Apr 21, 2017
A loft conversion is a great way to make the best use of all the available space in a home. Whether you need an extra bedroom, an airy study or a playroom for the kids, it is often more cost-effective than building an extension, and it adds extra character, desirability and value to your home if you sell.
There are a few essential points that you need to consider to decide if converting your loft is the right decision for you.
Planning and approval
The type of permission and approval that you need will, of course, depend on what country your property is in, and it is always a sensible first step to speak to the local authorities before you do anything else.
In the UK, a loft conversion is unlikely to need planning permission as long as you are not altering the roofline, for example by making it higher or adding a dormer window. If your property is in a conservation zone, it is, of course, a different matter. The golden rule is if in doubt, check, and even if you are not in doubt, check anyway!
Building regulations are also an important consideration. You are legally obliged to comply, and it is essential to be able to demonstrate that you have done so, or you will face all sorts of difficulties when you try to sell your property.
There are a number of different aspects to consider, including structure, ventilation, electrics and fire safety. Some requirements will have an impact on your overall design – for example, fire safety rules dictate the type of internal doors that can be used in loft conversions, so speak to your local buildings inspector at the earliest opportunity to avoid changes of plans and costly rework.
What type of roof do you have?
Some lofts are more suitable for conversion than others. It all comes down to the type of structure and the available space, not to mention obstacles such as chimney stacks and water tanks.
There are two common structures used for roof construction, known as either a cut roof or a truss roof. The former is most commonly found in houses built prior to the 1960s. Here, the rafters, ceiling joists and supporting timbers are cut to size and assembled on site. A truss roof is more common in modern properties, consisting of a prefabricated truss which is simply delivered to the site and erected.
Cut roofs have better structural support, and are usually the best for loft conversions. It is a relatively inexpensive and straightforward process to open out the roof space and strengthen the roof using additional supports.
Assess the space
Start by looking at the headroom to get an idea of whether a conversion is feasible. Measure from the bottom of the ridge timber to the top of the ceiling joist. If the usable part of the roof is greater than 2.2m, you are looking good so far.
Next, consider the pitch angle. The greater the angle, the higher the central head height is likely to be. If it is very steep, you might need to consider redesigning the roof or installing dormer windows to increase the available floor area. This is not an insurmountable problem, but does add to the costs and planning bureaucracy.