Extension – is it a wise idea?admin
Extension becomes relevant when your current home starts to feel too small or you have new needs and objectives. It is the same for people who would like to buy property in a developed district, but the property does not quite meet their needs.
Tallinn has the most difficult situation, as some lots have outrageous prices while the property itself is run-down. The best solution would be to demolishing the building rather than reconstruction. However, if you add up the costs of the lot, old building demolition, and construction of a new one, then quite often the results show that reconstruction with extension works is a cheaper option.
Everything starts with the Building Code
In Estonia, all aspects related to extension works are regulated with the Estonian Building Code, with that starts all planning and design. It is best to commission all procedures, including planning and designs, from a designer or in case of smaller works, from a construction company. Incompetent DIY works could lead to penalties, court action, or in case of serious violations, elimination of the construction by the local municipality.
Before planning a construction it is quite simple to read about preconditions for and restrictions to extension works. For the owner of the building, I recommend examining the Building Code Appendix 1 Table, which is accessible online and it serves as a list to find out which activities are required to make desired alterations. In this table, you will find in which cases you need to present building notice, building design documentation, or apply for a building permit. I also recommend you look up the Building Records Database (www.ehr.ee) and find information on the area under the building and maximum allowed height of the building and compare these with the data of the existing building.
There might be problems if there have been extension works done to the building but those alterations have not been recorded on the Building Registry Database. New owners of the building could presume that there have not been any extension works, but the Database shows otherwise. If the original area under the building is no larger than 60m2 and the construction is less than 5 m of height, then it is allowed to extend the building up to 33% of the capacity without a building permit. If the allowed 33% is misinterpreted and capacity is calculated using false data, then the result is an arbitrary, unauthorized extension which in its nature is a violation of the law.
A building permit is mandatory if the building has a direct requirement for building permit or it is located in an area which does not have a requirement for a detailed spatial plan. A building permit is a must for buildings that are located in milieu-valuable areas, heritage, or other protected areas. There is way more ambiguity of determining the public interest, which is not clearly stated in the law and which is addressed based on individual cases during the application for design conditions. Design conditions set out all conditions and restrictions related to the lot and the building, and it is used as a framework to design the extension.
Mind your neighbors
You should also think about the owners of the neighbouring lots. In order to avoid later issues, it is wise to discuss your extension plans with your neighbours. When the design for an extension is ready, but neighbours do not agree to it, there are three options: court action, redesigning the project in cooperation with your neighbours or giving up the extension works. Local municipalities take into account relevant rights and interests of the owners of neighbouring lots, for example obscuring the view, light conditions, privacy, parking problems etc. These situations could be addressed as an unlawful violation of the right of ownership. There are several conditions that neighbours can use against planned extension works.
Detailed project and experienced contractor
When commissioning the extension works it is important that structural solutions are designed based on thorough building expertise, which is used to map out the most accurate condition of the existing building. When assessing the quality of the building, the expertise will point out which parts of the building are worth to be renovated, what should be demolished, what should remain in the same condition, and how to design an extension. It is the only way to ensure durable and high building quality.
It is common practice that people try to cut the costs and commission a superficial project which could leave important communications and solutions unattended. In these terms, the Client can only hope that the contractor is competent enough, but if it is lacking then problems are likely to arise. Especially when the price is the most important criteria when choosing a contractor. Some people do not examine the standards of the company’s project management and competence of the project manager. It is good to know if there is a plan, schedule, quality instructions, and systematic quality control to manage the construction works of an object. Up to date documentation and experienced construction workers are also important, also the contractor should have previous experience in construction.
During our long years of working experience in the field, we have also seen the other extremes, where designers construed a very detailed project but did not analyze the condition of the building beforehand. The Client paid more than 4000 euros for the project, but only architectural views were used and structures were completely redesigned. Although the client had to pay for the structural design again, the timely alterations helped to speed up the building process, raised construction quality, and saved the client more than 20 000 euros of expenses.
In technical terms of construction, it is possible to expand in every direction and size with extension works. With extensions, it is always important to think whether this activity is feasible and fits the budget. Our experience has shown that a properly designed extension could be at times cheaper than demolishing the old building and constructing a new one.