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How to convert a loft

Converting loft space into a usable room has become a popular way to increase the space in a home, while also adding value to the property. However, before starting your own loft conversion, it’s a good idea to consider what will be involved in the process.

We’ve put together a guide to walk through the steps that are necessary building a loft conversion. Follow these steps to make sure your loft conversion is successful and adds value to your home.

1). Can your home’s foundations bear the weight of a loft conversion?

While only a small increase in your home’s weight, a loft will add a heavier load to your home’s foundations. You’ll want to make sure the foundations can bear this new weight. The process usually involves exposing the foundations so they can be checked. The beams and lintels in your home will also need to be checked.

This work is usually done by a Building Control officer. He’ll check to see whether or not your home needs underpinning in order to safely support the weight of the converted loft. Keep in mind this could double the cost of your conversion.

2). Head Height—Is There Enough?

You’ll want to make sure to hire an architect who can measure your loft space to make sure there’s enough headroom. Can you imagine going up to your newly finished loft and not being able to stand up fully? The architect who draws up the plans should clearly show how much headroom you’ll have in the loft.

Remember to include the staircase accommodation, too. And make sure the staircase doesn’t inadvertently start within an existing bedroom or other room. It doesn’t make much sense to add space and then lose a room in the process.

3). Building Regulations & Party Wall Agreements

Loft conversions generally need to be approved under Building Regulations, even if they don’t require planning permission. It’s better to have the plans ready before hiring a building. In fact, an approved design will lower the risk of the project, and the building will be able to give you a fixed quote, rather than an uncertain estimate.

You’ll need to notify your neighbours about the conversion if you have a semi-detached or terraced home.

As the build progresses, a Building Control officer will some and inspect the work at different times. Once it’s completed, they will give you a final completion certificate. Be sure not settle financial matters with the contractors until you have the certificate.

4). Alteration of Roof & Floor Joists

The internal supports in your roof, which include struts in the loft and horizontal roof beams, will have to be taken out to make room for the loft conversion. Then they’ll have to be replaced with new supports that don’t overtake the loft space.

In addition, the ceiling joists will not be adequate to use as floor joists. In this case, new floor joists will be fitted alongside the ceiling joists and slightly above the ceiling plasterboard, so it won’t touch.

The joists will then rise above the tops of the ceiling joists and form the floor. These will bear either on the existing wall plates of internal and external load bearing walls or will on new beams that may be installed.

5). Stairs

Stairs for a loft conversion can be challenging; this is because the space is limited and tight. While narrow winding stairs are OK, they can be too narrow to easily allow moving furniture to the loft.

Some people consider custom-built stairs, but these can be quite expensive, often costing up to ten times more than pre-made stairs.

If you need custom stairs, then it’s a good idea to have the design approved by the Building Control officer before you have the stairs made.

In addition, remember that the stairs must be made to meet fire safety standards. They should lead into a hall and an external door. If the downstairs has an open-plan, and the stairs come up from a room, you may need to fit in a new partition wall or alter the escape route. This can add on to the cost of your loft conversion, too.

6). Windows

Windows are generally easy to fit into a loft conversion. In fact, dormer windows are a very popular option for lofts. Keep in mind that building regulations may not let you install the dormer windows on the front of the house. However, you can install them on the back side of the house.

Skylights and roof lights are another great way to bring natural light into the loft area. 

7). Fire Safety Upgrades

If you’re adding a loft conversion onto a bungalow, then the conversion will not greatly affect the fire safety of your home. You’ll just need to make sure that new windows in the loft are large enough to allow escape in case of a fire.

On other hand, if you’re adding a loft that makes your home three storeys, then the new loft floor will need 30-minutes of fire protection, at the least. This could mean that ceilings on the floor below will need to be re-plastered. The loft will also have to be separated by a fire door, either at the top or the bottom of the stairs. One window, large enough to escape through, will also be required in each room. And some skylights are made especially for this purpose.

8). Insulation

This can be challenging, due to the increase in energy efficiency standards. Loft conversion insulation can be more difficult to install, as a result. In the event roof tiles are also being replaced, insulation can be placed between the covering and the rafters. This also helps to make the loft more airtight and warmer.

If the roof won’t be replaced, the sloped ceiling will require insulation cut and fit between the rafters and under the rafters. You’ll want to make sure this is as thin as possible, since the plasterboard will need to be fixed to the rafters through the bottom layer of insulation.

What type of insulation should you use? The best is high performance insulation, which is typically foam board. The ashlaring walls and dormer window structures will also need to be insulated before the plasterboard is applied.

9). Sound Insulation

The new floor in your loft will need to be sound-proofed, which can be done by using a mineral fiber quilt between the joists. The best is to choose sound insulation that’s heavy and dense. The lighter thermal insulation will not work for sound proofing.

You may also need to insulate party walls for heat loss and noise.

10). Storage Ideas

Converting the loft will mean you’ll lose some storage space. In order to make the best use of the space you have, you can try using the eaves behind the ashlaring by fitting access hatches down the rafter line to the eaves, where you can store things.

Built-in wardrobes may also be a great idea for your loft conversion.

Adding a loft to your home is a great way to increase both space and the value of your home. Be sure to keep these considerations in mind to make sure your newly converted loft is a success!

Written By
ecoTrus Manager
May 10, 2023