Expert advice - loft conversions
A loft conversion can be one of the best ways to add extra space to your home without too much disruption. An added bonus is that many loft conversions don't require planning permission, so it can be relatively straightforward project.
We caught up with Rob Curtis, Director of The Loft Access Company, who gave us some great tips and advice when planning your loft conversion.
Love Renovate: What are the main things to consider when planning a loft conversion?
The Loft Access Company: When we visit our client’s property, we firstly measure the apex of the roof to see if a loft conversion is possible. At this stage, we would also discuss what impact the new loft staircase would have on the rest of the property. There would be very little point losing a bedroom on the first floor to gain a bedroom within the loft as you end up with the same number of rooms.
We would also ask what the new loft space is going to be used for, for example either a wow-factor master bedroom, en-suite bathroom and dressing area or just an additional guest bedroom. Is there a view from the loft space to maximise on? We can either install low maintenance windows, or Juliette balconies for maximum light.
Love Renovate: How long should you expect a standard one bedroom en-suite loft conversion to take?
LAC: The standard loft conversion takes anywhere between 6 to 10 weeks. This is from the clearing of the loft space, to the loft being ready for decorators and carpet fitters. Our loft conversions are built from the outside via scaffolding, which means all tradesmen and materials enter the loft through the roof, minimising the impact to the house during the build.
Love Renovate: Before a customer comes to visit you, what should they have prepared that is helpful and speeds up the process?
LAC: Nothing at all. Our Architectural Design Service can help you visualise what your completed loft conversion could look like. We can create multiple layouts on different variations, giving you a number of options to choose from. This is one of the advantages from separating the design of your loft conversions from the actual build of your loft conversion.
Love Renovate: What is the best way to incorporate a staircase into your home for a loft conversion?
LAC: By matching the balustrades and newel posts of the new loft staircase to the existing ground to first floor staircase, and ideally positioning one above the other to maintain the flow of the property. By using the dead space above the existing staircase, this will therefore cause less disruption throughout the rest of the first floor.
Love Renovate: Do loft conversions require planning permission?
LAC: The short answer is no. 95% of loft conversions can be built using permitted development rights, which means a planning application will not be required. The only instance planning permission is required, is when a Dormer is positioned at the front of the property. Most Dormers are positioned at the rear of the property which requires no planning permission whatsoever. Velux roof windows can be installed front and rear of the property without any planning approval.
Always check on your local authority website to confirm planning permission requirements.
Love Renovate: In which circumstances is a Dormer better than a Velux or vice versa?
LAC: A Dormer loft conversion creates more usable floor space, and often the more practical choice. A Velux loft conversion is usually more affordable, although mainly suited to properties with existing high roof pitches. Velux conversions are more acceptable when the property is either in a conservation area or area of natural beauty due to planning laws.
Love Renovate: How do you improve the insulation and stop the space getting really warm in the summer/cold in the winter?
LAC: This is generally a subject home-owners should not be concerned about as strict building regulations enforce the correct amount and the correct type of insulation. The chosen insulation materials are foilback which reflect heat and sunlight, preventing the space from getting too warm in the summer months or too cold in the winter months. All PVC and Velux roof windows have to adhere to strict U-values. This is a measurement that calculates heat loss.
Love Renovate: Does the plumbing get complicated and can I still get a powerful shower?
LAC: Absolutely. Your existing heating and water feeds can service the new loft space. Water pressure can be increased by using a simple shower pump if required. There are many options available with your existing heating system or by upgrading at this point to a pressurised system or combination boiler.
Love Renovate: In a small loft space, what would you do to maximise the floor space?
LAC: In smaller loft spaces, you would normally introduce dormer windows to the property. This would maximise the floor to ceiling height across the rear of the loft space. Under eaves cupboards provide storage for belongings without affecting the habitable loft area. There must be a door separating the loft space from the floor below, but with limited floor space, this can be positioned at the bottom of the stairs on the first floor rather than at the top within the loft.
Love Renovate: Any other tips before going ahead with a loft conversion?
LAC: Don’t get tied into using a loft converter that includes the design and the build of the project within one price. Break the project down into two simple stages. Firstly, complete the design of the loft space with a qualified architect, followed by the choosing the correct loft conversion company for the actual build. Be sure to use a loft conversion specialist rather than just a general builder.
Published: September 13, 2018