FAQs

Can you help me with the internal layout and extensions and well as external remodelling?

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Most houses that are ugly on the outside are also dated on the inside so we are upgrading and remodelling the internal arrangements as well as the external aesthetics. We look at houses holistically as one aspect very much affects the other. To see some examples of how we would visualise these elements to you during the draft process please visit our Concept Visualisation page.

Will you come out and have a look at my proposed project?

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Our design service always starts with a design visit at the property to go through your needs and those of the house in detail. Most people are looking for an initial house visit but because our work is so unique, we get a very high volume of enquiries so I'm afraid you'll have to wait until you've booked us for us to come out and work our magic.

Not all projects are suitable for the service we offer, depending on size/shape/budget/planning etc. so we need to assess your project to see if it's a project we can help you with. We do this by looking at photos of your house and if you have them, (Estate Agents) floor plans, along with your wish list. If our service meets the projects needs we will offer a telephone consultation to discuss the project and our service in more detail.

If you would like us to take a look at your project please Contact Us

I like your style but do you do new builds too?

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We are specialists in remodelling and creating a new house on the bones of an existing property but we often get approached by Clients who love our work but either don't have an ugly house to work on or it's not a viable solution. We do about 2 new builds a year and would be happy to talk to you if you had a suitable project in mind. Please Contact Us to discuss.

Do you cover my area?

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Most of our work is in the Home Counties but we will go anywhere for projects of a sufficient size. 

What services do you offer and how do you work?

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Our service is broken down into 3 stages - Design and planning, Technical and Tender. More detail on these can be found on Our Service page.

 

The quality of our work is not the only unique thing about Back to Front, but also the way we work with you. Our design services are very consultative and we take care to make sure you understand the implications of what you are asking us for, not just "drawing up your ideas". We are designing your home and want you to be as engaged as possible throughout the design process and benefit from our expertise. We will visualise every aspect of your new home 3D, both during the drafting process and technical work, so you can really appreciate how it will look and function and ensuring you make informed decisions.

 

We are quite particular on certain details, materials and styling that make our projects looks the way they do and working with us enables you to benefit from over two decades of experience, research and technical know how in remodelling houses.

 

Please note we have extremely high demand for our services therefore are unable to services outside our offering or consultancy.

What about planning?

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Local Authorities write their Planning policies based on the National Planning Policy Framework therefore there is a consistent thread that runs through the country. We have worked with over 30 different local authorities and have over two decades experience in dealing with planning departments and to date have 100% pass rate which we are very proud of. 

How much are your fees?

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We offer a premium service and quote a fixed fee based on your requirements and the needs of the house. This will be quoted on application once details of the house and your brief have been received and we have assessed the suitability of your project. As a starting point, although we do not charge percentage based fees, we suggest you budget in the region of 10%.

 

How much will my project cost?

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The shape of your house, condition, style, size (including extensions required), fixtures and fittings will all have a large impact on the budget. Back to Front in about a full transformation inside and out, creating a "new" house on the bones of the old, so you need to be realistic on how much this is going to cost to achieve. Most houses that are ugly on the outside are also dated on the inside so we are upgrading and remodelling the internal layout and specification as well as the external aesthetics. From kitchen, bathrooms, flooring, electrics, plumbing, windows, doors, roof covering (if required), elevational treatment, rainwater goods and insulation to extensions and structural changes. To give you a feel, projects we take on start from £3-400k and upwards. 

 

Can you recommend Builders and other services?

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We can help you with finding builders, project management, interior design, landscape design, mechanical and electric engineers, lighting design, renewables and so forth. If there is something we don’t do here in our Studio we can help you find someone who can.

Do you project manage?

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Most architects don't project manage if they say they do, make sure you check exactly what they mean by undertaking that role. An occasional site visit to confirm you can make your next payment is not project management. Our technical design package extremely detailed and comprehensive and as a result only one Client has engaged the services of a Project Manager in the last 5 years. Getting a good builder on board is the key and we can talk to you about this in more detail when you get started.

Are you an Architect?

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We are Architectural Technicians and Graham Braid, our Senior Architectural Technician is a member of the Chartered Institute of Architectural technologists. Although we are not RIBA, our track record speaks volumes. The quality of our work can be seen in our finished galleries, our 100% success rate with planning, our happy Clients and strong referrals.

Things to consider when looking to buy a remodelling project

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There are some great remodelling candidates in some amazing locations around the Country but a lot of them can be very dated, sometimes downright ugly and often don’t function well for modern lifestyle requirements. We get a lot of enquiries from prospective Clients looking for advice on whether the house they are considering can be transformed into a home they would actually want to live in! To help you in the quest for a beautiful home please see some tips below to consider during your search.

Look for a good shape

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Try to look for a house with a good shape as a starting point as this will often be a better candidate for remodelling. The more difficult or complicated the shape the more deep surgery it often requires to address the aesthetics, which adds a lot of cost. The more you try and move a house away from a style it lend itself to the more this often costs too. For example if you are looking for a traditional style then try to avoid large cat slide roofs unless you are prepared to extend. A more contemporary style allows a bit more freedom with unusual shapes. If you are also looking to extend then this can give us the opportunity to “kill two birds with one stone”. Bear in mind that if the problem area is to the front, front extensions can be contentious with the planners so if you can, double check with your local authority what their view is on these or look at your close by neighbours to see if any one else has done the same.

