It is worth figuring out just what it will mean and how it will impact the architecture of your home before you launch your loft conversion plans.
This step-by-step attic conversion guide shows the 10 key items you need to consider when weighing up whether the best way to add more room to your property is a loft conversion.
Ensure that the following aspects are taken into account by your loft conversion concept ideas:
1. Will the weight of a loft conversion be taken up by your home?
Building a loft conversion would obviously bring weight to the house and you may need to make sure that the foundation of the building will take it, but it might only be a small lift.
To do this, along with any beams or lintels that will be asked to bear more weight, you will need to show the foundations and inspect them.
Both these components would still want to be tested by the Building Control Officer, so dig a small hole to first reveal the foundations. If it turns out that your house has to be supported to carry the extra weight, before you start, it might double your budget. So, when considering how to transform your loft, this is a crucial factor.
2. For conversion, is there enough head height?
Get the builder to specifically explain how much headroom you’re going to have in your loft after it’s converted-people are always frustrated by how much space they really have to stand up in and this is not often visible on plans.
Don’t forget that the stairs leading up to the loft would have to suit you. The new staircase should climb above the old one and allow the optimum use of space and not from inside an existing bedroom. If it means missing a whole room on the first floor, there isn’t much sense in transforming the loft space.
The heating and hot water system will have to be replaced with an enclosed system without roof room for water tanks and plumbing. It’s safer than a combined boiler to get an unvented hot water cylinder, but it’s going to fill up a cupboard-size space and you’ll need to find somewhere to place it.
3. For loft conversions, construction codes & group walls
Under Construction Laws, loft conversions still require consent (regardless of whether they need planning permission), so it helps to follow the complete design application technique to get a comprehensive scheme approved before you find a contractor.
It takes much of the pressure out of the job to get an accepted specification and also ensures that the builder has a chance to give you a fixed quote, rather than a vague estimation.
Don’t neglect to alert the neighbor of your plans, which typically come under the Party Wall Act 1996, whether your house is semi-detached or terraced.
Your Building Management Officer will inspect the construction several times and will present you with a certificate of completion on a final inspection. Before you have obtained the stamp, do not settle any final accounts with contractors.
4. Modification of the roof frame & floor joists
Most roofs are built in the loft with internal support struts, raising the rafters and purlins in conventional cut and pitched roofs (horizontal roof beams) and making up the network of braces in modern trussed rafter roofs.
To make room for the new space, all of these have to be eliminated and replaced with new supports that do not invade the space available in the loft vacuum.
For loft conversions, there are several ways of modifying roof configurations, but they all share one similar element-the ceiling joists would almost definitely be insufficient as floor joists. This suggests that they are fitted alongside new floor joists, slightly elevated above the ceiling plasterboard to prevent contact with it.
To form the floor frame, these joists (often 200mm or 225mm in depth) will rise above the tops of the new ceiling joists. They will either bear directly on the current wall plates of external and internal load-bearing walls, depending on their span, or recently built beams.
It is also the case that the floor joists themselves are used in smaller lofts to stabilize the sloping rafters. This is achievable by building a 1 m to 1.5 m high dwarf timber stud wall, known as an ashler, between the two. The internal struts and braces can now be easily removed with the protective ashlering in place.
5. Stairs for a loft conversion
Stairs on loft conversion projects are invariably difficult to build since space is tight for them. Narrow winding flights are acceptable but could prove impractical because it’s hard to get them up with furniture.
Purpose-built staircases are around 10 times the expense of regular (off-the-shelf) designs, so when designing your loft conversion, keep this in mind.
Before you finally order them, it helps to get the concept approved by the Building Control officer if you need a purpose-built loft conversion staircase. Tell the Joiner or Contractor to submit a copy of the plan to Building Control.
As part of your loft’s fire safety upgrade (see below), your stairways should lead to a hall and an outside door. If you have an open-plan arrangement where the stairs rise from a room, you will probably have to change it, fit a new partition wall or choose routes of escape.
6. Window fitting & natural light gain
In your new loft conversion, you don’t need to make a lot of structural changes to accommodate roof lights or skylight windows, which makes them relatively easy to fit. The rafters are typically doubled-up and trimmed across the top of the opening on either side of the roof light.
As they have walls and a roof as well as the window itself, a popular alternative is to fit dormer windows, which are structures in themselves.
Dormer windows can fall into the authorized development quota at the rear of many homes and so may not require planning permission. However, they would need planning authority at the front of the building, which is why you often see roof lights or skylights instead.
To optimize the headroom in the loft and provide accessible space, Dormer windows can be necessary, but they need to be supported at the apex point (ridge). Before the dormer roof joists will themselves be set in place and the roof weathered, a ridge beam is mounted under the apex.
It is at this point where your loft conversion will be exposed to the components while the dormer windows are being installed, so you will need strong temporary sheeting to protect against the elements.
7. Upgrading loft fire safety
Loft conversions on bungalows do not affect your home’s fire protection, including ensuring that the new windows are wide enough to flee. But in a house where two floors turn into three, there are repercussions.
At least 30 minutes of fire protection will be required for the new floor, which could mean re-plastering the ceilings below it, and the loft room must be separated by a fire door, either at the top or bottom of the new stairs. You’ll also need one escape-sized window per room-with this in mind, some skylight windows are specifically made.
In homes, door self-closing devices are no longer needed. Because they can trap tiny fingers, they have proven to be a risk to the safety of children. Instead, existing doors on the stairway (ground and first floor) should be replaced or upgraded with fire-resistant doors, and this should be indicated on your Building Control loft conversion drawings.
Mains-powered smoke alarms should be installed on each floor of your home as part of the electrical installation and these should be interlinked so that they all sound when one is activated. As a back-up, most have a rechargeable battery that allows the supply to be extended if necessary from a lighting circuit.
8. Isolation of loft conversion
With energy efficiency standards being increased, it is more difficult to install loft conversion insulation than it once was. You can insulate between the covering and the rafters if you substitute the roof tiles at the same time, which will also achieve good airtightness.
The sloping ceiling would require insulation cut and fitted between the rafters, as well as on the underside of the rafters if you are not repairing the roof. Because through the bottom layer of insulation, the plasterboard will have to be attached to the rafters, you will want this insulation to be as thin as possible.
For all of these areas, you should use some high-performance insulation (typically a foam board). Before they are plasterboarded, the ashlar walls and dormer window structures will also need to be insulated with similar products.
9. For your latest loft upgrade, acoustic insulation
The new floor still requires soundproofing, and by laying a mineral fiber quilt between the joists, this is quickly accomplished. Using the thicker, denser quilt of sound insulation and not the lighter material of heat insulation, which is of little help here. For any internal stud partitions between bedrooms or bathrooms, the same applies.
You should also suggest insulating, both against heat loss and noise, some group partitions. A timber stud lining construction will allow you to accomplish both, and you can cover it with sound-rated plasterboard.
10. Ideas for loft storage
If you convert your loft, you will sacrifice storage space, of course. Using the eaves behind the ashlaring-fit access hatches and get roll-out storage bins designed to fit make the best of what you have. And if you insulate your things down the rafter line to the eaves, you’ll build a warm shop.
In loft bedrooms, where regular units would not match and are among the most creative loft storage conversion concepts, built-in wardrobes are also a fantastic feature.