A Checklist for Beginning Attic Conversion

Has your family overgrown your home, and now you need an extra bedroom? Perhaps you can’t find any other storage space for your valuables or require a new home office. Most people typically solve such problems by moving to a bigger home, but that’s not the only solution. An attic conversion allows you to expand the floor space in your home without moving. 

Loft conversions are easier said than done. If you’re new to home remodeling projects, it’s easy to get confused about where to start. While it’s one of the home makeover projects that offer the most ROI, it’s a job that requires careful planning. You need to understand the work details, get your design plans spot-on, and ensure the project runs smoothly and confines to your budget. 

Planning an Attic Conversion Project

Planning an attic remodel can be overwhelming, from getting the proper documents signed off and deciding the roof type to choosing the types of attic insulation you want, budgeting, and cleaning the newly transformed attic space. Partnering with a professional contractor that specializes in attic conversions alleviates the hassle, as they can help you make some critical decisions to smoothen the process. Still, it would be best to understand the nitty-gritty of loft conversion so that you’re not confused when asked to avail that piece of paper or what roof design or window types you want. 

Is Your Attic Suitable for Conversion?

Whether you’re converting an attic to living space, a play area, a guest room, or any home addition, you should first measure the existing space’s dimensions. That involves determining the roof’s pitch and floor area. 

You can calculate the floor dimensions by measuring the length and width. The procedure is different for the roof pitch because the scope of work is highly hinged on the pitch. Besides, you also need to consider the headroom, any obstructions (such as chimney stacks or water tanks), and the type of structure. 

Roof Height

To create a livable space in your loft, the roof must have a clearance of 2.4m at the highest point for 50% of the floor area. If the roof height is less than that, you can still go ahead with the conversion project, although you’ll need to modify the roof’s structure by:

Removing the entire roof or part of it and rebuilding it to the recommended height and building specification; the only caveat is that it’s a relatively costly undertaking, and you might need planning permission. 

You can also achieve the 2.4-meter height by lowering the floor. It’s a tedious and messy job that requires removing the existing ceiling of the room below. You’ll also need to mount a plate to the wall where the new joists will hang. Additionally, you need to install collar ties and tie beams between the new ceiling and roof to prevent roof spreading. 

Roof Pitch

The roof pitch is basically the roof’s angle of inclination; the higher the pitch, the higher the central headroom. Installing dormer windows or redesigning the roof widens the floor area and extends the head clearance. 

If you live in a historic property built in the 30s, your home is likely to be conversion-ready because such a home most likely has an attic with straightforward access. Planning and undertaking the conversion project for Victorian houses is simple, so long as you have enough height on the ridge. It’s also critical to survey other houses within your community and count the number of them that have converted lofts. If there are only a few or none at all, there might be planning regulations. 

Is There a Need For Planning Permission for Attic Conversion?

You need not have planning permission to convert your attic for whatever purpose because most property owners do the conversion as ‘non-habitable’ spaces. Under the existing building regulations, a loft conversion job is within the limits of the property owner’s permitted development rights. 

You’ll only need to retrieve planning permission papers if the attic remodeling project will alter the roof’s structure or extend it beyond the limits or conditions that it’s currently in. Nonetheless, the conversion work must adhere to the building code and regulations, which include: 

  • The conversion can only expand the space’s volume by 40 cubic meters. 
  • An allowable 50 cubic-meter increase in volume when redesigning the roof to create additional headroom
  • The stairs must have a 42-degree pitch, a width of 800mm, and a permanent stairwell
  • The attic must also have insulation and ventilation systems and a window or roof light 

Other Critical Factors to Consider When Planning Loft Conversion

There’s more to planning a loft conversion than simply determining the roof dimensions. You also need to consider several factors before starting the practical work. These factors include:

Value 

What value does an attic conversion add to your home? You need to have an answer to that question to ensure you get the most ROI. An attic conversion can increase your property’s market value by 10-20% when undertaken successfully. The transformed loft should enhance the overall home function and aesthetics. That’s why exploring more time-stamped before-and-after photos of the project is essential to determine the overall value.

