A Complete Guide to Loft Conversions


A Complete Guide to Loft Conversions

November 16, 2020

A loft conversion is a great way to increase the liveable space in your home, without extending outwards or if you’re limited by the parameters of your boundary.

Most people use their loft space for storage or even not use the extra space at all. But there’s a whole host of possibilities open to you if you convert this space into either another bedroom, home office, or a different place to hang out at home.

However, it’s not quite as simple as adding some stairs and advertising your property with an additional bedroom; there are regulations to follow and a lot to consider, but the work is certainly worth it.

What is a Loft Conversion?

So what exactly is it, and what counts as a loft conversion? A loft conversion is the process of transforming the attic space into a useable and functional room, whatever you want to use it for. If you’ve got the height with the roof, it can be a straight renovation with no extension necessary. But if you’re looking to extend, there are lots of options open to you.

What are the Different Types of Loft Conversions?

It can be confusing to know which type of conversion to go for and which is going to get you the most use out of the space for your home. Some conversions are straightforward, and others are complex, but here, we explain the different types of conversions you can get and their main purposes.

Internal Loft Conversions Explained

The most cost-effective loft conversion is what’s known as the ‘internal loft conversion’; you may also know them as ‘Velux conversions’ where a specific type of window is used. This is also the type of loft conversion that requires the least amount of building work, so subsequently, this is your cheapest option. For this conversion, expect skylights to be added to the existing roof as well as the strengthening of the floor and fire and electrical safety regulations to be put in place, and it could be as simple as that to gain a whole new floor to your home. 

Loft room with skylights

Dormer Loft Conversions Explained

A dormer conversion is a popular choice as dormer windows help to increase the volume of the room and increase some roof space. This extra space allows you to get a lot more creative with the use of this room, offering more space – particularly good if this space is to be used daily. You’ll usually find a dormer conversion to the rear of the property, but with granted planning permission you can also extend to the front.

Double story house with woods surrounding

Types of Dormer Loft Extensions

There are a variety of dormer loft extensions available to you. They are:

Single Dormer

This is, as expected, where a single dormer extension is added. Highly favoured on residential dwellings.

Full-Width Dormer

A full-width dormer is, as the name suggests, an extension that is the full width (there or thereabouts) of the roof. This offers a huge amount of space and light for the internal property, maximising the potential of the attic space. 

Side Dormer

These are usually used where a property has a slopped (hipped) roof to help increase internal height inside.

L-Shape Dormer

Most commonly used on Victorian properties where there is the side rear to connect to. These types of dormer extensions offer significant additional space.

Hip-to-Gable Dormer

This is the process of the hip roof being replaced with a gable wall, and the roof extended over the gable to create extra space and headroom. This provides substantial internal ground space as well as headroom.

Roof-Off Loft Conversions Explained

Finally, there is the roof-off loft conversion (also known as a modular loft conversion); a significant extension with lots of build work to remove parts of the room and replace with a new structure that essentially creates new walls and another storey where the slope of the roof would have been. This is typically used where there was little to no headroom in the original attic and will require planning permission. 

Is a Loft Conversion and an Extension the Same Thing?

Usually, homeowners decide between converting their loft or building an extension on their home. A loft conversion offers a quicker project completion time, is generally cheaper, and is less disruptive to your home overall than building an extension would be.

Is my Property Suitable for a Loft Conversion?

Before you commit to converting your loft, ensure that your home is suitable. Begin by considering your existing structure and roof outline. If your home has a traditional roof, it’s likely to measure 2.2m high at the highest point; this is how much height you need to convert. Perhaps you’ve got a more modern home (built after 1965), if so, the frame in your attic is likely to be a ‘W’ shape and, whilst it’s not impossible to change, adjusting the frame will be more costly as this structure supports the roof so can’t be removed without being replaced in another way.

As well as the frame, consider the roof angle to ensure that you can utilise the entire space in your loft, not just the highest points. Small lofts are possible to be converted, but you just need to be aware of the plan and be clever with your design to maximise functionality and layout.

