For homeowners in need of more room, converting an existing loft into additional living space is a far more affordable method of expanding upgrading their dimensions than relocating to a new property. That’s especially true in parts of the country such as London, where real estate is particularly expensive, so a loft conversion can pose an attractive option.
The good news is that most lofts can be converted into a playroom, office, extra bedroom or any other liveable space. However, there are still a number of factors you’ll need to consider to ensure that your loft is suitable for the purpose you have in mind. These include, but are not limited to:
First and foremost, you’ll need to check who is the legal owner of the loft space. If you are a leaseholder on the top floor flat, for example, there’s a good chance the loft belongs to the freeholder – even if access to it can only be gained via your property. In this case, you’ll need to purchase the space from them before you can even consider carrying out any work on it.
Depending on the type of building you live in (and most likely, the date it was built), the minimum headroom required by law may differ. As a general rule, 2.2m from floor to ceiling at its highest point is the threshold for undertaking a loft conversion.
If your loft does not meet this requirement, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to raise your pitch roof, since councils very rarely grant permission to do that. One alternative option could be to lower the existing ceiling heights of the rooms beneath, providing they currently have sufficient headspace to allow the alteration. However, you should bear in mind that this would incur significant expense and delay to the project.
Many properties – especially older ones – often position obstructions in their loft space, including water tanks and chimney stacks. While neither of these is an absolute barrier to converting your loft, they can necessitate removal or reorganisation of the loft’s layout, which often entails higher costs and slower conversion times.
Neither water tanks nor chimney stacks are insurmountable obstacles when it comes to converting a loft, but the expense and delays incurred by both should be factored into your planning to ensure you stay on time and within budget.
One other important factor is the council where the property is located, since each council can have different rules. If the property is in a conservation area, rules for alterations are stricter – but that doesn’t mean a loft conversion is out of the question.
In general, a good indication of suitability can be determined by observing the surrounding neighbourhood. If similar buildings in the vicinity of your property have loft conversions already, it is extremely likely that is possible to convert your loft.
Remember that many loft conversions are possible without obtaining planning permission, within permitted development rights, if the conditions are met. Regardless of whether planning permission is required, you’ll still need to obtain a building regulation certificate and follow the Party Wall Act 1996 if conditions for a party wall agreement apply.
More detailed information on each of those conditions and permissions can be found on our loft conversion page, which also offers a more comprehensive overview of the whole process and advice about how to set about putting your own loft conversion project in motion.