Going up in the World
From time to time, we all wish we had more space at home and generally you have two options: to extend or move. The more common option is to extend as this is generally cheaper than moving to a larger property. When extending, we tend to think about adding onto your property. One option, is to extend up and what better than to convert the large empty space in the roof. Many loft conversions create excellent additional living space but there are many pitfalls which can be avoided at an early stage and will prevent problems and disappointment at a later date. The first is what I call the TARDIS syndrome, where we believe the inside of the roof space is bigger than the outside, only to find that when your dream conversion is complete you feel that you are the Big Friendly Giant with the room created being smaller than you imagined.
You therefore feel that the cost and effort does not seem worth it, so before embarking on a loft conversion you will need to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages are that you utilise dead space and it can be more cost effective than extending. It is ideal for those with limited gardens and the construction work is less dependent on weather. In most circumstances the loft conversion is exempt from planning unless the property is listed or within a conservation area.
The disadvantages are numerous in that your property may have a low pitch where headroom is restricted or the roof construction may not lend itself to an easy conversion. Poorly designed dormers in a prominent position may have an undesirable effect on the appearance of the building.
It must be remembered that a loft conversion turns your property into a different type of structure. Where a house goes from 2 to 3 floors, there will have to be an increase in fire protection such as fire doors and the provision of a means of escape through a protected stairway from the top to the outside ground level without passing through any rooms. Improvements in fire detection systems and fire alarms for a property of three storeys or more will be required. Existing roof timbers are generally inadequate for using this space as a habitable room and therefore the roof structure including the rafters and ceiling joists will need to be upgraded, very often with larger timbers being used which reduces the usable floor area and the headroom. In addition to possible planning permission, building regulation approval would be required and party wall matters may come in to play. The important thing to remember when considering a conversion of your roof space into habitable rooms, is to seek professional advice at an early stage so that you are aware of all the disadvantages or potential problems.