Thinking about increasing your home’s legroom? Although extensions and add-ons are quite the popular choices, what’s one to do if there’s no space in the yard and garden for an additional room? Simple: one goes up!
Yes, loft conversions have proven quite efficient in adding extra space to a house, regardless of whether you’re in need of a guest bedroom, an extra bathroom, a home office, or playroom for the kiddies. And don’t forget about the investment – a decent loft extension can add between 10 and 20% to the value of a home. Depending on your location, the materials used, and the size of said loft extension, you’re looking to spend approximately between £10,000 – £40,000; not a bad price at all, considering that you don’t need to sacrifice your garden- and yard space to enjoy some extra legroom.
Additional good news comes in the form of planning permission – for most loft extensions, you don’t need it! Adding up to 40m³ in a terraced house, or 50 m³ in a detached or semi-detached house is seen as ‘permitted development’. Just be sure that your extension doesn’t protrude beyond certain points. And always be sure to have a seasoned home-building team by your side.
Let’s take a look at some more must-know facts (and good-to-know tips) when it comes to loft conversions…
Lofts with a minimum head height of 2.3m can usually be converted, but keep in mind that elements like chimneys and water tanks might affect this decision.
So what if that roof space is less than 2.3m? Then your options can be to remove sections of the roof (or all of it), even though it might work out quite costly; to lower the ceiling of the rooms below; or opting for a modular conversion (where it’s built off site and then installed afterwards).
1. Rooflight conversions: require the least amount of structural work and are the most cost effective.
2. Dormer conversions: the easiest way to add light and an increased amount of roof space, where the roof structure is altered at the sides or rear of the house, adding a large, flat-roofed dormer.
3. Hip-to-gable conversion: the hipped or sloping side roof is removed and the end wall is built up straight to form a new vertical gable.
4. Gable-to-gable conversions: a new box extension spanning the space between each gable end is added.
5. Mansard conversions: either one or both roof slopes are replaced with steep sloping sides, and a flat roof is added over the top.
6. Modular extension: with correct measurements, the new rooms are manufactured off site and delivered as a module. The existing roof is removed and the new module installed.
As most loft conversions count as permitted development, planning permission isn’t required, subject to the following criteria:
• No extension is added beyond the plane of the existing roof in front of the house;
• The extension is not higher than the highest part of the existing roof;
• The extension’s materials are similar in appearance to the existing property;
• No verandas, balconies or platforms;
• Side-facing windows are obscure-glazed and open 1.7m above the floor;
• Roof extensions (aside from hip to gable ones) must be set back at least 20cm from the original eaves;
• Extensions can’t overhang the original house’s walls;
• Roof extensions are not PD in flats, listed buildings and designated areas, such as national parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or conservation areas.
Don’t worry about learning all of this by heart – your trusty architect and/or building team will have the required knowledge to guide you through the planning permission process.
Do you want your loft conversion’s exteriors to contrast with your existing property, or complement it? Matching brickwork is always acceptable, yet a lot of homeowners opt for cladding to ensure a more contemporary finish that stands out from the rest of their house’s appearance.
Projects like inserting a basic skylight or dormer conversion can be implemented without too much upheaval for your daily life. But more major projects, like replacing the entire roof, might mean you’ll have to move out for a few weeks, especially if the work is being completed during winter.
While the majority of conversions can be done between 8 – 12 weeks, modular lofts can be finalised in about two weeks.
Turning that unused space into a loft can be the ideal time to make your home more energy efficient, as the installation of specific insulation is a requirement of building regulations. Two forms of insulation (cold-roof insulation and warm-roof insulation) can be considered. And a professional building control inspector can help you determine which is best for your home.
Of course your new loft space needs to be practical, which takes us to storage areas. With low-level sloped ceilings, there’s not always enough room to accommodate standard furniture; however, bespoke pieces can be made to fit in perfectly with that new loft, such as custom-made cupboards, floating shelves, etc.
Space is precious, and as that staircase which leads up to your loft can take up a chunk of legroom, consider making it a focal feature instead of just plain old steps.
Spiral staircases take up less space, plus stand out due to their curvy designs. On the other hand, the space underneath regular loft conversion stairs can sometimes be used for bookcases, storage areas, etc.
If space is at a premium (which it usually is), keep your colour schemes simple. Light, neutral-hued rooms can make a space feel softer, brighter and more sophisticated. And don’t forget about add-ons like mirrors, stainless steel, and glass to up the brightness factor even more.
Want to see loft conversions done oh-so right? Then take a look at The 12 best UK loft conversions we've seen.