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Ask the experts

PUBLISHED: 12:00 17 August 2015

Make your patio more user friendly with a retractable awning.

Make your patio more user friendly with a retractable awning.


From extending your house to making your patio more useable - we have the answers to your questions, from Norfolk’s home experts.

Q. I imagined we’d use our terrace all the time, but it’s so bright and such a suntrap it’s unbearable. What can we do?

A. Look at why it’s so bright. Is it the wall or floor material; can this be altered? A suitable option may be an awning which offers protection from the sun’s intense heat, keeping you cool on the hottest summer days, while offering shelter from those unexpected showers. Damaging ultraviolet rays are blocked providing optimum protection to the skin, while harsh light is filtered to stop unwanted glare.

Look for fabrics that are 100pc solution dyed acrylic that will not fade, rot or mildew. A motorised option allows the awning to be effortlessly extended while sensors automatically position it to best effect dependent on the climate conditions.

Fiona Garwood, director, Norwich Sunblinds, St Benedicts Street, Norwich, NR2 4AG; Haverscroft Industrial Estate, Attleborough, NR17 1YE; 01603 615945;

Q. We’d like a good-sized extension to our house. What do we do and what’s the process?

A. You need planning permission first. You can submit your own drawing to your local authority to apply for outline planning permission, more detailed plans will need to be submitted once that’s been approved. An architect will normally know what the council will allow you to have, and draw plans and submit them for you accordingly.

When you have planning permission, your architect will submit building regulation details to building control. That determines the type of structure; how deep the foundations will be, the type of windows, thickness of insulation, cavity walls, the type of roof and so on. Then get your building quotes. I suggest four: You normally get one high, one low and the two in the middle who are the sensible ones who have taken the time to go through what you need.

You contract your builders and work starts. You may want them to run everything and only contact you if there is something major that needs deciding, or you may want to be involved all the way through, bearing in mind that you can only make minor changes such as slightly moving the position of a door. Major changes have to go back to building control.

Building control has a full set of plans and building regulations; they will check each stage of your build and sign your extension off once finished. Keep building control on your side.

Groundworks are done first and they’ll need a couple of days to clear and level the ground, mark it out, dig foundations and get the foundation concrete poured. Pipework can be laid when the foundations are dug. Then it’s built up to damp course level, the floor laid to the correct level and it’s ready to build on.

You’ll have bricklayers, then carpenters for the roof. Some builders do it all, just calling in plumbers and electricians; others organise and call in each trade for groundworks, carpenters, roofers, plasterers, plumbers and electricians.

If everything goes according to plan, once you have planning permission and building regulations, there is no reason why it could not be done in about three months.

Richard Holden, ARH Groundworks, Home Farm, Seething, NR15 1EL; 01508 558907.

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