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  • Writer's pictureGlenn Thompson

Unlocking the Potential: Transforming Your Loft / Attic Space into Functional Living Space.

Updated: Feb 22

Are you considering the potential that your loft / attic space has? How great a space it could be by converting it into additional rooms, habitable accommodation?


In addition to providing extra space, a well-executed loft conversion will also increase the value of your property. It can also be a more cost-effective solution compared to building an extension and without increasing your homes footprint.


On several of my projects additional bedrooms have been provided, some with an ensuite, others with a separate wc / shower room to share and some converted into a playroom or study. Whatever extra space you would love or need in your home, converting a dusty old loft / attic is a great way to extend your home.


However, before you start your attic / loft conversion project, it’s essential to understand what it entails. Some conversions may require modifications to the roof to increase headroom and space. This is why it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of the project scope and requirements, including Building Regulations, planning, and design. This guide covers all these aspects and more, to help ensure your attic / loft conversion is a resounding success.


Attic and Loft Conversions NI | Contact GT Building Design for Advice
From a dusty old loft / attic space to a fantastic bedroom flooded with natural light!
 

Contact me for advice no obligation, I would be more than happy to help. Initially if you could answer the three questions noted below, that would be a great help. We can then talk through your options and I will provide a written fee quotation for my services.


When you first contact me can you confirm the following? (see diagram below)


  1. What head height do you have?

  2. Do you have prefabricated trusses with diagonal webs? (shown dotted below)

  3. Can you email me through a few photos within your loft / attic space?




Attic and Loft Conversions NI | Contact GT Building Design for Advice

 

Loft / Attic conversions: A Guide for Homeowners:

 

An attic / loft conversion is an ideal method of extending your home. But even if you are fairly experienced in construction work, this is not a project to rush into without a great deal of thought.

 

Where such works are carried out without Building Control Approval it is likely that the future sale of your property will be compromised when solicitors acting on the purchaser’s behalf carry out conveyancing procedures.

 

Attic / loft conversions are generally considered to be a simple procedure; however this is not the case. They need to be designed by a professional fully aware of Planning procedures and especially Building Control Regulations.

 

The following points must be considered and catered for in roof space conversions by a professional:


Building Regulations: As with any home extension building regulations must be followed to ensure the safety and stability of the structure.


New Stair

  • Careful design of the new stair will be required to comply with current building regulations. Factors to be considered will include the height of each riser, the length of the treads, the stair pitch, headroom and provision of handrails.


Natural Light

  • Careful consideration should be given to either simply fitting Velux type skylights or constructing a dormer window to greatly increase head height within the new rooms. This can be a great solution if your existing attic / loft has limited headroom, as it allows you to create more spacious and comfortable accommodation.


Insulation

  • The roof, walls, and floors must be adequately insulated to prevent heat loss and comply with energy efficiency standards. This is particularly important in a attic / loft conversion, as heat rises and can easily escape through the roof.

  • The type of roof insulation and its placement requires careful consideration to maintain heat in the new rooms and prevent heat loss resulting in expensive heating bills.

Fire Protection

  • Floors, certain walls and doors are required structurally to resist the spread of a fire, usually 30 minutes fire resistance.

  • You, your family and any other occupants of your home must be able to escape safely in the event of a fire or other emergency. Careful consideration and design is critical here with the provision of suitably designed and located escape windows.

  • The provision of an automatic fire detection / alarm system incorporated to provide early warning of fire with smoke / heat detectors located and specified correctly.


Structure

  • Structural calculations will be needed and provided by a Structural Engineer.

  • The structural adequacy of the new floor needs to be designed and checked to ensure it can safely support the new loads placed upon it without suffering collapse. The existing ceiling joists are usually not adequate.

  • In many cases the roof will require additional support with additional timber purlins / steel beams.

  • The size and spacing of the roof joists and rafters will need to be checked.


Ventilation

  • Attic / loft roof construction requires careful consideration with regards to ventilation and vapour control measures.

  • Condensation if not properly catered for will cause dampness. If this happens, especially in areas where it cannot be seen (behind plasterboard ceilings) it could lead to expensive repairs needing to be carried out.

  • Additional ventilation provision is also needed to prevent unhealthy living conditions.


 

There are generally two types of Roof Spaces, which one do you have?


Type 1: Cut Roof (see photo below)

The first type is called a "Cut Roof" where a builder has formed the roof on site using individual timber ceiling joists, rafters, purlins and sometimes steel beams. As an open space this is the simplest loft / attic to convert.


Attic and Loft Conversions NI | Contact GT Building Design for Advice
This is an example of a "Cut Roof" type attic space. You can see the open nature of the attic space. The roof rafters supported by horizontal timber purlins, supported by brick piers & ceiling joists. All fitted individually by a builder.

Type 2: Prefabricated Truss Roof (see photo below)

The second type is called a "Prefabricated Truss Roof" where each roof truss has been engineered and fabricated in a factory, delivered to site and the builder has simply erected each truss member and secured on site. This is a more difficult loft / attic space to convert.


Attic and Loft Conversions NI | Contact GT Building Design for Advice
This photo clearly shows a series of attic trusses that form the roof structure, each engineered in a factory and placed on site.

Yes, a trussed roof can be converted, but it requires careful design and execution. Because trussed roofs are designed to distribute weight evenly across the entire structure it makes them ideal for supporting heavy loads such as snow and wind. This extra weight-bearing capacity needs to be compensated for if diagonal members of each truss are to be removed to create a larger, more open space.


Advice from a qualified structural engineer is crucial here and an engineer will likely say that steel would be necessary, a ridge beam and purlins fitted. Additional support may be needed also, masonry walls built up to support the steel and your floor likely to need strengthening as well. 

 

There would be quite a bit of work needed and cost more to convert than an open “Cut Roof” attic. However, it may be possible with advice from an engineer and myself.


 

How can I help you with you project?


With almost 40 years experience in Architecture I can advise on the best approach for your home, also helping you to obtain the necessary statutory approvals from both the Planning Service and Building Control.

 

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or considering converting your loft / attic space and thanks for taking the time to read my blog.


Glenn

 




Attic and Loft Conversions NI | Contact GT Building Design for Advice

 

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