In Part 1 of this series we discussed the experts you would need to bring on board for your project. In Part 2 we discuss the essential information you need to be informed of and describe the various types of loft conversions. Jeffery and Wilkes are London’s leading loft conversion specialists.
Essential information that needs to be reviewed at the beginning of the project
Do you need any work done to the roof?
Ideally you need a minimum height of 2350mm from ceiling joists to ridge board to convert a roof space. This is usually one of the first things the estimators will check.
If your loft is not at a suitable height for what you want to achieve, you will probably have to decide whether you want to raise the roof or lower the ceiling below it. This will add more cost to your conversion but increase space in the long run. If you choose to raise the roof, you will have to get planning permission and be prepared to have scaffolding covering the house and an open roof that can have an impact on your quality of living. Look at neighbouring properties to see whether anyone has already done this kind of work. If a precedent has already been set, you should find it easier to get planning permission.
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If you cannot increase the height of your roof (maybe you are in a terrace) then you may have to consider lowering your ceilings below. This can be quite intrusive as it will usually affect all of the first floor bedrooms. But it may be a necessary pain point to go through if you want the ideal loft conversion that doesn’t feel cramped for height.
Do you need new ceiling joists?
Usually your ceiling joists will stay in place if you do not have to lower the ceilings (see above). However they will not be strong enough to take the weight of the new loft floor, so a fully suspended floor system will be installed. This suspended floor will be sturdy and can also achieve good noise transfer reduction to the floors below.
Finally, when inviting companies to quote on your loft conversion use it as an opportunity to explore the potential of your space. An experienced firm will have lots of innovative ideas and creative hacks to optimise the available space. The first step before starting any loft conversion is to decide what kind of conversion you require. This will depend on your available space, your current roof design, your budget, and your objectives for the loft conversion.
Have a look at what other people have done in your neighbourhood and especially at properties similar to yours. If possible ask your neighbours if you can have a look – it will help you see what is feasible and also explore what you like, and don’t like, with other loft conversions.
The following 4 types of loft conversion are the most common options:
A rooflight conversion is the simplest and most cost effective conversion solution of all (it can save you 25% of the average cost of a conversion). If your loft has enough space (height above stairs etc.) that it doesn’t warrant any changes to the size and shape of the roof, then the interior can be fitted out with rooflight windows to add natural light. For a rooflight conversion to be done properly you should still have a suspended floor & staircase installed that complies with building regulations. You will also need to thermally upgrade the roof with insulation and plasterboard to keep it warm and energy efficient.
This type of conversion involves placing a vertical wall from the bottom of your sloping roof and placing a flat roof on top of it that extends to a higher point on the original sloping roof.
A dormer creates more headroom to your existing loft and extends the available space from the side. The dormer is the most common type of conversion and often dormers can be built without the need for planning permission using Permitted Development rules. Dormer walls are usually clad with tiles, but you can also clad with slate, lead or a hardwood timber.
The old sloping roof that you once had would be extended to create a gabled end and more height on the inside. A single hipped roof is a common design found on semi detached or end of terrace properties. This conversion is great if you’re looking to get a lot of room out of a small space but planning permission may be needed, although often Permitted Development rules can be used.
It’s also common to combine a dormer conversion (see previous) to the rear of a hip-to gable conversion, increasing the space even further resulting in a large internal roof space. On some detached houses or bungalows it’s even possible to raise both hips and create 2x gable ends. This creates a lot more space on the inside of the loft but also lifts your roof and changes the shape completely, which in turn will require planning permission.
Named after the 17th-century French architect, Francois Mansard, a mansard conversion is usually done at the back of your home. This type of conversion has a flat roof and a back wall sloping inwards at 72 degrees. These are typical of terraced houses in urban areas and windows are usually added in dormers. Due to the change in roof structure and large area that is extended, this type of conversion will almost always require planning permission. These can be a great option to convert butterfly or ‘M’ type roofs which are commonly found in central London. Mansards extend the full width of the property and therefore create a large amount of roof space. They are more complicated to design and therefore are more expensive than other types of roof conversion.
Which style is right for you?
Of course you have to think about what fits within your budget but also what works for the type of property you have, the space you need to create and the planning permission you are able to obtain. Discuss the various options with the architects or loft conversion companies you invite to quote. Ensure they are experienced within your geographic area so they can best advice of local planning requirements. The right expert will be able to advise you on the most appropriate solution for your loft and also ways to ensure you maximise your space
Join us again for Part 3 Of Our 8 part guide to your ideal loft conversion. Part 3 will be – How to use natural light to create an amazing space.