Planning a Stress-Free Loft Conversion

Planning a Stress-Free Loft Conversion

A Simple Way to Add Space and Value to Your Home

A loft conversion is one of the most cost-effective ways to extend your living space. Where do you start?


If your loft is a twilight world inhabited by dust, boxes of Christmas decorations and sundry other junk, it could be crying out to be converted into a more usable space, as an additional bedroom, study or playroom for the kids. Like any home improvement project, it needs careful planning and preparation. Here are some of the things you will need to consider.

Planning permission and regulations

In most cases, a loft conversion does not require planning permission, which is an immediate advantage and cost saving. There are some exceptions, however, for example if you are planning to extend beyond the permitted limits or if you live in a conservation area, so it pays to double check with your planning office.

If you live in a semi-detached or terraced house, however, you will probably require a Party Wall Agreement. Again, it is worth getting party wall advice from an expert in order to check the requirements. Typically, this is a relatively simple process, provided you are on good terms with the neighbours.

Check the loft structure

The way your roof space is constructed will dictate the feasibility and work involved in doing a loft conversion. Older homes built prior to the 1960s usually have a timber framed roof that was constructed on-site. These have superior structural strength, and are relatively easy to open out with the addition of some extra structural supports. Newer homes use pre-fabricated roof trusses. These do not have the same inherent strength, so it is usually necessary to enlist experts to add steel supports.

Assess the available space

Roof pitch varies from one property to another. As a rule of thumb, the higher the centre, the more scope you have with regard to the ultimate design. If there is less than 2.2 metres available, you will need to either raise the roof or lower the ceiling below – both of which can be costly. When looking at space, also check whether there are water tanks in the loft. If so, you will need to add some plumbing work to the list of jobs in order to either relocate the tank to another location or to replace the system with a combi-boiler that will negate the need for the header tank.

Choosing the windows

The final structural consideration relates to the windows. The simplest and cheapest option is to insert a skylight or two, that will sit flush with the roof. However, if you are willing to invest an additional £5,000 or so, a dormer conversion provides additional space and makes a real difference – this is particularly worth considering if you are marginal on headroom, as it really opens the roof space out.

Design your space

With these major considerations dealt with, the fun can begin, and you can start to plan out your new space. Consider flooring, extra insulation, electrics, heating and, of course, access. Taking the dormer option also provides more flexibility as to the location of the staircase, so it is important to be clear on the final design before you begin.