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The Homeowners Guide To Loft Conversions

Converting the loft is one of the biggest home improvement projects you can do so to make sure your project is a complete success, draw plans have come up with the homeowners guide to loft conversion video

To increase the odds of making your project into a huge success, we have come up with “The Homeowners guide to building a great loft conversion”. Our easy-to-follow guide, is broken down into 25 sections, and provides loads of essential information, tips and guidance, to ensure your conversion creates some wonderful new living space that can be enjoyed by all the family.

01: Know Your Attic

Houses come in all shapes and sizes and offer up various options for a loft conversion. Older period properties are best as they tend to have higher attic spaces, whilst homes built from the 70’s onwards, tend to have lower attic spaces, and various forms of supports which can make a loft conversion more problematic.

As a general guide, you need to have a minimum height of around 2500mm between the ceiling rafters and the highest point of the attic space. The higher the attic space the more options you have for a great loft conversion.

02: Get to Know the Different Kinds of Loft Conversion

The style of your property will determine which type of loft conversion is suitable for your property.

Velux Loft Conversion - This type of conversion got its name from Velux, the roof window manufacturer. It’s the cheapest type of loft conversion as you don’t interfere with the structure of the roof other than to add a few windows to the front and rear.

Dormer Loft Conversion – This is easily the most popular type of loft conversion. With this option you open up the roof slope to create a small or large dormer.

Mansard Conversion – The mansard conversion is common on terraced properties where you build up the rear of both party walls and create a full width dormer. A mansard conversion makes the most use of the space available.

Hipped Dormer – The hipped dormer conversion is applied mostly to semi-detached properties where the side wall of the house if built up to form a gable and a full width dormer is added to the rear of the property.

L-Shape Dormer – The l shaped dormer is growing in popularity. This particular design adds a dormer to the rear of the property and also over part or all of the back addition.

Chamfered Dormer Loft Conversion – This is a modern type of dormer loft conversion that offers up a chamfered shape dormer, often finished in copper or sheet metal.

03: Work Out What You Want to Achieve From Your Loft

Often when I go on survey for a loft conversion all I get told is that they would like a few extra bedrooms with no real idea of who or how the bedroom will be used. A home office is a popular choice as is a large bedroom with ensuite whereas the more practically minded will go for 2 bedrooms and a communal bathroom.

Ideally, if you are thinking about a loft conversion, give as much thought as you can as to what you are hoping to achieve and the intended use of the loft rooms. As a designer I tend to go with what adds the most value which would be the 2 bedrooms and a bathroom.

04: Find an Architectural Designer To Create Your Design Plans

Working with a professional designer will get you the best possible outcome for your project. In most cases there will be various options to consider, especially the staircase, and a skilled designer will be able to explain the pro's and cons of each option and help you to reach a conclusion on what is the best layout for the loft. A creative designer will also be able to show you how to reduce costs, add the most value two your property and guide you through the woes of planning.

05: Create a Mood Board

A mood board has two main purposes. One, it will help you to refine your ideas. By gathering together photos, colours and materials that you like the look of you will quickly get a feel of what you are after. Two, it will help to communicate your ideas to others. Usually, a designer will help you to build a mood board by giving you ideas and offering suggestions. From there, you will start to develop strong ideas as to what you want and don’t want.

Because a mood board is a visual tool it really does help to communicate concepts and visual ideas. A mood board is an essential part of the design process.

06: Establish a Budget for Your Project

Now would be a good time to establish a budget for the project. Your designer will give you a rough costs but all the decisions are yours with regard to the quality of the build and how much you are prepared to spend on fitting out. If you need to reduce costs the designer will be the best person to show you how to get more value for your money.

07: Submit The Planning Application

About 85% of loft conversions do not require a planning application and your designer will be the one to advise you on whether project will need a planning application.

The planning application is not just about completing a few forms and pressing the submit button. At Draw Plans we process about 50 planning applications each month and if we didn't monitor or liaise with the appointed planning officer most of those application would fail.

