If your loft conversion is intended for use as new accommodation, for example a bedroom, study or office then you will need to make a Building Regulations application.
Building regulations are used to ensure that any building or alteration work meets the set standards for the design and construction of buildings, mainly to ensure the health and safety for those living in or around the building.
They are also increasingly used to ensure that the building is energy efficient and that access to the building has been considered.
The following sections outline the main areas that must be considered. Houses with more than two storeys will need to meet similar but more extensive requirements.
Generally the excising timbers in your roof will not be strong enough to support the new floor. New timber work will need to be installed and most often steelwork will be required as the span is normally too great for timber beams.
Calculating the size of timbers or steelwork is certainly a job best left for the professionals. Any changes to the roof such as the addition of a dormer or velux windows will need to built correctly so that they do affect the roof structure
Fire Resistance, Means of Escape and Access
The floors, walls and doors in your house and loft conversion must be able to resist fire for the specified amount of time (this is normally 30 minutes).
The aim of the requirements is that that there should be a fire protected path from the conversion to the outside. Under previous requirements a low level window and ledge were to be installed in the loft as a means of escape and self closers were required on the doors. It has now been deemed that escape via the loft is too dangerous and the main escape route should now be through the house.
The main stairways should be protected by installing fire rated doors on both storeys, self closers are no longer required for most houses. Fire doors may not be required for non inhabited rooms such as bathrooms and cupboards if they are deemed a low fire risk.
When installing new fire rated doors don't forget that the hinges should also be fire rated. Interlinked, mains powered smoke alarms will be needed at each level and are an essential safety item, the Direct Gov website has a good guide to smoke alarms.
Most people opt for a traditional staircase to their loft conversion, other types of space saving staircases can sometimes be used if space is restricted. Be aware that space saving stairs can be very difficult for children and the elderly to use and should only be considered once all other options have been explored.
Ensuring that your loft conversion is properly insulated will keep the loft room cool in summer, warm in winter, reduce your reduce your CO2 output and will save you money by keeping your heating bills low.
Most loft conversions now use modern high performance thermal insulation boards such as those manufactured by Celotex or Kingspan. To conserve energy your loft conversion should have as low a U-value as possible.
Proper ventilation is essential for both the living space and the roof space. Ventilation to the living space will prevent excessive condensation and build up of stale air. Ventilation to the roof space will prevent condensation that could cause problems such as rot and timber decay.
Any loft conversion will at a minimum be required to meet building regulations and be inspected by the Building Control Surveyor from your local council. Before starting work on a loft conversion you should have a basic understanding of building regulations, planning permission and permitted development. In this section we have prepared some easy to understand guides that will help you understand the regulations and give you an idea of what may be required for your conversion.
It is essential that your loft conversion meets all of the regulations and permissions that apply. Without them you may find yourself being ordered to remove any alterations and you may have problems if you decide to sell your house at a later date.
If your loft conversion is intended for use as new accommodation, for example a bedroom, study or office then you will need to make a Building Regulations application. Building regulations are used to ensure that any building or alteration work meets the set standards for the design and construction of buildings, mainly to ensure the health and safety for those living in or around the building. They are also increasingly used to ensure that the building is energy efficient and that access to the building has been considered. Read more »
Under permitted development you can make alterations (such as small extensions or loft conversions) to your house without obtaining planning permission. The rules were updated effective from the 1st October 2008 to reduce red tape and encourage home owners to develop their homes. The good news is that many loft conversions can be built under permitted development rights, lets explore the rules in a bit more detail. Read more »
If you are making changes to the external appearance of your house, then you may also need to obtain planning permission. In the UK you will need planning permission (sometimes called planning consent) if you want to build on land, or if you want to change the use of land or buildings. The requirement for planning permission was introduced in 1947 under the Town and Country Planning act. Interestingly, all buildings and land uses that existed prior to 1947 were granted planning permission, and it was only after that date that planning permission was required. The current version of the act is the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 if you decide to take a look you will need to put some time aside as it is a very lengthy and complicated document! The Local Planning Authority (LPA) is responsible for granting planning permission. The LPA is normally your local Borough or District Council who will normally have a website with all of the relevant information and forms. Read more »
A dormer is an extension to the existing roof, allowing for additional floor space and headroom within the loft conversion. Dormers protrude from the roof slope, normally at the rear of the property and can be built in a variety of styles. Internally, a dormer will have a horizontal ceiling and vertical walls compared to the normal diagonal sides of a conversion. In lofts that have limited space or headroom a dormer will provide additional space that can make a conversion feasible.
