George Clarke’s extension planning advice – including his brilliant tips for sticking to a budget

If anyone knows a thing or two about project planning a home renovation, it's George!
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  • He’s seen his fair share of big projects thanks to his hit Channel 4 shows ‘Amazing Spaces’ and more recent ‘Ugly House to Lovely House’. So we know George Clarke’s extension planning advice is going to be worth its weight in gold.

    Look no further than our Project Planning channel for further advice and ideas

    ‘Extending your home is a brilliant thing to do, no matter how you do it,’ says George, speaking exclusively to Ideal Home. ‘Whether it’s an extension on the ground floor or the back garden, or it’s an extension on the side. Whether you’re converting an old garage into a habitable space or doing a loft conversion up at the very top of your house.

    ‘Because the lovely thing is, you’re adding space that in some way is going to add value.’

    We recommend that you don’t start your planning your next big home renovation project without George’s expert advice. His pearls of wisdom cover everything from how to add the most value to your home to bringing a project in bang on budget. Because, yes, it can be done!

    George Clarke’s extension planning advice

    interior design show

    Image credit: George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces

    1. Don’t try to do everything yourself

    ‘I think when you’re considering a major renovation or extension you have got to be ruthless with your planning’ explains George. ‘And actually I think you need the right team around you to help you do that. People who try and do it themselves, with no experience learn the very, very hard way and it can be quite costly.’ We know this from only too well from watching George’s hit TV shows.

    2. Make sure your team has a clear brief

    ‘Understanding what you need to do as a client is really important. It’s quite easy to go ‘well I’ve paid an architect and it’s their job, or I’ve paid an interior designer and it’s their job’ but actually it’s your home and your budget’ says George. ‘And you need to be aware of the responsibilities you’ve got as the client.’

    3. Make sure you pick the right kind of extension

    ‘Most houses are priced on square footage or square meterage. So if you’re going to add more space, generally you’re going to add value. But more importantly you’ve got to think about how that improves your quality of life at home and what does that give you?’ George asks. ‘Are you going to use that space more?’

    ‘I would do loft and then maybe garage conversion if you have one, but if not then the rear extension on your house. But it’s all got to be driven by what you need and how you live.’

    ‘There’s no point doing a loft conversion if you want more space in your kitchen on the ground floor. And there’s no point a ground floor kitchen extension if you need another bedroom upstairs. So that’ll tend to drive your decision. But if I had to plump for one I would do a loft conversion.’

    George Clarke’s advice for sticking to a budget

    kitchen extension with sliding doors to garden

    Image credit: Future PLC

    1. Whatever you think it will cost, add 20 per cent

    ‘Instantly I would add 20 per cent more onto what you think it’s going to cost, maybe even a bit more if you can because you always spend more. Bringing a project in bang on budget, you’ve got to be ruthless. You’ve got to be absolutely ruthless and you’ve got to be quick, you’ve got to be efficient’ he says matter-of-factly.

    2. Be decisive

    ‘You’ve got to be willing to compromise very quickly, because if you’re indecisive that’s costing money. If you have to redesign something to make it more affordable, in some ways that’s taking more time and money – and that’s hard.’

    ‘Sometimes you’re better off going for a more expensive item, because you’ve made the decision to get it in and done, so that you don’t hold all the other trades up.’

    Related: Glass extension ideas – create light-filled glazed spaces to enlarge and enhance any home

    attic shower enclosure

    Image credit: Veronica Rodriguez

    3. Do the work in stages

    ‘Quite often I’ll say to a client, “well if that’s your budget why don’t you phase the works? So why don’t we do the top level first and start working our way down. Because if I spend all of your budget throughout your entire house I don’t think you’re going to be very happy with the quality of it – even though we’ve designed it really well, and detailed it really well.” I just don’t think it’ll stand the test of time.’

    ‘If you want to live here for the next 20-25 years and you want it to be beautiful then let’s do that bit (gesturing to the top) beautifully. Wait until you save up a bit more money then do that bit (hand gesturing to lower levels). I prefer to do less better,’ he explains.’

    Breaking the works down into stages will ensure your costs don’t overrun. One area finished to perfection is better than several started but never finished.

    4. Do less

    ‘It’s a very hard process to go through to ruthlessly manage a budget,’ George admits. ‘Adding more money always helps,’ he adds with a cheeky grin. ‘Or do less.’

    Wise words indeed George!

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