If you’ve concluded that your current attic space is suitable for a loft conversion, don’t forget to include accessibility in your design outside of the loft. Do you have room on your landing to build a staircase up? Whilst loft conversions are great for adding additional space to your home, they do take away from the first-floor landing with their required staircase. If you’re not sure how to make it work, consult with an architect to work through these potential design setbacks.

Bedroom in a loft

How Much Planning Permission Do I Need for a Loft Conversion?

Understanding planning permission as a homeowner is confusing. However, these regulations are in place from a safety and energy efficiency point of view and so are generally there to protect you.

The good news is that a loft conversion is what’s known as permitted development up to 50 metres3 (40 metres3 for terraced houses), so you won’t need planning permission, but you will require building regulations. This paperwork could be the difference between being able to state that your was two-bed property is now a three-bed, thanks to the loft conversion. If you cannot claim this as an additional room, then the value of the property will not raise as much as you perhaps anticipated, and so the costly conversion may not be worth it after all from a financial investment point of view.

As well as this, if you’re a terraced or semi-detached home and your conversion requires you to alter a shared wall (the party wall), you will need to obtain consent from your neighbours. This is best to be done before you undertake any work or spend any more in case they dispute.

How Much Does a Loft Conversion Cost?

This depends entirely on what type of loft conversion you are doing and what property you have. If you’re looking for the standard ‘room in the roof’, then you could be looking at around £15,000. This renovation could potentially increase the property value by 20%, so whilst the figure may seem high, it’s considered a long-term investment.

The cost of a room-in-the-roof-conversion would typically include all of the safety regulations to comply with building regs, windows, a staircase to the new room, electrics, lighting and heating, appropriate insulation, and the reinforcement of the floor.

For a dormer, you will be looking at over £20,000, and a double dormer with a design including an ensuite can cost upward of £35,000.

Design Ideas for Loft Conversions?

When it comes to design, your hands may be tied by the layout of the room, how much you have decided to extend by, and your budget. For a typical conversion consisting of a double bedroom and ensuite in the loft, here are some quick and easy design ideas to maximise the space and create an effective loft conversion.

  • Firstly, the ensuite would need to be placed above the existing bathroom so it can fall in line with current drainage pipes
  • If you’re opting for a bath, tuck it under the eaves to take advantage of the space
  • Add bespoke fitted furniture to fit into the shape of the room and help to maximise storage
  • Create a wet room instead of a full bathroom suite; this will create the illusion of a bigger space – make sure to use good-quality fixtures when installing any bathroom
  • Use sliding doors between the bedroom and the bathroom to minimise cumbersome doors and space issues

For the bedroom:

  • Bespoke fitted furniture is great to maximise the space and compliment the shape of the room
  • Natural light is key in this space, so whether you have used roof lights or dormers, position the bed opposite the light source for a natural way to wake up
  • Choose lighter colours to stimulate the bright and airy space
  • Embrace any sloping ceilings as part of the design
  • Tight bedroom in loft

How Long Does It Take to Build a Loft Conversion?

The time it takes to convert your loft will vary on which type of conversion you’re going for, whether there is additional work that needs to be done to support new structures, availability of tradespeople and materials, and other external factors. For a standard loft conversion, expect to take up to a month from start to completion.

Whenever you’re planning a big building project such as this, always allow for delays to the timelines and a contingency pot of money for extenuating circumstances and engage with professionals as early as possible for help with project timelines.

How to Plan for a Loft Conversion?

One of the most important parts of planning for a loft conversion is to hire the right tradesperson. You need a highly recommended, reputable, trusted builder and architect to provide guidance and to carry out the work to a high standard. Share your plans with them and ask for quotes on, so you know what to expect and you won’t be stung with a large bill at the end. It’s best to find a loft conversion specialist with experience in converting an attic space into a fully functioning loft room.

We only list accredited, trusted, and high-quality tradesmen, so you can rest easy knowing your loft conversion is in good hands. If you’re looking to convert your loft, browse our extensive list of experienced professionals to find the right one for you.

Build better with iknowa

Related Stories

January 19, 2021

A Guide to Boilers

December 22, 2020

How to Damp Proof Your Property