Flat roof dorners tend to give the maximum amount of additional internal space although they do not look as attractive from outside the property. Gable fronted and hipped roof dormers look much more attractive but they often do not give as much internal space and will cost more to build due the extra complexity.
There are different types of dormer:
• Gable fronted dormer - these are sometimes called a dog house dormer
• Hipped roof dormer - a dormer with a hipped roof
• Flat roof dormer - you guessed it - it has a flat roof!
• Shed dormer - a single planed roof that is pitched at a shallower abgle to the main roof
Ever wondered what is involved in a completing a loft conversion? We have documented our own loft conversion from start to finish, with lots of photos and videos of all stages of the build. We hope it will give you an interesting insight into what is involved at each stage of the build. Our house is a 3 bedroom detached built in 2000 with a modern truss rafter design roof, but the conversion process will be pretty much the same for any house of a similar size and construction.
This page is not yet complete but we thought we would put it live as a work in progress to allow readers to track the progress of our loft conversion.
Feasibility, Preparation and Planning
It was certainly feasible to convert our loft into a bedroom, luckily our existing roof has a very steep pitch meaning the internal headroom was more than enough. The internal layout of the house meant that we could remove an airing cupboard to make way for the stairs without having to sacrifice any space in the existing bedrooms. This also meant that the new stairs would be above the existing stairs, making the conversion appear to be part of the original build
Light and Air with Velux
Unconverted lofts are not always the nicest of environments to work in, often they are dusty, hot in the summer and dark with no natural light. Velux windows are quick and easy to install and will solve these problems making for a much more pleasant working environment.
In this section you will find photos and videos of the loft before work started and how the Velux roof-lights were installed
Structural Timber Work
Now that the steels are in place work can start on removing the trusses and putting in the additional timber work that will transfer the roof load down onto the steels. At this stage most of the work is fairly straightforward carpentry, those working on a DIY loft conversion should find this stage fairly easy.
Note the building the staircase is a highly skilled task that is probably best left to a specialist stair firm, as was the case with this conversion. So lets look in more detail at the work completed during this stage
It was certainly feasible to convert our loft into a bedroom, luckily our existing roof has a very steep pitch meaning the internal headroom was more than enough. The internal layout of the house meant that we could remove an airing cupboard to make way for the stairs without having to sacrifice any space in the existing bedrooms. This also meant that the new stairs would be above the existing stairs, making the conversion appear to be part of the original build.
The main activity for us was to clear the loft of all the junk that had built up over the years. Other things to consider are clearing a space for any materials to be stored, things like plasterboard will need to be stored somewhere dry. Our materials were stored in the back garden, timber is ok to be left uncovered but should be kept raised off the ground, we placed ours on pieces of old packing timber. Materials that ideally should be kept dry such as plasterboard and flooring sheets were kept covered with plastic sheets. If you have a garage then consider clearing some space for material storage. If possible avoid keeping materials on driveways and front gardens as there is always the risk that things will disappear in the night! You will also most likely need a skip, we put ours off road on the driveway, if you have to put one on the road then you will need a permit from the council. If you are using a professional builder then they will arrange all of this for you.
Our builder arranged for the plans to be drawn and for a structural engineer to complete the calculations. You will need a qualified structural engineer to complete the calculations, you can complete the drawings yourself but in the long run it will most likely be cheaper, easier and faster to get someone experienced to complete them for you. Note that if your drawings do not contain all the details that the local council need then there will be lots of wasted time with queries being raised. Most builders will have a structural engineer and architect that they work with on a regular basis.
We didn't require planning permission as our conversion falls within permitted development.
However, we did submit our plans to the local council before starting work to ensure they were happy with the proposed works. After reviewing the plans the council asked for a few points to be clarified, these were just minor points and our builder spoke with the building control officer directly to clarify the points. This was quite reassuring, its good to know that even minor details are being checked.
As our house is detached we did not have to complete a party wall agreement. On the subject of planning permission we have written a guide to building controls, but you should always check with your local councils planning department as they will have the final say.
