A Beginner's Guide to Loft Conversions

All You Need To Know About Loft Conversions…

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Financial sense

With the global economy lurched into the buffers several years ago, the knock-on effects were numerous and varied. Blokes in pubs nodded knowingly when words like “subprime” and “commodities” were bandied about pretending they knew what they meant. They didn’t of course. And neither do I. But the upshot seems to be that the banks and the devious incompetents who run them, don’t want to lend you and I any more money. Which means the housing market has been hit extremely hard and people can no longer afford to move house as easily as before.

All of which is a painful, amateurish and tenuous way of saying that the loft conversion could be an attractive proposition for anybody looking for more liveable space, but lacking the financial clout to make the move to a larger property. The loft conversion can provide you with this extra space without stealing great chunks of your valuable back garden in the way that an
extension would.

Living Space

If you just want to provide yourself with a bit more room to store your old tennis racket that you will never use again because you are too old, or that brown suitcase that contains your specialist magazines, then you can just
board out the loft and forget about it. If, however, you want to use the loft as a liveable space, then there are a few things you need to take into account.

If you intend to alter or extend the roofspace, check with your Local Authority to see if
Planning Permission is needed. If you are using an Architect to provide drawings for the project, then he will be able to liaise with them on your behalf.

You may well find that many loft conversion projects will fall into the “Permitted Development” envelope. This was an attempt by the Government to speed up the planning process and reduce their back-log and workload. Hopefully this will apply to you and your lofty ambitions. One thing is for certain though, you will need Building Regulation approval. The following is a short list of the main points the
Building Inspector will be looking for when he casts his eye over your loft:

Keeping it Real

The first thing he will look for is the structural integrity of the floor. You cant just put floorboarding down and expect to use the floor as normal. The existing timbers were only designed to support the weight of the ceilings below. At the very least, new and larger
joists must be inserted alongside the existing ones in order to provide more strength. It is also probable that the Building Inspector will expect to see RSJ’s inserted into each party wall on padstones, upon which the new floor is built. This way, the new floor is totally independent of the ceiling timbers below. As Mr T. would say- “I pity the fool who has to carry them steels up the scaffold.” That fool was me and my Building Sheriff colleagues only a few months ago. In the snow. With a block and tackle. The Building Inspector will also make checks on the structural integrity of the loft conversion as a whole, including the roof.

Putting out Fires

Also very high on his list of priorities will be fire safety. He will expect to see a means of escape should the worst happen and a fire break out, and in my experience he will insist on fire doors throughout the property and the installation of fire alarms that have been wired into the mains. He may also want to see additional fire protection to other parts of the house and
partitioning built to protect stairwells.

Going up in the World

Next on the Building Inspector’s checklist will be the staircase. He will want to see a structure that has been properly designed and installed. Not one of those booby trap affairs that have to be retrieved with a bent piece of aluminium and tend to crack you on the back of the head when you are not looking as if you were an extra in a Charlie Chaplin film.

Feel the Warmth

The last big thing that the Inspector will be looking for is the provision of adequate sound and warmth insulation. This is something of a moveable feast. What might satisfy the authorities this year may very well be insufficient next year. If your builder follows the information provided to him regarding insulation types and thicknesses on the drawings, then all should be well because those very same drawings will have been given the thumbs up at the time of passing by the Local Authority bigwigs.

Let there be Light?

If your loft conversion is a fairly basic one, then the installation of opening roof windows will provide oodles of natural daylight and can also be incorporated as a means of fire escape. The next step up from the rooflight or Velux window, will be the dormer construction. As well as bringing in the natural daylight, you will be gaining far more actual useable living space because of the additional headroom provided. With just a brief nod in the direction of the
Party Wall Act of 1996 which is everyone’s favourite I know, a hope that you are not infested with bats and a bit of luck with the weather, you should be well on your way. Bit of a tip though- don’t lift steels up a snowy scaffold in January. Even Sherpa Tensing would have blanched and made a Nepalese excuse. We did though and I nearly cried.

A Guide To The Process of Converting a Loft