It’s a daunting prospect but converting the loft is one of the most rewarding and practical home improvement projects you can tackle. Not only will it provide you with additional living space you have available it could increase the value of your home.
But there’s a lot to consider when you convert your loft so we’ve pulled together our top tips to get you started on the road to planning your project.
Top loft conversion tips for homeowners
1) Do a preliminary survey
Before doing anything you need to ensure that your loft can be converted into a brand new room(s).
Most properties in the UK will be suitable for conversion but, just like anything else in life, some are easier to do than others.
It really depends on what is up there to start with and how the roof was constructed.
Older houses are much easier to convert then those constructed after the mid-1960s as the roofs tend to have a deeper pitch and are free from internal trusses. Conversely, brand new houses, built since the turn of the new century, are often built with lofts that are already conversion ready.
Assess if your loft is suitable for conversion by checking the head height, roof structure, and available floor space.
2) Budget wisely
Loft conversions can be expensive. Set a realistic budget and don’t overextend yourself financially. Also add 20% to your bottom line to cover any unexpected costs.
3) Consider using an architect
Although a professional architect can seem a big expense there are several reasons why you consider using one. The first is obvious.
A good architect will be able to turn your vision into plans on paper, but he can also be used to project manage and may have a good building company that he works regularly with to save you the hassle of finding a builder.
Hire a professional architect. Not only will an architect be able to translate your design dream into a practical drawing and project, he will also be able to advise which builders to use and where to source the best materials. He will also deal with the local council on your behalf.
4) Secure planning permission
Most loft conversions are classed as permitted development. However, even if you live in an area of natural beauty, the property has previously been extended, or you’re building above the roof line, you will need planning permission.
Before doing anything, you need to determine if your conversion requires planning permission and obtain it before starting work. As the homeowner it is your responsibility to ensure your project complies with the planning laws.
5) Don’t ignore the building regulations
Whether or not you need planning permission you must comply with the building regulations. You have no choice here. You must get building approval for your loft conversion. Don’t be tempted to ignore the building regulations and build your loft conversion without official approval.
This is a recipe for disaster and could cost you thousands upon thousands of pounds not to mention making your house impossible to sell.
6) Hire a professional structural engineer
An engineer will be able to carry out a survey on your roof space prior giving you all the information you need to plan your loft conversion. But the survey will also reveal any issues or structural issues. Only when a complete survey has been done with no reported problems should you even begin to think about designing your loft conversion.
7) Go for natural light
A loft conversion is a fantastic opportunity to plan a new room, or suite of rooms, from scratch utilising your own ideas and creativity. To create your ideal space whether it is a new bedroom, living room, or hobby room.
Incorporate skylights or dormer windows to maximise natural light and ventilation in your new space. So always consider lighting. Natural light flooding into a room from large windows can make an average conversion look superb. But, one of the best loft conversion tips we can give, is to have as many and as large windows as you can to let the natural light flood into the new room.
8) Make a plan
As loft conversion tips go this sounds pretty obvious but it isn’t just the boy scouts who need to be prepared. Putting together a good plan will ensure that when you convert the loft it will be a successful, stress free and easy project.
Essential components of your plan must include a realistic budget. What you can afford to spend and what you can achieve with the money. You also need to be realistic about what you can achieve.
9) Get professional help
A loft conversion can add value to your home and will be completed quite quickly – if done correctly. Let the experts help. We have all seen programmes on TV about cowboy builders and the devastation they leave in their wake. Don’t be a victim. One of the most obvious but valuable of loft conversion tips is to use a reputable and experienced building company and always insist on seeing references and previous work.
10) Keep your council
I imagine many of us share an antipathy towards our local councils. They are filled with pompous, self-important local politicians who charge us an arm and a leg for providing rubbish services. But, climbing off my soapbox for a moment, they can often be a great source of good advice.
Your council’s Building Control Office will usually be only too happy to offer loft conversion tips, help and support and I have to say that every time I have dealt with my local BCO they have been first class.