Can all lofts be converted?
While the majority of lofts can be converted, unfortunately some will not be suitable for a conversion. It will depend on how your house has been constructed and the available headroom. If unsure a local loft conversion specialist should be able to advise you.
Do I need planning permission?
Many loft conversions only require that they meet building regulations. However, its best that you check with your local planning office.
How much will it cost?
This is a very difficult question to answer as there are so many variables. As a rough guide an average conversion will cost somewhere between £20k and £30k
Can I build a do it yourself conversion?
Its a fairly large project to undertake but if you are experienced at DIY it should be possible. You should be aware that some of the work will require extra hands, for example installing any steelwork is not a task that can be completed on your own. See our DIY loft conversions page to get a feel for what is involved.
What is U-Value?
The U-Value is a measure of how much heat can flow through a building element (such as walls, floors, roof and windows). A lower U-value is better as less heat can escape from the inside of the building to the outside. The U-value is measured in Watts (W) per square metre when the temperature difference is 1 Kelvin (one degree celsius), so for example a window might have a U-Value of 1.2W/M²k.
Can I use multifoil type insulation?
This will depend on where you live. There is currently a lot of debate over the effectiveness of multifoil insulation. Check with your local building control officer to see if its allowed in your area.
A hip to gable conversion involves making fairly major changes to the roof. The gable wall is built up to the ridge line and a new section of roof is built to fill in the gap. As a general rule, houses with hip roofs tend to not have enough internal volume for a conversion to be practical so a hip to gable conversion is the best solution.
A new gable wall will be built either in masonry or stud-work. There are several options for the finishing of the masonry gable wall, which include brickwork, block work with render or tiled. If the gable wall is built from stud work they are normally finished in render or tiled. For most people the preference of for the new gable wall to match the existing walls as much as possible.
As a hip to gable conversion changes the outline of the roof planning permission may be required. You will need to determine if the conversion falls within your permitted development allowance. Once the roof has been extended the conversion is normally completed with either velux roof lights or a dormer.
There are a variety of reasons to expand your living space with a loft conversion. A loft conversion can not only create extra space but can also raise the value of your home. Whether you are embarking on a conversion due to lack of space of lack of selling potential, budgeting is the first step on the loft conversion ladder.
One of the most frequently asked questions when embarking on a loft conversion is the estimated cost. The cost of a loft conversion will vary from project to project and will of course depend on the scale of your personal project. The cost of a loft conversion can be affected by many factors; here is a step by step guide.
The following factors come in to play when trying to set a ball park figure for your conversion:
The type of property you live in can affect the cost of a conversion. For example if you live in a two bedroom house or a five bedroom house the price will differ. In terms of your actual property the following aspects should be taken into consideration:
1. The size and type of your home
2. The roof type and condition
3. Any plumbing that may need to be relocated
4. Any complications such as chimneys or unusual layouts
The Scale of Your Project
All loft conversions start with nothing but a few ideas and once the ball is rolling it is easy to get carried away in terms of the size of your project. You may begin with the vision of a simple yet live-able space but as your conversion starts to take shape it is easy to decide on a more complex layout. A conversion is more than a practical venture; it involves a lot of imagination. Many look at a conversion as the perfect opportunity to create a luxurious space in their home or to create a unique selling point. The more complex the layout becomes the more expensive it becomes. Loft conversions can transform an unused space into more that just a usable space. The possibilities are endless; you could make an extra office space, a home gym or an extra bathroom. You don't have to settle for one room, you could have a bedroom with an en-suite. Obviously sizable changes to your attic space can lift the price of your conversion considerably.
The Type of Conversion
A basic conversion using roof windows such as those manufactured by Velux will be cheaper than a conversion that uses dormers. Sometimes the roof is made bigger by a hip to gable conversion, obviously the bigger and more complex the work, the higher the cost. Take a look at our page on loft conversion types for more information.
The Electrical Works
All loft conversions involve some electrical work, namely for lighting, power sockets and smoke alarms. The amount of electrical work will depend on the design, size and intended use of the conversion. For example a single simple room may require lighting and power sockets, while two bedrooms and an en-suite will obviously require more work and materials, and therefore cost more.
