Loft Conversions: A Beginners Guide

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Loft Conversions: A Beginners Guide

Published Wednesday 15 January, 2014

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The majority of clients that come to us looking forloft conversions in Wakefield and Leeds are looking to create more space in their home. 

They know that a loft conversion is a good way to make the most of the existing space that they have but need general guidance about how to best use the space, rules and regulations, the cost, and project timelines.

If you are in the same situation our beginners guide to loft conversions is a great place to start…


Is your loft suitable for conversion?

The first step in your planning process is to determine if your house is suitable for a loft conversion. To decide this you need to asses things like the type of structure, available head height, the angle of the roof and any obstacles in the room.

There are two different types of roof structure; the traditional framed type and the truss section type. The roof type that you have will affect how much work needs to be done to convert the roof space and ultimately the cost of the project. Houses built pre-1960’s will typically have a traditional framed roof type; this is where the ceiling joists, rafters and supporting timbers are cut and assembled on site. This traditional roof type is often the most suitable for conversions the space can be easily opened up by strengthening the rafters and adding in supports.

Roofs for houses built after the 1960s weren’t made in such a bespoke way and more often than not are made up using factory-made truss roof sections. This type of roof uses thinner and cheaper timbers that are then supported structurally by braced diagonal timbers. It can be erected by a builder much quicker at the time of construction but when it comes to conversion opening up the space requires greater structural input. Because steel beams will need to be inserted it is a job that a specialist construction company will need to do rather than being a straight-forward DIY job.

The existing available head height in your loft needs to be greater than 2.3m in order to be suitable for a loft conversion - to calculate this measure from the bottom of the ridge timber down to the top of the ceiling joist. If the useable part of the roof is less than this you may want to consider either raising the roof, or lowering the ceiling in the room below to give you the extra headspace that you need in order to be able to comply with specific building regulations for the finished conversion.

The pitch angle (or slope of the roof) is a factor that determines how much useable space there will be in the new room; the higher the pitch angle is the higher the central head height is likely to be. Dormer windows can be used or the roof re-designed to offer more space in the room if the slope is at a very low angle.

Making the most of your space

It is important to think about all of the different elements that you will need in the new rooms.
Firstly will you need an extra bathroom in the space? If you are looking to convert your loft into a bedroom this can be an often essential addition and an en-suite is likely to be popular with buyers should you choose the sell the property in the future.

Storage is a great consideration, especially if you currently have a lot of things in your loft at the moment. For the room to be completely useable, whether it be a bedroom, home office or games room, you will need somewhere to safely store your belongings. A great option is to utilise some of the dead space under the eaves for cupboards. If you are using the room for an extra bedroom you may need taller space for your clothes such as built in wardrobes.

Think about where you will need electrical sockets and lights in the room too as these are better to be added in during the build stage. Typically in a bedroom it is a good idea to have two sockets either side of the bed and another one elsewhere in the room for a TV or lamp etc.

It is also important to consider the amount light in the room - will there be enough natural light without adding in some extra Velux or dormer windows? Another consideration with the windows if that you will need an escape access in the case of a fire, often a specially designed Velux window. Heat is also a major factor as you will need to consider how you will heat the room and if you will need extra radiators installing.

Sound is also a factor - you will require a certain amount of soundproofing so that you can’t hear noise from the room below and vice-versa.

Access to the new space will need also need consideration - a temporary staircase will work for certain room types but it won’t count as extra living space when you come to sell the property. The ideal scenario is to opt for a full staircase that lands in line with the roof ridge. Regulations dictate that the maximum number of steps in a straight line is 16, but as a typical installation usually needs only 13 steps this shouldn’t be a problem.

Rules and regulations

Your loft conversion will have to comply with building regulations covering important areas such as fire safety, energy efficiency, lighting and insulation. The local authority will need you to send in your builders or architects plans, and building a fire regulation plans. Approval should then take around three months.

You will need planning permission if the house has been extended before, if you’re converting the loft above a flat, if your house is over two storeys high, or if you live in a listed building or conservation area. Take a look at the government’s planning portal for more information on planning and building controls.

If you live in a terraced or semi-detached property you could also be affected by The Party Wall Act 1006 which ensures that your planned conversion doesn’t compromise the strength or soundproofing of the dividing wall between yourself and your neighbours.

The cost of a loft conversion

A typical conversion can cost anything between £10,000 and £50,000 - the large variation in cost is down to factors such as the size and specification of the conversion, the roof type and amount of structural work needed, and whether you are looking for a purely structural conversion with just one room or a fully completed conversion with a suite of rooms. A good builder will be able to work to your desired budget and let you know what they can do within this budget.

The length of time to complete

The length of time it will take to complete your loft conversion will depend on the above factors that also affect the cost, but will typically take from 4 to 8 weeks. The timescales for relevant approval of your project will need to be factored into this also, as your project will need to be approved before any building work begins.

More information on loft conversions

If you have any questions on what we have covered or would like your own loft conversions in Wakefield and Leeds then please get in touch with our expert team on 01924 871 044 or 0113 283 9710.

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