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Timing Your Building Projects

Wednesday, 18th January 2017 | by: Cameron Weights

I recently took an enquiry from a client who was looking to have some building work completed; specifically, they were looking to have a rear extension built. As I personally believe that the needs of the project should dictate the design of the works I enquired into what the new space would be used for. My client informed me that they wanted a new dining room extended off the existing kitchen; a perfectly reasonable request which would require a simple design and had every chance at success in terms of meeting the client’s needs and from a legislative view (Planning and Building Control.) However the client needed this dining room for Christmas 2016!

Unfortunately as we were two weeks away at the time I had to say it would not be possible and that should they want to progress regardless we would happily assist. I realised however that through no fault of their own this information is just not available. How long does it take to get something built? And from that answer when should I start the process of having something built?

This post will deal with what I sometimes call the ‘paper stages’ everything that comes before a hole is dug and a brick is laid. For in depth guide of what these stages entail please see another my earlier blog post setting out the Stages of Works.


The existing stage entails producing drawings as the property stands prior to proposed works; it provides the base from which the project then builds; arguably the most important stage but one of the quickest to complete. Peter Barry aims to have a package of drawings turned in 10 working days from the initial site visit. Time for stage = up to 2 weeks


The design stage is rather ambiguous in terms of the time taken to complete. To ensure that this stage runs efficiently, it is imperative that a clear design brief is agreed before drawings are produced. However, I do in fact encourage further amendments to produce the desired design scheme. Peter Barry will look to have an initial design scheme produced, again, in 10 working days with amendments taking a further 5 working days. Time for stage = 2-3 weeks minimum


Planning marks the most time consuming stage of all, once the design scheme has been agreed the application can be produced and submitted. For more information please see our Planning Permission v Permitted Development blog post. There is an initial validation period on an application that takes 2 weeks; a validated application has an 8 week decision period. Applications can take longer to decide should additional information be required. Time for stage = 10 weeks

Building Control

This stage could be considered the most flexible in terms of time, owing to the number of options available such as application times or using approved inspectors. For more information on this please see our Guide to Building Regulations blog post. A full plans application through the Local Authority will take between 5-8 weeks whereas an approved inspector can have the plan validated in 1 week once a package of drawings has been submitted. Time for stage = 8 weeks

Party Wall Procedures

If the works are covered by the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 party wall notice(s) will need to be served and should a dispute arise surveyor(s) must be appointed to agree a party wall award. If the same surveyor acts for both this can often be done within a week or two but if the adjoining owner appoints a separate surveyor, they dictate the pace. If the proposals are not controversial party wall matters can be dealt with while the planning application is waiting to be approved. Our party wall surveyors will be better placed to provide advice with this stage. Time for stage = 2-8 weeks

Paper Stages

It is clear to see that there is a considerable amount of time to consider before works can actually start on site, if the stages were to run linearly the total time before work could start could extend to 41 Weeks. However, the nature of the work allows for us to run several stages consecutively, in particularly Planning/Building Control/Party Wall Procedures. A more realistic time frame to have in mind would therefore be 15-20 Weeks. However, as you have read here, and in our other blogs, this can fluctuate.

My advice if you would like a new dining room for Christmas would be to call us in June/July or even earlier to ensure that you aren’t almost certainly going to be disappointed. There is never any harm getting the initial processes in place and secure early and then starting the building works when the time is right, keeping in mind that permission can expire.

Should you be looking to explore the idea of having work done to your property and wish to discuss the matter further please do not hesitate to contact a member of the architectural team by email or call 020 7183 2578 (option 4). We would be delighted to discuss and take on an instruction at any of the above stages.

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