If you have any issues or questions don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. Of course, there is a limit to the help they can give but they are especially helpful in the initial planning stages.
11) Don’t worry about red tape
Planning permission, building regulations, party wall agreements – there is so much paperwork involved when converting your loft. It is only natural that we worry about all the form filling and hoops that we perceive we need to jump through to get our loft conversion plans approved. Don’t stress about it. Yes, there is red tape involved but most of it is there to help you and guide you through the building process.
12) Go green
Conserving energy isn’t only good for the environment, it is also good for your wallet. We all know that conserving energy and using environmentally friendly materials is important but using them correctly will also add even more value to your loft conversion and property as a whole.
13) Get more than one quote
Probably one of the most important of all loft conversion tips. It is so important to get more than one quote from builders for the work you need doing.
Get quotes from at least three builders and make sure the quote includes all the work you need doing as well as a schedule of payments. Remember, the cheapest quote isn’t always the best.
If you are contracting builders, ensure that you get a quote from at least three different companies. Make sure you know exactly what each quote includes and remember that the cheapest is not always the best option.
14) Check out your builder’s work
Before signing a contract with a builder, ask for the telephone numbers of previous customers. Ask them how the build went, did they have any complaints, would they employ the same builder again? Also, ask the builder Always check to see if the builder has done a good job for previous clients; word of mouth is by far the best recommendation possible.
15) Don’t pay your builder in advance
Never pay a builder upfront and in full. Agree a deposit and staggered payments to cover the cost of materials with the labour costs being payable on completion.
16) Don’t forget the party wall agreement
An often-overlooked loft conversion tip is to check whether you need a party wall agreement with your neighbour. If you share a party wall you must serve a building notice on your neighbour giving them at least two months warning of your project’s start date. They can then raise a dispute. Learn more from this article: Do I Need a Party Wall Agreement for My Loft Conversion?
17) Remember to insulate
When you convert the loft, you strip away the original insulation. Improve on the old with more effective and environmentally friendly insulation. By Investing in high-quality insulation, you’ll reduce heat loss, save on energy bills, and help with soundproofing.
18) Upgrade the boiler
Heating an extra room in the loft may well require your current boiler and heating system to be upgraded. If you have a new boiler, you should be fine. But, if yours is ageing you may need to look at a new more powerful boiler as your current one may not be able to cope with the extra demands placed on it with additional heating and possibly hot water in your loft conversion.
20) Plan for storage
You need to be creative when planning storage in your new loft room. By the nature of the sloping roofs, space will be limited for storage. But you can make use of the eaves and nooks to create bespoke storage solutions. Modern builders are used to creating innovative storage solutions for small spaces so take their advice on board.
21) Choose the right staircase
The stairs are so important to the success of your loft conversion. You need to get the position right, but you also should select a staircase design that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing and makes the most of the available space.
22) Consider a dormer conversion
Not the cheapest option but If you need extra headroom and floor space, a dormer is the ideal solution for you. Suitable for most houses, a dormer must now be built on the rear facing slope of the property and is the easiest way to add extra height and space top a smaller loft.
23) Plan for an ensuite bathroom
It’s amazing what you can get into the space when you convert a loft. Take advantage of this, where possible, by including a bathroom in your project to add functionality and value to your home. A bedroom with an ensuite bathroom is probably the most popular type of loft conversion in the UK.
24) Optimise your floor plan
A fancy way of saying, fit as much as practically possible into the area you have. Loft conversions can be surprisingly roomy but, because of the pitched roofs, you do need to design an efficient layout that maximises usable space while minimising structural changes.
25) Be consistent
Back in the 1980s there was a vogue for throwing up the most awful looking dormers you can possibly imagine. You can still see these eyesores if you wander down a typical British suburban street.
Thankfully those days are long gone. When you are planning your loft conversion choose a design, materials, and finishes that complement the existing style and character of your home and your neighbourhood.
