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Including a Fitted Kitchen in a House Extension or Refurbishment

What is the best way to have a fitted kitchen designed, supplied and installed as part of a house extension or refurbishment project? I am often asked this as there are various approaches.

Island kitchen, Dormans Park, nr East Grinstead

Island kitchen, Dormans Park, nr East Grinstead Underwood Kitchens

One approach is to have the fitted kitchen fully designed and specified by the architect and installed by the builder as part of the contract works. This involves the architect specifying all of the components including the base and wall units, countertops, splashbacks, sinks, taps and equipment. Both the architect and the builder are paid for their services with regard to the kitchen.

Another approach is for the client to purchase the kitchen components outside the contract (either designed and specified by the architect or by a specialist) and provide them ‘free issue’ to the contractor who installs the kitchen as part of the contract works.

L-shaped kitchen, Forest Row

L-shaped kitchen, Forest Row Homebase KitchensHomebase Kitchens

Yet another approach is to have the fitted kitchen designed, supplied and installed by a specialist outside the contract after the extension or refurbishment work is finished. This avoids paying either the architect or the builder for any services with regard to the kitchen but has the disadvantage of pushing back the date when the kitchen is operational.

I have evolved an intermediate approach whereby the standard form of building contract is amended with a clause added requiring the builder to permit access during the final weeks of the contract (it is his site so he can otherwise deny it) by a specialist directly engaged by the employer under a separate contract. Subject to negotiation this approach can allow the client to procure a specialist kitchen design, supply and install ‘package’. The builder provides a ‘serviced shell’ for the kitchen (to suit the specialist’s design) comprising the finished floor, walls and ceiling plus capped-off services in the shape of hot and cold water supplies, waste, extract ventilation, gas, power and lighting.  The specialist then installs the kitchen into this ‘serviced shell’.  Finally the builder makes the final connections for the services and all fitted kitchen appliances and includes the kitchen in the project GasSafe and electrical certification.

Kitchen design is a personal thing for all clients in terms of the style and layout of the kitchen, the type and amount of equipment and the expense which can vary by up to a factor of ten. I think it is best for the architect to simply set the design parameters in terms of the location and general layout (such as an L-shape, galley, island, peninsula etc) and then allow the client to develop and finalise the design, supply and installation with a specialist.

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Permitted Development

Permitted Development (PD) rights are a bit of a minefield as the rules are often hard to interpret. There are frequently misconceptions about PD and these are the ones that I commonly come across:

  1. PD is what is permitted without planning permission. It is not necessarily as much or as good a solution as what might be available if a planning application is made and approved. So PD may not be the optimal solution.
  2. PD rights are often hard to interpret for a specific project and if a property is subsequently sold the incoming purchaser could seek confirmation that what has been built is indeed PD. Therefore in most cases clients apply to the local council for a Lawful Development Certificate which is in some respects similar to a householder planning application. So an application to the council may be needed in any case.
  3. PD rights are restricted in ‘designated areas’ such as conservation areas, National Parks (such as the South Downs National Park), an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) (such as the High Weald AONB) and for listed buildings. So PD may not apply.
  4. Building Regulations approval is still required. So a set of design drawings will be required in any event.

Always worth talking to your local architect to avoid a missed opportunity and/or a costly mistake.

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Listed Building Alterations and Extensions

We are carrying out increasingly more work on Listed Buildings which is a fascinating area of work requiring an understanding of history, context, local materials and techniques, crafts and culture as well as the usual combination of design skills, competence and experience.

Alterations and extensions to Listed Buildings require Listed Building Consent or combined Householder Planning Application and Listed Building Consent for the carrying out of any works whether internally, externally or within the ‘curtilage’ that would affect the building’s special architectural or historic interest.

We recommend that a pre-application consultation is had with the council as the best way forward in the first instance and this route is generally recommended by planning authorities.  It is a cost effective means of obtaining an ‘in principle’ response before significant expense is incurred.  Diagrammatic sketches, together with photographs, overlays and a site plan can be enough to illustrate the proposed use, scale, form, and external materials of what is proposed.

Good design can play a large part in the process.  Listed Buildings need not be preserved untouched, like museum pieces but proposed changes need to be informed and justified.  Preservation of the existing fabric can be coupled with a sympathetic, imaginative and ‘legible’ intervention that secures the economic sustainability of the building perhaps for several hundred more years of useful life.  Alterations related to the existing historic fabric and architectural features are likely to be more controversial than an extension which can be designed to ‘read’ separately in order to minimise the impact.  Similarly, an extension to the principal elevation is unlikely to be acceptable.

Applications for Listed Building Consent require to be accompanied by a Heritage Statement covering the evidential, historical, aesthetic and communal aspects of the Listed Building and what is being proposed.  This has to demonstrate how there will be both ‘less than substantial harm’ and a public benefit.  A specification and methodology are required to demonstrate that there will not be harm to the existing historic fabric.

At the end of the day some change is inevitable to ensure the continued use and enjoyment of Listed Buildings but professional advice from an architect is essential to avoid a missed opportunity and/or a costly mistake.

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Doer Upper Do’s and Don’ts

‘Demand for the countryside soars as Londoners seek to flee the capital’ says the headline. I can believe it more on account of the positive impact of information technology than the negative impact of Covid-19.

For those looking for not just a purchase but a ‘project’ here are some tips:

Before purchasing anything be sure the town planning position is checked out with the council to make sure that what is proposed is possible in policy terms. Is there scope to construct a new house or replace the existing house with something larger or to extend it? Has the existing property already been extended up to the permissible limits?

New build projects. Finding a decent virgin site is easier said than done and many of those that do emerge are blighted by being either undersized pieces of existing gardens or fragments of land never previously considered suitable for development. IMO it is better to upcycle a decent sized, well located site that has an existing undersized house such as a bungalow on it. Whilst it might cost more initially it secures a mature location and avoids the considerable cost to both the public utility companies and the contractor in making network connections and bringing the likes of electricity, gas, water and telephone / broadband onto the site and taking sewerage out of the site. Another considerable cost payable to both the highways authority and the contractor is the creation of a new access to a public highway.

Fir Tree Cottage - Before

Fir Tree Cottage – Before

Fir Tree Cottage - During

Fir Tree Cottage – During

Fir Tree Cottage - After

Fir Tree Cottage – After

Refurbish and / or extend projects. Whether to demolish what is there or not can be driven by the VAT position. Whilst it is not very sustainable, as it encourages demolition rather than re-use, VAT on new build houses is zero rated whereas VAT at 20% is payable on other building work. It is permissible to incorporate existing foundations and anything else below ground level into a new build house and still avoid the VAT which can save a considerable amount if the new design can be configured accordingly. Where refurbishing or extending a property don’t ‘pay’ twice for things that are going to be removed as part of the work – be happy so long as their poor state is reflected in the price since they are coming out anyway. Externally this could be the roof tiles and external windows and internally the kitchen and bathrooms. In the new design retain the kitchen and bathroom locations (but not the fittings etc) as moving the intakes and drainage is comparatively expensive whereas the creation of new bedrooms is comparatively cheap.

Lastly, employ an architect. The few % spent on an architect at the outset is probably the best investment you’ll make over the course of the ‘project’.