Over the last few years our attitudes have changed. If we required more space we simply purchased a bigger house. With house prices, still on the rise and the cost of moving escalating and taking into consideration Stamp Duty which is dead monies more and more of our consumers are choosing to extend their current properties instead.
Some have the option of a basement conversion, an orangery, a conservatory, possibly a garage conversion or home extension. For many, the only option is a loft conversion.
It’s worth considering that your loft space can be up to 30% of floor space in your home and in most cases the loft area only has a chimney stack, cold water tank and the rest of the area is full up with items such as suitcases, Christmas decorations and generally old clothes, old toys and items we have just hoarded away when we should have just got rid of them?
One of the most important issues with a loft conversion is the shape and construction of the existing roof, this determines how easily the loft can be converted into a habitable area. Properties that have been built before 1965 tend to be an easier conversion as modern houses with trussed roof usually require more structural work.
Therefore, you can determine your lofts suitability by determining the height of the loft space. This needs to be at least 2.3 meters (7ft 6 ins) at its highest point. Insufficient height does not necessarily rule out the loft conversion as our accredited contractors can lower the existing ceiling below, but you must take into consideration this will add to the cost. You may wish to contact us and discuss your initial enquiry so we can discuss your options and put you in touch with our accredited architects and surveyors who will come up with an achievable build design.
Let’s face it what you are looking to achieve is your family’s quality of life and a loft conversion can create, natural sunlight, lovely views and provide that much needed additional space. Also take into consideration the loft conversion can be a very sound investment that adds thousands of pounds to the property’s value. Therefore, it is always very wise to remember the better quality of the conversion will mean a better investment when you do decide to sell so it’s worth taking into consideration this is not the time to do something on the cheap always consider any form of quality home improvements will last if you invest in quality of built and the use of quality materials. So always go for the best you can afford please do not cut corners and regret it further down the line.
According to the federation of Master Builders a quality constructed loft conversion can add up to 15% of your properties value.
It is always worth considering the options what a loft conversion can be used for, you may have already decided on what the extra space is required for? However, as the years go by circumstances change, children leave home, your working career can change. So, planning the conversion for the future will have its advantages so installing additional services will
ensure there is no upheaval further down the line. Not installing plumbing for example initially will stop the room from being a self-contained area in the future without costly alterations when this could have been avoided at the start.
Some of the most popular choices for a loft conversion are:
- Family Room Playroom
- Home Cinema Kitchen
- Master Bedroom with en-suite Granny Flat
- Teenagers Bedroom Photographic Studio/Darkroom
- Home Office/Study Gym
- Artist’s Studio Dressing Room with Clothes Storage
So, whatever your initial intended choice is services in the future may become an important issue if you then change the usage of the room. Obviously, the requirement for electricity and heating will always be required but why not add in Telephone/Broadband cabling plumbing etc at the initial build so then your future choices for the room are catered for.
One other important requirement is to allow for storage as items need to go somewhere and a little forward planning will always give you diversity for the room.
Loft Conversion Designs
There are four main design types for loft conversions. These are typically known as, dormer, hip to gable, Velux and mansard.
What does the term dormer usually mean? This term is usually related to dormer extensions, there are also dormer windows the basic difference between the two would be one of scale. Dormer windows increase the headroom in a loft conversion and are often incorporated between adjoining rafters which are used as a support for the dormer frame.
Dormer extensions on the other hand, require a much broader roof frame. Sections of the rafters are removed and the existing roof is reinforced with RSJs (Reinforced Steel Joists) this supports the ceiling and vertical walls. When thinking of a dormer loft conversion it is very important to take into consideration not just the internal space but the outside of the properties appearance. This has an external visual impact and therefore the dormer extensions must respect the scale of the building. If not designed well their appearance will dominate the roof line which will enhance an already dominant feature and aspect of the building. Therefore, planning permission is normally needed for all dormer construction.
Ensuring that the dormer design is correct means the accredited architect will take into consideration, size, proportion, shape, design, location and finish. As a rule of thumb anything over 2.5 meters for a dormer extension will probably be too wide and therefore our accredited architects will probably design two smaller dormers side by side. Our accredited architects will also take into consideration dormers that look too small as they will look very inappropriate from an aesthetic point of view. To keep the dormers in-keeping with the rest of your property the exterior finish is equally important and should be the same materiel as the main building with the sides of the dormer matching the roof covering in either slates or vertically hung tiles. If there is no match then cladding materials would be the most appropriate.
