VAT on a New Build: Can I Reclaim?

Home improvers can often overlook the fact that they can reclaim VAT on a new build or conversion project.

Our director Lewis North explains the eligible projects and how to navigate the process.

Self builders can often overlook the fact that they can reclaim VAT on a new build house under HMRC’s DIY Housebuilders Scheme.

Value added tax (VAT) could count for 20% of the budget on a self build or conversion project, but in fact you could reclaim most of that money back once the build is completed.

Ensuring that you incur the minimum amount of VAT overall on your project is key to its financial success.

We explain how to maximise your VAT reclaim.

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How to Add a Two Storey Extension

Here at Architecture North we always say; why move, when you can improve. This weeks blog we are writing about two storey extension extensions, they are a cost-effective way to add lots more space to your home – whilst also increasing its value.

It is also cheaper than moving house and more cost-efficient than building a single storey extension, a two storey extension won’t just add more living and sleeping space – it can transform the look of your home from outside, too. 

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Extension Projects for Under £50k

We hope you all had a lovely bank holiday weekend, we have been looking through our current portfolio of projects and fee scales in house and we are starting to notice a trend.

Do you want more to add more space? Light? and a better connection with the garden? Extending could be the solution.

Within this weeks blog we look at different examples that were all completed for a budget of under £50,000

Careful attention to detail, sourcing local materials, carrying out any work you can on a DIY basis and keeping one eye on the costs can all help to bring your extension project in on a tight budget.

If you are in need of some extension inspiration, take a look at this selection of projects that have all been achieved within a £50,000 build cost budget.

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Architectural Specifications - What is it? & How Important is it?

Today in Nottingham, Architecture North is attending this years Specifi event at the Crowne Plaza, where we will be meeting world class industry speakers to kick start the event with a healthy dose of energy and inspiration, igniting many conversations that continue throughout the evening.

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15 Rear Extension Design Ideas

If you are looking to add space to your home, a rear extension might be the easiest to accommodate from a planning and spatial point of view. Architecture North shares projects to inspire you

If you’re looking to add value as well as extra space to your home, then a rear extension may be the project for you.

If you are carrying out your work under Permitted Development, you will be expected to build in the same material as the existing dwelling. This must be done carefully, perhaps requiring you to source reclaimed materials to get a good match, or tint the bricks for a seamless look.

Alternatively, you could design an addition in a contrasting style. This makes a statement and can be easier to achieve success with than trying to match old and new.

Here, we take a look at some of the finest examples of rear extensions in recent times.

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The Lake Houses Lake Drive, Tidbury Green

On Friday 12th April at 16:15 we were please to hear that our proposed new build Lake Houses, at Tidbury Green were signed off by our Building Inspector and they are now on the open market.

Therefore, this week we thought it would be appropriate to write this weeks blog about this flagship development in the 60 acres parklands and golf course. Tidbury Green is a delightful rural village close to Solihull, with renowned Earlswood Lakes, a haven for sailing, fishing or walking.

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Building a House: Our On-Site Guide

When it comes to building a house, you might decide that you want to act as your own project manager or even get stuck in with some of the building work (if you are capable and possess the right skills), and if that is the case, you’re going to need to understand the process of building a house.

Similarly if you are a first-time self builder, it is well worth familiarising yourself with the process so you know what to expect and when.

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Renovating a House: Our Complete Guide

Renovating a house can be a step into the unknown — old houses are prone to throwing up a range of surprises, not all of them good. Our step-by-step renovation guide covers everything you need to know to plan your renovation project. Whilst renovating a house is an exciting project, old houses are full of unknowns and hidden costs — nothing is ever straightforward. Our guide covers everything from how to find a renovation project in the first place to extending and designing your new home.

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Dormer Windows

Dormers – the name comes from the French word dormir, meaning ‘to sleep’ – have become a classic window style because they are just so useful: a dormer is a perfect way to achieve headroom where it might otherwise be difficult. To architects they provide an ideal means of creating ‘rooms in the roof’, especially in houses – new or old – that do not extend to two full storeys.

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Insulating Lofts, Roofs and Floors

Insulating the top and bottom of your home is, in many ways, a decision between extra thickness or extra spend!

Heat rises, and therefore the Building Regulations requirements for heat loss through roofs are more stringent than those for walls. Your choice of roof insulation will depend on your roof type (flat or pitched), its structure (depth of the rafters), and your willingness to invest.

In most cases, extra investment made in beating the Regulations on insulation is money well spent — it gives a lot back in returns.

nsulating your loft, meanwhile, is perhaps the easiest of all the energy-saving home improvements. Mineral wool rolls are ubiquitous and cheap, meaning a whole roof on a standard home could be insulated to the recommended 270mm with a spend of little more than £200.

