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Step by Step Guide to Loft Conversions

Author: John Hinds
by John Hinds
Posted: Nov 22, 2021

Loft conversions are to the home what mezzanine floors are to industrial buildings. The perfect way to achieve more room in your building without extending or relocating. If you are fortunate enough to have a loft space that is ripe for conversion then it is an excellent way to give yourself extra space and increase the value of your home at the same time.

Before beginning any loft conversion project it is imperative that a builder is consulted to gauge their opinion on the viability of the project and a structural engineer is employed to ensure that any potential plans will not adversely affect the structural integrity of your home.

Can your house take the strain of a loft conversion?

A loft conversion by its vary nature will add to the weight bearing load of your house and it is important to ascertain whether your building is capable of taking it. Your builder should expose your foundations and check them alongside the beams and lintels in the property to make sure that the building is suitable for the proposed addition. In some cases a house requires underpinning for it to be able to support the weight and this will substantially increase the required budget. It is also worth noting that in certain conservation areas the planning permission process might be trickier.

Do you have the necessary headroom?

There is little point in considering a loft conversion if you won’t have the headroom to allow you to walk around in the completed space. The calculations for this will be carried out by your architect in their plans. It is worth mentioning to them that you want a precise and clear idea of how much height you will have in the completed conversion. The minimum requirement for adequate headroom is usually 2.2m. It is worth remembering that you will need a staircase.

Check your roof-type

Your roof-type will largely depend on when your house was built but you will either have roof trusses or rafters. Peeking through your loft hatch you should be able to get a perfect look at what kind of roof you have. Trusses will represent supports running through the cross-section of the loft, while rafters run along the edges of the roof, leaving much of the space below as a hollow. While converting a loft that has trusses is possible, you will need additional structural support and the cost of conversion will likely rise.

What lies beneath?

One of the biggest mistakes people make when going about a loft conversion is forgetting to consider the floor below. Where is the staircase going to go and where is it best to sacrifice the space? A modest sized space-saving staircase will still take up a fair chunk of a room so it does pay to think carefully before diving in.

Building Regulations & Party Walls

Your loft conversion will require Building Regulations approval even if you do not need planning permission (you might) so before you contract a builder you should have a detailed scheme in place and a design that has been approved. You will be more likely to get an accurate quote with a clear, approved plan in place. If your property is semi-detached or terraced you will need to notify your adjoining neighbour(s) under the Party Wall Act of 1996. At various points in the work your Building Control officer will attend and inspect the work before finally issuing a certificate. You should never settle the final bill with your contractor before receiving this certificate.

Let there be light – but how?

An important consideration involves the type of windows you will choose. At the front of the property skylights are often deployed as they do not require planning permission, whereas structural dormer windows will. At the rear you may opt for dormer windows, which in protruding from the building will allow for extra internal headroom, potentially adding value.

Other considerations

You will need to decide on which kind of insulation you employ. Considerations such as noise, environmental profile and heat loss will determine your best choice here. There are plenty of specialist companies who can advise. You will also want to consider electrical sockets, broadband connections, smoke detectors and handrails (especially for particularly vertical staircases).

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Author: John Hinds
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John Hinds

Member since: Jul 29, 2018
Published articles: 33

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