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blog posts for September 2014

Loft Conversions - A Cheap and Cheerful Way to Add Extra Space?

When space is in short supply and you can’t afford to move to a larger property, the next natural step is to think about extending upwards. Since all homes have some degree of loft space, turning what is ‘dead space’ into usable living space can make perfect sense if your home is just too small now that you have kids/teenagers/elderly parents living with you. But loft conversions are not as straightforward as some people think, and there are a number of important issues to take into consideration before you install a dormer window and a new staircase.

Is the Loft Suitable for Conversion?

Sadly, not all attics are suitable for converting into living space. Older properties, typically those built pre: 1960, are usually suitable, but modern homes tend to have different roof constructions that are more difficult to convert. Truss sectional roof structures are the norm in modern houses. To convert a roof of this type is an expensive job because it entails adding structural support in the form of steel beams. Older properties have traditional framed roof structures, which can be opened up fairly cheaply. The best way to check whether (or not) your loft is ripe for conversion is to open up the loft hatch and take a look.

How Big is the Loft?

Head height is very important in a loft room. There is little point in building a room in the loft if you can’t actually stand up in there. Depending on how tall you are, there needs to be at least 2.2m of head room in the main part of the roof space, so a loft with a low roof pitch is not going to be suitable unless it is redesigned or large dormer windows are added to increase the amount of available floor space.

Water tanks and chimney stacks can also prove to be major obstacles in the roof space. You might be able to move a water tank, but it is pretty difficult to relocate a chimney stack.

Loft ConversionsCredit to Artdom Construction Ltd

Building Regulations

Loft conversions must meet current Building Regulations, so it is a good idea to have your plans for a loft conversion drawn up by an architect before you start looking for a building contractor. This should help to iron out any potential problems before building work begins. If your property has any party walls, you must tell your neighbour about the work. If you intend on adding dormer windows to the roof to create extra light and head room, you may need to apply for planning permission – check with the local planning department for clarification.

Fire Safety Issues

Fire safety is very important in a property with more than two storeys. It is a lot harder to escape a fire when you are on the third floor of a house, so the new floor must have adequate fire protection in the form of a fire door and windows large enough to escape from.

Other Considerations

Obviously you will need a staircase into the attic if it is turned into additional living space, but do you have room for a staircase? There is no point adding a new room if you have to sacrifice a room in the process. A bespoke staircase design might save you space, but it will cost more. Spiral staircases can also save space, but they are a nightmare when it comes to shifting furniture.

Can your central heating boiler cope with the addition of extra radiators or maybe even a new stainless steel heated towel rail? If it can’t, you may need to upgrade to a new boiler, which will be further expense.

A loft conversion will add value to your home and make it easier to sell, but only if the conversion is a quality one. So weigh up the costs and don’t be tempted to hire a cheap builder or you could end up paying dearly in the long run.

Top 6 Kitchen Design Disasters

Kitchen design can be tricky. Not only do you have to deal with issues surrounding plumbing, electrics and how on earth you are going to fit all those cabinets in that teeny tiny space and still have room to cook, but you also need to think about the overall design of the room. Most people opt to have a kitchen designed by a professional. It’s the easiest way of ensuring everything fits as it is supposed to. But even if you do go down this route, you are still responsible for choosing the fixtures and fittings, so if you are in the market for a new kitchen, here are a few tips to help you avoid any design disasters.

Don’t Be Boring

Being boring isn’t a crime, but when it comes to kitchen design, it really should be. Imagine how uninspiring it is to walk into a kitchen where everything is beige: pine cabinets, sandy coloured floor tiles, light brown worktops and beige wall tiles. If that’s your idea of tasteful, you really should consider asking someone else to design your kitchen. At the other end of the extreme, imagine the horror of red lacquered units, black marble worktops, and magenta walls. Once again, if you think that sounds cool you need taste-bypass surgery.

Don’t Opt for Poor Quality Kitchen Cabinets and Accessories

Not everyone has tens of thousands to spend on a new designer kitchen, but even if you are shopping on a budget, you should never opt for really low quality kitchen cabinets and cheap appliances because if they don’t fall apart during the installation, they almost certainly will before the end of the first year. However, if you are installing a new kitchen in a rented house, don’t be tempted to spend a fortune on good quality units unless you are hoping to attract executive tenants.

Don’t Go Too Mad on the Colour Chart

Kitchens are a great place to inject some colour, but you do need to rein in your creative urges to a degree, particularly if you are planning on selling up in the next couple of years. It is ok to paint the walls a bright colour as long as the kitchen cabinets are fairly neutral, but if you have chosen some super modern lacquered cabinets in a bright colour, don’t then paint the walls in a contrasting shade of paint. This is not to say you shouldn’t stamp your personality on the room, but there is such a thing as ‘too much’ personality.

Don’t Go Overboard on Cabinets

Sufficient storage space is a requisite for a well-designed kitchen as it removes miscellaneous clutter from worktops and helps you to maintain clean lines. However, as with most things in life you can have too much of a good thing and filling every available piece of space with cabinetry is not so great from a design perspective. It will make the room feel too overcrowded and cost a lot more in the process.

Don’t Skimp on Worktop Space

The Worktop is where the practical jobs happen. It’s difficult to carve a roast chicken on the hob and even more difficult to measure out the ingredients for a nice cake on the draining board, so make sure you have enough worktop space in the right areas or things could get a trifle messy.

Don’t Attempt a DIY Kitchen Unless You Know What You’re Doing

If you are a fan of daytime makeover shows, you will know exactly what a DIY kitchen disaster looks like when the person who installed it knew next to nothing about DIY. So if you don’t know one end of a screwdriver from another, pay a professional to do the job.

A smart, modern new kitchen can add value to a property, but only if it is a quality installation, so bear this in mind before you start the project.