26) Soundproof your loft conversion
Adding an extra floor to your home increases the risk of sound pollution within the property. Which is a mealy-mouthed way of saying it can get extra noisy having a new floor above your current living rooms. Soundproofing is an element of the building regulations so invest in quality materials to minimise noise transfer between floors.
27) Install ventilation
To prevent damp and condensation you must ensure you plan for adequate ventilation in your loft conversion. This could be as simple as windows but you can learn more by reading this article: Ventilation in Loft Conversions.
28) Use energy-efficient lighting
A loft conversion offers you a clean slate so what better time to install some cool but energy-efficient lighting? It’s always good to be green of course but the right lighting will reduce energy consumption and costs.
29) Look at underfloor heating
Most homeowners will install radiators when converting the loft but opting for underfloor heating is becoming more and more popular. And it’s easy to see why. It’s cleaner, no bulky radiators to take up valuable space, and underfloor heating is an energy-efficient alternative to traditional radiators.
30) Think safety first
As part of complying with the building regulations you must install mains wired smoke alarms. Fire doors too must be part of your plans.
31) Only use qualified electricians
Whatever type of loft conversion you’re planning you’ll need plenty of electrical work doing. Whether you’re building a work from home office or an extra bedroom you’ll want extra sockets, lighting, and smoke alarms. Only use qualified electricians and check they are a Registered Competent Person (authorised by the government) and are on the official register.
32) Move the water tank
If you have a water tank it will need moving. Get advice on how this can be done and the best place to relocate it. Or, and this is the best option, get rid of it can instal a new plumbing system and boiler.
33) Go for durable flooring
Opt for hard-wearing and easy-to-clean flooring like engineered wood or laminate. So much easier and cost-effective than carpets and tiles.
34) Think about a future resale
Loft conversions can add 15% onto the value of your home. But of course that depends on the quality of the build, what you use the space for, and how much you pay for the conversion. But do consider how the loft conversion might affect your home’s resale value and whether it will appeal to potential buyers.
35) Get a structural report
Converting the loft is a big project. One that will impact the structural integrity of your property. Needless to say, you need to have a structural engineer assess your home’s existing structure and the best way to strengthen the structure to support your loft conversion.
36) Don’t forget about VAT
This is a pain but most if not all the contractors you use will be registered for VAT. This may mean extra paperwork for them, but for you it adds 20% to the cost of your loft conversion. Don’t forget to include VAT in your budget calculations.
37) Talk to the neighbours
It’s only good manners after all but you may also need to keep your neighbours sweet if you need a party wall agreement. Keep them informed of your plans to minimise any potential disruptions or disputes.
38) Think about accessibility
Make sure your new top floor will be accessible for all the family. An open tread spiral staircase may look cool, but it won’t be very practical if you or a family member has mobility issues.
39) Plan for disruptions
No matter how good or how considerate your builders, a loft conversion will cause huge disruption. Especially if you’re having a dormer built. Plan noise, dust, and inconvenience. It may be wise to consider a few days staying with friends or in a hotel at the height of the disruption.
40) Be realistic about your timeline
Loft conversions can be completed surprisingly quickly once the actual build starts. But don’t forget there is a lot of preparation beforehand. You need to serve notice on your neighbours, make your building control and possibly planning application, and of course get the plans drawn up and find a builder. So, set a realistic timeline for your project, and don’t forget to factor in potential delays due to weather, material shortages, or labour issues.
41) Get warranties and guarantees from your builders
This is so important. Make sure all building work is covered by appropriate warranties or guarantees and make sure your builders have fully up to date public liability insurance.
42) Consider a Velux conversion
If you have a large roof space, you may not need a dormer. A roof light or Velux loft conversion is a more affordable alternative and with large windows you’ll enjoy masses of natural light.
43) Have a look around this site
Just thought I would throw this one in. There are loads of pages on this website and I’m sure whatever you need to know about converting your loft is on here. Have a look around or use the search function to help you find what you need.