Planning Permission/Permitted Development

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We always recommend when looking to do work to a new house that you speak with your local authority to ask them what restrictions apply (if any) and the planning history of the property prior to making a purchasing decision. This can often be done online or over the phone. The common ones are: Conservation area, Green Belt, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Outside of settlement boundaries or Rural (often treated the same as Green Belt), National Parks and Flood Zones – although there can be many others according to the area. If the house has had many extensions historically then we would advise you try and have a meeting with the planners to see if it has any scope left to extend further.

 

Falling within a restricted zone doesn’t mean you can’t do what you want but it will often influence the design, so try and find out as much as you can so there are no nasty surprises along the line. Many local authorities offer planning surgeries, which are available for a small fee and can be a great way of getting some impartial advice on your plans.

 

Do bare in mind though that the advice is not legally binding and is the planning officers opinion is based on policy at the time and doesn’t take into account your neighbours or other consultees such as Parish Councils. It is often not known that you can do work to a house and often extend without needing planning permission. This is called Permitted Development Rights or PD. What you can do under PD will vary according to the planning restrictions and can sometimes be removed if a house has been extended a lot, so again best to check that the property has all it’s PD rights intact. There is a really helpful Interactive House on the Planning Portal, which helps you to understand what typically needs planning and what could be done under PD:

 

Extending

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Buying a house that has to be extended to be big enough to accommodate you and your family can be a risky strategy so do as much research as you can with your local authority before committing to buy. Always check what planning restrictions apply to the house and the planning history. Don't assume that because everyone else is doing it, you can too as Planning Policy changes with the times. Please see the section on planning above for more information.

Loft conversions

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Loft conversions are a great way to get more space but there are a few things to watch out for. To comply with Building regulations you need to have a finished head height above the stairs of 1.9 meters if you plan to have 1 room and 2.00 meters for more than 1 room. The ceiling joists need to be strengthened and extra insulation needs putting into the roof, squeezing you from the bottom and top. Generally you will loose between 250-300mm of overall head height in doing this. Consider what you would want to use the space for and check you have sufficient head height to make it work.

 

The pitch of the roof needs to be considered and the amount of usable space you will end up with. If you can find out what the structure is this will also help you in your decision-making. A truss loft is generally much more expensive to convert than a cut loft.

Condition

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Often houses we remodel are not only dated externally but internally too, with electrics and plumbing in need of upgrading along with kitchen and bathrooms, flooring etc. These areas not only add cost but can cause a lot of disruption so ask the vendor for as much information as possible on these areas (eg. has the house been re-wired/plumbed and if so, when) to get a feel for what extra costs will be involved.

 

You also need to be aware that changing the elevational treatment, like cladding a brick facade with weatherboarding will mean you have to meet the current building regulations to do with the thermal performance of the walls. So making the house look good can have hidden costs and the older the property the more likely this is. So check if you have cavities, whether they have been filled and if so, when.

 

Budget

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Following the recession building costs have gone up dramatically and it is easy to underestimate how much a project can cost, especially when remodelling the existing house as well as extending. You almost need to have in mind two budgets, one for addressing the needs of the existing house and one for extending.

 

The average project we undertake involves improving the kerb appeal, extending and upgrading (such as insulation, electrics, plumbing, lighting, flooring, kitchen, bathrooms etc.). Typical costs can fall between £300k - £600k plus fees but can be more depending on the needs and size of the house and the Clients requirements and specification. If you are really planning on significantly extending and altering the existing property there can come a tipping point where it becomes more viable to knock it down and start again but this really can only be assessed on a case by case basis.

 

If you are concerned about overcapitalising ask to your Estate Agent as they will be best placed to advise on what the area can take. Not all have the “vision” as to the potential so make sure you show them our website to help them appreciate the level of transformation you are talking about. We would suggest that if you can see all the issues with a house then the next buyer will see them too, so you need to be prepared to invest the right amount to get the best outcome.

 

Our fees can also contribute between 5-10% of the overall budget depending on the size of project. Most of our Clients plan to stay in their new home for many years so ask yourself what value you put on your enjoyment during ownership and quality of life. Don't be tempted to spend more on your kitchen than on the professional that will give that kitchen and you an amazing home to live in!

Disruption

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Building projects are not for everyone! Although the results can be fabulous, even when planned really well they can be extremely disruptive, expensive and stressful – we’ve all watched Grand Designs! Before you embark on a building project make sure you have thought about the impact this will have on your life. You may need to move into rented accommodation, which will add to the costs and an extra move on top of the one you are currently planning.

Time

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Most projects we design take a “builders year” to complete once under construction, so generally from spring through to autumn. This can vary though according to the size of the Contractor you employ and the weather! Due to demand and recent milder winters more projects are being undertaking during winter months. Ideally to get things properly planned in advance you need to allow 8 months to a year for design, planning, technical work and tender.