loft conversions

increasing your living space by making the best use of your loft space

If you are in need of extra space in your home it is worth considering whether a loft conversion would be feasible. The first consideration is whether it is technically possible to build a loft conversion in your home as not all loft spaces will be sufficiently large enough for the work to take place.

As a general rule of thumb if your property was built before the 1960's you will have a better chance of having a house that will allow for a loft conversion as older style houses tend to have a steeper pitched roof which would provide the headroom in the loft.

Realistically if you did not have headroom in excess of 2.3 metres, a loft conversion probably wouldn't be a very good option. However, if your home is able to house a loft conversion it is a very good way of increasing the space in your home because the loft conversion work itself shouldn't be too disruptive, the loft conversion cost would be relatively low, there would be no need to pay any extra stamp duty as your aren't moving house and you will almost certainly be adding value to your home should you decide to sell in the future.

Do I need planning permission for a loft conversion?

In most cases you should not need planning permission unless you are seeking to extend or alter the roof space and that extension should exceed the UK government guidelines.

According to new regulations that were published on 1st October 2008, you would not need to obtain planning permission for converting your loft provided that you adhere to the following conditions -

  • There is a volume allowance of 40 cubic metres additional roof space for terraced houses
  • A volume allowance of 50 cubic metres additional roof space for detached and semi-detached houses
  • No extension should be made beyond the plane of the existing roof slope of the principal elevation that fronts the highway
  • No extension should be make that is higher than the highest part of the roof
  • Materials must be similar in appearance to the existing house
  • No verandas, balconies or raised platforms are to be allowed without planning permission
  • Side-facing windows to be obscure-glazed; any opening to be 1.7m above the floor
  • Roof extensions not to be permitted in designated areas such as national parks and the Broads, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, conservation areas and World Heritage Sites
  • Roof extensions, apart from hip to gable ones, to be set back, as far as practicable, at least 20cm from the eaves

It should be noted that these guidelines apply to houses, not flats or other types of buildings. However, if in any doubt whatsoever about any of the legal requirements for building a loft extension, you should definitely consult with your local authority beforehand.

Loft conversion first steps

Now that you have decided to look into the possibility of a loft conversion, you need to actually get your hands dirty and have a look around the loft space. Providing that you have over 2.3 metres of headspace available you can start to try to visualise exactly how you want the loft to be converted. You will likely need to consult with a builder and/or architect to discuss your requirements with them and they can advise whether your ideas are possible and suggest budgets and timeframes for the work.

The most common reasons for loft conversions are to add an extra bedroom to a property (often with an en-suite bathroom), create a study, add an extra play area for kids (or adults!) or simply to add an extra room simply for storage.

You need to think clearly about the reasons for your loft conversion and what the extra room will be used for as this will go towards determining the type of build you will opt for. For example, if you wanted to add a playroom for the kids you would want to ensure that there would be sufficient light so you would probably want to factor Velux windows into the loft conversion. Whereas, if the room was to be used solely as a bedroom, having an abundance of natural light may not be as big a factor. Whatever reason you decide upon for the loft conversion plans you should always try to visualise the bigger picture. If you were to go ahead with the loft conversion and at some point in the future you decide to sell the house, would your choice of loft conversion make sense to a potential buyer? You need to take this into account because the loft conversion should be a selling point, not something that could put a potential buyer off the property.

Contacting a loft conversion company

It is possible to do a DIY loft conversion job; however, you would need to be an extremely competent DIY'er to contemplate the task as there can be difficult structural work to be completed as well as steelwork and the fitting of windows, etc. By employing a specialised loft conversion company you will prevent yourself from potentially making expensive and dangerous mistakes and will get the work done quicker than if you went down the DIY route. A specialist loft conversion firm should also be able to provide advice on all aspects of the loft conversion and deal with the council and building regulations on your behalf.

Getting a loft conversion quote

It is recommended that you should obtain at least three different quotes from loft conversion experts and ask them to explain the different aspects of the work in detail. If you are clear with your requirements, they will be able to provide you with a loft conversion price as accurately as possible. Once you have received your quotes, it often makes sense to contact all of the companies that have quoted you a price to offer your thoughts. For example, if you would prefer to deal with a particular company but their quote was not competitive, politely mention this as it will give them the opportunity to lower their costs if they value your business.

It is important to recognise that the cheapest option is not necessarily the best. As with all things, you invariably get what you pay for so it is important to factor in the quality of workmanship when evaluating loft conversion company quotes.

When choosing which quote to accept take into account the following factors -

  • Ask for references of their previous loft conversions.
  • Agree a timescale to get the loft conversion work completed.
  • Check exactly what has been included in the quote. For example, does the quote include the removal of rubble, etc? Is electrical wiring or plumbing included? If you aren't sure about any aspect of the quote, always ask for clarification.
  • Ensure that the loft conversion company is properly qualified to do the work and ensure that they have adequate insurance.
  • A like for like comparison between the quotes can be difficult as some builders will use better quality materials than others so take each quote on its own individual merit.
  • When you are happy with a particular quote, make sure that you receive a fully itemised contract so that no misunderstandings can occur prior to the work beginning.