If you need a bit more room, a loft conversion can seem like the perfect option. It has the potential to transform your home, adding value and extra living space. Loft conversions are also one of the most effective home extension projects… if they’re done right.
A loft conversion is a big commitment, and things like head height, planning permission, exterior appearance, and lighting (the list goes on!) need careful attention. If a loft conversion isn’t done sensitively and appropriately, it can also cost thousands and detract from your home.
To help you steer clear of these pitfalls, here are 16 of the most common mistakes when converting your loft – and how to avoid them.
1. Failing to check the head height.
This is the first thing to check before starting a loft conversion project. You’ll need a minimum head height of 2.2 metres for a standard loft. If not, it might not be possible to use it for extra living space.
While there are options to raise the roof height in some cases, this is often a pretty costly and complex job – that you’d need to factor in from the start.
2. Not considering the alternatives.
If it turns out you don’t have quite enough head height, have you considered other extension options? There are many other cost-effective ways of adding extra space to your home (for instance, garage extensions, side extensions, or garden offices) that might be appropriate.
3. Forgetting the staircase.
Now, it’s all well and good creating a fantastic loft conversion. But how are you going to get to it? Staircases take up a surprising amount of space.
Ideally, new stairs could go directly above your existing staircase. You might also have to steal space from a bedroom though. It is also essential to consider where it pops up in the loft, so you minimize awkward spaces or angles.
4. Thinking Planning Permission isn’t needed.
Planning Permission isn’t always needed for loft conversions. Your project might fall under Permitted Development Rights, but it’s essential to check this first and never assume.
This is especially important if you live in a period property, conservation area, flats, or changing the exterior appearance of your home. If you’re unsure, it’s always best to contact your local planning department.
5. Not paying attention to Building Regs.
Building Regulations are just as crucial as Planning Permission. This ensures your loft conversion is up to scratch, and you’ve created a safe space – especially important if you’re selling your home soon.
Your specialist loft conversion company, builder, or architect can advise, but this covers windows, soundproofing, electrics, insulation, ventilation, construction, and more…
6. Not informing your insurer.
Let your insurance provider know if you’re starting any home extension project. If you don’t inform them, and something goes wrong, you won’t be covered – and could face some hefty payments.
You’ll also need to let your insurer know when the project is finished, as your new policy will need to be updated to incorporate any changes.
7. Not letting your neighbours know.
If you live in a terraced property, you’ll need a “Party Wall Agreement” before any building work can start.
Even if you’re in a detached home, it’s also good common sense to let your neighbours know about your plans. There might be substantial disruption from building work, and you’ll also want to avoid any objections if you’re applying for planning permission.
8. Going with the wrong contractor.
Loft conversions are specialist projects, so try to find a building contractor with proven experience doing similar work. Checking reviews on independent websites and chatting to any friends who’ve had similar jobs done are good ways to start.
Make sure you’ve also got detailed plans to hand, as this will allow contractors to provide more accurate quotes for the project.
9. Forgetting the exterior impact.
With any home extension, it’s easy to get carried away and try to get the absolute maximum space available. Don’t forget what your loft conversion looks like from outside though, and how it impacts the aesthetics of your home.
If your home starts looking too top-heavy, this could affect the value. You might also run into problems with planning permission, something you’ll definitely want to avoid!
10. Rushing the design details.
So, you’ve considered the outside. Now, what about how you actually use the space? Is there sufficient space for a large double bed or that cherished desk if it’s a bedroom or office? What about color schemes and finishes?
Loft conversions can also throw up tricky roof angles, so ensure there’s enough wall space for things like wardrobes, shelves, and other furniture.
11. Underestimating the importance of lighting.
Lighting is a make-or-break aspect of any loft conversion. Consider both artificial lighting (and where you want sockets and wiring) and window placement. If you’re using the room on a daily basis, you’ll want plenty of natural light.
Overhead lights can sometimes create a stark space, so things like recessed downlights, wall lights, and lamps all bring an element of cosiness.
12. Forgetting soundproofing.
Ever lived in a flat with upstairs neighbours? If so, you’ll know the importance of proper soundproofing between floors.
If you’re creating a calm sleeping or working space, you’ll also want to ensure all windows, floors, and walls are adequately glazed and insulated. For games or music rooms, it’s all about protecting the spaces underneath!
Things like acoustic pipe insulation can also stop noise from water pipes or flushing toilets travelling through the lower stories of your home.
13. Incorrect heating and cooling systems.
As lofts are naturally at the very top of buildings, they’re the spaces most susceptible to temperature changes. Attics can get extremely hot in the summer and cold in the winter, so think carefully about your heating and cooling systems.
Heating can be easily connected with your existing central heating system, but this might need to be upgraded to support the extra work.
Of course, size and placement will also be part of your design and layout planning…
14. Not creating extra storage space.
If you currently use your loft to store all those boxes of Christmas decorations and spare suitcases… where will these things go when it’s used for living space?
Of course, you can have a thorough clear-out, but you might also want to create additional storage space so your beautiful new loft conversion doesn’t get cluttered.
15. Assuming an architect can’t help.
Many people think architects (like us!) are only appropriate for large building projects, but this isn’t the case. Architects can bring their years of expertise and design know-how to projects large and small. They’re experts in design and functionality, ensuring your new space genuinely improves your home.
An architect can also help with planning applications, building regulations, and liaising with your building contractor to keep the project on track and up to scratch.
16. Trying to do it yourself.
Last but not least, homeowners might be tempted to try a bit of DIY loft converting. This could be a massive mistake, however, as even a tiny error could impact the structural integrity of your home and put yourself and your family at risk.
It’s always worthwhile working with accredited professionals who’ll ensure everything’s up to building regs – saving you time and money in the long run.
If you’re thinking about a loft conversion, get in touch with our expert team at EV Architects today. We can help you through every stage of your project and create a stunning space that works for you and your home.