So, what do you need to know about loft conversions?
First things first, you’ll need to work out if your loft is actually suitable for conversion. Here are the key considerations:
- Head height. If you take a measurement from the bottom of the ridge timber to the top of the ceiling joist, you’ll find the figure for the ‘useable’ part of the roof. It should be 2.2metres or more, otherwise a loft conversion likely won’t be as effective.
- Pitch angle. The higher your roofs pitch angle, the higher the central head height is likely to be. This is useful to know, as it may impact on whether or not you can increase the floor area as part of the conversion.
What type of roof structure do you have?
In the UK, there are two main types of roof structure: pre-1960s and post-1960s.
In pre-1960s houses, rafters and ceiling joists were cut to size on site and then assembled. Because this form of roof has more structural input, it will often lend itself more effectively to attic conversion.
In post-1960s homes, factory made roof trusses are commonly used, and the timbers used are often thinner and cheaper. The strength comes through braced diagonal timbers, but in some cases there actually won’t be any load-bearing structures beneath the floor. To achieve a conversion, it may be necessary to insert steel beams between the load-bearing walls so the new floor joists have the required support. This typically takes a conversion out of ‘DIY’ reach.
Flat roof lofts
When seeking to get the most out of a loft conversion, many people rely on flat roof conversions – otherwise known as ‘dormer’ lofts. This involves adding an extension to the existing sloping roof that removes the slope in the new living area, and allows the opportunity to more easily install skylights and other forms of window.
There are a number of benefits to this approach:
- ‘Flat’ conversions have square walls and a flat roof, and as a result feel a lot more like an extra storey rather than simply as nicely painted loft!
- The shape of the spaces makes them easier to design and decorate.
- The square orientation means they can be used for a wider range of purposes – this isn’t always the case with heavily sloped space.
The other option for flat roof conversions is what’s known as a ‘hip-to-gable’ conversion, which involves taking a currently sloped roof and extending it on the sloping slide until it’s naturally square, before filling in the additional new space.
The benefits of this are similar to those of dormer lofts, in that you can enjoy more space, more potential uses for the room and – of course – the chance to have an additional living space in your home, without having to move!
(Planning permission is USUALLY not required for flat roof loft conversions, but it’s of course essential to get in touch with your local authority and double check).
The benefits of an eco-friendly loft
If you’re considering a loft conversion in 2016, it’s a very good idea to take a look at a more environmentally friendly design. There are a number of benefits to this:
- It can help reduce your household bills
- It can potentially improve the health of anyone staying in the home
- It can cut down on household waste
- It can help your home feel more comforting
Here are some of the ways you can help make a loft conversion more eco-friendly:
- Using timber walls as opposed to brick or concrete, which can offer excellent insulation and will often offer a more comfortable living environment.
- Reusing the tiles from your existing roof is a great option if you can, and if that’s not possible consider using more eco-friendly materials such as recycled shingles.
- Using organic insulation rather than artificial is a great choice, with materials such as sheep wool, hemp and cork all freely available.
- Sustainable timber that’s FSC and PEFC certified will give you peace of mind in knowing that your wood’s sustainable.
In accordance with the building regulations, all dwellings must have an adequate amount of ventilation and lighting. Skylights are a great way to achieve this, as long as they’re installed by a specialist and within the regulation criteria.
In some homes, it may be possible to have a skylight installed that follows the pitch line of the roof, something that’s achieved by removing the tiles and battens and cutting the rafters to make way for the light. (The other rafters will of course require additional reinforcement).
Written to help architects, surveyors and home improvers alike understand every UK building regulations.
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