Frequently Asked Questions
When planning your loft conversion, who better to ask than the experts at the Loft Conversion Company. Whether you are undertaking a loft conversion, or simply trying to gain access to your loft, things can often become confusing. Below we have listed the most frequently asked questions.
- Is my loft suitable for conversion?
As a general rule the steeper the slope (pitch) the greater the potential living space. Houses built before the 1960’s are easier to convert because roofs were usually constructed from individual rafters (the traditional rafter and purlin roofs).
Since the 1960’s most roofs have been built from ‘trussed rafters’. These are factory assembled triangles which result in a lower pitch with more struts. Converting a roof constructed like this is a more complicated process as it requires timbers to be rearranged or the roof raised.
Although there are no regulations governing height, a minimum height of 2.3 metres is needed over half the floor area to make a conversion worthwhile. As the existing joists were designed to hold up a ceiling, not to support a floor, it will probably be necessary to fit new joists between the original ones and then to screw chipboard sheets to the new joists raising the level of the floor, resulting in less headroom.
A minimum of 2m headroom is generally required over the flight of the staircase and landing, although the Local Authority may permit a slight reduction in this dimension.
- Will a Loft Conversion add value to my house?
It would be a mistake to assume that a loft conversion automatically adds value to a house. It may make it easier to sell but evidence shows that you will not necessarily recoup all the building costs. The exceptions being if you live in a very small house when it is advantageous to expand, or you live in an area where there are not enough houses to supply the demand.
However, estate agents say a fourth bedroom is the single most valuable feature a family house can have and usually converting an attic is simpler than building an extension
- Do I need planning permission for a Loft Conversion?
Under regulations that came into effect from 1 October 2008 a loft conversion or small dormer extension is considered a permitted development, and generally does not require planning permission.
Planning Permission or a certificate of lawful development is required if you plan to extend or alter the roof space more than specified limits and conditions (listed below)and can take up to 3 months
- Volume increase of 40 cubic metres for terraced houses or 50 cubic metres for detached & semi-detached houses. (2-3 bedroom houses generally will be OK for dormers).
- No extension beyond the plane of the existing roof slope of the principal elevation that fronts the highway (i.e. no dormer to face the street).
- No extension to be higher than the highest part of the roof (i.e. dormer does not increase the roof height).
- Materials to be similar in appearance to the existing house (i.e. in keeping with the house and street).
- No verandas, balconies or raised platforms (i.e. in keeping with the house and street).
- Side-facing windows to be obscure-glazed; any opening to be 1.7 metres above the floor. This is so neighbours are not over looked and for safety reasons.
- Dormer extensions, excluding hip to gable dormers (chimney wall to roof edge), are set back, as far as practicable, at least 20cm from the eaves (2 rows of tiles or a row of slates). This is for aesthetics and to prevent a "3rd storey" appearance.
- Roof extensions are not permitted development in designated areas, i.e. National Parks, ANOB, conservation areas, World Heritage Sites.
- The majority of loft conversions including those with quite large dormers do not require Planning Permission as the development can be completed under Permitted Development Rights.
- What Building Regulations apply to Loft Conversions?
Building Regulations are concerned with the finer practical details to make sure that the work is safe and healthy in construction and habitation. You must seek approval for loft conversions if the space is to be used on a regular basis as a ‘habitable space’.
You or your architect, must submit plans to the Building Control Office. In addition it should be noted that currently an application can be made to the Local authority using either a 'Full Plans' or 'Building Notice' application.
Charges are usually based on floor area of the conversion and will vary between authorities.
The local authority will inspect work in progress to ensure regulations are being properly observed.
- How much of the work can I do myself?
If you have the time and inclination you can make huge savings by doing some of the work yourself.
The modern roof window, such as VELUX is one which lies flush with the roof surface. It is designed to be installed from within the roof space, with no exterior scaffolding necessary. This puts the job well within the scope of a competent DIY enthusiast and an added advantage of this type of window is you do not need planning permission. Laying floor coverings, building plasterboard walls and ceilings, extending the power supply and central heating up into the loft and doing the final decoration can also be done by a good self builder but for installing a staircase or strengthening the floor the help of a professional builder is strongly advised.
With any large home improvement project, savings in cost should be weighed against the fact that your home will be disrupted for longer which could be crucial if you have young children or the work is to be open to the elements.
- How do I decide the best product for gaining access to the loft space?
Safe convenient access to the loft is a must and there is a wide range of loft ladders to choose from, with widely varying prices. They range from a basic aluminium ladder through space saving concertina and timber folding ladders to luxurious electrically operated custom built ladders.
Loft ladders are only to be permitted for storage purposes - all conversions will require permanent staircases, the choice of which will probably depend on the space available.
Finding space for an access staircase for your proposed loft conversion is an important early consideration because building regulations demand a permanent staircase for access to bedrooms or bathrooms. Stairs which extend from your existing staircase are the best solution but if the landing space is already cramped, spiral staircases, space-saver stairs with alternating treads, and non-retracting ladders that have a permanent handrail, are all permissible alternatives.
- I know I need an emergency exit roof window in case of fire but what does it look like?
Escape windows are no longer required for conversions of two storey properties creating a third storey as The Building Regulations will require a protected staircase.
The conversion of a bungalow will require an escape window where a protected staircase is not provided.