In most cases we have to negotiate, amend plans or deal with complaints from neighbours so unless you really know what you are doing, I strongly recommend that you leave the planning application to your architectural designer.

08: Deal With Party Wall Issues

The only type of property that may not need a party Wall Agreement is a detached property. All others will require a party wall agreement for a loft conversion. If you have a terraced property, you will require a party wall agreement with both neighbouring properties.

Under the party wall legislation if you need to carry out alterations to a party wall such as the removal of chimneystacks or the insertion of lintel or steel beams, you will need a party wall agreement with your neighbour.

Draw Plans can help you to serve the necessary notices and act as your Party Wall Surveyor. Get in touch for further details.

09: Building Regulations Plans For Building Control

Building plans for your loft conversion will be required by the builders and building control. They detail how you are going to build and let the builder know the technical specification for all the elements such as staircase, walls, floors, roof, doors, windows, drainage, ventilation, and fire safety. They will also provide all the information to ensure that the build is done under the current building regulations.

10: Structural Design & Calculations

All loft conversions require structural design plans along with loading calculations for steel supports, floor and roof structure, window openings along with any structural alterations to the existing property.

11: Decide Your Build Route

When it comes to converting your there are two main build routes. Option 1 is to give the whole job to one loft company which means you only have to deal with one company. Option 2 is where you break down the job and hire different contractors and service providers for different parts of the job and the scheduling will be down to you. Option 2 usually takes twice the amount of time than option one, but you can save up 20/30% on the build cost.

12: Time To Get Quotes

This is where the project gets exciting as you start to find out the reality of how difficult the tendering process is. Get at least 3 quotes for everything and keep in mind that the quotes can vary by as much as 100%.

13: Choose your Builder or Service Provider

Now comes the hard part, you know what you're doing, you know how much it costs so you need to instruct your builder or service providers. The key point here is called due diligence. In other words, once you have decided who to instruct make sure you do some research online about the person and the business. Check social media accounts and check out the address to see what comes back. Look for negative reviews on the business and make sure you read through existing reviews before you instruct.

14: Scaffolding Goes Up

All loft conversions will require the use of scaffolding to both front and rear elevations. It’s important that access ladders are removed at the end of every day to avoid unwanted guests. You may also ask for a scaffold alarm to be fitted.

You should also discuss with your builder the use of a tin hat to protect the property whilst the roof is exposed. A tin hat is effectively additional scaffold placed over the roof which is covered with aluminium sheeting to stop the rain getting in whilst the work is in progress. Note that the use of the tin hat will add a few thousand to your scaffold costs.

15: Stripping Off The Roof

When the job starts the first thing the builders do is to strip out the rear roof to get it ready for a dormer. In most cases the old tiles or roofing materials will go straight to the skip. Any debris or rubbish in the loft will go out through the roof opening.

16: Structural Beam Installation

To install the steel beams, holes will have to be chased into the party walls and lintels or steel spreader plates fitted. This is noisy work, but it doesn’t take too long. The steel beams are usually craned into the loft and brute force is used to move them around and to install.

17: Constructing The Dormer

In most cases the dormer is constructed onsite to the design as specified. Usually, the side cheeks and face of the dormer are covered with tile or slate to match the existing roof covering. In some cases, the front of the dormer can lean back by up to 30%.

18: Windows / Doors

The windows or doors to the dormer offers up loads of alternatives with regard to styling, shape and finish. My own preference is for a more modern finish with glazing to most of the dormer front. This means full height floor to ceiling glazed panels with windows or doors installed. If you go for doors, you will need a Juliet balcony added.

On the front of the property Velux windows are usually installed to bring in light to the front of the extension.

When it comes to the new landing area, consider another roof window, a sun tunnel or clerestory windows to get as much light as possible into the landing area.

19: Staircase

Installing the staircase is hugely exciting because now you get to experience the flow of the house up to the attic rooms. You now have another floor and if the work has been done well a fantastic couple of bedrooms with a bathroom.

