If you find yourself needing a bit of extra room, but a move is out of the question, you may want to consider converting your loft. This is a fairly straightforward way to dramatically modify your home, and with a bit of professional help and know-how, you’ll have a fully decked-out loft space in no time!

Here at Martin Perry Associates, we have a wealth of structural engineering experience, from simple beam design to more extensive projects. Here, our guide walks you through where to begin when it comes to converting a loft space.

Can My Loft Be Converted?

Before we jump into the specifics, we must first consider whether all lofts can be converted.

Determining whether your loft is suitable for conversion is the obvious first step in your project. You must consider:

1. The available headroom.
2. The roof pitch.
3. The existing structure of the roof.
4. Any built-in obstacles like water tanks or chimneys.

The area you are thinking of converting should have at least 2.2 metres of useable space at its mid-point when measured from the ceiling joist to the base of the ridge timber.

There is no legal minimum for the room, but there is for any staircases; the section for your stairs must have at least 2 metres of headroom.

If your roof has a low pitch angle, the central head height is likely to fall too short to be comfortable.

Traditional roof frames often make the best structures for conversion. Depending on your existing frame, the rafters may need strengthening.

A structural engineer will be able to advise you on whether your loft space is suitable and what can be done to make it so.

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Work to Consider

When undertaking a loft conversion, you will generally need to consider:

• Floor reinforcement and soundproofing
• Skylight options
• New insulation and weatherproofing
• Electrics, heating and plumbing
• Fire doors and fire alarms
• Staircases up to the converted space

This kind of work is best left up to the professionals in most cases. To ensure that your project meets all the regulations and safety codes, it is often better to enlist the help of a specialist conversion company or engineer.

Putting your faith in the professionals can end up saving you money in the long run if your DIY efforts go wrong.

Architectural Design

A loft space converted into a craft room

When you have determined that a loft conversion is a possibility for your home, designing your space is the next step.

When deciding on a design, think about what you will be using the space for. Popular converted rooms include:

• Another bedroom, perhaps with an en-suite.
• An art studio or other creative space.
• A playroom or games room for children.
• A relaxing study.
• A home cinema.

Planning Permission?

The question on many homeowners mind will be, ‘do I need planning permission for my loft conversion?’

Your designs will need to adhere to various rules, but you will not always need planning permission for a conversion of this kind. If you exceed the limitations of Permitted Development, you may require planning permission.

You should always check with your local planning office before any work starts if you are unsure about what you can and cannot do.

Despite not needing a planning permit, you will need your designs approved by Building Regulations. This office will also issue a certificate of completion when your conversion undergoes a final inspection. A Building Regulations surveyor will ensure that your proposed project meets the requirements of the Party Wall Act, has the minimum required headroom and complies with the appropriate safety guidelines.

Cost

Like any kind of domestic construction work, the cost of a loft conversion will vary depending on the size of the space, the materials used and the location of your house.

Generally, a loft conversion will cost between £12,000 and £40,000. The wide range is due to the aforementioned variables and the construction method. A Velux conversion is usually the cheapest option with prefabricated or modular loft conversions being the most expensive, costing you in excess of £50,000.

Timeline

A loft in the process of being converted

As you may have guessed, the timeline of your conversion will also vary depending on your design. Converting a loft space can be a fairly complex undertaking and will require some patience. Realistically you will need to live through the work for around 6 to 8 weeks for the average conversion.

The following outline describes the basic construction timeline of a loft conversion.

Week 1

Any major structural work takes place at this point. New floor joists will also be fitted at this stage to ensure the floor can take weight.

Scaffolding is also put up, and the first round of materials are delivered.

Week 2

Structural work will continue into the second week, with window frames and internal wall structures being fitted.

Week 3

This week will focus on external roof work, including roofing, guttering and soffits.

The plumber and electrician will also be called in here to get to work on the vital plumbing and electrics.

Excitingly, you’ll also probably see your staircase taking shape at this point.

Week 4

The windows in their entirety will be installed at this point, along with any other structural elements that need to be completed.

Plasterboard will be fitted, allowing plasterers to come in and skim the walls; your new room will start taking shape!

Week 5

In the home stretch, all plastering is completed, and the electrician performs any final checks with the lights and switches.

Week 6:

Final touches like the door installation and any bathroom tiling are completed here.

If you have opted for professional decorators, they will also come in at this stage or in the following week to take your loft from construction site to beautifully liveable space!

Week 7 and Beyond:

When all construction has been completed, the conversion team will clear out, making sure everything is cleared, and any waste has been removed.

You are then free to undergo the final inspections from a Building Regulations surveyor.

This schedule is only a general summary, but these are the basic stages each conversion will go through.

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If you are embarking on your very own loft conversion or starting a new project, why not consult our experienced team here at Martin Perry Associates to see how we could help?