Loft conversions are a great way to increase the amount of space in your house. They allow you tap into an otherwise wasted area above your ceiling, and if done well can add a significant amount of market value to your home.
There are lots of options available for converting your loft into a usable area. At the most basic end you can install a loft ladder, screw down some flooring, and you’ve got yourself a great new storage area. One step up from here and you would want to be looking at dust-proofing, ventilation, an enlarged storage area, and possibly some structural flooring for those really heavy items. Or alternatively, you can take it as far as your imagination will allow – a new bedroom, bathroom, cinema, or games room? With loft conversions you can go big or you can go small.
There is however a number of limits to loft conversions that you need to be aware of. These constraints are generally dependent upon the type of construction method that was used for building the roof. For example, if the roof has been built using a steel frame for the trusses, then it’s not possible to perform a loft conversion as these trusses are fundamental to the structural integrity of the house.
Therefore, it’s important to understand what you’re getting into before you begin any work. Here are a few tips to take into consideration.
Start by contacting the relevant building authorities and ensure that your plans conform to any applicable building regulations. Although loft conversions are generally well within your development rights, it is always a good idea to check this before you start any work. If you’ve got your heart set on a new living area then it’s also absolutely essential to contact a structural engineer at the start of the process. The structural engineer will assess the load-bearing capacity of your lintels and ceiling joists, and advice you on how to improve the strength of your roof space before any work starts. If you’re contracting a professional loft conversion building company to undertake the work for you, then they should be utilizing the services of a qualified structural engineer as part of their process.
A structural engineer will also check the strength of your load-bearing walls and the foundations of the house. More often than not you will have to install larger floor joists for the installation of a habitable area. You may also need to add extra support beams for the roof, especially if you’ve modified the roof structure to create the space that you require.
The loft floor must also contribute to sound and fire separation. You might need some help when it comes to improving the fire resistance of the loft floor as you will have to install a fire barrier over the ceiling. Prior to laying the floor it’s also a good idea to build up on top of your joists with a timber framework, so that you can build on top of the electrical cables and water pipes that snake their way around your roof space.
Make sure that the loft is adequately insulated from the heat and cold, and perform any adjustments where necessary. Check the resistance of the materials to damp and fire, and make sure there is a suitable fire escape route. Also think about the stairway that will lead to the loft and whether it will be structurally safe. Always keep in touch with the structural engineers before you make any alterations to the plan.
Once the conversion has been completed you must also inform the relevant council authorities and ask them to carry out a building inspection. Apart from this being a necessary step for conforming to building regulations, it will also confirm that your loft has been built well, is structurally sound, and is safe for you and anyone around your house.
Although the above tips may seem a little daunting, the rewards can also be well worth the effort. Remember that these points are primarily relevant to the process of converting a loft into a living area. If you’re only looking to create a simple storage area then it’s really very simple. The best way to decide on the type of loft conversion that’s right for you is to take a look inside your roof space. So grab a torch and a ladder, open your manhole, and let your imagination do some wandering.
This is a guest post from Attix. Attix have more than 35 years of experience in loft conversions, ladders and storage solutions.