Why move when you can convert your loft?

Searches for ‘Loft Conversions’ Rise by a Staggering 164% as Brits Look to Add More Space and Value to Their Homes This Summer ..

Market research conducted by building supply specialist Insulation4Less has revealed that searches for ‘Loft Conversions’ rose by a staggering 164% between May/June and searches for ‘Loft Conversion Ideas’ jumped by 186% as Brits look set to spend more time on home renovations this summer. The company also found that the most popular use for a loft conversion is for an additional bedroom, while an extra bathroom came 2nd. Surprisingly, a walk-in wardrobe came in 3rd, beating out a home office in 4th, while converting it in to a home cinema came in 5th.  

According to a recent study, a loft conversion can add roughly 20% to the value of a property. With the average UK house price standing at £267,000 in January 2021, this represents an average increase in value of more than £53,400.  

We spoke to Johnpaul Manning, MD at Insulation4Less to learn more about the trend, how it’s impacting demand and the top things Brits should consider for their own shed to summer house conversion project. 

“If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that having space is essential to our mental health and well-being, so it’s no surprise that people are taking the time to focus on home improvements to help them make the most of their home. As one of the most under-utilised areas in any property, loft conversions represent a great opportunity to maximise the use of space that not only improves quality of life but also has the capacity to add value to the home. But it’s important to remember that a loft conversion isn’t just your average DIY project, and should never be done on the spur of the moment. A significant amount of planning needs to happen to make it a reality, and an understanding that life can be disrupted while the build is taking place. While it’s definitely a worthwhile project, I’d recommend that anyone considering a loft conversion should do some in-depth research to really understand what’s needed to make it a reality.”

Top Things to Consider Before Starting Your Loft Conversion :

Is Your Loft Suitable For a Conversion?

Loft conversions can be an amazing addition to a property, but not all homes will be suitable on a practical level.  This can be down to a number of factors. To start, it’s important to make sure that your roof is structurally sound enough to handle a conversion. Although there are different types of roof structures, they mostly fall into two distinct categories –

Traditional Roof: Typically found in pre-1960s houses, rafters on traditional roofs run along its edges, leaving a good amount of free space. However, they might still need new or extra support. 

Trussed Roof: Trussed roofs have ‘W’ shaped rafters which support the roof and the floor structure. Even though truss roofs may appear to be harder to convert, it’s not impossible; the ‘W’ shaped rafters can be replaced with ‘A’ shape structure which creates a hollow space. While this can add additional costs, it could be a worthy investment, so take this into consideration during your planning process.

Another thing to consider is the roof’s height and pitch, and how that will impact the amount of space you’ll have. You’ll need a minimum height of 2.2m to ensure proper clearance. While you might be happy to settle for something a little shorter on paper, make sure your happy with the height you have and the affect it could have on the enjoyment of the space.

And what about things already stored in your loft? While things like storage boxes can be easily moved, there are things like water tanks and chimney stacks to consider. While you could just switch your tank out for a sealed system, it’s definitely something that can affect your design and budget. A chimney stack can also pose a problem; if you want to keep it, you’ll need to factor it into your plans, and if you want to remove it you’ll need to consult the necessary building regulations to make sure it’s safe and permitted for development. 

Ultimately when it comes to your loft conversion aspirations, make sure you do your research before you approach a contractor or architect. Look for other conversions on your street or in similar properties, and if you feel comfortable, ask if you can have a look and discuss how their project came together – you’ll find a wealth of information that could really help your own project in the future.  

Do You Need Planning Permission Before You Start Your Project?  

(Image credit:@11_the_glen)

Many loft conversions fall under permitted development rights and don’t require  planning permission. However, if you live in a protected property, have a certain style of home or live on designated land, you might need to seek permission from the local council before starting your project.    It’s important to remember that planning permission and building regulations approval are two different and need to be handled separately.

Planning Permission relates to the external appearance of the building and exists to ensure that any landscaping changes are in keeping with the local environment. Listed, historically significant buildings, or buildings constructed in an area of interest require permission before any alterations can be made. 

Building Regulations set the minimum standard for design and construction of buildings, and exist to ensure that work has been completed correctly. This includes things such as structural safety, fire, and energy standards. 

If you’re ever unsure, the best course of action is to contact your local council to double check – finding out that you need planning permission halfway through your project, or that your build isn’t up to regulation standards could end up costing you thousands, and the project might be put on hold indefinitely.  You should also inform your home insurer about any major changes to your home, especially projects that can affect its structural integrity, habitability, or value. If your conversion has the potential to increase your properties value, it could affect your building and contents insurance rates.

Do You Have Adequate Access? 

(Image credit: @saara_mcloughlin)

You might have the space for a loft conversion, but do you actually have the ability to access it? And is it fit for purpose? If you’re planning on turning your space into a functional room, it needs to have a permanent structure in place, which could take the form of a straight or spiral staircase; at the very least it’ll need a fixed ladder. 

It’s important to remember that adding access needs to strike a balance between space, practicality and comfort. For example, While a fixed ladder can save space, it’s less practical and comfortable in equal measure. On the other hand, a straight staircase can make life easier, but will cost space, not only in the loft itself but in the space below it. So when it comes to planning your conversion, make sure you consider what space you have and what is realistically achievable when it comes to adding access. 

Is Your Loft Energy Efficient? 

If you’re looking at converting your loft into an additional space, it’s also a great time to assess how energy efficient your home really is. A recent study found that a quarter of the heat generated in a home can be lost through a poorly insulated roof, costing homeowners upwards of £2,000 a year.  To save yourself some money, consider adding some high quality insulation to your walls during your conversion. While different types of insulation can have a wide array of attributes, there are two main categories that they fall in to:  

Cold roof insulation is created by laying insulation between the rafters. In most cases this space is empty, so it’s a great way to save space and ensure a good quality level of insulation. Contractors usually have a 50mm gap between the top of the insulation so air can circulate. However, this also allows cold air to enter the air flow space which can really influence the temperature of the room, and your property as a whole.

Warm roof insulation is designed to keep the entire roof structure warm through ternam regulation. This is because the insulation is laid over the top of the roof deck, on top of a vapour control layer, and underneath the roof covering, allowing for a greater level of thermal insulation in your property. However, it does mean the room itself might run warm during the summer months, so an air conditioner might be worth investing in to regulate the ambient temperature. 

During the planning stages, if you hire a conversion specialist, they’ll be able to determine which kind of insulation best suits your needs and the needs of your property, and will advise you on the best course of action. In addition, insulation can last for up to 40 years, so while there might be some upfront costs, it’ll pay itself back 100x times over in the future.   
 

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