Expert View: What to consider before converting your loft

Alastair Woodgate

Alastair Woodgate - Credit: Archant

Alastair Woodgate of Rumball Sedgwick, St Albans and Watford’s leading firm of chartered surveyors, highlights issues relating to loft conversions.

Look along virtually any street in St Albans and you’ll see evidence of rooms within roof spaces. It’s no wonder: a loft conversion is one of the most straightforward ways of getting extra space, subject to any planning and physical constraints.

If you are thinking of converting your loft, there are several issues to consider.

Many conversions will fall within ‘Permitted Development’ not requiring prior planning permission, provided certain criteria are met. Any additional roof space must not exceed 40m3 for terraced houses and 50m3 for detached and semi-detached. No part of the extension can be higher than the highest part of the existing roof and materials must be similar in appearance to the existing.

However, within an Article 4 area, conservation area and other designated land, loft conversions are not permitted development. Neither is an extension beyond the plane of the existing roof slope of the main elevation fronting a highway. Verandas and balconies are not permitted development.

Features that will decide the suitability of your roof space include the pitch and head height (ideally greater than 2.2m), any obstacles such as water tanks or chimney stacks (if they need moving, where can they be re-sited?) and the type of roof structure: your house will have either traditional rafters or roof trusses. Converting a loft with trusses is possible, but extra structural support is needed which is likely to be more costly.

Buildings Regulation approval will be required. This will cover the floor strength, (the existing ceiling joists are unlikely to be adequate, so additional joists will be required), fire protection (including a protected stair enclosure), the minimum headroom over the staircase, the size of steps, the thermal efficiency, electrics, plumbing and glazing. Your work will need to be inspected by a Building Control Officer. And don’t forget to notify your home insurers.

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If your home is semi-detached or terraced, you’ll need to notify your neighbour of your proposals if the works fall under the Party Wall Act requirements.

Think carefully about the external proportions and appearance of a loft conversion. There are some around that add little to the visual appeal of the property. Try and achieve a scheme that reads as an integral part of the original design.

Get it right and, in your new room, you’ll feel on top of the world.

Contact Alastair and his team on 01727 519140 or alastair@rumballsedgwick.couk