Lofts and attics can often be forgotten, dusty places – collecting clutter with poor access limiting their use to storage or functional plumbing and heating. They can be some of the most profitable and beautiful living spaces to convert however.
A loft conversion can significantly increase the value of your property, so apart from the obvious benefits of extra space, they can be a great financial investment. A loft conversion can be a daunting prospect especially for new homeowners, so if you are going ahead with your own project, take a look at our five key considerations.
1. Why should you convert your loft?
The main reason that homeowners opt to convert their lofts is added space. By utilising existing rooms within the home, families can obtain far more useable space without having to go through the time-consuming and expensive process of moving home. The added floorspace can be used for just about any purpose – a main or guest bedroom, study, studio or children’s playroom – often with less disruption than a major extension to an existing living space.
A loft conversion can also add a significant amount of value to your property. Depending on the scale of the project, this can be anything up to 20% on the value of your home. Do be careful to pay attention to local house prices (and that all-important “ceiling”) however. If you spend too much and extend too far, you may run the risk of not seeing a financial return on your investment..
2. What are the initial issues to consider?
It may seem obvious, but ensuring the space can be transformed into a fully useable room is the first consideration. The roof-pitch and ceiling height are vital to any loft conversion, so make sure that you have measured the head-height (especially for bedrooms and studies), allowing for 2.5m of vertical space.
Floor space is another crucial early consideration. Once stairs, storage and furniture have all been added, will the room still match your expectations? Stairs are especially important, as they will rise from an existing staircase or hallway. In addition, if the attic space is used for anything currently, will any plumbing, heating or water tanks need to be moved and accommodated elsewhere?
3. What are the different types of loft conversions?
Your style of loft conversion will to some extent be dictated by the pitch and shape of your existing roof, planning permission or permitted development rights, as well as your budget. An architect can help create the best plans for your home, making the most of your available space. There are four main types of loft conversion, including:
- Rooflight conversions – the simplest structural option, most suitable for those on a tighter budget. If the floor is structurally sound, the main change is simply is the addition of windows, allowing your existing space to be flooded with light. This straightforward route is best suited to higher roofs with plenty of headroom.
- Dormer loft conversions – this involves restructuring the roof, usually at the rear or side of the house – to add a (often flat roofed) ‘box’ dormer extension. Full height windows and doors can be added for additional light and space, although if you are hoping to add a balcony, this will necessitate planning permission.
- Hip to gable loft conversions – this style of conversion maximises the relatively small loft spaces of properties with hipped roofs (a roof where all sides slope downwards to the walls, usually with a gentle slope). One sloping side is removed, with the vertical wall built up so that a new gable is created. A dormer can also be added to maximise the interior space.
- Roof lift conversions – if there isn’t enough headroom in your current space, it’s possible to raise the roof itself. This is the most expensive option, as the existing roof will be removed completely, so that the ridgeline and pitch can be adjusted accordingly. This conversion is best suited to detached properties, with planning permission necessary.
4. What are the legal considerations?
For any loft conversion, you will need approval under Building Regulations. This includes issues such as checking the structural strength of the floor, safety of stairs and the stability of the existing structure. Having a fully approved Building Regulations plan will also allow builders to provide fixed quotations rather than estimates, and reduce risks involved.
Building regulations are separate from planning permission, which isn’t usually required unless you are extending the roof space itself, or exceeding specified restrictions (i.e. if any dormer is above the current highest part of the roof, or you live within a conservation area). It is always advisable to check with your local planning department before getting started on work.
include the Party Wall Act 1996, under which you must give adjoining owners notice of any construction. Building Control Officers will also inspect the project throughout and will issue a final inspection certificate. Among other things, they will look at the insulation properties of your home, inspect foundations for possible underpinning issues, and any load-bearing beams. As a final issue to be aware of, if you’re a leaseholder you may need permission from the freeholder, landlord or management company.
5. What professional help will I need?
The professional assistance required will largely depend on the complexity of your project. For any conversions involving even small amounts of structural work, make sure that you appoint an architect or building surveyor. They will prepare technical drawings and discuss designs, help obtain necessary approvals, and if required even assist locating suitable builders and managing the project.
If you are searching for a residential architect, take a look at our top ten considerations. Hiring a specialist loft conversion company or an experienced builder is also prudent. Some specialised companies may even be able to offer a complete service for loft conversions, including preparing drawings, obtaining approvals and in-house construction teams.
With these key considerations in mind, your loft conversion project will be off to a great start. It can be a complex task, but with careful planning and the right professionals, it can significantly increase the worth of your property as well as your quality of life.
As with any building project, it is always worth having a small contingency in case of unforeseen problems, but in general, loft conversions are highly fulfilling, valuable and beautiful additions to your home. Happy converting!
Thank you for reading our article.
We hope that the above information will prove helpful when considering what type of loft conversion to have in your home.
EV Architects has completed many Loft conversion projects throughout London and the immediate Counties. If you’ve got any further questions about the above guidance, then don’t hesitate to contact a member of our team by calling 020 8531 4441 and we’ll be delighted to help.