Building a Loft Conversion
Are you planning on converting your loft into a habitable space? Before you go much further you probably want to take a look at our calculator on loft conversion costs.
You need to know that most loft conversions do not need building permits. However, if the loft is meant for an extension of your house's living space, then you need a Building Regulations Approval. For this you need a floor plan for the Building Control Officer inspection. The Building Control Officer would then inspect the plans and the stages of the work being done to see if the loft is being built according to specifications and if the standard of work conforms to standards.
Planning permission is only required if the projected loft would have to undergo a massive structural changes or is located within a conservation area or would have dormer windows. Houses that have not been extended since 1948 most likely fall in the permitted development category. Find out first before you start daydreaming about your loft.
Is it time to call in an architect then? Before you do, consider these points first.
- Is there enough headroom in the loft? Can you actually stand up? The highest point should be at least 2.30 meters. Added headroom can be accommodated by the construction of dormer windows. The steeper the slope of your roof, the better it is. You can also consider extending the side of the hipped roof.
- What is the purpose of the converted loft? Is it for an extra bedroom, or an office or just a space to call as your sanctuary?
- Can the new loft accommodate an extra bathroom? Can your existing plumbing and sanitary system cope with the pressure of the new bathroom?
- Is the total liveable area of the loft enough for your space need?
- Consider: electrical wiring, insulation, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning aspects.
What is the loft for? Having run through the checklist, what is the loft for? A loft conversion is a major undertaking. You need the service of a qualified architect to initially assess the existing structural make-up of the beams, girders and posts supporting the loft. When you call the architect make sure that you know what you want so you can brief your architect. Is the loft for an extra bedroom with its own bathroom? If this is the case tell the architect if you want a bath or shower in the bedroom. Note that if the plumbing and sanitary system of the rest of the house is at the rear, chances are the new loft bathroom would also be located at the back. It would not be practical to drag across the flooring of the new loft meters of pipes meant for waste.
If you have a lot of items to store, consider setting part of the loft for storage. The loft would surely have dead spaces that you can use for storage.
Time to call the Architect and Builder.
Now that you have decided the function of your up and coming loft, it is best to call for professional help to design your loft. This will benefit and save you money in the long run as disastrous mistakes in the plan and structure will be avoided. A qualified architect should guarantee a cost and space efficient floor plan for your dream loft. You could also expect architectural details in cabinetry, door and window details, ceiling and wall finishing, electrical, sanitary, plumbing and more from the architect.
A qualified construction team should be employed to do your loft. The company should take care of all the permits and related paperwork for the construction. Get quotes and estimates from 2 to 3 reputable construction companies. Ask friends and associates for referrals too. They might know of good contractors who have worked for them. Make sure that the contractors are experienced in loft construction. Check out construction jobs done by them and ask former clients (if possible) if they were happy with the quality of work done. A good builder would have completed the loft conversion 90% before he cuts into your living area to build the stairwell to the loft.
The architect and the builder should take into consideration the following items when planning and building a loft conversion.
- Structural Strength - If the loft is originally used for storing light items, then there is a need to build a new floor. The existing ceiling joists are not capable of bearing the load of an additional floor. Changes in the roof structure have to be considered and the load bearing capacity of existing walls, beams and posts re-computed too.
- Fire Code - The floor, walls and doors of the loft conversion should be at least 30 minutes fire-resistant according to UK Building Code. Staircases should be enclosed of 30-minute fire-resistant walls too. The bathroom need not be fire resistant. If the loft has a dormer window, the exterior should be able to resist the spread of fire for at least 30 minutes.
- Fire Escape - As staircase design will vary due to space constraint, the UK Fire Code specify that a staircase should be near or opens directly to an exit point and not to a room.
- Ventilation - Even if natural ventilation is feasible in loft conversion, mechanical conversion is still required under the roof tiles to prevent condensation. Ridge vents should be placed in strategically to ventilate the roof space above the ceiling.
- Weather Resistant Materials - The loft's roof and walls should be made of material that would keep the rain, snow and sun out but keep the heat (or cold) in.
What is the cost of building a loft conversion?
The answer to that question depends on: the complexity of the work to be done, materials to be used, total area of the extension and location of the property, our loft conversion calculator tells you more. A loft conversion for a three-bedroom house in London would cost about £30,000. The same loft conversion would cost about £20,000 in Cheshire. Think of the money that you'll spend as an investment. The converted loft will add value to your house.
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"Plenty of misinformation here: Most lofts do need building regulations approval and will require more information than just a floor plan. Planning consent is not related to “massive structural change”. Look at the Planning Portal guidance; dormer windows don’t always require planning permission. There is no height requirement in rooms now. The only height stipulation is for 2m above stairs and landings. Don’t expect an architect to produce all of the items mentioned. You’ll pay a hefty premium if you ask for all of it. Mechanical ventilation is not required under the tiles, but it is to vent the bathroom. The need for any ventilation within the roof space or under the tiles depends on the type and positioning of the insulation and, if needed, can always be done naturally. "
"Thank you for this very useful information"
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