It’s important to determine exactly what a loft conversion will involve and how the design of your home will be affected before actually beginning a loft conversion. Here are ten tips to make a note of and follow if you are currently determining whether or not a loft conversion is the best way to add more value to your property.
CAN YOUR PROPERTY TAKE THE WEIGHT OF A LOFT CONVERSION?
Even though it may be only a modest increase, a loft conversion will add weight to your home. In this case, you will want to take all necessary steps to ensure that the overall structure of your home can handle this kind of weight. You will need to expose and check such things as lintils, beams, and the foundation itself, as these will carry the majority of the weight.
You will want to dig a small hole to properly expose the foundations first, as this will allow the Building Control officer to inspect this area fully. If it’s determined that your home will need underpinning to support all of the weight, expect your overall budget to be doubled.
IS THERE ENOUGH HEAD HEIGHT?
You will need to obtain the services of a designer to properly illustrate exactly how much headroom your new bedroom will contain once it has been fully converted. It’s also important not to forget that you will need a staircase leading to the new loft area, which should rise above the old staircase and not come from any existing bedroom. You can read more about that here.
You may also have to replace the hot water and heating systems with a sealed system because there is no longer sufficient roof space for these systems.
BUILDING REGULATIONS AND PARTY WALLS
Whether or not they need any actual planning permission, lofts conversions always require approval through Building Regulations; therefore, before locating a builder, consider adopting a full plans application approach and come up with a detailed scheme. A builder will give you a more detailed quote if you have an approved design in place.
ALTERING THE ROOF STRUCTURE
Most traditional cut and pitched roofs are constructed with internal support struts that prop up the horizontal roof beams and the rafters while making up the web of braces in modern trussed rafter roofs.
There are a few different ways to adjust the roof for a loft conversion, but regardless of the method you select, the ceiling joists will almost certainly be inadequate to the floor joists. The best option will be to have the joists rise above the existing joists to make up the floor structure. These will either bear onto newly installed beams or the existing plates of internal and external load-bearing walls.
The overall space for loft stairs is tight, which can make them tricky to design. When planning a loft conversion, it’s important to keep in mind that purpose-built loft staircases cost around ten times more than standard staircase designs.
Before finalizing any kind of staircase design, be sure to have it approved by your Building Control officer. You also will want to make sure that the staircase leads to a fire exit to allow people to escape safely should a fire break out in the home.
FITTING WINDOWS AND GAINING NATURAL LIGHT
If you’re looking to install skylight windows, you will not need to make any structural alterations, which means they will be relatively easy to install. On the other hand, Dormer windows are more complex, as these kinds of conversions have walls and a roof and windows. Dormer windows are also more complicated in that they require prior planning permission; however, they can also maximize the overall headroom in the loft.
UPGRADING FOR FIRE SAFETY
When taking on a loft conversion, it’s extremely important to consider features that will upgrade the overall fire safety. For instance, the new floor in the loft will need fire protection, you will need one escape window per room in the loft, and the loft itself will need to be separated from the rest of the home by a fireproof door, which should be located at the top or bottom of the new staircase. You also will want to include efficient smoke alarms as part of the loft’s electrical plan.
INSULATING YOUR LOFT AGAINST HEAT LOSS
Loft conversions can be difficult to insulate, especially in light of the overall increase in standards. Insulation will need to be properly cut and fitted into the sloped ceiling, with the insulation itself being cut as thin as possible. High-performance insulation of some kind must be installed.
INSULATING AGAINST SOUND
Two common areas of the loft that should be soundproofed are the walls and flooring. Rather than using a lighter thermal insulation material to do the job, consider using a denser sound insulation quilt. When followed up by covering the material with sound-rated plasterboard, your insulation against sound will be complete.
With a loft conversion also comes a loss of storage space. However, there are two different solutions that you can take advantage of. The first involves investing in storage bins or crates, while the second involves constructing a built-in wardrobe, which generally fits well in a loft bedroom.