone else: start now.

4. Cost, quality, time triangle.Time, Quality, Cost Triangle

You might want it all, but something will have to give. A great way to establish the most important criteria for you and your project is to consider the cost, quality, time triangle.

This will place some clarity and direction into your proposal and brief to the design team. It will not only help you to make decisions, but also guide your architect on your preferences.Use the triangle in the diagram below and put a dot on the paper in relation to what is the most important thing to you with your project.

A time focussed project will have a spot around the time point.For a cost time balance, the spot will be along the line between the cost and time points. A perfectly balanced project would have a dot right in the middle.


5. Services

Building services

The services within your home refer to the supply of electricity, gas, water and drainage.

Take a look at the space that you want to develop.Is the the area where you’re planning to extend going to affect the services to the property? If the answer is yes then you may need to think about moving the water, electric, or gas meters?

Don’t forget the drainage to the property. Is there drainage in the area of the proposed works? Drainage is sometimes adopted by the local water board, particularly when shared with the neighbours. If you intend your extension to be built over an adopted sewer, a ‘build over sewer’ application will be necessary. If you’re unsure this is a question to ask your architect.

6. Neighbouring properties

Ask yourself will your proposal affect the neighbouring properties?

  • Do you share a party wall?
  • Could there be problems with overlooking?
  • Could they complain about their “Right to light?”
  • Are there any significant trees on site that may need to be removed? Whose trees are they? Are they protected?
  • Who owns the boundary fence, wall or hedge?
  • Would your addition overshadow their garden?

7. Planning & Neighbours

Planning permission

If planning is required, the chances are nowadays your neighbours will object. People tend to object to planning applications as some sort of hobby.

If you don’t already speak to your neighbours, now is the time to start thinking about when you might have that cup of coffee to explain your project and get them on board. Typically this would be pre-planning.

However, don’t be alarmed if your neighbours are not in favour with your proposals and the conversation becomes heated. Not everyone can have a rational conversation about something they feel so strongly about. They will want to offload their concernsand objections to the proposal without listening carefully to the facts.

The key to this is tostay very calm and let them have their opinion. Make sure to record what they said and pass this to your architect. There may be an easy alteration that resolves their objection.

If your neighbours still object, ultimately they will have to raise a material planning objection and submit this to the local authority. It will fall to the case officer at the local planning authority to weigh up the objections, decide whether there are material considerations and determine if the proposals are acceptable.

8. Design style

Architects design

In your plan get some ideas about the styles that you like. If you’re unsure of what style you may want a great way to assemble some ideas is through Google Images, Pinterest and also Houzz.

Pinterest is a great tool for gathering images as you can collect images on a virtual board and share these with your chosen architect.

9. The whole project

The whole project

Try to think beyond the extension itself. When organising an extension you can get caught up with planning the extra space and forget about the rest of your existing home.

Your new extension can affect the rest of the house. Depending on what your new plans entail you may need tobudget for spending money elsewhere to make improvements to the overall space.

For example, if you are planning on creating a new kitchen and family space that leads directly onto the garden, you may want to allocate money towards improving the garden, landscape design or even interior design of the house.

Whilst the house is being altered it is the perfect time to complete other works that create mess and disturbance. If you can, why not get all the improvements done together to save time, future mess and money? Plus the overall affect will be much more impressive and satisfying!


Solar energy

Is your development an opportunity to improve the thermal performance and lower the running costs of your new home?

Your existing house may currently suffer thermally in areas due to condensation, single glazed windows, poor ventilation and the lack of loft insulation. This could be an ideal time to improve the sustainability of your home whilst saving you money in the long term.

Older properties have the most to gain in this respect, there are many easy wins if you know what to look for.

Think about:

  • Cavity wall insulation
  • Loft Insulation
  • Energy efficient windows and doors
  • Upgrade your boiler & radiators – will your existing heating system be able to cope with your new plans?
  • Solar panels
  • Ground source or air source heat pumps?

Your architect should be able to advise on the best strategies to make a leap in thermal efficiency in your home. Sustainability aside, this is an opportunity to make your home much more comfortable.

