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14 ways to cut costs and save money on your extension

24 August 23 Author:Michelle Gaffaney

Carrying out any type of building work on your home can raise a number of challenges but extensions can be costly affairs if you don’t get it right. 

It might be that you have to rethink your plans due to budget constraints, material shortages or any of the other unexpected issues that can arise during construction. 

There will always be certain situations you won’t be able to avoid and that’s why it’s so important to have a contingency fund made up of at least 10% of your budget to cover anything that comes up. 

With this in mind, there are steps you can take to cut the costs and save money on your extension. 

From careful planning and smart design choices to project management tips and alternative construction methods, here’s 14 ways that will not only keep your budget in check but also make your dream extension a reality.

1. Keep your design simple

Ideally, you want to try to keep a more simplistic design shape. Having an alternative shape to your new extension can be quirky and unique however curves and corners are costly to build. Sometimes it’s necessary due to the space you have available to build, but don’t forget to factor extra money into your budget to cover it. 

2. Plan ahead in detail

You don’t really want to be making alterations later on so spend time on making sure you plan everything. Even the smallest of details such as socket locations, door finishes, and kitchen fittings should be planned for from the beginning, otherwise this may cost you money down the line.

3. Stick to the agreed design

If you start changing the initial design along the way then you will start to haemorrhage money. You need it all planned out with what order works will be done, what items are to be purchased, what professionals are needed etc. With the costs alongside so you know where your money is going.

4. Go off-the-shelf not made-to-order

Everyone loves to get unique products that they have had made to order just for them however this can massively increase costs. Design the build around off-the-shelf products and make sure to choose materials that are readily available and easy to use.

5. Avoid complicated groundworks

It’s not always possible but you want to try to avoid any complicated groundworks, such as building near drains, or other ground issues, as these will increase groundwork costs.

6. Get the timings right

Timing is everything and it’s vital to get the timings of deliveries right to save on wasted labour costs. A site with no one working on it is costly, so materials need to arrive in plenty of time – and there needs to be someone there to receive them!

7. Get your next door neighbour to sign a Party Wall Agreement Waiver

If you are building on or near the boundary of a neighbour, your extension will need to comply with the Party Wall Act. The cost of a Party Wall Agreement can vary depending on the extent of the works and complexity of the project. On average, fees for a simple agreement can range from £800 to £1,500 per adjoining property owner.

You need to let your neighbours know in advance (8 weeks or more) by writing what your extension plans are. If they don’t object, ask them to put this in writing and this will save having to get a Party Wall Agreement done.

8. Save on extension planning fees

For a simple, low-cost build, find an Architect who will produce planning and Building Regulations drawings for a fixed, all-in price. If your extension can be designed to fall within your permitted development rights, no planning application will be required which will save you a planning fee.

9. Avoid cowboy builders

There are plenty of cowboys out there (in any trade) and they may quote you completely wrong at the beginning; this may be through incompetence or, possibly, deliberately to secure a job. They may then ask for more money for changes or extras. They could even demand some or all of the money up front, leaving you with no comeback if they fail to complete the work satisfactorily.

To avoid being ripped off:

  • Always ask for references — and check them.
  • Never, ever pay for building work in advance; pay only for work that has been completed and that you are happy with. If it is just a small project pay when the job is finished or for a larger job you could agree payments in set stages or interim payments.

10. Measure twice, but cut only once 

Making changes or mistakes that waste labour and materials is a major factor in the final bill for many projects. Measuring everything on site, rather than off your plans will help reduce wastage. Having accurate, scaled plans in the first place will help. The more time spent at the design stage, visualising the end result, the more problems can be anticipated and headed off. 

Once 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 materials can also waste money, but it’s better to have slightly too much than to fall short and have problems making up the difference. This will incur delays and extra delivery charges; worse, you may not be able to find the exact same thing again.

11. Reuse, recycle and repair 

Existing materials can be reused or sold so don’t just throw things away. Old items can all be revived and reused, cleaned up and given a new finish and what you don’t use you could sell. Turning that around you can also buy used items instead of brand new ones to help keep costs down.

12. Negotiate trade discounts

Find out where those in the trade buy their materials from and aim to get the same wholesale/trade prices. Always negotiate and see if there is any discount for paying in cash. Bulk-buying from a single supplier and buying end-of-line deals will save you a fortune. To keep down costs, stick with a basic specification and don’t go getting too complicated or fancy.

13. Limit the relocation of services

When you’re planning an extension, consider the position of fittings, for example, a new toilet. If yours can be placed in a convenient position for the existing soil stack, you’ll save on labour costs.

14. Consider an alternative

Could you avoid the cost of extending and instead convert a garage or loft space into useful living space? Both are likely to be cheaper than building a new extension from scratch.

Do you need advice on a potential extension? Why not get in touch and see if we can help:

[email protected]

01430 860 867

07845 175 262

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Michelle Gaffaney
Michelle Gaffaney - Architectural Director
With a wealth of experience working on a range of projects, Michelle Gaffaney has a passion for design and strong relationships with her clients. Connect with Michelle on LinkedIn