Make your space go further with a designer extension

With the upswing in the mood surrounding property, Kya deLongchamps says this spring may be a good time to increase the footprint of your house.

The smaller extension within certain parameters may not even require planning permission. However, there’s more to know to ensure a stress-free, safe, legally compliant build you can enjoy and sell on with confidence.

There’s a definite upswing in the mood surrounding property this spring and part of this optimism surrounds the success of the Home Renovation Incentive Scheme (HRI).

Even skimming under planning permission, an extension to the existing footprint of your house under 40m can deliver two good sized rooms or a massive open-plan kitchen/diner. Would you, could you make your house go further?

Make your space go further with a designer extension

In defence of architects

There are standard plan books for extensions, sun-rooms, conservatories and garage conversions. Some you can even tweak to your individual project. However, what you will never find in off-the-shelf form is a plan attached to your house.

Rather than tacking on a little box to what you already have, an extension can shake up the adjoining interiors, giving you, even with a modest 40m addition, a whole new house.

Get it wrong, and your extension could swallow light to the existing rooms, dominate the house in the worst way, and be a disappointment in terms of value for money and practical extra space.

CAD technology offered by many specialist extension firms gives the chance to consider the wider possibilities under an experienced eye.

For larger renovations and extensions check out Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland’s site, .

Make your space go further with a designer extension

Exempted development

You can even get a certificate for exempted development from your local authority when you don’t need planning permission. Where any planning is needed, you will be led straight to the requirement for Building Certification.

You do not generally need permission when building an extension to the rear which does not increase the original floor area by more than 40m and is not higher than the house. The extension should not reduce the open space at the back of the house to less than 25m.

If your house has been extended before, the floor area of the extension you are now proposing and the floor area of any previous extension (including those for which you previously got planning permission), must not exceed 40m.

Garages under 40m can generally be converted without planning permission but if in doubt contact your local authority. If you live in a listed building, check with your local authority conservation officer before proceeding with even small internal or external changes.

Make your space go further with a designer extension

Tender mercies

Finding the right builder is for many a nerve-mincing prospect. If you don’t have an architect behind you, word of mouth is the traditional route. There are now online facilities for gathering tenders from the requisite three suitable, experienced, tax compliant firms and/or individuals.

This is only ever possible where there is no planning permission required, otherwise building certification (BCAR) will apply and you will be looking for an ‘assigned certifier’ for the design and construction first.

Have a budget in mind and add 10% for those inevitable unforeseen contingencies. The more detailed the initial drawings, the better, making the inclusion of professionally drafted plans for a builder to work up those first figures a must.

Beyond a ball-park quote, it’s time to reduce those provisional costings. It’s crucial to nail down exactly what you’re expecting in terms of design, materials and finish.

If you’re big enough to admit you don’t know your OSB from your elbow appoint a chartered quantity surveyor or chartered building surveyor to manage contracts and monies (including that vital retainer).

Your builder may suggest someone to do the necessary figures. Nebulous grey areas for everything from hardware to scaffolding hire can bring a reasonable budget to ruins and is in no-one’s interests.

Are those uPVC or alu-clad windows? Had you presumed an elaborate lighting plan or something simplistic?

Consolidate your thoughts, and get it down on paper before a shovel is deployed. Changing the design and materials of the build or tacking on ‘while you are here’ left, right and centre can decimate relationships on site.

Make your space go further with a designer extension

Going it alone?

Direct labour (self-build) can vary from part of the build to the entire adventure of most exempted developments. We wouldn’t service our own car. But electing ourselves as builder/project manager for a €30-€50k extension to a house? Not a problem.

Things can and often do go swimmingly, but the potential for scuffles on the two-inch down is equally likely. Can you be physically present on site for even a shred of the build?

A seasoned project manager who understands HRI, building regulations and HSA safety regulations is an extra expense for an exempted extension. Still, with a variety of contractors and trades synchronising on site they can earn their fees for scheduled and random visits.

Always, always go to contract with every trade stepping on site, outline a schedule of works, and check insurance is in place. You can find suitable contracts on the website of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland ideal for most situations.

What’s the Incentive?

It’s important to understand what the Home Renovation Incentive Scheme (HRI) is and is not. It’s by no means a bag of grant money dropped off to site as the work progresses. The HRI is a tax-credit scheme run by Revenue for your principle private residence.

In short, the VAT normally paid by you to a registered contractor or contractors up to a certain figure for the entire project, is paid back to you by means of a tax-credit against your tax liability over the following two years.

This effectively pares off the 13.5% VAT included in your payment for certain types of work between the amounts of €4,500 (redeeming €595 in tax-credits) and €30,000 (€4,050 in tax-credits) before VAT.

There’s the temptation where planning permission does not apply and the work is not tied down to building certification, to by-pass VAT altogether and go cash in hand.

However, the incentives for a reputable, registered contractor are questionable, and given you may receive as much €4,050 in tax credits, using a tax compliant contractor for a project of €30,000 plus before VAT, the appeal is obvious. Keep in mind, that your contractor must be willing to register and make the application for the claw-back.

For works on an extension of more than 40m or in any situation where planning is needed, including the HRI will save you money, even potentially where other grants have been awarded through Sustainable Energy Ireland or your local authority.

You can accumulate the tax credits over several projects undertaken between October 25, 2013 and December 31, 2015, and bundle them together to reach as much as €30,000 before VAT, as long as all your contractors submits their details and qualify for the HRI.

If they are registered for VAT, they should qualify without difficulty — you can check the HRI website once they have joined. All the contractor needs from you is your Property ID number from your Local Property Tax (LPT) payment, which must be compliant to proceed with the HRI.

For details download Revenue’s complete guide for homeowners at There are useful case-studies provided by the Society of Chartered Surveyors of Ireland at


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