Having read the above key points you have a great basis in which to form your brief with your architect. This willsave time throughout the process allowing you to be clear about your expectations from the outset, and tasking your professionals to deliver the desired finished result.

Posted by Sarah Croft on 26-Jun-2015 13:48:00

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Choosing a builder

Choosing a builder

Having an extension built on your house can be one of the most exciting projects you may ever take on. But you’ve taken the plunge, had plans drawn up and planning permission has been given. Now is the daunting task of finding a builder. Don’t be put off by all the publicity about cowboy builders. It wouldn’t be news if all builders were the same. The large majority of builders are reputable and will do a good job on your building work.

If you have used a good architect to produce your plans, ask him for recommendations. Often they will work with particular builders who they know they can trust. Talk to your friends and friends-of-friends. Someone will know of a person who has had an extension. Ask their opinion on the builder they used. If it was good then approach the builder for a quote.

Federation of Master Builders

To belong to the Federation of Master Builders requires a builder prove that they offer suitably high standards of working practice and business methods and is thus widely accepted as a hallmark of quality. If a builder indicates that he is a member of the FMB, check him out. Contact the FMB and they will let you know whether or not his membership is up-to-date. They also have aFind a Builder service on their website. However, if you have good recommendation about a particular builder in your area, do not be put off if they are not members of the FMB.


It is also worth checking whether any chosen builder is registered with the NHBC (National House Building Council). They are a world leader in providing warranty and insurance cover for house builders. They register builders who must meet certain requirements. They also provide 10 year guarantees on new houses and converted or extended homes.

Choosing a Builder

Quotations and Contracts

Always aim to get at least three quotations for your building work. These should be detailed, describing all stages of the project. Ask for details of previous work and go and have a look. If you can speak to the home owners to find out if the building work was acceptable. Once you have decided on a builder draw up a written contract, detailing all the aspects of the project and also an agreed timetable. Any changes to this timetable or contract details should be discussed and agreed in writing before any work on the changes commences. This can avoid arguments afterwards when differences of opinion occur. Again, the FMB can provide legal contracts for you to sign along with your builder. These cost £15 but are well worth this small amount.

Insurance Backed Guarantee

Some builders guarantee their work for a certain number of years. This is fine, but if they go bust in the mean time then their insurance is not worth anything. Insurance backed guarantees remove some of this risk. As long as you sign up for this type of guarantee whilst the builder is still trading, then any problems should be solved – the cost being covered by the insurance backing.

Builders Tools


Most reputable builders will not ask for payment up-front. Often the first payment is made at DPC (Damp proof course) level, the second payment at plate level (before the roof is added) and the final payment upon completion. This is not always the case. Discuss matters with your builder and ensure that both parties are aware and agreed with when payments are to be made and how much. Avoid builders who say that they will do the job “cash-in-hand” without VAT. This could be asking for trouble if anything goes wrong.


If problems occur during construction speak to the builder immediately. You will then be able to discuss the problem and reach a solution. If left, it may be too late to do anything about the problem and animosity may start between you and your builder.


There is no hard and fast rule when choosing a builder, but if you use personal recommendation and ask for references, then you should, hopefully, avoid using a cowboy builder.

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Design your own extension

Now you can design your own extension.

Download Sketchup.

SketchUp is 3D modeling software that’s easy to learn and incredibly fun to use. Download SketchUp today for free and get started drawing in 3D.

Download link:

There are literally hundreds of videos on ‘youtube’ that can help you to use Sketchup.

I drew this image using sketchup and then rendered it using ‘Kerkythea’ another free bit of software.

Loft conversion with en suite in Wilmslow

Loft Conversion in Wilmslow

This was the finished job.

Loft conversion with en suite in Wilmslow

New bath and towel radiator

Bath, Towel Radiator and Shower

New Shower, Bath and Towel Radiator in Wetroom

Window in Loft Bedroom

New Gable Window – Loft Conversion

Glass door and fitted wardrobes

Door and fitted wardrobes

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