There is no bigger waste of space than your loft. So before you move house, it could be worth improving the one that you’ve already got.
Unless your have a mega train set stashed at the top of your loft ladder, it’s probable that you only go into your attic in order to retrieve the Christmas decorations every December. And, when you look at the space available, it does seem a crying shame that it can’t be used to a better advantage.
The good news is that it can. In fact, a basic loft conversion is one of the most straightforward ways of gaining some much-needed extra space – providing that you plan it properly.
To start with you might not even need planning permission, so don’t let that be the bugbear that puts you off. Under permitted development rights you are now able to convert your loft into a bedroom or extra living space by up to 50m³ in a detached house, or by 40m³ in a semi-detached or terraced home. Flush rooflights, or those which do not project further than 150mm, are also permitted under the scheme – but you will need planning permission to add a dormer window on any roof elevation which faces the highway.
Even if you do need to gain planning permission it might not be as laborious as you expect. In fact, your architect or loft conversion firm may well be willing to apply on your behalf. And, if a couple of your neighbours have already had their loft converted then there is a fair chance that you will be able to too, as the precedent has already been set.
You will need to gain Buildings Regulation approval however, regardless of whether planning permission is needed or not. A building control surveyor will inspect the work at various stages and will issue you with a completion certificate on final inspection.
And, if your home is semi-detached or terraced, you’ll need to notify your neighbour of your proposals if you are building in beams which will bear on the party wall.
The next biggest consideration is head height. To see if your loft is suitable for conversion, take a measurement from the bottom of the ridge timber to the top of the ceiling joist – the useable part of the roof should be greater than 2.2m.
Funnily enough, there is no minimum ceiling height for habitable rooms. The headroom standard for stairs of 2m applies, but this can be relaxed to 1.9m or 1.8m on the edge of a stair if necessary.
Once you happy that your loft is suitable for conversion, you have two options. Firstly, you can get a specialist loft conversion company in who will do all of the hard work for you – from obtaining all of the necessary permissions to even painting and decorating.
Or, secondly, you can project manage the whole thing yourself – meaning that you will save money but will have to do far more legwork and, possibly, even physical work. Either way you will have to tick certain boxes – fire doors being a very important one.
“When converting an existing roof space into a room or rooms the provision of escape in case of fire needs to be considered throughout the full extent of the escape route,” says James Wayte of Doorworld . “Often this will mean that additional fire protection will be necessary in the existing parts of the house as well as the new converted rooms. For example, a typical loft conversion to a two-storey house will result in the need to provide new fire-resisting doors, this is because it is too dangerous to escape via windows from floors above first floor level.”
But having to install fire doors doesn’t mean that you have to compromise in design. “In the last few years the range of fire rated doors has increased dramatically, and there are lots of designs available to match standard interior doors, including oak, white painted and a new range of grey doors with both solid and glass options available in all finishes,” continues James.
Fire doors can come in different ratings and it is always best to seek advice from your local authority on individual requirements for loft conversions and fire proofing as this can vary. Doorworld in Rhyl has hundreds of doors at its large showroom, with lots of fire door options to choose from, so you are bound to find a design that keeps you, and the local council, happy.
Next up come electrics, as any new electrical work will need to comply with Part P of the Building Regulations.
“It is almost certain that if you are considering extending into the loft that you will require additional power and lighting,” explains Paul Gough of Gough Electrical. “It might be that power and lighting can be supplied via existing circuits or it could be that a new consumer unit is required. Consult with your NICEIC or ELECSA registered electrician before any work is carried out to ensure you get the best and most appropriate advice. Be sure to get the appropriate electrical certification to show that the work complies with BS 7671 (UK Wiring Regulations) once the job is completed too.”
Gough Electrical (goughelectrical.org.uk) in Rhuddlan supplies a vast range of first and second fix products to move your loft conversion along. From standard white switches and sockets to a full range of decorative wiring accessories, it does it all.
“Lighting is also an area where we can certainly help,” continues Paul. “Whether it be decorative or a modern theme we can offer products from all the major trade brands.”
An important consideration because, ultimately, you want your new room to look good too. You also want it to be warm and cozy – so it’s important to factor in heating solutions as early as possible.
“If you are planning on a loft conversion, then you need to think about how you are going to heat it,” says David Lukeman of North West Heating Solutions. “You may already have a gas central heating system installed in your home and believe that this would be the easiest option, however, this could prove tricky and expensive as it would mean adding extra pipework around the house in order to reach the loft space. Here at North West Heating Solutions we have a range of energy efficient electric heaters that would be the perfect solution to provide the heat source suitable for your newly converted room.”
Because electric heaters are not restricted by a boiler, they can be installed quickly and easily.
“Our fully qualified electricians will leave your home just as they found it,” adds David. “You also have the option for the heaters to be mounted on castors, should you not want them fixed to the wall. Additionally, each radiator has an individual, accurate, thermostatic control – giving you the benefit of all year-round comfort.”
With a range of custom sizes and, thanks to being genuinely slim-line, these energy efficient electric heaters are perfect to fit even in the most awkward of spaces.
Now, when you started out on your loft conversion, you will probably have had a clear idea of what you will be using your new room for. Master bedroom suite, cinema room, teenage den, playroom, guest accommodation and office are the usual choices.
If you want to use your new room as either a bedroom for yourself or others, then it is highly recommended to include a new bathroom too – as nobody wants to be going up and down stairs when nature calls in the middle of the night.
But even if you are planning on using the loft as extra living accommodation then it is still a good idea to include a bathroom (or at least the plumbing for it) so that, when you come to sell up, you don’t put anyone off who views the space as bedroom material.
“Most loft conversion bathroom areas really lend themselves to being shower rooms,” explains Patrick Forse of Prestatyn based Interior View Design, who often works in association with RK Bathrooms. “This is because of head heights and roof slopes. A lot of space is sometimes lost by ‘boxing’ out the area, something that might seem like a good idea but could actually loose you a lot of space.”
A toilet is also a necessity on your new floor. In many instances this can be piped to an existing stack easily enough but, if not, then there are alternative solutions.
“If there is no direct access to the soil stack, or it is too far away, then a macerator is the answer,” concludes Patrick. “Saniflo is the most famous name for these, meaning that an en suite in your new loft conversion is an option for everybody.”