Loft conversions have never been more popular. Over the last 20 years or so, the growing cost of moving has meant that more and more homeowners now choose to move up, not move out, as a way to get extra living space. Why go through the stress of uprooting your life and moving house when you can invest the same money into your existing property to get the space you need?
The good news is that you can usually convert your loft into pretty much any kind of room you want including an extra bedroom or guest room, bathroom, home office, hobby room, yoga studio, kids’ playroom, media room and more. A loft conversion can add a lot of benefits to your home, giving you more usable space and adding value to your property.
But don’t get carried away just yet. Before you instruct the builders, there are some important questions to ask first to make sure that your home is suitable for the kind of loft conversion you are looking for.
Is there enough space?
A quick way to check whether your loft meets the requirements for conversion is to go up there and check the height of the roof ridge. Is there enough room to stand up comfortably? You need a minimum head height of 2.3 metres to proceed with your plans.
If your roof space fails to meet this measurement, it doesn’t have to spell the end of your loft conversion dreams. It just makes the process more complex and costly. Speak to an experienced loft conversion expert about your options, which will include raising the ridge or lowering the ceiling in the room below to create sufficient space.
Older properties tend to be easier to convert, simply because they were typically built with larger attics and higher-pitched roofs. Most modern houses by contrast have low roofs with very little usable loft space. What’s more, homes built after the 1960s may have been built with roof trusses instead of old-style timber frames, meaning they will require additional structural support for the conversion.
What type of loft conversion?
There are various types of loft conversion designs available to maximise the usable space for the new room at the top of your house. Velux or roof light conversions are the simplest types of construction since they don’t alter the shape of the roof.
What type of building?
While it may be relatively straightforward to convert the loft of a detached house, the same cannot be said for properties that share a party wall. According to the law, if your proposed loft conversion or extension affects the structure of one or more adjoining properties such as flats, terraced or semi-detached houses, you must obtain the consent of the relevant neighbours under the Party Wall Act before any building work can begin.
There is a strict legal process to follow for party wall agreements, and the potential for misunderstandings and incorrect interpretations is huge unless you work with an experienced party wall surveyor who can guide you through the process.
Another common misconception is that it is possible to extend your top floor flat into the loft. As a leasehold owner of the flat, even if you have exclusive rights to the attic space above, you would need the consent of the landlord to make any alterations to the building, and an extra premium would be payable. No such requirement exists if you own the freehold for both the flat and the roof space.
Do you need planning permission?
Many loft conversions do not require planning permission as they are considered to be permitted development. Under these development rights, homeowners can carry out loft conversion projects as long as they meet certain specifications. These rules are subject to limits and conditions that you can read here. If your proposed loft conversion falls outside of the approved specifications, you will need to apply for full planning consent.
It goes without saying that you should check with your local planning authority and obtain their written confirmation that you can proceed with your project. What’s more, if your home is a listed building or located in a designated conservation area, your permitted development rights may be curtailed or removed altogether. As always, your local planning officer will have the last word.