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For those of us hunting for ways to add living space and value to our homes – and, after all, who isn’t? – converting extra space into a loft can be a sensible choice.

Loft conversion is a great option for many homes because it’s a relatively economical way to extend your property without using external space, which is often hard to come by in urban areas.

It can be expensive, however, and while it will offer you a larger living area, loft conversions will also cut into your storage space.

Here’s a look at some key issues to consider when deciding on your next step.

Why would I add a loft conversion?

Converting extra space in your home into a loft is a relatively easy and creative way to transform an underused part of your house into a new living space. It’s also an intelligent and cost-effective way to add value to your home because it allows you to capitalise on your property’s existing structural elements rather than building something from the ground up.

What types of properties are suitable for a loft conversion?

Building experts say that most properties are convertible, including mid-terraced houses, semi-detached and detached homes, bungalows, flats, and maisonettes. The only requirement is that the property in question has the extra space with which to develop a unique living space.

Do you need planning permission to do a loft conversion?

You won’t generally need express planning approval from the local authority, unless your home is exempted from permitted development rights. You also may need approval if your conversion is particularly significant, such as one that affects the front height of your house. Otherwise, your loft conversion will just need to meet building regulations, mostly relating to floor strength and fire escapes. These can typically be handled by your builder.

How much value does a loft conversion add to a home?

The value that a loft conversion adds to your home depends on a number of factors, including the part of the country you live in, the size of the space, and the quality of the materials used.

According to a 2016 study by Nationwide, a conversion that adds a new bedroom and en suite bathroom can boost property value by an average of around 20%. Other studies have found similar boosts, with slightly higher average value increases in densely populated cities like London.

As with any home improvement, the key is that your new space is an appealing place to live in.

Curious about your home’s current value. Click here to get an estimate.

How much does a loft conversion cost?

The cost depends on similar factors as those that determine a conversion’s added value, but a very basic one might cost around £20,000.

However, most conversions tend to cost somewhere in the £30,000 - £50,000 range. These higher costs often result from conversions that affect a building’s structure, the installation of new wiring and plumbing, and high-quality materials used in the work. In London, these costs can rise even higher.

What are the different types of loft conversions?

When trying to decide what type is right for you, consider three important factors: roof type, how you’ll use your loft, and budget.

  • Roof light conversions, sometimes called velux loft conversions after the window brand, are the cheapest and least disruptive option. In these conversions, the existing space isn’t really changed or expanded at all. Rather, it just calls for the addition of windows in the roof, a reinforced floor, and a staircase leading to the space.

  • Dormer loft conversions, particularly flat roof dormers, are the most popular conversion type in Britain. They basically call for a structural extension that projects from the slope of your existing roof, creating a sort of box shape. It adds more space than roof light conversions, while remaining relatively cheap.

  • Mansard loft conversions tend to run along the length of your house and usually change the angle of your roof slope, making it nearly vertical. Mansards can add significant space to your home, but they are fairly disruptive and usually end up as the most expensive option. They work for most property types, but are most popular in terraced houses.

  • Hip to gable loft conversions work especially well for detached homes as well as end-of-terrace houses. In this conversion, a vertical (‘gable’) wall is created by straightening an inwardly slanted end (‘hip’) roof. Hip to gable conversions are growing in popularity and can add quite a bit of space, though they are also fairly pricey.

How big does it need to be?

The ideal size for your conversion depends on how much space you have to begin with and for what purposes you’re designing the space.

The two main things to bear in mind are that you want to maximise your floor space while ensuring that the ceiling is sufficiently high for people to walk around in – usually around 2 metres high. You may wish to consider using areas where you don’t have quite as much height – for instance, in the corners and where the roof cuts into the headspace – as storage or to place things like bathtubs that don’t require standing-up space.

Should I do my loft conversion myself?

Whether you should complete a loft conversion on your own will depends on your level of technical experience and expertise.

You will of course save money on labour by doing it yourself.

But remember that a loft conversion is a significant building project, so you should at least look for places near you that can provide estimates and ideas on how to start your project. Local builders can also offer inspiration, security, and help connecting you with the finest materials. Their past work can help them offer design ideas and ease any doubts you might have about doing it yourself. Their work may also come with insurance cover.

What structural work is necessary for a loft conversion?

The amount of structural work that a loft conversion requires depends in part on the age of the building.

It’s generally the case that older buildings – those constructed before the early 1960s – have better, more secure roof structures. For instance, they have thicker and fewer trusses (rafters, beams, and struts), which leaves more space to live in. Newer buildings sometimes require more work because they have more but thinner trusses, thereby requiring extra steel beams or other support materials to be installed for the conversion.

Perhaps the most significant decision you’ll need to make is where to place the staircase. Stairs are not only a means of convenience but they’re your main means of escape in the event of a fire or other structural emergency. That means they’ll need to fulfill fire safety regulations, which a builder can help you with.

Another important consideration is that the floor is sufficiently strong to support the weight of people walking around in the conversion. Because these areas of the house were not originally intended to support people living in them, they may require new joints and other additional reinforcements to be placed in the floor.

You’ll also probably need to insulate your new living space because these are parts of the original building that usually lack that extra layer that keeps you warm.

How would I light the space?

Many people choose rooftlights or a dormer window to provide natural light to their loft conversion. Regardless, artificial lighting will almost always need to be installed, depending on what you want to use the space for, and that will require a lighting circuit and careful wiring.

How long and disruptive are loft conversion works?

The answer to this question depends mostly on the type of conversion you’re undertaking and how many people you have working on it.

A mansard loft conversion is the most disruptive because it calls for your entire roof to be significantly altered, with parts of it effectively removed, which will affect the livability of your home. On the other hand, a straightforward roof light conversion is fairly easy to do because it doesn’t require major structural adjustment.

Still, expect a minimum of six to eight weeks for your conversion from start to finish.