It’s also within the capability of most DIYers, although not the most pleasant of tasks. As with all improvements, the effect it will have on your energy bills depends on what you’re replacing and how big your roof is. It’s also much more important to do if you don’t have any loft insulation at all.

Floor insulation, conversely, is the trickiest of all. The ground floor beneath a house is generally warmer than the air around it and therefore it would perhaps be third on your list of priorities (behind walls and roofs), but it makes sense to consider retrofitting, particularly if you have a suspended timber floor.

You can retrofit insulation on top of a solid concrete floor, too, but it will obviously have an impact on floor height build-up. And, it’s only worth digging out the floor if you’re undertaking a major renovation.

The Importance of Roof and Floor Insulation

The limiting U value (the maximise U value which cannot be exceeded) required under current Building Regulations are:

  • Roof = 0.20W/m²:

  • Ground floor = 0.25W/m²

  • Walls = 0.30W/m²

You might well ask why they are different. There is a strong argument, supported by the PassivHaus Institute, that they should all be the same. We can see why a lower U value for the roof might be a good idea; the roof is higher and subject to more wind and therefore more likely to lose heat.

Heat rises (actually it doesn’t — cold air, being more dense, falls and pushes the warmer air up) and is more likely to escape through the roof. But the earth below the ground floor will be warmer (in winter) than the external air, so why does the floor need a better U value than the walls?

To meet the new Target Fabric Energy Efficiency (TFEE) and comply with 2014 Building Regulations, the U values will need to be no worse than 0.13W/m² for both the roof and floor. This recognises, to some extent at least, that a uniform envelope is a good idea.

How to Insulate Roofs

The first decision is whether to insulate a pitched roof at ceiling or rafter level. The current trend is for a ‘warm roof’ where insulation is installed between the rafters, thereby keeping the roof timbers warm.

Don’t forget that, in most cases, when we talk about roofs we talk about loft space. Insulating the roof means that the loft becomes a heated space. If the loft is only ever going to be used for storing suitcases and Christmas decorations, this may be considered a waste of energy (effectively heating it to the same standard as a normal room); if it’s to be used as a room, then it’s a worthwhile endeavour.

With a flat roof, this issue does not arise, but the U value constraint and the amount of insulation needed is just the same.

Achieving a U value of 0.20W/m² (meaning your roof will be better insulated than your walls) will need 120mm thickness of rigid foam or 200mm of mineral wool or natural insulation. Hitting amazing levels of 0.13W/m² will need 300mm of mineral wool or 180mm of rigid foam.

With a warm roof the usual process is to split the insulation into two layers. If 180mm is to be installed then 100mm board might be introduced between the rafters (there has to be a minimum 25mm air gap between the insulation and the underside of the tiles or slates) with an 80mm board running across the rafters. The proportions do not matter but this arrangement helps to eliminate any draughts caused by gaps between the insulation and the rafter.

Achieving a U value of 0.20W/m² (meaning your roof will be better insulated than your walls) will need 120mm thickness of rigid foam or 200mm of mineral wool or natural insulation. Hitting amazing levels of 0.13W/m² will need 300mm of mineral wool or 180mm of rigid foam.

With a warm roof the usual process is to split the insulation into two layers. If 180mm is to be installed then 100mm board might be introduced between the rafters (there has to be a minimum 25mm air gap between the insulation and the underside of the tiles or slates) with an 80mm board running across the rafters. The proportions do not matter but this arrangement helps to eliminate any draughts caused by gaps between the insulation and the rafter.

Insulating the top and bottom of your home is, in many ways, a decision between extra thickness or extra spend!

Heat rises, and therefore the Building Regulations requirements for heat loss through roofs are more stringent than those for walls. Your choice of roof insulation will depend on your roof type (flat or pitched), its structure (depth of the rafters), and your willingness to invest.

In most cases, extra investment made in beating the Regulations on insulation is money well spent — it gives a lot back in returns.

nsulating your loft, meanwhile, is perhaps the easiest of all the energy-saving home improvements. Mineral wool rolls are ubiquitous and cheap, meaning a whole roof on a standard home could be insulated to the recommended 270mm with a spend of little more than £200.

It’s also within the capability of most DIYers, although not the most pleasant of tasks. As with all improvements, the effect it will have on your energy bills depends on what you’re replacing and how big your roof is. It’s also much more important to do if you don’t have any loft insulation at all.

Floor insulation, conversely, is the trickiest of all. The ground floor beneath a house is generally warmer than the air around it and therefore it would perhaps be third on your list of priorities (behind walls and roofs), but it makes sense to consider retrofitting, particularly if you have a suspended timber floor.

You can retrofit insulation on top of a solid concrete floor, too, but it will obviously have an impact on floor height build-up. And, it’s only worth digging out the floor if you’re undertaking a major renovation.

