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Before you can plan your project you first need to make sure that your roof space is suitable for converting into a new loft room. To do this the first ting you must do is carry out a loft survey.
Basically this means checking that the existing headroom in the roof space and checking to see if extensive structural alterations are going to be necessary.
Most lofts within UK properties can be converted; though some are much easier to convert than are others. If your property was build prior to 1960 or has a steeply pitched roof than there is nothing to worry about and you should be able to convert a loft quiet easily.
But, if your home was typically built between 1962 and 1972 (ish) than you may have problems because the roof is likely to have a very shallow pitch. The problem with a property having a very shallow pitched roof is that, to plan a loft conversion successfully, that roof will have to be raised.
Structurally, this isn’t such a big deal but the problem with raising the property above the existing roofline means that planning permission must be sought from the local authority. This can of course lead to all sorts of disputes, delays and expense.
Another thing to consider with such a property is that even if planning permission is granted and the roof can be easily raised the loss of first floor space for the new staircase may mean that no extra living space will be actually achieved with a loft conversion. Which would make the whole thing a waste of time.
Do A Loft Survey
The key question here is ‘how much headroom is available?’
Without being too obvious; if you can’t stand upright in the roof space than it is highly unlikely that you will be able to plan a loft conversion without considerable expense being allocated to the project. Basically it may well be economically unviable.
If however you can stand upright, and even better raise an arm above your head, than you’re in business. Really you should be looking for a minimum amount of headroom of 2.2 to 2.3 meters. Don’t worry if this headroom is only available in the centre of the roof space; by installing even a small dormer this space is massively multiplied.
Other Things To Look For In Your Loft Survey
While you are checking out the headroom in the roof space don’t forget to have a look at the general state of repair of the roof and the walls. If any work needs doing, for example re-pointing, than it may as well be done at the same time as you convert a loft.
Aside from the headroom issue the other main thing you are looking at is the type of roof you have.
A Rafter And Purlin Style Roof
A purlin and rafter roof is usually considered perfect for loft conversions and headroom shouldn’t be an issue if the house has this kind of roof so it isn’t essential to include a dormer in your planned loft conversion.
Of course, you may wish to include a dormer in your design anyway – by doing so you will create even more room and broaden the scope of your loft conversion.
A Trussed Rafter Style Roof
A trussed roof may require some structural alterations such as the roof height been extended. If your roof is of the this type than it complicates matters a little when you come to plan a loft conversion but it is not an insurmountable obstacle.
More Things To Consider
When planning a loft conversion there are a few essential factors to think about before committing the project to paper ranging from permitted development issues, design and even your neighbours.
It may seem a bit early to worry about Mrs Next Door, and you may not have the inclination to worry about her anyway, but, it’s always best to get the neighbours onside straight away.
Although the actual building of loft conversions shouldn’t inconvenience the neighbours too much there will still be unavoidable noise and possibly traffic disruption.
No one likes to hear a gang of builders hammering, joking and chatting first thing in the morning so keeping the neighbours sweet in the early stages will store up some goodwill for the future.
Another reason to keep the neighbours informed and up-to-date with developments is that you may well need their co-operation when the building work begins if a party wall is involved or if you have to make a full loft conversion planning permission application.
With the change in the permitted development laws it is important when planning a loft conversion to remember that most loft conversions involving a cable end will now be allowed though the volume cap still exists.
The volume cap means that loft conversions are only allowed to add up to 50 cubic metres to the roof space of a detached or semi-detached house, with only 40 cubic metres allowed to be added to terraced properties.
Another point to consider is that the permitted development of dormer designs has changed in that they will not be permitted on any roof that fronts on to a highway and that they should be set back from the eaves by a minimum of 20 cm.
What hasn’t changed is that any loft conversion, or dormer extension, must not be higher than the existing roof ridge of the property.
The best part of planning a loft conversion is coming up with the final loft design or concept for your new room.
The most popular loft conversion in the UK is adding an en-suite bathroom but we discuss all the possibilities in the design section of the site. However, one vital aspect that you must take into account no matter what the final room will be, is that the location of the loft stairs must be absolutely right.
It must be remembered that even though you are creating more living space in the loft you will lose a significant amount of space on the first floor when you install the loft stairs.
If there are space restrictions on the existing landing than one of the bedrooms will probably have to be sacrificed in order to fit in the new flight of stairs to the loft.
Of all the aspects of planning a loft conversion the location of the staircase is the single most important factor to consider and to get right.
When considering the planning of your loft conversion there are some often over-looked things to consider before finalising your project.
Apart from the building regulations another factor to consider before undertaking a loft conversion is the small print on your mortgage agreement.
If your property is mortgaged than, when planning your project, it may be necessary to inform your lender. In the vast majority of cases there won’t be an issue but, because the bank or building society have a financial interest in the property, they may need to give their formal consent for the work.
As well as pouring through the small print on your mortgage agreement you will also need to consult your building and /or contents insurance policy when planning your conversion.
Most policies make it mandatory for the householder to notify the insurance company of any major building work to be carried out on the property.
Informing the insurance company of your intentions will negate any potential problems with potential claims at a later date. And, in the case of building insurance, the policy will need to be amended once the project is completed to take into account the extra space created by the loft conversion.
Local authority covenants need to be considered – especially if your house was purchased from the local council under the right-to-buy rules.
Restrictive covenants are conditions which govern how the land / property can be developed and sometimes preclude loft conversions.
Such a covenant is unlikely in most cases but if your property is a former council house it is worthwhile checking the Land Registry to make sure no such restrictions apply to your home.
One other thing to consider, unlikely as it may seem, are Bats!
If your roof space is home to a Bat colony then, by law, it is illegal to disturb them. Hopefully though, unless you live in an Adams Family style mansion, you won’t have to worry about Bats. If, however, you feel the need to research the issue have a look at the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981).
It is unlikely that any of the above considerations will need to be taken into account when thinking about your loft conversion but you should certainly inform your mortgage lender and insurance company of your intentions.
For more info see the related pages below
Structural calculations for loft conversions are of course hugely important to ensure safety and that the proposed plans meet building regulations
What is the difference between planning permission and building regulations approval for loft conversions ?
Using And Fitting Loose Fill Insulation In Your Loft