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Frequently asked Questions
Whether you are undertaking a loft conversion, or simply trying to gain access to your loft, things can often become confusing. Below we have listed the most frequently asked questions. If you cannot find the answer you are looking for, please do not hesitate to contact us on
0870 604 0404, or e mail us at email@example.com
The following is as a result of research carried out by The Loft Shop into the most frequently asked questions about lofts and loft conversions. The questions and answers have been arranged in a logical sequence rather than in order of frequency.
1. Is my loft suitable for conversion?
As a general rule the steeper the slope (pitch) the greater the potential living space. Houses built before the 1960’s are easier to convert because roofs were usually constructed from individual rafters (the traditional rafter and purlin roofs). This is ideal for a loft conversion as it usually has a reasonably steep pitch and relatively clear space between the supporting framework.
Since the 1960’s most roofs have been built from ‘trussed rafters’. These are factory assembled triangles which result in a lower pitch with more struts. Converting a roof constructed like this is a more complicated process as it requires timbers to be rearranged or the roof raised.
Although there are no regulations governing height, a minimum height of 2.3 metres is needed over half the floor area to make a conversion worthwhile. As the existing joists were designed to hold up a ceiling, not to support a floor, it will probably be necessary to fit new joists between the original ones and then to screw chipboard sheets to the new joists raising the level of the floor, resulting in less headroom.
A minimum of 2m headroom is generally required over the flight of the staircase and landing, although the Local Authority may permit a slight reduction in this dimension.
2. How much will a Loft Conversion cost?
The cost depends on the type of property. Prices start around £17,500 for a typical three bedroom house. A specialist loft conversion company will charge £17,500 to convert a loft into an average sized en-suite bedroom (4m x 4m), as little as £12,500 for the shell and up to £17,500 with finishing details. If this seems a lot, remember it’s an investment - the extra space adds value to your home. A similar sized ground floor extension will cost at least £20,000
3. Will a Loft Conversion add value to my house?
It would be a mistake to assume that a loft conversion automatically adds value to a house. It may make it easier to sell but evidence shows that you will not necessarily recoup all the building costs. The exceptions being if you live in a very small house when it is advantageous to expand, or you live in an area where there are not enough houses to supply the demand.
However, estate agents say a fourth bedroom is the single most valuable feature a family house can have and usually converting an attic is simpler than building an extension.
The most important point to bear in mind is that a loft conversion should not look or feel like an add-on because if it does it will add little to the value of the house. The staircase is the key to making a conversion look as though it is part of the original house. Wherever possible the stairway should be a natural continuation of the original staircase so that the transition from ‘old’ to ‘new’ is seamless and within the conversion itself the style should follow that in the rest of the house i.e. skirting boards, architraves, picture rails, ceiling heights etc.
4. How long will the Loft Conversion take?
The work will take around 4 to 5 weeks for the main construction, as long as the loft conversion is straight forward.
5. Do I need planning permission for a Loft Conversion?
Under regulations that came into effect from 1 October 2008 a loft conversion or small dormer extension is considered a permitted development, and generally does not require planning permission.
Permission is required if you plan to extend or alter the roof space more than specified limits and conditions:
- Volume increase of 40 cubic metres for terraced houses or 50 cubic metres for detached & semi-detached houses. (2-3 bedroom houses generally will be OK for dormers).
- No extension beyond the plane of the existing roof slope of the principal elevation that fronts the highway (i.e. no dormer to face the street).
- No extension to be higher than the highest part of the roof (i.e. dormer does not increase the roof height).
- Materials to be similar in appearance to the existing house (i.e. in keeping with the house and street).
- No verandas, balconies or raised platforms (i.e. in keeping with the house and street).
- Side-facing windows to be obscure-glazed; any opening to be 1.7 metres above the floor. This is so neighbours are not over looked and for safety reasons.
- Dormer extensions, excluding hip to gable dormers (chimney wall to roof edge), are set back, as far as practicable, at least 20cm from the eaves (2 rows of tiles or a row of slates). This is for aesthetics and to prevent a "3rd storey" appearance.
- Roof extensions are not permitted development in designated areas, i.e. National Parks, ANOB, conservation areas, World Heritage Sites.
- The majority of loft conversions including those with quite large dormers do not require Planning Permission as the development can be completed under Permitted Development Rights.