Lighting can be as basic or as complex as you wish so you can choose solutions that will not stretch your budget. Seek advice on the best lighting solution to meet your individual needs. Halogen down lighters are a popular choice, see our blog post that looks at LED bulbs for down lighters.
A mains wired smoke detector is an essential safety item and will be required for your conversion to meet building regulations.
The Plumbing Works
The plumbing is one area that can be subject to large variations in terms of cost. Quite often at the very least there will be a cold water and expansion tank that will need to be relocated. Many people decide to have combi boilers installed so that water tanks are no longer required. Here is a list of the main factors to consider regarding the plumbing:
1. Are there any existing water tanks that need to be moved?
2. Are you having a new boiler installed?
3. Are you having an en-suite installed?
The Choice of Windows
The more natural light you require the more money you are going to have to pay for the privilege. The amount of windows you want to install in your loft space and the chosen size will affect the price of your conversion. Velux windows come in a wide range sizes and finishes; browse the Velux website to find the best windows for your individual project.
Flooring is not something to be skimped on in terms of price. With flooring you get what you pay for and high quality flooring can provide the finishing touch to a conversion. Many people opt for soft flooring's rather than wooden to minimise any noise. The amount of budget you will need to set aside for flooring will depend on your personal preferences and type of flooring chosen.
Taking on part of the conversion yourself can help to keep your expenses low. The amount of work you take on will depend on your level of DIY experience. We have a dedicated an area of this site toDIY Loft Conversions. There are currently a good range of books available for general DIY and loft conversions. We selected some of the best books available form Amazon, take a look at our books page to see what is available to buy on line.
Installing the steel RSJs is the first of the major structural works to be completed. Most loft conversions use steel RSJs (rolled steel joists) to support the weight of the new floor. Our conversion is very typical and requires two steel RSJs to support the new floor and a third to support the ridge of the roof.
A loft conversion can be made entirely from timber joists but the increased costs (materials and labour) mean that just about every loft conversion uses steel RSJs. The smaller steel to support the ridge was supplied in two sections and the two main steels were supplied in complete sections. Now for the tricky bit, getting some rather heavy 6 metre steel RSJs up and into position!
Installing the steels in complete 6 metre has some advantages, they are cheaper to buy and there is less labour as there is no need to bolt sections together. We were lucky enough to be detached and have good access at one side.
This meant we could knock holes in the gable wall and use a crane to manouvre the steels into place. Two holes were made in the gable wall, the outer brick skin will not be taking any load, the steels will be supported by the concrete block inner wall with the steels resting on concrete pad stones.
The plan was to use the crane to lift the steels up to the holes in the gable wall and slide them into the loft space and into position on the pad stones. The first steel was attached to the crane with large chains and the crane operator started to hoist the steels up. These cranes are impressive to see in action, the crane is operated by remote control meaning the driver can move around to get the best view of the object being lifted, see below for a video of the crane in action.
These cranes look and move very much like the robot arms you see building cars in factories. The first steel was lifted up horizontally and one end was guided into the hole by a builder on a ladder. Builders inside the loft space then helped to pull the steel into the loft space.
Provided there is sufficient headroom, most roofs can be converted. You need to think about what type of conversion you want, where the stairs will go and what changes may be needed to the plumbing system.
There are main types of roof construction, the traditional rafter and purlin or the modern trussed roof. Generally the older type of roof is easier to convert as it has a steep pitch that gives the headroom required. Most houses built before the 1960s will have the traditional rafter and purlin design.
As a general rule you will need a minimum height of 2.3 metres across around half of the floor area to make a conversion worthwhile. There isn't much point having an extra room if you can't stand up in it!
An important consideration is where the stairs for the new loft conversion will go. A common solution is to remove an airing cupboard which is often on the first floor landing this leaves a convenient space for the stairs but means that the hot water cylinder needs to be either removed or re located. Sometimes part of an existing bedroom is used for the stairs, we do not recommend this approach unless you have very large bedrooms as the lost space detracts from the benefits of the additional bedroom in the loft.
Unconverted lofts are not always the nicest of environments to work in, often they are dusty, hot in the summer and dark with no natural light.
Velux windows are quick and easy to install and will solve these problems making for a much more pleasant working environment. In this section you will find photos and videos of the loft before work started and how the Velux rooflights were installed.
