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.
Credit to Artdom Construction Ltd
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.
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.