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Loft Conversions

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 2 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
Property Renovation Renovate Extension

One of the odd things about the UK property market is arranging the price brackets of houses by the number of bedrooms they have, rather then the overall area of the property, which is the way it’s done in most other countries. This means that adding an extra bedroom can move your property into another price bracket like few other home improvement projects.

Extending Up or Out?

If you want extra bedrooms, it’s usually a straight choice between an extension and a loft conversion. But the trouble with an extension is that, unless you have a bungalow, you need to build two stories to get a ‘normal’ bedroom added, which increases the cost and the disruption to your daily lives. A loft conversion can give you the extra bedroom with less disruption and lower outlay and you don’t lose any of your garden either.

Not all lofts are suitable for conversion though. If the roof is at a shallow pitch, you may not be able to get the legal minimum height without raising the roofline, a difficult and expensive job that may not get planning approval. The other sticking point is that you may not have the space needed to get a staircase up to the loft, although employing an architect should get you access to some excellent problem solving skills for that one.

What’s Involved?

The basic work on an older house will involve strengthening the rafters to take the extra load, moving any plumbing and tanks out of the way, insulating the roof and putting in windows, either flat skylights or dormer windows. Then the room(s) will be constructed with stud partitioning and plasterboard, doors and electrics put in, then decoration will finish the job off.

In a more modern house the roof supports are likely to be A-framed trusses, which will mean that the trusses will encroach on the roof space a great deal more. This means that it will be a more expensive job, to cut out those trusses and replace the strength that’s lost with extra bracing.

It’s quite common to put an en-suite bathroom in a loft conversion if there’s space, making the new top floor into a master suite haven that’s separate from the other bedrooms on the second floor.

Planning and Regulations

A loft conversion will almost certainly involve planning permission and building regulation approval. If you are just boarding the room and putting a loft ladder in to be able to store boxes then you don’t need any permissions, but if it’s going to be any sort of habitable room, like a bedroom, then building regulations will be involved.

The things that the building inspector will be looking at are provisions for emergencies such as fire, correct structural modifications, sound and heat insulation and ventilation, and waste disposal if there’s any toilet or bathroom in the loft. Again, an architect will help make sure your conversion is compliant.

In terms of planning permission, if other houses in the street already have loft conversions then it’s unlikely to be a problem. The main issue will be the windows, what they look like and who they might overlook. In some cases, if you put in flat skylights, you may not need planning permission at all, although in Scotland you are likely to need permission even for that. Remember that regulations often change and it is wise to check the latest regulations directly with your local planners.

Use Your Imagination

Of course, there’s no reason why a loft conversion should be a bedroom. With the right guards on the staircase it can be a children’s playroom, with a bit of soundproofing on the party walls, if you have them, it can be a music room. With more and more people working at home, or needing somewhere to use a computer at home, it can be an office or study. Just let your imagination do the work.

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