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Attics are areas that are available for conversion in many properties and are the answer to creating more space without increasing the footprint of the building.
Careful design is the key.
Access to the attic will be needed and must be well planned to minimize the loss of space below. The use of the attic area and positioning of services, partitions etc. will also be critical. Use of a specialist contractor, who can give early advice and guidance, will be essential to achieving a conversion that you are thrilled with.
Apart from their professional standing, the firms on Specialist Xpress’ panel are selected for their ability to tune in to a client’s wishes and their willingness to go the extra mile to deliver outstanding results.
This is a key question when you are thinking of converting an attic area for habitable use.
First, it’s important that you are clear about what you want to achieve from the conversion. Reasons vary:
- Gaining an extra bedroom
- Making a master bedroom with Ensuite facilities
- Creating a study/office area
- Increasing the value of the property
Clearly knowing what you want will have a great impact on the design and help you make decisions as to what compromises you might be prepared to accept, if necessary.
Restricted height within the roof space; construction of the building fabric; awkward plan shape; even difficult access may not mean that attic conversion is impossible to build, but may mean that it will be expensive – possibly too expensive in relation to the value that the conversion will add to the house overall.
A feature of attic conversions is the provision of a fixed staircase that complies with modern Regulation Standards. Fitting the staircase can be tricky and detailed design is essential. Building Control will need to be happy that the staircase is built with adequate structural support and is a suitable escape in case of fire. The design will determine how much of the floor-space below the attic is taken up by the stairs, so experience can make a big difference in putting together a plan that will maximise your space.
This is one reason why it’s essential to take good advice at an early stage when considering a loft conversion.
The Building Regulations set out the standards that are required to keep properties safe and ensure that they provide a suitable environment for living. You will always need to satisfy Building Regulations in the conversion work and Building Regulation Approval will be essential. This is likely to involve proving the structural adequacy of the key elements of the building (roof and floor members).
Also, the Building Regulations stipulate additional works that may be needed for protection against spread of fire if the conversion makes a two storey building into a three storey. These are important issues which will need to be designed and approved.
Many attics are insulated with fibreglass quilt or similar materials laid between, or above, ceiling joists. Clearly, when the attic above is to be used on a daily basis for habitable use, insulation will be required at roof level. Modern insulation boards are usually the answer and offer good insulating properties though, again, they will need to perform to the required standards in limiting heat loss from the attic.
Planning permission may not be needed but it is best to take advice to be sure. Rules regarding changes that will NOT need permission (called ‘permitted development’) are readily available, though local authorities may vary on their requirements. Changes which incorporate only skylights or modest dormers are unlikely to require planning permission.
If your changes affect walls that divide your property from that owned by your neighbour (a ‘party wall’), you will need to inform them. Ideally, agreement is possibly though you may need to comply with Party Wall protocol. This is designed to protect both your neighbour (from suffering any damage to their property as a result of the work) and yourself (from being wrongly accused later that the works had caused problems).
A Party Wall Surveyor is appointed, usually acting in both the interests of you and your neighbour, though they can appoint independently if they prefer. Party Wall Surveyors are specialists in their field and will serve formal notices, as required, and complete schedules of condition.
Specialist Xpress has a network of Party Wall surveyors and will happily allocate one, if needed.