How To Save Money On Your Extension







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One of the most common questions we are asked is "Where can I save on my extension and where should I invest?". 

Whether it's because you have a tight budget or you are wanting to maximise your profit when it comes to re-selling your home, having a tight grip on your extension cost from the outset is so important. 

We chat to Mark Darnell from UNFOLD Architecture & Design, a London based RIBA Architect, who shares with us his advice on how to keep your costs down whilst not compromising on quality and finish.

Side return by UNFOLD Architecture & Design

What type of design for the extension and roof are the most straightforward and economical?

First off, set yourself a realistic budget and the kind of design you can achieve with it. 

In terms of the design itself try to stick to right angles, straight lines and simple pitched or flat roofs - however you can still be creative with these forms. 

Also consider the extent of your current house which you may need to demolish or open-up. Working with your Architect to achieve your ideal layout whilst retaining key structural elements will save you money and time at the early stages during the build.

In terms of the materials used to build an extension, what would you recommend to keep the costs down?

Readily available materials and those that are most recognisable by the majority of builders. The more 'bespoke' you go, the more likely to increase the material cost and also reduce the number of builders that are comfortable working with certain materials or construction techniques, and therefore limiting options when tendering the project. 

You may be able to reuse or reclaim materials from your own demolition or from other projects locally. These could be used to match any new areas of brickwork to the existing, crushed and used as sub-base for a new floor or even within any garden landscaping. 

Internal re-modell by UNFOLD Architecture & Design

Architectural glazing is a popular feature in a contemporary extension, are there ways to achieve a similar look and create a bright space without a significant investment?

Whether it be glazed doors, fixed pane windows or rooflights, specifying standard sizes of glazing and in standard colours is the most cost effective. 

Another way to consider reducing costs is to search around for a second hand or unused items. Obviously the options will be limited and you'll need to be sure that sizes available will work with your design, but you may just come across a bargain. Plus reusing something that is destined for a skip is better for the environment!

The interiors are such an important feature, are there ways to reduce the cost on the finishes such as the kitchen or flooring without compromising on quality?

Working with your Architect in selecting the correct materials and sourcing any finishes and fittings yourself as the builder will likely add a mark-up. 

Likewise with kitchens, sourcing them via a supplier directly will save on costs as you can shop around for the best deals. 

Another route is to order the kitchen units yourselves and have it arrive flat packed for either you or your builder to install - just be careful with taking the correct measurements as it'll be your responsibility if they are incorrect.

Side return with contemporary brickwork by UNFOLD Architecture & Design

Would I save much by working with individual trades on the build compared with one building company who can manage everything?

In theory yes, working with individual trades means you can shop around for the best prices. 

Just be aware that this is a time consuming process, not only in terms of sourcing the individual trades but during the build itself. You'll need to manage them to ensure they undertake their portion of work at the correct time, and also ensure that each completes their work correctly ready for the next.

What areas of an extension would you always invest in rather than try to to save on?

Think medium to long term here. We all aspire to live somewhere that is comfortable, full of natural light and healthy. Try not to cut corners on the building fabric itself as you won't want to be rectifying issues here if they arise. 

Also use natural materials where possible, insulate well and generally try to 'future proof' your home. A certain style of kitchen or glazing for example might not be to everyone's taste and you may end up paying over the odds for something that is currently 'on trend', but a well designed addition to your home will be always appreciated for years to come.

Are there any other ways that you would suggest to build an extension without the budget escalating?

Ensure you have a fully coordinated design (both Architectural and Structural) and that the builders have provided a fully itemised quote based on these. The final drawn and written specification documents will then be used as contract documentation when appointing your builder. 

There will always be unexpected developments, especially when working on existing buildings, but the goal is for everyone involved in the build to fully understand the proposals prior to work starting on site. 

Published: February 1, 2023

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