The Importance of Roof and Floor Insulation

The limiting U value (the maximise U value which cannot be exceeded) required under current Building Regulations are:

  • Roof = 0.20W/m²:

  • Ground floor = 0.25W/m²

  • Walls = 0.30W/m²

You might well ask why they are different. There is a strong argument, supported by the PassivHaus Institute, that they should all be the same. We can see why a lower U value for the roof might be a good idea; the roof is higher and subject to more wind and therefore more likely to lose heat.

Heat rises (actually it doesn’t — cold air, being more dense, falls and pushes the warmer air up) and is more likely to escape through the roof. But the earth below the ground floor will be warmer (in winter) than the external air, so why does the floor need a better U value than the walls?

To meet the new Target Fabric Energy Efficiency (TFEE) and comply with 2014 Building Regulations, the U values will need to be no worse than 0.13W/m² for both the roof and floor. This recognises, to some extent at least, that a uniform envelope is a good idea.

How to Insulate Roofs

The first decision is whether to insulate a pitched roof at ceiling or rafter level. The current trend is for a ‘warm roof’ where insulation is installed between the rafters, thereby keeping the roof timbers warm.

Don’t forget that, in most cases, when we talk about roofs we talk about loft space. Insulating the roof means that the loft becomes a heated space. If the loft is only ever going to be used for storing suitcases and Christmas decorations, this may be considered a waste of energy (effectively heating it to the same standard as a normal room); if it’s to be used as a room, then it’s a worthwhile endeavour.

With a flat roof, this issue does not arise, but the U value constraint and the amount of insulation needed is just the same.

Achieving a U value of 0.20W/m² (meaning your roof will be better insulated than your walls) will need 120mm thickness of rigid foam or 200mm of mineral wool or natural insulation. Hitting amazing levels of 0.13W/m² will need 300mm of mineral wool or 180mm of rigid foam.

With a warm roof the usual process is to split the insulation into two layers. If 180mm is to be installed then 100mm board might be introduced between the rafters (there has to be a minimum 25mm air gap between the insulation and the underside of the tiles or slates) with an 80mm board running across the rafters. The proportions do not matter but this arrangement helps to eliminate any draughts caused by gaps between the insulation and the rafter.

On new build or replacement pitched roofs, the ideal build up would be insulation fitted over and then between the rafters — giving a big boost for airtightness

On new build or replacement pitched roofs, the ideal build up would be insulation fitted over and then between the rafters — giving a big boost for airtightness

For retrofit projects,    Kingspan    Kooltherm K14 Insulated Plasterboard goes ‘under’ the rafters. There will also be Kooltherm K7 Pitched Roof board between the rafters

For retrofit projects, Kingspan Kooltherm K14 Insulated Plasterboard goes ‘under’ the rafters. There will also be Kooltherm K7 Pitched Roof board between the rafters

Alternative Options For Old Roofs

One of the much-touted modern options for existing buildings is sprayed foam (type ‘sprayed foam’ into any online search engine and many trade names will be offered). There is a good deal of controversy around these systems. They are often advertised as a DIY option, but those who have done it suggest that it requires skill and experience to do well.

The other issue is more technical and concerns the effect of enclosing roof timbers in a material that can retain moisture. What cannot be argued against is that the sprayed foam sticks very well to whatever it touches — roofing felt, slates or tiles and rafters. If it becomes necessary to remove any of these, the sprayed foam will make it a difficult and expensive job to rectify and is generally considered bad news by many.

How to Insulate a Loft

If the insulation is installed at ceiling level then the choice between rigid board (expensive) and mineral wool (cheap) will be dictated by what the loft space is to be used for. If you’re boarding the floor to allow it to be used for storage, choose rigid foam. But if not, or if only a small area is to be boarded, then mineral wool is easier and quicker to install.

  • The big benefits for loft insulation come when going from zero insulation to 270mm. Energy Saving Trust (EST) figures give savings of between £140-250 a year depending on the size of house.

  • For top-up insulation (i.e. when some insulation already exists but you top it up to the required 270mm) the EST figures suggest savings of around £20 per year.

  • Field trials carried out on a mix of homes that had both types of installation (virgin and top-up) suggest an average saving of just 300-500kWh per annum.

A word of warning on condensation:

The warm air from bathrooms is moisture heavy and will decay timbers and membranes if there is not sufficient ventilation — a problem exacerbated by higher levels of insulation.

Insulated Sarking

A number of manufacturers now offer insulated sarking (another word for roof boarding or decking) products. Celotex offers a PIR (polyisocyanurate) pitched roof sarking, while Euroform, among others, offers a wood-fibre option that is also water-resistant. A little bit of research will find many more.

These effectively allow insulation at both rafter and ceiling level to be combined.

