So, you’re thinking about a loft conversion?
What to Consider When Planning a Loft Conversion...usually fall under Permitted Development (PD) and not require planning permission. However, there are a few structural issues you need to consider for safety and practicality before deciding to go ahead with your loft conversion project. Such a large project can seem daunting, and it’s always worth consulting a trained professional for an informed opinion before beginning any structural works.
Should I Choose Solid Wood or Engineered?
Engineered wood has come into its own in the 21st century. Some of us may prefer a solid wood floor - it’s definitely a beautiful look and good for small and larger areas. It’s the epitome of luxury, sustainably sourced, and surprisingly good value. Engineered wood is also a superb option. Again, only you may know that your wood floor is engineered but the range of woods, shades, and formats is fantastic. Test your visitors to see if they can tell the difference?
When thinking about head height, make sure to give thought to the pitch angle of your loft space. Again, what you’re happy to work with will depend on whether you’ll need to regularly walk around your converted loft or fit in furniture such as wardrobes. The smaller the pitch angle, the less usable space you’ll have to work with. A greater pitch angle will allow you more headroom in your loft conversion.
Not Enough Headroom?
If your loft doesn’t have the ideal head height or pitch angle for the conversion project you’re planning, you needn’t count your loft conversion out - there are a few workarounds available to you. Dormers are an excellent way to boost the usable head height of your loft and providing your proposed dormer extension does not exceed your original roof height and is set back at least 20cm from the original eaves, in most cases you shouldn’t need planning permission (be sure to check with your local authority for up-to-date guidance before beginning works).
If you’re happy to apply for planning permission and have the budget to facilitate it, raising part or the whole of your roof may be another option available to add the extra roof height you need for a truly custom-built loft conversion. While major structural changes to your loft space can be costly, they may be the difference between a cramped and impractical space (or no loft conversion whatsoever!) and a brand-new luxurious loft room.
Are My Existing Joists Suitable?
Unfortunately, there’s a good chance that your existing joists won’t be suitable. Most ceiling joists will not be able to hold the weight of a conversion floor, which could lead to serious structural problems and safety concerns if not appropriately addressed before you begin work on the loft conversion.
When planning your conversion and deciding on a budget, don’t overlook the structural necessities. It’s essential that this work, which includes calculating the appropriate and safe size and grade of the timber joists in your loft, should be carried out by a trained structural engineer
Staircases for Loft Conversions
The floorplan of your loft and house’s top floor will largely dictate where you place the staircase to your converted loft space, but if you have the opportunity to choose, staircases should ideally be positioned beneath the roof ridge in your loft to make the best use of your available headroom. Under current building regulations, a staircase may have no more than 16 steps in a straight line, with each step measuring a maximum rise of 220mm and a minimum depth of 220mm.
Staircases should also have balustrading with a minimum height of 900mm above the pitch line; with each spindle close enough so that a 100mm sphere cannot fit between them. Although loft conversions will typically need fewer than 16 stairs, you may want to consider space saving staircases to maximise the usable floorspace on both floors.
While loft conversions can be an excellent way to maximise your use of your home, you may find that a conversion isn’t practically or financially viable for you. If you’ve weighed up the pros and cons and ultimately decided that a loft conversion isn’t on the cards for your home at the moment, one quick, low-cost change that can be made over the course of a weekend is adding insulation. In a poorly insulated home roughly 25% heat lost is through the roof.
If you’re making use of loft space for storage, you’ll already know how cold it can get in winter, but insulation can help. Be sure that you’re choosing a safe, non-combustible insulation with appropriate fire classification for safety. Whatever you decide to do with your loft space, conversions can range from minor upgrades to full-scale building work, and as with all structural projects, we recommend you consult a specialist for advice tailored to your home, budget, and vision.