Velux is a manufacturer of rooflights and has become over the years a household name. They are not the only manufacturer on the market but within the construction industry the term Velux Window/Rooflight loft conversion is used daily. The advantage of a Velux conversion is there is no need to change the roofline of the property when adapting the existing roof space so this creates a very low exterior visual impact to the community and as all local authorities are different using this system in some areas requires no planning permission. Your local authority will offer guidelines, so it’s always best to check them out.
One of the main reasons for using the Velux design is this system is far less expensive than dormers as they can be fitted from the inside therefore tis eliminates the costs of exterior access and scaffolding. Velux windows/rooflights create natural daylight and as a rule of thumb it is advised that the glazed area should be equivalent to 10-15% of the new loft conversions floor area. However, increasing the percentage or adding more glazed units will prove to be more effective, once again our accredited architects will advise you.
Heat insulation, frame and window strength as well as weather protection are all important elements of the window/rooflight structure. Therefore, this is a very important area of design as the roof is highly exposed. With the technology Velux offers the product is designed to optimise heat insulation, all panes are AA fire rated and they can meet the required U values. Another advantage in using Velux is the product is available in a wide range of finishes to match in with a vast range of glazing options. Security locks can be fitted together with opening restrictors of enhanced safety. Our accredited architects will discuss these points with you and design a compliant Velux loft conversion.
Hip to Gable
A hip to gable loft conversion will involve extending the existing ridge line of the hip end roof to the overall flank wall of the property, therefore this is converting the roof to the gable end. By creating a gable wall above the existing flank wall creates a far better in-keeping natural look, there is also the opportunity to match the existing roof tiles or replace the whole of the roof which will then totally disguise the fact that the roof has been altered. The biggest advantage with this type of design is it creates the greatest amount of additional room in the loft together with more space for the internal staircase to be fitted. It’s worthwhile discussing this with our accredited architects who will advise you accordingly.
Most mansard loft conversions are added to the rear of the property. The brick constructed sides are built off the party wall and incorporate a flat roof. This design can then provide a maximum head height and floor space for the converted loft. Typically, you will see this design used on terraced properties and you will also find in most cases planning permission will be required but our accredited architects will advise.
One important thing to remember with all these conversions you are not of course restricted to one type. You can have a dormer at the rear of the property, a Velux at the front of the property and even a gable end, therefore we are sure you now appreciate why our accredited architects are on hand to assist you. Getting this right from the start is of paramount importance and once the design is dealt with and applications and approvals have been sought our accredited project managers can manage our accredited contractors and accredited manufacturers allowing you to carry on with your busy day to day schedule.
Our project management service ensures you are not in direct conflict with the contractors and you are safe in the knowledge our accredited project managers have your interests at heart. Please email or call for further details.
Building Regulations for Loft Conversions
Building regulations are defined in many ways, these regulations define how alterations are made to ensure your loft conversion construction is structurally safe, these regulations ensure the strict compliance of legislative energy efficiency standards are adhered too. The regulations also ensure the loft conversion is protected from risk of fire and be adequately ventilated. All these issues are what our accredited team ensure are delivered to you the consumer.
Building regulation approval is required for all loft conversions without exception. A loft conversion without these building regulation approvals is deemed as illegal which means you the consumer could be faced with a large fine and be forced to restore the loft to its original state. This will prove to be very costly and a shear waste of monies for the illegal new conversion, when the process could have been done correctly from the start. That’s why consumers use our accredited architects, contractors and project managers to ensure that no stone is left un-turned. It is the householder’s responsibility to ensure all building regulations are in place.
In the future when you came to sell the property the buyers solicitors would be asking for the local authority approvals for the loft conversion and without these the sale would almost certainly fall through leaving you to apply for retrospective planning approval which would not necessarily be granted leaving you in the same position as outlined above.
So, the advantage of using our accredited architects, contractors and project managers means they will make the necessary applications on your behalf and then produce the original copies for you to see before any works commence. Call it total peace of mind.
Building regulation approval is granted by building control officers at your local authority. Once the loft conversion begins the building inspector will visit your site to inspect the works at specific stages. He or she has the authority to amend requirements as the project progresses, so it is always wise to put a contingency in place for 15% of the overall cost. These controls are put in place to protect you the consumer and to ensure all aspects of the loft construction are compliant.