Spray-foam Insulation: Icynene

Icynene is a high performance, spray-foam insulation that expands 100-fold when applied, sealing all gaps service holes and hard to reach spaces where air leakage can occur. It eliminates cold bridging and achieves airtightness standards in excess of those required even for Passivhaus-type construction.

Air leakage accounts for a high proportion of the heat loss from a building and often has a greater impact on the thermal performance than thermal conductivity through walls and roof planes.

Icynene has an open cell structure and soft, yielding texture. This not only provides outstanding insulation for walls lofts and underfloor, but also allows the building to breath naturally, resisting internal condensation – particularly important when insulating older,heritage-type buildings.

Icynene has an open cell structure and soft, yielding texture. This not only provides outstanding insulation for walls lofts and underfloor, but also allows the building to breath naturally, resisting internal condensation – particularly important when insulating older,heritage-type buildings.

Icynene achieves insulation performance well in excess of the U values required under Building Regulations and helps meet the sustainability and zero carbon targets faced by housebuilders.

Kingspan    Kooltherm K3 is fitted between timbers in a suspended floor

Kingspan Kooltherm K3 is fitted between timbers in a suspended floor

Suspended timber floors present a different set of problems. Typically the renovator does not have to meet the same Building Regulations requirements and has more latitude in the amount of insulation installed. Conversely, the noticeable impact of the insulation is likely to be greater.

A suspended timber floor tends to be cold and draughty because of the air circulating beneath it. Installing any amount of insulation will warm the floorboards and go a long way towards eliminating draughts. The effect is a greater sense of comfort and that, in turn, allows the homeowner to turn the thermostat down.

Achieving a U value of 0.25 would be a good target and would need 90mm of rigid foam or 150mm mineral wool. A semi-rigid material is generally best as it can be cut very slightly oversized and squeezed in between the floor joists, thereby ensuring no draught-causing gaps.

The insulation can, and should, be pushed tight to the underside of the floorboards. At least 25mm of the joist must be left exposed to ensure air circulation; this is to prevent the joist becoming damp and encouraging dry rot. For the same reason, any airbricks must be left clear to ensure a good air flow.

The way the insulation is installed will vary with the type and rigidity of the insulation. Rigid foams just need a few tacks to ensure they do not drop; semi-rigid batts will need battens fixed along the joists and flexible wools will need battens across the joists.

How Thick?

Thickness required to achieve a U value of 0.25W/m² on a suspended floor:

  • Mineral wool: 150mm

  • Rigid foam: 90mm

Space Blanket

This is fibreglass insulation encapsulated in a metalised polythene film. It claims to be more effective than simple fibreglass as the metalised film reflects heat. It is useful in hard-to-reach spaces and under suspended floors as it can be tacked into place.

Retrofit Floor Insulation

Installing insulation on top of the floor can present problems with ceiling, door and window cill heights. Kingspan’s new range of Vacuum Insulated Panels (VIPs) offers an interesting solution for those needing an ultra-thin build-up. They consist of a microporous core, which is evacuated and sealed in a thin, gas-tight membrane and can achieve performance similar to the thickness of traditional insulation at levels of just 26mm.

Kingspan    VIPs offer an ultra-thin build-up of just 26mm

Kingspan VIPs offer an ultra-thin build-up of just 26mm

Understanding Conditions to Planning Permission

In the euphoria of gaining planning approval, don’t overlook or dismiss the conditions attached. You ignore them at your peril, says Lewis North.

Planning conditions really are the small print of the building world. All planning permissions are granted with conditions attached and it’s easy in the euphoria of the big headline to ignore the detail. When you’re buying a building plot with planning permission already in place, it is vital to read and understand those conditions — and to make sure that they are capable of being satisfied or discharged by you, within your remit.

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Our Permitted Development Guide

Find out what you can do to your home without the need to apply for planning permission

Whether you’re simply looking to improve your existing house or carry out major works to one you’re intending to buy, it pays to understand the scope of the available Permitted Development rights.

They are granted in the form of General Development Planning Orders (GDPOs) which apply separately to England, WalesScotland and Northern Ireland, and, in effect, they give implied planning consent to carry out certain classes of development.

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How to Build a Budget Extension

If you want to add more space to your home without breaking the bank, there are plenty of ways to stay in control of your extension project’s spend. Here’s how to build an extension for less.

Having a fixed and limited budget needn’t discourage you from adding an extension to your home. There are plenty of ways you can create a good-looking and functional new space by planning and designing it with cost know-how in mind. 

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Barn Conversions and Permitted Development Guide

Changes to Permitted Development (PD) Rights introduced in early April 2014 have transformed the landscape for anyone wishing to undertake a barn conversion in England (not applicable to the rest of the United Kingdom as it currently stands).

Further amendments took effect on 6 April 2018, including the allowance of up to five new homes to be created from existing agricultural buildings rather than the previous maximum of three.

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