A loft conversion can be a great addition to any property, adding space and value.
In addition, loft conversion costs are particularly low compared to the cost of a full-on home extension. Get some tips on how to ensure your loft conversion meets legal and safety guidelines here.
Planning Permission for Loft Conversions
Before you even think about converting your loft you’ll need to make sure that you don’t need to apply for planning permission first.
Although conversions are usually classed as permitted developments, you may need permission if you live in a listed building, Conservation Area, World Heritage Site or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. If you are in any doubt ask your local building authority for advice.
Loft Conversion Safety Advice
The easiest way to make sure that your loft conversion is safe and legal is to make sure it complies with government Building Regulations, which cover:
• Structure – the floor of your loft needs to be strong enough to hold weight, the walls and joists also need to be firm. If you’re extending the roof, with dormers for instance, this needs to be done in accordance with structural safety standards.
• Insulation – you need to have at least 270mm of loft insulation to ensure your property meets energy efficiency standards. Rigid insulation boards, which can be cut to size and fitted between joists, are usually best for loft conversions.
• Electrical work – all electrical work in your loft conversion needs to be completed by a qualified electrician able to work to British Standards 7671 and comply with Part P of the Building Regulations. You should receive an Electrical Installation Certificate and Building Regulations Compliance Certificate to confirm your electrical work is safe.
• Plumbing – if you’re planning on installing a bathroom in your loft conversion, you’ll need to make sure that plumbing is installed by a professional who will make sure to follow drainage and sanitation regulations.
• Staircases – you need enough headroom at the top of the stairs, ideally 2.3 metres. Stairs also need to be sturdy and provide adequate means of escape in a fire; most types of retractable stairs and loft ladders aren’t allowed.
• Windows – need to be glazed and meet thermal performance standards. The best way to ensure this is to hire a window installer who can self-certify that their work means building regulations and provide a certificate for this; members of FENSA and CERTASS are able to do this.
• Heating – opting to install electric heaters in your loft conversion is a simple alternative to extending a gas central heating system to the loft. If you’ve already got high demand on your existing boiler you may even want to install a new combi boiler in the loft; either way you should hire a qualified Gas Safe registered engineer or electrician to install your heating safely.
• Ventilation – your loft conversion will need adequate ventilation to avoid damp and mould. In addition to windows you may install trickle vents and fans in your loft conversion. If you have a bathroom in your loft conversion you’ll need an extractor fan.
• Fire safety – since windows are too high up to serve as a means of escape, you’ll need to make sure that the stairs provide adequate escape from your loft conversion. You will also need to make sure that you have fire-resisting doors, partitions and interlinked smoke alarms fitted.
The best way to ensure that your loft conversion is safe and meets building regulations is to hire quality professionals with good references and valid insurance to complete the work for you. If you’re in any doubt about which regulations apply, contact your local planning authority for advice.