5 points you need to consider when planning a loft conversion

Posted: 25th Sep 2019

If you're pushed for space, there's a simple solution you should consider - hello, loft conversion!

It’s a great way to free up a lot of room within your home, yet there is one drawback – it can be financially draining. To provide a helping hand, we've spoken to Matthew Currington, Technical Director at the Lighting Superstore, who reveals the key considerations that could help to make your conversion go as smoothly as possible.

1. Loft logic

There's a bit more to a loft conversion than knocking down beams - other points of consideration include planning permission, building regulations and shared walls.

To start things off, you need to have a minimum ceiling height of 2.2m to accommodate the conversion. If the ceiling doesn't measure up, you either need to lower the floor or heighten the roof, which can prove both costly and messy to carry out.

As many residential homes aren't detached, chances are you will need a party wall agreement. If you're planning to make a structural change to a shared party wall, you need written permission from a neighbour between 2-12 months before you begin work.

So long as you meet a certain criteria, loft conversions typically require planning permission. However, large changes are required to meet the building regulations that will make sure it's a stable and safe structure. If you're in doubt, you can always ask an architect or surveyor to provide a guide.

2. What works for you

A common loft conversion is the dormer conversion - it's an additional space that is added to an existing roof. They create more roof than other conversions would, while also avoid giving you the slanted walls that are typical of many conversions. Normally costing as much as £20,000 - if not more – dormer conversions do have the benefit of not requiring planning permission.

Do you have a sloped or 'hipped' roof? Well, if that's the case, a single or double hip to gable conversion could be the option to consider. It's a type of conversion that extends outwards from a sloped side of the roof, giving you a vertical wall. However, the cost goes up to £30,000.

Another good option is the mansard loft conversion. It may need the most structural change, as it spans the length of the roof, extending outwards to a 72-degree angle. It's the most expensive option, and requires planning permission, but is a good way of giving your home some generous space.

3. Plan ahead

You need to decide exactly how you want your conversion to end up prior to starting out. That way, you can choose your must-haves and the non-negotiables. Start by planning the biggest additions first – for instance, bathroom fittings, built-in storage and large furniture. These are the items that need the most space, and can then be accessorised after.

If you're looking to achieve a darker colour scheme, you will want to have lots of natural and artificial lights - this includes skylights and windows, to ensure the room has a more spacious feeling.

Perhaps you'd rather have more of a cosy atmosphere? If that's the case, don't use floor lamps, as they're not overly space saving. Instead, opt for table lamps, matching wall lights and ceiling pendants, all of which can provide character and warmth.

4. Pay attention

Make sure have a set budget before you approach architects and workers - that way, you can outline exactly what you can and cannot afford. While fees quoted by architects normally cover sketches, computer aided designs (CAD) and the submissions to the necessary authorities, there can be some hidden costs that begin to sneak in, unless it's explicitly stated otherwise.

Instead, it’s likely that any quotes you receive will be purely for extensions, while additional costs for materials, labour, furniture and any unforeseen problems, will get added down the line.

Therefore, before you finalise any paperwork, make sure you get a quote that includes both potential and guaranteed added costs, to make sure you don't end up cash-strapped further down the line.

5. Show some character

Be sure to make the most of your new space - after all, a loft-conversion can add as much as 20 per cent extra to the value of your home. If you're left with low ceilings or exposed beams, use these as a character feature and maximise this impact with lighting or accessories. Similarly, if you have any little nooks and crannies, use these as a space for extra shelving storage.