A guide to converting a loft – Part 2

Hi all, I’m back with the second part of the guide. Here it is, I’ve received some valuable insights from a loft conversion Ealing company, and I hope you will find them useful. Enjoy!

  1. Installing windows for getting natural light

Installation of skylight windows doesn’t require many structural changes. These are comparatively easier to install. Normally the rafters on each side are doubled-up and trimmed all over the top of the cavity, whereas Dormer windows comprise of walls plus a roof and the window, giving it a complete structure. At the backside of a number of homes these may fall within the permissible development allowance and thus won’t require any formal approval. However, installing these on the frontage of a house requires formal permission. That’s why skylights are preferred and more popular.

It may be necessary to have Dormer windows for maximizing headroom inside the loft and creating usable area, but you’ll need to support these on the ridge, the highest point. Ridge beam is fixed below the apex prior to fixing of the dormer roof joists themselves plus weathering of roof. During the period when dormer windows are under construction, the loft conversion gets exposed to weather elements, necessitating the need of good temporary cover for protection against weather.

  1. Loft stairs

Due scarcity of space, designing the stairs is a tricky affair. You may have       narrow flights in zigzag design but these may pose problem for carrying furniture upstairs. Especially made staircase would cost ten times the standard designs.

If you go for especially designed staircase, you would better get the plan approved from local Building Control Official prior to their erection. You should ask your builder to forward one copy of your plan to Building Control Office. It is important from the point of view of fire safety regulations as you need to provide an escape route in case of fire.

  1. Improvements for fire protection

Undertaking loft conversions in bungalows hardly affects their fire safety as long as windows are big enough for providing escape routes. However, in case of two storied houses wherein a third storey gets added, there are problems. The fresh floor would need to offer a minimum of thirty minutes of fire protection. This may necessitate re-plastering of ceilings beneath it. Additionally, loft room has to be kept separate from a fire door at the bottom or top of new staircase. You’ll also require at least one window which is sufficiently large for escaping in every room. You can get skylight windows especially for such situations. Loft conversion fire protection

Homes don’t require self closing devices for doors anymore as they are proven to be risky for children who get their fingers trapped therein. Instead, present doors in the stairway should be swapped with fire resistant doors. As per the old rules for safety, you were required to provide self closing mechanism on all doors. As far as electrical installation goes, you need to provide smoke alarms on every floor. These must be connected to the main supply and interconnected so that all of them set the alarm bells ringing when one gets activated. Usually, they come with rechargeable battery unit that backs up when you like to extend supply from a lighting circuit.

  1. Insulation against noise

You can make the fresh floor soundproof by putting a mineral fiber cover amid the joists. Lighter insulation won’t be of any help here, so use denser heavier insulation cover. The same holds valid for all internal stud partitions amid bathrooms or bedrooms. Likewise, you may also insulate all party walls against noise and heat. You may have a framework of wood made and cover the same with plasterboard of sound resistant quality.

  1. Insulation to prevent loss of heat

With the standards of loft conversions becoming high, their insulation has become awkward. A cut will be needed in the inclined ceiling and fixed among rafters on their top. Insulation has to be very thin since the plasterboard has to be set via the bottom of insulation sheet. It means you’ll need to utilize insulation of high quality for these areas. You’ll also have to employ similar insulation for dormers and walls before getting them plaster boarded.

Loft conversion insulation

  1. Storage

On converting your loft you’ll be sacrificing some storage space. Yet, you can make maximum use of available space by utilizing the eaves at the back of the ashlering by fitting access hatches along with roll-out storage boxes ready to fit. You can also create storage space by insulating beneath the rafter lines. Since normal wardrobes won’t fit in the bedroom created in loft, you may prefer having built-in variety.

A guide to converting a loft – Part 1

An increasing number of homeowners are opting for loft conversion as it makes available additional space and adds value to the property.

Before getting started with the process of loft conversion, you would do well to understand what it means, how it could influence the design of an existing house and what all it involves. You should consider the following ten important features to decide if it would prove worthwhile for you to go for loft conversion for creating additional space in your home.

  1. Can the existing structure of your home bear the additional weight due to loft conversion?

Needless to add, the conversion will cause additional load on the existing structure. Though it won’t be a lot, you should ensure that the present structure is suited for that load. It would involve some digging to check foundations, beams and lintels that are going to bear extra weight.

The Building Control Official of your area would also come to inspect these components. So, you have to dig a hole to expose the foundations. In case it is realized that the structure requires some underpinning for carrying additional weight, the cost of the project may get doubled up.

  1. Building Laws and Party Walls

It is obligatory for homeowners to get approval from local government agency (Building Regulations) before starting the project of loft conversion. It helps to get the required approval before entrusting the job to any builder. Getting your design approved minimizes associated risks and allows the builder to give an accurate estimate of expenses involved.

Loft conversion

If the terrace or any wall of your structure is shared with neighbors, you must alert them of your intended project. This will be as per the Party Wall Act 1996. Building Control Official of your area will visit the site as the work progresses and issue a completion certificate after final inspection. So, you should make final payment to your builder only after you have been issued this certificate.

  1. Ensure that you get adequate headspace

Often, homeowners are disappointed by the headroom created as a result of loft conversion as it is not very clearly calculated from the drawings. So, ask you designer to confirm this beforehand. You would certainly prefer having enough headroom so that you can stand up straight. You should be aware that a staircase will be needed for accessing the loft. Ensure that it is designed in such a manner as not to eat into the space in your existing bedroom and it surmounts the older one. You’ll agree loft conversion isn’t a worthwhile proposition if you are asked to sacrifice a complete room.

In case there is insufficient space on the roof for housing water tank plus plumbing, you may need to replace heating plus hot water arrangement with a sealed unit. Rather than going for a boiler combination, you should prefer having an unvented cylinder for hot water arrangement. This will occupy the space of the size of a cupboard. So make sure you have some place somewhere for housing it.

  1. Modifying the structure of roof

Nearly all roofs are designed to have internal support rods within the loft, supporting the rafters plus purling (horizontal roof beams) in pitched roofs and roofs with conventional cut whereas modern roofs have mesh of braces. You’ll need to remove all such supports for entering the new room. These will be changed with new ones that don’t eat into space.

Though there are a number of ways for modifying the structure of roof while undertaking loft conversion, there is one common feature of all and that is the ceiling joists would invariably be insufficient as floor joists. It means the new floor joists need to be fitted next to them, somewhat raised over the ceiling plasterboard to keep away from contacting it. These joists with a depth of 200-225mm will go over the tops of the present ceiling joists to shape the floor structure. These may stand straightway onto the present wall plates of internal or external load bearing walls or on freshly erected beams, as per their span.

Generally, in case of smaller lofts the floor joists themselves are utilized for supporting sloping rafters. It can be done by making a small wooden wall of one or one and a half meter height, which is called ashlering. With ashlering providing the needed support, you can safely remove braces plus internal struts.