Many people are having lots of problems selling their home. Prices are lot lower than they were a few years ago, the result being that many find themselves in negative equity making it impossible for them to move. More and more are considering loft conversions, extending or renovating their existing homes rather than taking on the uncertainty of relocating to a different home. Whatever work you do to your home – a loft conversion, extension, renovating etc – it will vastly improve your living environment and undoubtedly increase the value of the property in the long run.
Loft conversions are an ideal option for solving space problems and we at Contour Architectural Services suggest that the space could be used for an additional bedroom, study, playroom, gym or whatever you want. They are very cost effective when compared to the cost of selling up and moving to a larger home.
Many people think that just because they have this large space in the attic they can easily convert it to usable space. This is not always the case as not all roof spaces can be easily converted to useable accommodation!
A roof structure consisting of roof trusses for example is very difficult to convert. Roof trusses are pre-fabricated roof sections that are made in a factory and transported to the site and placed on the house. The truss roof configuration acts as one, a bit like a “basket”, and therefore very strong. For this reason smaller sections (sizes) of timber can be used for the individual sections of the truss. If compared to a traditional cut type roof, the sizes of the rafters and purlins are much larger. If you start cutting out individual sections of the trusses the whole integrity of the roof structure may be compromised. If fact you may have a hard job getting a designer or builder to take on the job and try to convert it. It generally would be quite expensive.
Does your roof space look like the photograph above then the roof structure is truss type.
If your roof space consists of a traditional cut roof with rafters and purlins (see photo to the left) then chances are it can be converted into usable space assuming there is sufficient head room.
Headroom is important factor for obvious reasons but to convert a loft in accordance with the building regulations insulation needs to be placed to the underside of the sloping roof to achieve the required thermal resistance. This insulation can be quite thick (at least 6 inches) so this must be taken into account in deciding if there is sufficient head room.
There are a number of other considerations to think about when deciding to convert the roof space
Normally there are two tanks in the roof space – a smaller tank and a larger one. The smaller tank is known as a header tank and is used to keep the radiators and piping on the heating system topped up with water. The second larger tank is storage water that supplies water to the WC cisterns, the bath and wash hand basins etc. Modern houses do not have these tanks as quite often a pressurised water system is installed negating the need for storage tanks. If you wish to convert your room space, these tanks may have to be removed or relocated in the roof space to make way for the useable room. It might be a good idea to remove them all together and convert the water system to pressurised type. The added benefit is that the reduction of water tanks and water filled pipes in the roof space will reduce the risk of burst pipes in the winter time.
With a roof space conversion it is preferable to have proper staircase up to the room above for access and means of escape in the event of a fire. Staircases generally take up a considerable amount of room within a home. Depending on the availability of room below, you may have to sacrifice one of the smaller rooms to make space for the new staircase. Headroom above the staircase needs to be sufficient to go up and down the stairs safely. The staircase needs to have a landing at the top with minimum headroom usually about 2m. The landing must not be smaller than the width of the staircase and no part of the landing can have a sloping ceiling with the headroom less than the minimum.
If you plan to use the attic space as living accommodation and not just for storage, the existing joists may not be strong enough to take the load required for a floor. Upgrading the existing joists in this case will be necessary. This may involve installing new deeper floor joists spanning between supporting walls below. Floor decking will be fixed over the top of the new stronger joists to form the floor structure. Additional beams and lintels may be necessary below the roof structure in order to take the load of the additional floor.
If your home is already two storeys and converting the attic will effectively make it three storeys, then special requirements may be necessary in order to comply with the building code for fire safety. This could involve fitting fire doors to protect the stairwell, early warning devices and a escape window at attic level etc.
The most efficient way to allow light and ventilation into a roof space is using roof lights (windows) such as Velux type. These are easy to install and look great. If headroom is insufficient a dormer may be the solution. The construction of a dormer requires a lot more work though as large sections of the roof is removed requiring the installation of the structural members providing additional support to the existing roof structure.
In order to reduce heat loss additional insulation will be required in the roof space area in accordance with building code.
Planning permission - Not every roof space conversion needs to go through the planning approval process. We at Contour can advise if you require planning permission or not and if you do we can make all the necessary applications on your behalf.
Building control approval - if you make any alterations to your home you will most likely require building control approval prior to commencement of the works. Roof space conversions, because of the complexities involved, will always require this approval and Contour Architectural will take you through the architectural design process to obtain the necessary approval.
Under no circumstances should you carry out any alterations to your home without obtaining the necessary statutory approvals. Not having the required permission for alterations will be become very apparent if you decide to sell your home in the future. All lending institutions and their lawyers will insist on all the approvals from the various statutory bodies for any alterations to the house from the original prior to the release of funds. Without these approvals you will probably be unable to sell your home in the future. Contact us first and we will ensure to get all the necessary statutory approvals you need for your project.
If you found this article interesting and you are thinking of organising the building works yourself to convert your attic, then you may want to read a self build guide on construction pre-planning and material costing. Maybe you are thinking of building a brand new home then you will be interested in reading on choosing a