Loft conversions can be as simple as adding Velux windows and a pull-down ladder (although a temporary staircase means it won’t count as an extra room when you sell), or as dramatic as extending out of the original roof, effectively providing an extra floor. Start by getting acquainted with the area – if your loft has a ceiling height of 2.3 metres or more, it has the potential to be converted.
The sky’s the limit
Even small lofts can work effectively as a self-contained guest suite, nursery, office, music room, etc. Before you decide on the extent of the works, make sure you’re familiar with the relevant planning laws. Permitted Development Rights allow homeowners to convert lofts without the need for Planning Permission, but caveats include listed buildings, conservation areas, national parks and maisonettes. The local council may also have issued an Article 4 direction on your property removing these rights.
What are the options?
A simple Velux conversion is often the cheapest solution and, as the roof slope is not altered, will maintain a property’s appearance but may also result in limited height. Alternatively, a dormer has vertical windows and doors, which allow full head room and greater possibilities when it comes to staircases etc. However, it may be harder to blend in with the character of a property. Mansard conversions look less boxy than a dormer, due to the 70-degree slope of the rear wall and raised party wall brickwork, but require Planning Permission while a hip to gable works well on semis or end-of-terraces. Pricier than a dormer, they can alter a building’s appearance dramatically.
Bear in mind…
“If you decide to use a specialist loft company, secure at least three quotes, ideally five. Once you have a shortlist, ask to see examples of work and speak to previous clients. Be aware that all companies will show their best lofts and offer glowing testimonials, so do some research. Internet forums and reviews will help you find out more.
– Ask to see your neighbours’ loft conversions, especially if their houses have the same footprint as yours. Is there space for two bedrooms or is it too cramped? Is there enough light? What is the head height? Nothing will give you more of an idea about what you want than seeing conversions in similar properties.
– Many companies win a project and sell it entirely to a loft contractor, meaning that they barely visit the site itself or even monitor the works taking place. So find out how often a project manager will be on site. This shouldn’t be the main builder, but someone who checks on the work being carried out. It’s important that building work is being monitored on your behalf.
– Work in partnership with your builder. Ask for a weekly meeting on site to discuss progress. If you leave them to it, you may not notice any tweaks needed until the end of the build, when it’s too late. It will also force the company to discuss decisions with you. Ideally, these meetings should be with a project manager or supervisor, as well as the builder”.