Installing Velux rooflights is not too difficult, all of the work can be done from inside the loft so there's no need to venture outside onto the roof. Velux windows are available in a range of sizes designed to fit between standard size rafters. Our house being a new build had standard spacing on the rafters so the Velux was a perfect fit between.The Velux windows can be placed in any position in the roof, but putting them between existing rafters saves some work.
Two of the five Velux windows were put in at first, it was surprising how much light they let in. With plenty of light and fresh air the builders were able to get on with preparing for the steel RSJs which were due the next day.
Here's a few pictures of the loft before any work had started and there is also a short video lower down the page. Its a modern design truss roof so there's a bit more work to cut out the rafters, but contrary to what many people seem to think a truss roof is still fairly easy to convert.
The loft also stores the cold water tank and the hot water expansion tank for the heating system, both these tanks will be removed when the new combi boiler is installed. The builders will mostly access the house from the outside but the loft ladder and boarded storage area will make working up in the loft a bit easier.
The space inside your loft is essentially wasted space. The ideal use for this space is to convert it into extra living space with a loft conversion. However, many people just need some extra storage space. Converting the loft into a storage space is a low cost job that only requires basic DIY skills and tools. You do not need any planning permission if you are only intending to use the space for light storage. Read on to find out how to convert your loft into a storage space.
The normal way to access a loft space is via a loft hatch. This is basically a panel in the ceiling that can either be lifted up and pushed to one side, or will have a catch and be mounted on hinges. Loft hatches do vary in size, in some very old houses they can be quite small with just enough room for an adult to squeeze through. Most houses have loft hatches of a reasonable size.
The safest and most convenient way to get into the loft is via a permanently installed loft ladder. Balancing on chairs is dangerous and having to go out to the shed or garage to get step ladders is inconvenient. Loft ladders are cheap to buy and easy to install. A good quality ladder will last a lifetime, in our view this makes them a very worthwhile investment. There are many types of loft ladder available, the most common being the aluminium extending ladders with wooden loft ladders being a more visually appealing option.
Loft Boarding and Loading
If you are going to be using your loft space for storage you will need a safe platform on which to stand and store items. Just about every DIY store will stock tongue and groove boards specially designed for boarding in a loft space. These boards can be bought quite cheaply from major retailers such as Wickes and B&Q.
The ceiling joists in your loft are only designed to support the weight of the ceiling below and light loads. Placing excessive loads in the loft can cause ceilings to sag and place pressure on door frames causing the doors to stick. If you need to store heavy items then a full or part loft conversion may be a better option.
Most loft boards (or loft panels) found in DIY stores come in packs of 3 boards that will cover just over one square metre. The individual boards are around 4' by 2', you can use larger boards but remember that you will need to lift them through the loft hatch! The smaller boards do work out slightly more expensive, but will be much easier to fit in the back of your car and handle in the loft space. You will most likely need to trim the boards to ensure that the ends of the boards are always on a joist. A decent circular saw will make light work of cutting the boards, you can use a hand saw but if you find you need to trim an inch off each board then it will soon get tiring. Don't use nails to fix the boards as the hammering can loosen plaster from the ceilings below. Screws are much better and will enable you to easily lift the boards up at a later date if needed.
We recommend fixing 2-3 inch battens to the top of the ceiling joists. This will provide some additional strength by spreading the load and also allows extra space for insulation, or prevents existing insulation from being squashed. The battens will also make it easier to go over any wires or pipes, do not be tempted to cut notches into the ceiling joists as this will weaken them, cut notches in the battens instead.
Most people only board the central area of the loft. As you get closer to the eves the headroom becomes too limited for it to be practical.
Storage - Get Organised
So now you have a nice shiny new loft ladder and loft boarding in place you can use the space for storage. Now is the time to get organised, plastic storage crates with lids will protect the contents from dust and can be stacked one on top of the other. Write contents labels for each crate to make it easier to find things in the future.
Find new homes for items that are no longer needed. Ebay and FreeCycle are great places to find new homes for unwanted items. Loft spaces can get very hot in the summer and cold in the winter, so it best not to store anything that might be damaged by extremes of hot and cold.
By far the best solution is to have a mains powered light with a switch as near to the loft hatch as possible. Any electrical work needs to be completed by a qualified electrician, they should not charge much for such a simple job. Torches and battery powered lights are a quick and easy option, some of the new LED torches now offer reasonable light output and long battery life.
