Can I Convert My Loft?

Thinking about extending your living space into the loft? Here are a few points to consider before you start planning.

1. Planning Permission

Most loft conversions can be successfully carried out under Permitted Development without the need for a formal planning application. If your loft conversion design consist of discreet rooflights fitted flush to the front roof slope and a large projecting dormer window towards the  back of the property, chances are it will fall within Permitted Development guidelines as you would not be significantly affecting your property’s appearance from the street. However, if your conversion is slightly more complicated, for example when you need to add dormers to the front or the side of the property or when you need a hip-to-gable type of conversion, you most probably need to apply for planning permission. If your property is listed, located in a conservation area or for some reason your council has removed Permitted Development rights, you will also need to apply for planning permission.

2. Size

Will my loft be big enough? A good way to find out is to calculate your actual usable space. You can do this by measuring the gross internal floor area of the existing top floor rooms under the loft area you want to convert. If your loft provides you at least 20 metres squared of gross floor it should in theory be suitable. Do keep in mind that not all this space will be usable. The roof pitch and hight will also be contributing factors.  The net amount of usable floor area for a new loft room can be calculated by subtracting the space lost around the edges near the eaves where height is under 1.2m, and then making an allowance for the new loft stairwell. Also, deduct any unusable space such as chimney breasts.

3. Headroom

This is one of the key deciding factors that will affect your loft conversion. To make sure your loft is indeed suitable to be converted into a living space, stand under the highest point of the roof and measure it – it should be at least 2.8 m. While this might sound like a lot of vertical space, consider you will have to add a new floor structure including insulation which will affect this measurement. If indeed the highest point in your existing loft is 2.8m or higher, you are off to a good start. However, should this not be so, don’t panic. There are a few alternatives. You can apply for planning permission to raise the roof’s height. To obtain planning permission for this modification can be tricky, especially if your property is terraced or semi-detached, but an experienced designer should be able to help you come up with a design that has little visual impact and is therefore accepted by planners. You may also consider “borrowing” some vertical space from the rooms below if your existing ceiling height in these is generous.

4. Stair Position.

You will need new stairs to reach your loft conversion, and these will take up space. The layout on the floor below your loft conversion needs not be negatively affected by your planned changes for your loft conversion to be viable. If you have to sacrifice a whole room for example to accommodate a new staircase, a loft conversion might not be a good solution. If you can accommodate the new staircase above an existing flight, you are in luck as the new stairs can be designed to come out at the perimeter of the new loft room, which should maximise your living space. Do keep in mind that this location usually clashes with roof slopes. If this is the case, you might want to consider constructing a new dormer directly above to provide the necessary headroom.

5. Fire Regulations

You must check with the relevant authorities what fire safety regulations apply to your type of property. If your property is taller than two flights, adding extra living space in the loft will also require specific fire safety measures.

6. Weight, Original Structure and Age

If your home is detached, chances are a loft extension will be easier to carry out as you won’t have to worry about party walls. Detached homes also tend to have larger loft spaces to start with. As well, modern trussed rafters are more complex to convert compared to traditional ‘cut timber’ roof structures – though this is no longer a major concern. If your property is older, make sure it is robust enough to take the extra weight.

7. Added Value

Lastly, make sure that this your loft conversion is worth executing. Do your homework and see what the potential value of your property will be once the loft conversion is carried out by asking real estate agents in your area. You can also do some online research by viewing available properties in your area with similar characteristics listed in real-estate portals. Once you have done this, get a detailed quote from a reliable contractor to make sure you do not end up with unexpected costs that could make your loft conversion a bad investment.

If you are thinking of a loft conversion, kitchen extension or any home renovation project, why not visit our office in Hammersmith and have a chat with us. We are always keen to discuss your ideas and explore how we can help you make them a reality.