The free diy home improvement guide with answers to your questions on a wide range of do it yourself projects.


Loft conversion and loft ladders

Loft Shop

Frequently Asked Questions - FAQs

Is my loft suitable for conversion?

As a general rule the steeper the slope (pitch) the greater the potential living space. Houses built before the 1960’s are easier to convert because roofs were usually constructed from individual rafters (the traditional rafter and purlin roofs). This is ideal for a loft conversion as it usually has a reasonably steep pitch and relatively clear space between the supporting framework.

Since the 1960’s most roofs have been built from ‘trussed rafters’. These are factory assembled triangles which result in a lower pitch with more struts. Converting a roof constructed like this is a more complicated process as it requires timbers to be rearranged or the roof raised.

Although there are no regulations governing height, a minimum height of 2.3 metres is needed over half the floor area to make a conversion worthwhile. As the existing joists were designed to hold up a ceiling, not to support a floor, it will probably be necessary to fit new joists between the original ones and then to screw chipboard sheets to the new joists raising the level of the floor, resulting in less headroom.

How much will a Loft Conversion cost?

The cost depends on the type of property. Prices start around £17,500 for a typical three bedroom house. A specialist loft conversion company will charge £17,500 to convert a loft into an average sized en-suite bedroom (4m x 4m), as little as £12,500 for the shell and up to £17,500 with finishing details. If this seems a lot, remember it’s an investment - the extra space adds value to your home. A similar sized ground floor extension will cost at least £20,000.

If you would like a quote on the cost of converting your loft, simply visit theLoft Shop Partners page, look up your area of the country, and email a Loft Shop Partner. Most will come round and give you a FREE quote!

Will a Loft Conversion add value to my house?

It would be a mistake to assume that a loft conversion automatically adds value to a house. It may make it easier to sell but evidence shows that you will not necessarily recoup all the building costs. The exceptions being if you live in a very small house when it is advantageous to expand, or you live in an area where there are not enough houses to supply the demand.

However, estate agents say a fourth bedroom is the single most valuable feature a family house can have and usually converting an attic is simpler than building an extension.

The most important point to bear in mind is that a loft conversion should not look or feel like an add-on because if it does it will add little to the value of the house. The staircase is the key to making a conversion look as though it is part of the original house. Wherever possible the stairway should be a natural continuation of the original staircase so that the transition from ‘old’ to ‘new’ is seamless and within the conversion itself the style should follow that in the rest of the house i.e. skirting boards, architraves, picture rails, ceiling heights etc.

How long will the Loft Conversion take?

The work will take around 4 to 5 weeks for the main construction, as long as the loft conversion is straight forward.

Do I need planning permission for a Loft Conversion?

Planning permission controls the overall development of land use in a particular area. Most loft conversions do not need planning permission unless:

  • you live in a conservation area or your house is a listed building
  • you want to put in dormer windows facing the road or if the position of a dormer window would invade your neighbour’s privacy
  • any part of the conversion (including a dormer window) will be higher than the existing roof. your house has already been extended to the limit of its permitted development (15% of its original size). If you’ve had some extension work done, such as a conservatory, you may still be able to add a loft conversion
  • or if you’re unsure contact the Planning Department of your local authority. Planning Permission costs £110.00 including VAT throughout the UK. The Building Control Application fee for Building Control approval varies and if you get that there will be a further charge for an inspection fee. You should get a decision within 8 -12 weeks.

What Building Regulations apply to Loft Conversions?

Building Regulations are concerned with the finer practical details to make sure that the work is safe and healthy in construction and habitation.

You must seek approval for loft conversions if the space is to be used on a regular basis as a ‘habitable space’.

You or your architect, must submit plans to the Building Control Office; these can take 5 - 8 weeks to process. Administration fees and site visits by the Building Control Officer vary throughout the UK with each authority having their own scale of charges. An average budget of £600 should be allowed. The local authority will inspect work in progress to ensure regulations are being properly observed. The Loft Shop produces it’s own Guide to Loft Conversions and the Building Regulations which is available free of charge from any of our stores or by calling 0870 604 0404. Alternatively simply request a brochure

How much of the work can I do myself?

