Loft Conversions

Converting your roof space into an extra bedroom may be a great idea but is it that simple?

As part of a growing family you are probably all too aware of the lack of suitable housing. And although there is much talk about the possible relaxing of planning regulations it’s unlikely this will lead to an increase in supply of three or four bedroom houses – in the short term at least?

Loft conversion with velux windows and central staircase

It’s not surprising then that many families are looking at extending their current house in order to provide an extra bedroom or general living space? Aside from the obvious benefits of staying where you are there can be financial advantages too.

According to recent studies* the cost of a four bedroom house can be around £35,000 more than a similar 3 bedroom property. Add stamp duty and other moving expenses and the cost is likely to rise to £44,000 or more. Compare this to the £20,000 or less it would cost to build an extension and you’ll start to see why extending your existing living space starts to make sense — not to mention the increase in value which could easily cover the cost.

More Space Required – The Options

You have a range of options at your disposal depending upon your budget, available space and location.

A basement conversion has become a popular solution where existing space is restricted but can be problematic. If you are considering this route then it is essential you engage the services of a specialist contractor as problems resulting from poor workmanship can take years to show and be very expensive to put right.

A traditional building extension (or lateral extension) may be the ideal but few of us are fortunate to have the available space. It’s also worth bearing in mind that for the purposes of adding an extra bedroom or playroom an extension will most likely require planning permission and involve much greater initial cost.

An alternative idea that is becoming more popular is converting an existing garage (usually adjoining the existing property) into a living space or play room.

The most popular solution, however, is to convert your existing roof space into an extra bedroom. In many cases you will not need to apply for planning permission and this is also usually the least expensive option. There are, however, a few considerations — particularly when providing space for young children.

So a loft conversion it is – But are there any pitfalls?

Searching around the internet you’ll be forgiven for thinking that converting your roof space into an extra bedroom is the answer to all your problems, and in many cases it may be, but you should also consider what’s involved first as once you’ve committed yourself to the idea it will be difficult to turn back.

Stairs

Depending upon the space you have available it’s likely that the access to your attic bedroom will via a non-standard staircase which may be at an extreme angle — and this presents an obvious hazard where young children are concerned. You will also need to consider where the stairs terminate in the room itself because the regulations stipulate there must be a minimum headroom level. This may result in the opening for the stairs being in the centre of the room. Not only will this have an impact on the available floor space but is yet another hazard to contend with.

Arke Kya Space Saving Stair Kit

A space-saving staircase like this designer example by Arke  will make the most of what little room you have to play with but it’s unlikely to be situated in a large room like this one. More often than not  you’ll have to  accommodate  an extra staircase in your hallway where space is already at a premium.

Windows

Another consideration will be how the windows are arranged – roof lights, for instance, can create a problem of over-heating during the summer months which can be difficult to manage. You can opt for solar control glazing but this will be an extra cost you may not have budgeted for?

Conversely, you could also experience a lack of light with some traditional style dormers which may have a high sill height. Again there are measures you can take — such as installing a sun-pipe to bring in more natural light to the room, but this could be yet another expense you didn’t anticipate?

Fire Safety

Fire safety is a subject which has to be taken seriously. The building regulations set out strict minimum standards in terms of fire detection and providing a safe means of escape but it’s important not to be complacent. Think the unthinkable and consider how you would cope if there was a fire in your home — have a plan in place and make sure your children know exactly what to do in an emergency.

Workmanship

It’s become something of a  cliché  these days to mention cowboy builders but there are still plenty of them about. There is nothing worse than a loft extension badly done so take your time finding someone to do the work and never make a decision on cost alone.

More Advice & Resources

*Ref: Lofty Aspirations Utilising the Roofspace — NBS Shortcut 22 –  RIBA Enterprises 2007

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