Planning a Loft Conversion? Here's What You Need to Know

Published on Wednesday, 16th September 2015

A loft conversion involves transforming your empty loft space into a functionable, habitable room. This kind of home improvement can have a huge range of uses, including creating space for an extra bedroom, a home gym or even a games room.

According to the Homeowners Alliance, a loft conversion can add a significant amount of money to the value of a property - in fact, up to 20%. This, paired with the fact loft conversions are often seen as one of the more straightforward ways of extending a property, has meant many people across the UK are becoming more and more fond of extending their home upwards by converting their loft.

Planning a loft conversion - Daylight

 

However, This is Money reported 36% of British builders and tradesmen questioned in a Direct Line Home Insurance survey said loft conversions are the most problematic form of home improvement. Plus, the average cost of a 20m x 20m loft conversion in the South East can cost more than £12,000, so it’s not something that should be entered into lightly. This is why if you’re considering adding that all important extra bedroom or creating your own home office, you need to be aware of the processes.

Planning permission and building regulations

According to the Government’s Planning Portal, loft conversions in England do not typically require planning permission. There are a number of different limits and conditions to this, though, and permission may be necessary if you’re extending or altering the space beyond these limits.

An application for planning permission for a loft conversion is generally not required if the following applies:

  • There is no extension higher than the highest part of the roof
  • There are no verandas, balconies or raised platforms
  • Roof enlargements do not overhang the original outer face of the house’s wall
  • Materials used should be similar in appearance to those used on the existing house

For more information, including a full list of conditions, take a look at Planning Portal. These requirements are for houses; if you want to know more about loft conversions for flats or maisonettes then take a lot at these Planning Portal guidelines.

You will need building regulations approval to convert your loft into a liveable space. Planning Portal guidance applies to an existing house with no more than two storeys, so if you’re looking to convert a different type of dwelling then the regulations may be different - or could even extend to other areas of the home.

Building regulations are designed to ensure a number of different things, including a safe escape in case of a fire, a structure that is stable and the strength of the floor is sufficient. If you’re thinking about converting your loft then it’s a good idea to contact Building Control to discuss whether you need approval. Take a look at where to get approval using these guidelines.

A liveable area

Converting your loft space with the view to making it a habitable area, rather than just boarding it out to use as a storage space, creates a whole new list of things to consider.

Planning a loft conversion - Home cinema

Image via homecinemachoice.com

A liveable space means you intend to use your newly-converted loft as a normal part of your house, such as a spare bedroom or cinema room. New internal elements, such as floors, walls and doors, will need to be installed with adequate consideration given to the structural integrity of the converted space - as covered in the building regulations.

Another must for making a habitable loft space is a staircase, which is a necessity for a liveable area. Stairs are also subject to building regulations, so this will have to be decided well in advance in order to gain timely approval. You will need to work out the best place to position your staircase, which may mean sacrificing a portion of your second floor, and could also mean you incur some additional costs. If you’re worried about compromising the space on your second floor then consider options such as ‘space-saving’ stairs, which can be a great way to reduce the room and height needed for the installation.

Safety is a priority

If you’ve decided to convert the loft space of your home into a habitable area then safety needs to be your top priority.

You need to consider an escape route for people who may be within the converted loft space during an emergency, as it's too dangerous for a person to have to escape through windows on floors above first floor level. 

The creation of an escape plan means it becomes apparent for existing parts of a house to have additional fire protection. Requirement B1 of the Building Regulations covers fire safety in dwellinghouses, which says in a typical loft conversion of a standard two storey home you need to provide new fire-resistant doors and even sometimes partitions to protect the stairway. Hard-wired smoke alarms should also be installed on each floor of the home. For more detailed information take a look at Part B (Fire Safety).

Protected species

One thing you might not have thought about is the presence of protected species.

Bats in particular are known to have caused problems with loft conversion projects, so it may be necessary to consider the presence of such creatures during the planning process for your new loft space. House spiders don't make the list.

You may need to carry out a survey to determine whether or not protected species will be an issue and, if they are present, a licence may be needed. Read the Government’s guidelines on wildlife licences for more information or take a look at its dedicated protection and licensing information if bats are present.

Think about the light

One thing you will need to consider if you decide to go ahead is what type of windows you would like to install in your gorgeous new loft room.

There is so much choice available to you, from rooflights to dormer windows and skylights, or even a VELUX balcony window. Do you have one, two or three roof windows? Side by side or installed vertically? Which is the right choice for you?

Planning a loft conversion - Window types

Which? guidelines offers consideration points when it comes to choosing the type of windows you want for your room. The glazing must be heat reflective, to stop the room getting too hot in warm weather, and energy efficient to stop the room being too cold in winter. An opening sash makes maintenance and cleaning easier. If the windows will be installed out of reach, Which? advises you opt for remote controlled windows. It's worth discussing window options during the building regulations phase as they may be necessary as an escape route.

Pros and cons 

As with many home improvement projects, loft conversions can be a costly project to enter into, and come with a number of pros and cons attached. It’s worth fully considering all of the arguements for and against before you enter into a large-scale project like a loft conversion.

Loft conversions may not always be the best option for every property, so it’s a good idea to evaluate your home and make an informed decision.

Advantages 

BulletExcellent way to use wasted attic space

BulletWide choice of end uses, including a new bedroom for a growing family, a cinema room for film lovers or a quiet hobby room

BulletMoving up instead of out avoids using up valuable outdoor space as is the case with a home extension

BulletPlanning permission generally isn't needed and can be easier to understand from a regulation perspective than other types of extensions

Disadvantages

BulletCertain property types do not lend themselves well to loft conversion

BulletWorking out how and where to put the staircase can be troublesome

BulletThere may be issues with having enough head height due to sloping roof angles, such as creating the wardrobe space you want

BulletThe loss of storage space means you need to find a new place to store things hidden away in your attic - or space a day at the local boot fare!

Improve, don’t move!

The Office for National Statistics revealed UK house prices increased by 9.6% in the year to March 2015. We all know the cost of moving house can be immense, which is why more and more people are choosing to improve their current homes rather than making a big move to a new property. Loft conversions are a great way to increase your living space and open up a whole new spectrum of room possibilities - from another bedroom to a home office, games room, library or even a gym.

If you decide a loft conversion is for you, then Sterlingbuild is on hand to help. We stock an extensive range of roof windows that can make the perfect addition to any newly renovated loft space, from pitched roof skylights to means of escape windows and even non -standard size roof windows. Take a look at our products now or get in touch with us for more information.

 

Other articles you might find useful are:

BulletHow to choose the right loft conversion company

BulletWhich roof window glazing option is right for you?

BulletDo I need planning permission to install roof windows?

BulletHow to create a stunning roof window feature on a budget

 

Have you survived a loft conversion? Why not share your experiences and advice below?