Building Up: An Easy Guide to Loft Conversions

If you’re thinking you need more space but you don’t want to move, a loft conversion is an elegant solution. Whether you want an extra bedroom or a home office, a loft conversion can add space and value to your home. Read on for our top tips.

Since 2015 when planning regulations were simplified, it’s been a lot simpler to carry out a loft conversion – in some cases you don’t even need planning permission as the work qualifies as a Permitted Development.

There are many types of loft conversion available, and the cost depends on your requirements and the possible uses of the space.

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A basic conversion would involve the reinforcement of the floor, added roof insulation and walling, electrics for lighting and heating, fire safety measures such as smoke alarms and fire doors, and skylights.

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If your loft conversion is to be ‘habitable’, specifically if it’s a bedroom, it must have a fixed staircase, not a ladder or folding staircase, and there are strict regulations on the pitch, headroom, riser spacing and handrails. These requirements are covered in Building Regulations Approved Document K.

Let’s consider some of the main types of loft conversion.

ROOFLIGHT

A very low-cost loft conversion which normally does not require planning permission, this type simply sees a line of roof windows installed flush to the roofline. This doesn’t create any extra space or do much to make the loft habitable in terms of headroom, so it’s a limited option suitable only for certain properties and requirements.

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DORMER

A dormer conversion is the most common type and usually does not need planning permission. Basically it converts a sloping roof into a vertical wall, creating a space which has vertical walls and a horizontal ceiling. This flat roof design creates the maximum amount of space.

Variations such as gable front or ‘doghouse’ dormers, ‘shed’ dormers with a single planed roof pitched at a lesser angle than the main roof and hipped roofs may look more stylish but do not offer so much internal space, and will cost more to construct.

An alternative design particularly popular with end-terrace properties is an L-shaped dormer loft conversion, which can create around 40m3 of space on an average property.

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MANSARD

Named after the 17th-century French architect François Mansart, this type of loft conversion is set at the rear of the property and has a flat roof with the back wall sloping inwards. Windows are usually inset as dormers.

The mansard conversion normally requires planning permission because it requires a great deal of structural work. An L-shaped mansard can work particularly well if you intend to create an en-suite bathroom in the loft conversion.

In a double mansard loft conversion, the front wall also slopes inwards, and may also have dormer windows. It’s sometimes not possible to get planning permission for this type as it alters the appearance of the front of the building.

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HIP-TO-GABLE

A hip roof, or hipped roof, is a type of roof where all sides slope downwards to the walls, usually with a fairly gentle slope (although a tented roof by definition is a hipped roof with steeply pitched slopes rising to a peak). A hipped roof house has no gables or other vertical sides to the roof, so the internal volume tends to be small.

For a loft conversion to be practical for this type of house, the best type of conversion is a hip-to-gable design which changes the sloping side of the property to a flat gable end. This serves the dual purpose of creating more headroom in the loft and creating extra space for stairs. As it alters the external appearance of the property it will require planning permission. L-shaped hip-to-gable conversions are also possible.

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FULL BACK

In some cases, where there is an extension to the property, it’s possible to design a loft extension which fits over the main part of the house and also the extension. This type of loft conversion creates the maximum possible amount of space, possibly as much as three or four new rooms.

POD ROOM

A pod room is an addition to an existing loft conversion which usually covers half of a back extension, giving a small extra room around 3x3m. It’s popular for a home office or a bathroom, but is not usually big enough for a bedroom. A pod room is sometimes the only option available if a loft conversion has already been done, but is not good value for money compared to, say, an L-shaped loft conversion.

TERRACE CONVERSION

Roof terrace loft conversions are popular where a large number of properties have been converted into flats and few have gardens. They will always require planning permission and are not always tolerated by local planning authorities, though where they can be installed they do a very good job of adding extra value to the property.

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TOP TIPS FOR LOFT CONVERSIONS

  • Consult a specialist rather than a general builder – specialists will have a much better idea of what is possible and what hurdles have to be jumped
  • Apply for appropriate Planning Permission, Party Wall Agreements and Building Control certificates.
  • Expect to pay anything from £15,000 for a single ‘room-in-the-roof’ conversion, up to around £55,000 for a ready-made room that is manufactured off-site and then craned into position.
  • Remember that Nationwide has estimated that an additional bedroom and bathroom could add around 20% to the value of a three-bed, one bathroom house
  • Make sure your plans take into account your existing roof structure, the need for a new staircase, and your requirements to light, heat and ventilate the new room.

Thinking you need more space but you don’t want to move? A loft conversion could be the most elegant solution. Whether you want an extra bedroom or a home office, a loft conversion could add space and value to your property and give your home a new lease of life.

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