At Draw Plans, when we design the staircase for a loft conversion, we try to keep it as open plan as possible. Rather than imposing an enclosed staircase at the top we always try to leave everything open and use handrails, newel posts much the same as the floor below.

Proper integration is a key element, nd the designer should be aiming to make the new staircase look like it was always there my matching up the details as much as possible.

20: Studwork & Stud Walls

Timber stud walls are used to divide up the space to create the bedrooms, bathroom and lobby area. They are also used to block of the last metre or so going into the eves to create storage from unusable space. Any chimney breasts usually get with studwork also.

All stud work should be packed with insulation to dampen down sound transmission between rooms, and to keep the rooms cool in summer and warm in winter.

21: Dry Lining & Plastering

The party walls usually get covered with dot and dab plasterboard so by the time the loft is ready for plastering almost everything should be covered with plasterboard. All the walls and ceilings get covered over with plaster so you will be looking at lovely new rooms by the time they are finished.

22: Bathroom

The new bathroom in the loft is an essential item as by adding more bedrooms you need more facilities. When designing a bathroom for a dormer loft conversion my preference is to add a window in the roof. This means that that walls are now free to be used anyway you want. A walk-in shower is also my preference and where possible add a wall niche and water saving showerhead.

23: Plumbing Heating & Drainage

There are various considerations when it comes to the plumbing heating and drainage for the new loft rooms. Drainage is usually easy enough as the new bathroom waste is directed to the extended soil and vent pipe.

Hot and cold water can be a headache as your current heating setup may not be up to suppling an adequate amount of water to another bathroom. A boiler upgrade and megaflow may have to be considered.

Water pressure may also be an issue and you should have that checked in the early days in case you have to run larger diameter pipes in from the street.

If the costs really are mounting, consider something independent for the new floor such as a small combi boiler installation that will deal with the heating and hot water. Alternatively, consider electric heating such as Dimplex panels to each room.

24: Electrical & Lighting

Low voltage recessed lights are very common for loft conversions. Because the fit nicely into the ceiling thy provide a nice, streamlined finish. Use dimmers switches where you can, to really control the mood.

You should also keep in mind that your broadband wi-fi may not reach up to attic so either you install a router booster or run a few cat5e ethernet cables. My preference would be to do both, so you are covered for all eventualities.

25: Joinery / Fire Safety

Once the carpenters start second fixing the doors, skirting, door locks etc you really are getting close to the finish post.

Keep in mind that the doors to the new bedrooms will need to be half-hour fire check doors with automatic closers. The same applies to all doors to habitable room on the lower floors, all these doors need to be replaced with 30-minute fire check doors.

26: Painting & Decorating

One of the best parts of the job is getting the paint brushes out and getting the paint on. Many homeowners paint out the loft themselves to save a bit of cash but if you have the budget, I always recommend that you leave it to the professionals.

Don’t forget that the new staircase takes loads of time to make it look right with umpteen coats of paint. Also, you have all those fire doors that need to be painted on both sides. Lots of homeowners paint out the whole hall and staircase to make everything match up and look great.

27: Finished Flooring

Carpet still seems to be the most popular choice for the loft bedrooms but occasionally we see the use of engineered flooring. A lot depends on what you have on the floor below because you may need to match up or replace that floor also. My preference would be carpets to keep everything cosy. The engineered flooring will look great for the bedrooms, but sounds may transmit to the bedrooms below. At the end of the day it is all a matter of taste and how you wish to use the rooms that will dictate the flooring finish.

28 You Made it

You made it to the end so hopefully you are now motivated to get you loft conversion underway as soon as possible. Its not rocket science but it can be a daunting and challenging experience to convert your loft so the more prepared you are the easier it will be to manage your project.

It is my sincere wish that you find our guide helpful and that you use it to navigate your way to creating a stress-free loft conversion that all the family can enjoy for many years.

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