Loft conversions and renovations

In the average home, something like a third of the habitable space is in fact tucked away in the loft. So if your problem is one of space to meet the needs of a growing family, a survey of the loft space could be worthwhile. The money you can spend on moving these days would go a long way towards providing extra rooms.

Remember plans must be submitted to your local authority for Building Regulation approval. And this will involve space available, headroom, safe access and constructional strength. You must have approval before any work can start.

Before proceeding too far with your plans for the loft, remember you will need to submit plans to your local authority for Building Regulation approval. Except in unusual circumstances you won’t need planning permission, but you will need Building Regulation approval. In brief, the Building Regulations state that floor joists must be strong enough; the roof must be properly insulated; there must be adequate ventilation; access must meet certain specifications, and Fire Regulations must be observed.

But the main point you must check is adequate headroom over a specified area. It is a good idea to draw up a detailed sketch of a cross section of the roof space, giving height to ridge, width and thus the angles involved at the eaves. The greater the roof pitch, the better, for a pitch of 40° or more may provide a couple of good rooms, while with 30° you may fail to achieve the necessary headroom.

Ceiling height should be not less than 2.3m over not less than half the floor area measured at 1.5m above floor level. Bear in mind that strengthening a floor could raise your existing loft floor by 100mm, so you must of course allow for this when making your calculations.

If the ceiling is less than half the floor area, you can either bring the wall of your new room in until you meet the regulations. Or you could build a dormer window to provide the extra amount of level ceiling.

Incidentally, for readers in Scotland, a roof space is regarded as a normal part of the dwelling and no special planning permission is required. The exception is if you live in a conservation area or your property is listed as having historical interest. In which case you may need permission for certain alterations.

It is also wise to ask your local authority whether what you have in mind would quality for an improvement grant.

If you feel you would like guidance on the actual plan-ning of the layout, it is worth considering using the expertise of an architect. Attitudes have changed considerably in recent years, and you will find that you can negotiate with an architect anything from an evening spent advising you on a project, to employing him to see a job through from start to finish.