Now would be a good time to add or top up the loft insulation. Loft insulation is cheap and easy to install and can significantly reduce your heating bills.
It is important that you stay safe, here are a few safety tips for you to consider. This is by no means a comprehensive safety guide and you will have to take responsibility for yourself and your actions.
Mind where you put your feet! Only stand on the joists, the ceiling will NOT be able to support your weight! If you have placed temporary boards down for working ensure they are strong enough and properly supported at both ends.
Mind your head! Headroom can be limited in some areas of the loft, watch out for low beams and sharp objects like old nails.
Electrics! Watch out for electrical cables, especially when screwing down the loft boards.
Protective clothing! Lofts tend to be dusty environments and you will need protection from the fibres of loft insulation. A good quality dust mask and gloves are essential. If the loft is exceptionally dusty you may also want to buy some disposable overalls. Its a good idea to keep your arms covered as well.v
A mansard roof has two slopes, the lower slope is close to vertical at 72 degrees and the top section of the roof is almost horizontal. This style of roof is named after a 17th-century French architect Francois Mansart (1598-1666) who used this design of roof on many of his buildings. A mansard roof has the advantage of maximising the available space within your loft.
Mansards are commonly built by raising the party/gable walls either side of your house to make the profile for the mansard and then creating the timber frame. Although common on older properties, especially in cities like London, Mansards are not often seen in the suburbs. Flat roof dormers tend to be a more popular choice for the 'average' 3 bed semi or terrace house due to the reduced cost and simpler construction. A mansard loft conversion will almost certainly require planning permission.
Under permitted development you can make alterations such as small extensions or loft conversions to your house without obtaining planning permission. Due to the rising number of householder planning applications, the Government introduced measures to remove the need for local planning authorities to approve routine loft conversions, house extensions or alterations, which are considered to have minimal impact on neighbours.
The rules were updated effective from the 1st October 2008.
Permitted development is intened to reduce red tape and encourage home owners to develop their homes. The good news is that many loft conversions can be built under permitted development rights.
Under permitted development you are given certain allowances for extending your property. If you live in a conservation area or your house is a listed building your permitted development rights may be restricted under article 4 of the GPDO, if you are unsure check with your local council who will be able to advise you. Loft conversions are considered permitted development subject to the following conditions:
• A volume allowance of 40 cubic metres for terraced houses.
• A volume allowance of 50 cubic metres for detached and semi-detached houses.
• No extension beyond the plane of the existing roof slope of the principal elevation that fronts the highway.
• No extension to be higher than the highest part of the roof.
• Materials to be similar in appearance to the existing house.
• No verandas, balconies or raised platforms.
• Side-facing windows to be obscure-glazed; any opening to be 1.7m above the floor.
• Roof extensions not to be permitted development in designated areas*.
• Roof extensions, apart from hip to gable ones, to be set back, as far as practicable, at least 20cm from the eaves.
*Designated areas include national parks and the Broads, Areas of Outstanding Natural
Beauty, conservation areas and World Heritage Sites.
A new interactive section on the planning portal website offers an excellent visual guide to the new rules.
Note that you should always contact your local planning authority to discuss your proposal before any work begins to confirm that the development is permitted.
An Overall Guide as to how a Loft Conversion proceeds (Dormer Conversion – typical time span 6 to 8 weeks):
Every loft conversion is slightly different, however we have created a timetable of a loft conversion that contains the most common stages and steps that your loft conversion is likely to go through:
• Works will commence with the erection of independent scaffolding.
• First delivery of materials – ie structural steels, joisting timbers etc.
• An opening is made in the roof for access – initial works are completed externally, so minimising internal disturbance (approx 3/4 weeks)
• Floor joisting carried out – following which the local authority Building Inspector will visit to approve floor construction.
• If a dormer conversion, the dormer will next be constructed, insulation installed, followed by a further inspection by the Building Inspector.
• Completion of external works – ie roofing of dormer, lead work, fascias, soffits, guttering.
• Internally, erecting studwork walls, forming bedrooms/ensuite/stairwell access. Insulating walls to required standard.
• Fitting dormer windows/Velux windows.
• Creating access to facilitate installation of new staircase and fitting new stairs.