If you have the time and inclination you can make huge savings by doing some of the work yourself. The modern roof window, that is one which lies flush with the roof surface, is designed to be installed from within the roof space, with no exterior scaffolding necessary. This puts the job well within the scope of a competent DIY enthusiast and an added advantage of this type of window is you do not need planning permission. Laying floor coverings, building plasterboard walls and ceilings, extending the power supply and central heating up into the loft and doing the final decoration can also be done by a good DIY-er but for installing a staircase or strengthening the floor the help of a professional builder is strongly advised.

With any large home improvement project, savings in cost should be weighed against the fact that your home will be disrupted for longer which could be crucial if you have young children or the work is to be open to the elements.

How do I choose a builder or loft converter?

Loft conversions can involve complex construction work - don’t attempt it yourself unless you are fully competent at DIY. Take great care when choosing a company to carry out the work - personal recommendation is best.

It is always a good idea to have an architect design your loft before asking for quotes from a loft converter because then you can be sure that each contractor is quoting for the same thing. The Loft Shop can recommend an architect for your project.

Always contact more than one firm so you can compare written quotations (estimates are only a rough price). Avoid companies that deal only in cash payments and demand large sums up front, and, as with any building company, make sure you've seen evidence of previous work.

The Loft Shop runs a service called Loft Link. It is designed to provide the public with a list of reputable builders who carry out loft conversion work.

The centralised list is available in all Loft Shop owned stores and only comprises the names of companies which the company has endeavoured to ensure are financially sound, competent and well organised. The Loft Shop has visited installations made by these companies and has discussed the quality of the work with the clients.

How do I decide the best product for gaining access to the loft space?

Safe convenient access to the loft is a must and there is a wide range of loft ladders to chose from, with widely varying prices. They range from a basic aluminium ladder through space saving concertina and timber folding ladders to luxurious electrically operated custom built ladders.

With The Loft Shop Fitting Service you can have a two section aluminium loft ladder supplied and fitted by fully qualified carpenters for as little as £119.99 including VAT.

A three section aluminium ladder which takes up less space and comes complete with hand rail and operating pole can be supplied and fitted for £179.99 including VAT.

The popular range of larger timber loft ladders come complete with timber lining, door, operating pole, finishing architrave and handrail and, with their deep wide treads, offer a sturdy and attractive alternative for safe and easy access. If the loft is to be used for storage a large hatch is an advantage as it allows easy access for larger items. The Loft Shop offers a free site survey for larger ladders with no obligation to buy and Loft Shop staff can advise on the best ladder for the space available.

Finding space for an access staircase for your proposed loft conversion is an important early consideration because, although retractable loft ladders are adequate for hobby rooms, building regulations demand a permanent staircase for access to bedrooms or bathrooms. Stairs which extend from your existing staircase are the best solution but if the landing space is already cramped, spiral staircases, space-saver stairs with alternating treads, and nonretracting ladders that have a permanent handrail, are all permissible alternatives. Again Loft Shop staff will be able to advise you as to the best option.

I know I need an emergency exit roof window in case of fire but what does it look like?

Most emergency escape roof windows on the market are either top hung or centre pivoting. The unique design of the ROTO 735 range (link) of roof windows enables all windows sized 7/9 and above to meet Approved Document B without the necessity of providing a special Means of Escape window.

To conform to changes in the Building Regulations 2000 The Loft Shop also have the PVC Exit window, the only emergency exit roof window in the UK to open from the side. A gas piston pushes the window open and holds it in position making rapid escape relatively easy.

I have heard about Part L. What are the new insulation requirements for loft conversions?

Approved Document L of the Building Regulations which became effective on 1st of April 2002 requires that the materials used in any construction meet certain thermal performance requirements. In the case of roof windows this means that the ‘u’ value (thermal performance) must be less than 2W/m K. All Colt Roto Roof Windows meet this standard.

Courtesy of: Loft Shop

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