More of us than ever before are staying put in our homes and extending them, rather than moving house. Over the last few years, applications for planning permission have more than doubled, with homeowners now making up around 53 per cent of the planning authority’s total workload.
There is no doubt that adding extra space to your home automatically adds value, and back in 2008, loft conversions came out top in a research report by Nationwide, adding a massive 21 per cent on to the value of your property! New techniques in loft conversions also mean that previously inaccessible roof spaces, such as trussed roofs, can now be converted – so there is no excuse!
Here’s how a typical loft conversion would proceed:
One – What type of roof do you have? The first thing to do when thinking about converting the loft is to have a good look at it – the type of roof you have will determine what can be done with the space. Single roofs – with a triangle of rafters and joists at the bottom are the easiest to convert, but sadly are the least common type! Purlin or double roofs are most common and next easiest to convert – these have timbers running horizontally to support the rafters and V-shaped struts at intervals across the roof. Trussed or ‘W’ roofs were previously impossible to convert, as they were too complex to create a workable space. However, new load-bearing techniques mean that even trussed roofs can now be converted! All roof types must have a minimum height of 2.3 metres to be suitable for conversion.
Two – Planning permission. Do you need to comply with planning permission or any building regulations? This should all be covered before you go ahead with the conversion. Your chosen loft conversion company will probably be able to help with submitting plans and getting permission as part of their completing the conversion for you. They’ll know exactly what’s required by way of plans and drawings, specifications and building materials to comply with the latest guidelines.
With a loft conversion, you won’t usually need planning permission. Under new laws, homeowners can convert garages and lofts, build extensions and install solar panels and wind turbines without permission, as long as they don’t impact on the neighbours. However any large extensions – over 15 per cent of the overall property size – will still need permission, as will listed buildings and houses in conservation areas. Most objections will relate to concerns over loss of privacy, loss of daylight or noise disturbance. If in doubt, check with your local planning authority before proceeding.
Building regulations apply to all renovations and all work carried out will need to be inspected by the Building Control Surveyor on a regular basis. They will provide you with all the necessary certificates which must go into your HIPs pack when you sell. Building regulations apply to things like structural stability, fire escapes, resistance to fire and damp, ventilation, stairways and insulation.
Three – Time to call the professionals. A professional loft conversion company is a must – they will plan out your whole design for you, and will know what will work best in the space you have. Specialists will also take care of all the paperwork for you when it comes to dealing with planners and building inspectors, and will sign it all off for you to include in your HIPs pack. It is important to shop around for loft specialists – always try to get at least three quotes to compare costs and ideas and try to see examples of their previous work. A loft conversion is a massive undertaking, so make sure you agree everything with your builder – timescales, cleanup processes (you don’t want to live in mess for the duration!) and also check they’re insured.
Four – Your loft conversion begins to take shape. Once you have satisfied the planners and regulators, it’s time for the professionals to get going! Depending on the type of loft conversion you have, it could take anything from four to eight weeks to complete.
For the first half of the build, contractors are going to need to access the loft from the outside of the roof, and may need to erect scaffolding – it’s important to tell your neighbours when this is going to happen and for how long – you don’t want to be falling out! The existing joists in your roof will usually not be strong enough to support a habitable room – one that can hold people and furniture – so they will have to be replaced with steel joists. Anything else structural such as roof windows or partition walls will need to be added in the first round of building, so you need to think about these early on. Once the initial structure is in place, builders will turn to installing staircases, electrics and plumbing.
Loft conversions in trussed roofs will be using techniques specifically designed for converting previously inaccessible spaces. These work on a ‘Load-Sharing’ system, where two new steel beams help the individual roof truss carry its original load plus the additional floor load as a result of the conversion. The beams will be cut to the span of the building and stretch from outside wall to outside wall with no internal support. These new systems usually only require three rows of roof tiles to be removed in order to insert the beams – which means minimum disruption!
Five – The finishing touches. Get out those paint brushes – your new room should feel like part of your existing house, so that when it comes to selling, you can then sell as a three-storey property, adding extra value! If you don’t have a lot of room on your landing, you could always look at spiral staircases or alternate-tread stairs in the design, which save space. A loft ladder doesn’t count as proper access and would mean you couldn’t sell your home with the loft room featured as an actual bedroom.
There are lots of high tech gadgets around which can make your new loft extra special – you could install remote-controlled windows high up in the rafters, or even roof domes which create light and headroom. Roof windows will need special blinds as they are fitted at an angle, and it is important to remember that there is nothing to block the sunlight up there – so screen your windows well if you don’t want your furniture to fade. When furnishing you loft, there are lots of specialist companies who will make low-rise furniture to fit the space. This will make the room appear taller and less cluttered. Also remember there isn’t as much headroom in a loft. Bare this in mind when positioning beds and chairs – you don’t want to keep banging your head!
Loftquoter.co.uk can help you find quotes for all types of loft conversions, in all types of roofs, both conventional and trussed loft spaces and let you see real homeowner feedback on the loft conversion companies around your area.