Get the Design Right

You also want to have the design of your loft before the conversion work begins. Have an idea of how you want the usable space to look and plan to arrange items in it. Suppose your design might involve structural modifications – such as altering truss roofs or adding a raised-roof extension – and design creation; in that case, you’ll need to partner with an engineer to verify the conversion is structurally safe and an architect to refine the design. 

Lighting

Lighting is critical to any building structure. Hence, choose the windows and doors with a discriminative eye and carefully consider where you’ll position them in the attic to maximize natural light. Installing a dormer window allows you to light up the loft, extend the headroom, and meet building standards. 

Consider the Exterior

If you plan to have drawn-out walls after the conversion, it helps to ensure the new exterior complements your home’s overall design. You may decide to base your loft conversion ideas on a design you saw online, but it might contrast with the old building. Shop around for materials that can match your home’s theme. Adding brickwork or cladding options with minimalistic windows can enable you to achieve a modern, contemporary look for an attic bedroom. 

Electrical Alterations

You can expect electrical disruptions in several rooms in your home when converting the attic to a living space. The new space in the upper deck will require additional wiring for lighting – a job that’s usually complicated for the untrained individual. Therefore, hire an experienced and professional electrician for safe installations. 

Attic Conversion Timeline

An attic renovation is a relatively speedy process. It’s not easy to give a standard timeframe for such home remodeling works because the specifics for each job vary. There’s also the case of unforeseen circumstances – such as inclement weather and old, uneven floorboards – which can extend the completion date.

The type of conversion significantly affects the completion time, as discussed below:

Dormer Conversions

If you’re planning a dormer conversion, the job can take about six weeks. However, that timeframe might extend depending on variables such as the roof size and any structural works that need completion before the conversion begins. 

Mansard and Hip-to-gable Conversions

Mansard and hip-to-gable conversions take longer. These projects are usually more complicated because they involve extending and restructuring the roof.  

Rooflight and Velux Conversions

You can complete a rooflight or Velux conversion in about four weeks, so long as there are no surprises, changes, or delays. It’s a less involved job because it may only include prepping the loft space, installing a rooflight, and adding a staircase. 

Ventilation and Insulation for Attic Conversion

Ventilation in the attic is crucial, especially in winter, as it helps maintain low humidity levels. If moisture levels remain unchecked, mold grows, posing serious health risks. 

While you may consider investing in an HVAC system, the simplest and most-effective means of ventilating the space is through the windows. Velux roof windows offer the advantage of the stack effect. If you open a façade window and roof window simultaneously, the airflow can be significantly greater than when just opening the façade windows.

You may have proper installation throughout your home, but if you don’t insulate the attic properly, the property’s efficiency becomes compromised, resulting in higher monthly utility bills. In fact, a poorly insulated home loses almost 25% of its heat through the roof? So, it’s important to know what areas of your home need insulation

Once the temperature rises, it would be best to control how you keep it in and let it out. Besides improving your home’s energy efficiency, insulating your attic’s walls and roof can reduce your carbon footprint, enhance interior comfort, and provide cost-saving opportunities.  

For more on which attic insulation is best, visit our blog post for a breakdown on materials, determining the R-value, and methods of installation. 

Hire Attic Construction for Quality Attic Insulation, Ventilation, and Cleaning

If you’re planning an attic conversion project, partner with Attic Construction to ensure you get professionally installed insulation and ventilation systems. Need attic cleaning in Orange County? Our experienced team is committed to working with you to ensure you get top-quality and timely insulation, ventilation, and cleaning services at affordable costs. Contact us today and experience attic insulation solutions at another level.

Sources:

  1. International Code Council: Part III Building Planning and Construction https://codes.iccsafe.org/s/CRC2019P1/part-iii-building-planning-and-construction/CRC2019P1-Pt03-Ch03-SecR325.6
  2. Forbes: 11 Awesome Attic Remodel Before and Afters https://www.forbes.com/home-improvement/interior/attic-before-and-afters/
  3. Oak Ridge National Laboratory: Ceilings and Attics – Install Insulation and Provide Ventilation https://web.ornl.gov/sci/buildings/docs/factSheets/attic%20floors.pdf