• Installing new cabling for lighting, sockets, Expelair, smoke alarms etc.
• First fix plumbing to new ensuite and additional radiator(s).
• Plastering all new areas.
• Second fix carpentry works – ie skirtings, architraves, doors, handrail, spindles etc.
• Second fix works for electrics (upvc fittings installed) and plumbing (sanitary ware, radiators etc).
• Clearing down – including guttering inspection.
• Final inspection by Building Inspector who issues Completion Certificate (all works having complied with building and fire regulations).
• The new loft is now ready for decoration and habitation.
What is planning permission?
In the UK you will need planning permission (sometimes called planning consent) if you want to build on land, or if you want to change the use of land or buildings. The requirement for planning permission was introduced in 1947 under the Town and Country Planning act. Interestingly, all buildings and land uses that existed prior to 1947 were granted planning permission, and it was only after that date that planning permission was required.
The current version of the act is the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 if you decide to take a look you will need to put some time aside as it is a very lengthy and complicated document! The Local Planning Authority (LPA) is responsible for granting planning permission. The LPA is normally your local Borough or District Council who will normally have a website with all of the relevant information and forms.
Do I need planning permission?
The vast majority of loft conversions do not require planning permission. However, there are some situations where you may need permission such as:
• Your house is a listed building
• You live in a conservation area
• You want to build dormers that face onto the road
• You want to build a dormer that will overlook a neighbours property
• Any part of the conversion will be higher than the existing roof
• If your home has already been extended to the limit of its permitted development (15% of original size)
If you are unsure we recommend that you contact your LPA.
Getting the staircase installed is a major milestone in the conversion process, it connects the loft space to the rest of the house and the loft now starts to feel like another room. From a planning perspective its the installation of a set of permanent stairs that defines the new bedroom as a bedroom rather than storage space. There were a few jobs that need to be addressed before we were ready for the stairs to be installed, I'll explain each step in detail.
Removing the Old Airing Cupboard
The first step is to remove the old airing cupboard. Previously this housed the hot water cylinder, this is no longer required as we now have a Worcester Bosch combi boiler that will provide hot water on demand. The plumber removed the tank and pipework as part of the boiler installation.
Removing the airing cupboard is a fairly easy task as it is only constructed from light timber and plasterboard. Once the cupboard was removed it left a large gap in the banisters over the stairs so a sheet of plasterboard was fixed across as a temporary measure to prevent any accidents.
Opening Up the Ceiling
With the airing cupboard removed it was now time to make an opening in the ceiling where the stairs would go. There was already an opening made that was being used for access, so it was just a case of removing some more plasterboard and ceiling joists to make the opening the correct size for the staircase.
The opening for the loft hatch is no longer required and was covered with a sheet of plasterboard ready for plastering later on. With the ceiling removed you could stand at the bottom of the stairs and see all the way up to the roof.
Getting Light Into the Stairwell
To ensure the stairwell had plenty of light a small Velux was installed. Make sure that the Velux is installed on the correct side of the roof, you want the light to ideally shine perpendicular onto the stairs, if the Velux is installed on the other side you get shadows from the stairs.
The only exception might be if one side of the house is south facing you might prefer to go for the maximum amount of light, or you could of course install a small Velux on both sides. There is a short video clip showing the space where the new staircase will be installed at the bottom of this page.
Installing the Stairs
Everything is now ready for the stairs to be installed. A local stair specialist company were contracted to build the stairs. They had previously been round to measure up and used computer software to design the stairs. All the parts were made in advance at their workshop, the actual installation was surprisingly quick taking only around 2 days in total to complete.
The diagonal 'strings' are installed and then the treads and risers. Glue is often used on the treads and risers for extra strength, if possible try to avoid using the staircase for 24 hours until the glue has set fully. Our stairs had two sets of winders to take the stairs through two 90 degree turns, this is in keeping with the existing set of stairs that connect the ground and first floor.
We had the basic staircase installed first and the spindles, newel posts and handrails were installed at a later date. The underside of the stairs were covered with plasterboard and wire mesh ready for plastering.
Now that the steels are in place work can start on removing the trusses and putting in the additional timber work that will transfer the roof load down onto the steels. At this stage most of the work is fairly straightforward carpentry, those working on a DIY loft conversion should find this stage fairly easy. Note the building the staircase is a highly skilled task that is probably best left to a specialist stair firm, as was the case with this conversion. So lets look in more detail at the work completed during this stage.