Building Regulations are concerned with the finer practical details to make sure that the work is safe and healthy in construction and habitation.You must seek approval for loft conversions if the space is to be used on a regular basis as a ‘habitable space’.
You or your architect, must submit plans to the Building Control Office. In addition it should be noted that currently an application can be made to the Local authority using either a 'Full Plans' or 'Building Notice' application.
Charges are usually based on floor area of the conversion and will vary between authorities.
The local authority will inspect work in progress to ensure regulations are being properly observed. The Loft Shop produces it’s own Guide to Loft Conversions and the Building Regulations which is available free of charge from any of our stores or by calling 0870 604 0404.
7. How much of the work can I do myself?
If you have the time and inclination you can make huge savings by doing some of the work yourself.
The modern roof window, that is one which lies flush with the roof surface, is designed to be installed from within the roof space, with no exterior scaffolding necessary. This puts the job well within the scope of a competent DIY enthusiast and an added advantage of this type of window is you do not need planning permission. Laying floor coverings, building plasterboard walls and ceilings, extending the power supply and central heating up into the loft and doing the final decoration can also be done by a good DIY-er but for installing a staircase or strengthening the floor the help of a professional builder is strongly advised.
With any large home improvement project, savings in cost should be weighed against the fact that your home will be disrupted for longer which could be crucial if you have young children or the work is to be open to the elements.
8. How do I choose a builder or loft converter?
Loft conversions can involve complex construction work - don’t attempt it yourself unless you are fully competent at DIY. Take great care when choosing a company to carry out the work - personal recommendation is best.
It is always a good idea to have an architect design your loft before asking for quotes from a loft converter because then you can be sure that each contractor is quoting for the same thing.
Always contact more than one firm so you can compare written quotations (estimates are only a rough price). Avoid companies that deal only in cash payments and demand large sums up front, and, as with any building company, make sure you've seen evidence of previous work.
9. Does the Loft Shop fit any of its products?
Although the Loft Shop does not undertake loft conversions it does provide an established Fitting Service along with a recently launched Spiral Staircase Fitting Service which is aimed at ensuring the quick and trouble- free installation of the Loft Shop’s up to the minute range of steel and timber spirals. There is short waiting list, all products are guaranteed and the company has full insurance cover. The fitters are experienced, fully qualified carpenters (Loft Shop employees) used to working inside people’s houses with the minimum of disruption and mess.
10. How do I decide the best product for gaining access to the loft space?
Safe convenient access to the loft is a must and there is a wide range of loft ladders to chose from, with widely varying prices. They range from a basic aluminium ladder through space saving concertina and timber folding ladders to luxurious electrically operated custom built ladders.
Loft ladders are only to be permitted for storage purposes - all conversions will require permanent staircases, the choice of which will probably depend on the space available.
With The Loft Shop Fitting Service you can have a two section aluminium loft ladder supplied and fitted by fully qualified carpenters for as little as £99 exc VAT.
A three section aluminium ladder which takes up less space and comes complete with hand rail and operating pole can be supplied and fitted for £159 exc VAT.
The popular range of larger timber loft ladders come complete with timber lining, door, operating pole, finishing architrave and handrail and, with their deep wide treads, offer a sturdy and attractive alternative for safe and easy access. If the loft is to be used for storage a large hatch is an advantage as it allows easy access for larger items. The Loft Shop offers a free site survey for larger ladders with no obligation to buy and Loft Shop staff can advise on the best ladder for the space available.
Finding space for an access staircase for your proposed loft conversion is an important early consideration because building regulations demand a permanent staircase for access to bedrooms or bathrooms. Stairs which extend from your existing staircase are the best solution but if the landing space is already cramped, spiral staircases, space-saver stairs with alternating treads, and non-retracting ladders that have a permanent handrail, are all permissible alternatives. Again Loft Shop staff will be able to advise you as to the best option.
11. I know I need an emergency exit roof window in case of fire but what does it look like?
Escape windows are no longer required for conversions of two storey properties creating a third storey as The Building Regulations will require a protected staircase.
The conversion of a bungalow will require an escape window where a protected staircase is not provided.
12. I have heard about Part L. What are the new insulation requirements for loft conversions?
The latest standards are contained in the October 2010 documents.