Planning Permission for Loft Conversions
Planning permission is a mine field subject, as all local authorities work in different locations, different conditions, different structures and most importantly have different guidelines. Protect yourself and ask our accredited team to enquire and ensure your covered as this is your responsibility as the home-owner. Just because a friend or family member did not require planning approval this does not mean you won’t. Your local planning authority, district borough and even input from the parish council are responsible for deciding whether any development should go ahead and be approved. There may be cases where the loft conversion can be undertaken within permitted development rights.
If you are in a conservation area or next door to a listed building you will probably require planning permission for any changes that will affect the appearance of that listed building. Carrying out the works without the necessary permissions may put you in a position that the local authority requires you to return the building back to its original pre-conversion state.
Party Wall agreements are almost certainly required if you live in a terrace or semi-detached property. A party wall agreement with your neighbours is required as the loft conversion will affect walls, ceilings and floors which are shared with other properties. Your neighbour should be given at least two months’ notice of work to be carried out. To keep everything on an even keel with your neighbour it is always a good idea to discuss the loft conversion with them before you finalise the design, have plans drawn up and apply for local authority permissions.
Useful Loft Conversion Accessories
Making the loft conversion even safer, more comfortable and convenient should be included in your design ideas. There are a whole range of products that can be added after the loft conversion has been built. However, there are some products that need to be incorporated as the build gets under way.
Fire Protection Sprinklers
Incorporating fire protection sprinklers may in fact reduce the amount of fire protection materials within the construction process being used, but must be installed at point of build. The incorporation of sprinklers can lower the cost of the loft conversion by reducing the amount of fire protection materials required as protection has been included.
Mounted flush to ceilings, sprinklers are unobtrusive and can be installed on a flexible basis from a single sprinkler head in one room to sprinklers in every room in the property. The sprinklers, which can integrate into existing fire alarms, are heat activated and will only be set off by a real fire.
The use of blinds within the loft conversion are considered usually essential as they provide light and heat protection. Choosing the right blinds will be determined on the type of room you are going to use the loft conversion for together with the level of usage. In the case of the room being used as a bedroom then blackout blinds would be the desirable choice.
Using the loft conversion as a family/living room then using blinds that are more decorative and repel UV rays to protect your carpets and furnishings would be possibly the way to go.
If the loft conversion is to be used as a kitchen or bathroom room then the use of aluminium or wooden blinds will assist with high humidity. Pleated blinds soften daylight, while roller blinds block as much or as little daylight as required.
Remote Control Window Blinds and Shutters
Controlling windows, window blinds, roller shutters and awnings can prove to be a very useful addition to the loft conversion. Remote control systems allow even hard-to-reach windows, such as those over stairwells leading to the loft conversion. You have the option to open and close blinds remotely via wall mounted control pads or handsets giving you total control in every aspect of your rooflights. In addition, consider installing automatic rain sensors which will close the rooflights when triggered by the onset of rain. This allows you to keep your rooflights open for ventilation.
Whilst building regulations ensure that there is an adequate escape route from your loft conversion you may prefer some additional safety measures. Keeping an escape ladder, nearby which is lightweight, stores easily and quick to use is a very useful addition to your loft conversion. There are many products available on the market, but features such as standoff escape ladders are available which hold the escape ladder away from the wall, allowing a firm footing on the escape ladder rungs will not tangle, is semi rigid, locks when opened, creates a secure clamping which makes the product suitable for escape from both rooflights and vertical windows.
Guidelines for Loft Conversions
- Planning permission is not always required but it makes sense to check as local authorities, vary in their interpretation of regulations.
- Building regulations approval is essential.
- If you live in a semi-detached or terraced house any work will be subject to a Party Wall agreement.
- Your loft should be 2.3 metres at its highest point to be suitable for a loft conversion.
- The external appearance of the conversion should blend with the existing property.
- Expect the construction work to take about six to eight weeks.
- Inform neighbours of your plans so they will know to expect some disruption while the work is carried out.
- Always have a 15% contingency to cover unexpected problems
- Use our accredited personnel through each stage of design, local authority submission, construction, project management and building control liaison.
- Get at three quotations from our accredited contractors but don’t automatically choose the lowest and ensure the quotations are to identical specification so you can compare like with like.
- Always get professional advice from our accredited architects, especially on structural matters.
- Make sure you get all the necessary certifications when all the work is complete.