The cold water and central heating expansion tank were still in place at this point and needed to be removed to allow work to continue. Removal of the tanks was simply a case of removing them and capping off the pipes as the boiler was being replaced with a energy efficient Worcester Bosch gas boiler . We went for the Greenstar 37CDi which boasts an impressive 90.2% A-rated efficiency.
Removing the Trusses
In the photo you can see that some of the 'W' shape trusses are still in place. The approach taken was to remove the trusses as the additional supporting timbers were put in place, this is the safest approach as it ensures that the roof structure is not left in a weakened state. The additional timbers form a 'shell' around what will become the new bedroom, this transfers any existing loads down onto the steel RSJs and then onto the walls of the house. New rafters were bolted the existing rafters, although as you will see from the photos the new rafters are considerably bigger than the originals. In the photos you will also see that the RSJ to support the ridge has also been put in place, this steel was in two sections and needed to be bolted together in the middle. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see a video clip of the inside of the loft at this stage, unfortunately the video quality is not fantastic due to the poor light in the loft that day.
New Floor Joists
The steel RSJs are prepared to take the new floor joists by bolting timber joists into the 'I' of the beam. The RSJ had been pre-drilled so this was an easy task. Standard joist hangers are fixed to the timbers with square twisted nails. The joists that will run alongside and support the staircase are doubled up the take the extra load. In some loft conversions a flat piece of steel may need to be bolted in between the doubled joists to form what is called a Flitch Beam. Once the new floor joists are in position the water resistant flooring grade chipboard can be put down.
Loft conversions fall into one of four basic types, which type you decide to use for your loft conversion will depend on many factors such as the design of your existing roof, your budget, planning restrictions and your own personal preferences.
Velux and rooflight conversions are the same, Velux are the leading manufacturer of roof windows and with over 60 years experience producing windows the name Velux has become synonymous with this type of conversion. This type of conversion is generally very cost effective and does not normally need planning permission. Read more »
A dormer is an extension to the existing roof, allowing for additional floor space and headroom within the loft conversion. Dormers protrude from the roof slope, normally at the rear of the property and can be built in a variety of styles. Internally, a dormer will have a horizontal ceiling and vertical walls compared to the normal diagonal sides of a conversion. In lofts that have limited space or headroom a dormer will provide additional space that can make a conversion feasible. Read more »
A mansard roof has two slopes, the lower slope is close to vertical at 72 degrees and the top section of the roof is almost horizontal. This style of roof is named after a 17th-century French architect Francois Mansart (1598-1666) who used this design of roof on many of his buildings. A mansard roof has the advantage of maximising the available space within your loft. Read more »
Hip to Gable
A hip to gable conversion involves making fairly major changes to the roof. The gable wall is built up to the ridge line and a new section of roof is built to fill in the gap. As a general rule, houses with hip roofs tend to not have enough internal volume for a conversion to be practical so a hip to gable conversion is the best solution. Read more »
Velux and rooflight conversions are the same, Velux are the leading manufacturer of roof windows and with over 60 years experience producing windows the name Velux has become synonymous with this type of conversion. This type of conversion is generally very cost effective and does not normally need planning permission.
Velux windows are installed to fit flush with the line of the roof and leave the existing roof structure untouched. As they do not require extensive alterations to the roof this option helps keep the cost of the conversion down. As the loft is not extended beyond the original roof line planning permission is not normally required (you should still check with your local planning department before proceeding with any works)
A velux type loft conversion works very well for lofts where there is a good amount of headroom or if there are constraints on planning, for example if you live in a conservation area. If headroom is going to be limited then either a dormer or mansard conversion may be a better option. Velux rooflights can be fitted quickly and easily meaning there is minimal disruption or delays due to bad weather.
As Velux windows are installed at the angle of the roof rather than vertically like a normal window they can let in a surprising amount of light. While this is great during the day and will give you a light and airy room it can become a problem at night or in the summer. Window blinds are available from various sources tailor made for Velux windows that perfectly fit into the window frame. You can even get blinds that have a thermal silver backing, great for retaining heat in the winter and keeping it out in the summer.