Loft Conversions

Posted 27 October 2023 by Bruach Architects

Loft Conversions

27 October 2023

One of the most popular questions we get asked by our domestic clients at Bruach is whether they can convert their loft. With this in mind we thought it would be useful to put together a brief information post about things you should consider first, as it is not always as straightforward as it looks!

Firstly, a loft conversion requires a Building Warrant from your local authority. As part of the warrant application process you will need to show compliance with the Building Standards in terms of the structural alterations, energy requirements and fire escape. Furthermore if the property is a Listed Building or sited within a Conservation area, then Planning Permission will also be a requirement.

The key things that normally affect whether a loft conversion is possible are as follows:

Access: Do you have sufficient space to form a new compliant stair to the new room? The stair will take up more space than you think!  They always do for loft conversions, so you will lose quite a bit of space and may need to reconfigure the rooms here to make it work. It is always worth considering whether you will lose a room to fit the stair in and if so, is converting the loft worthwhile if you are not gaining an additional room?

Structure: Does the existing roof structure lend itself to being converted to a room? In most modern homes the roofs were not designed to have a room in the roof and therefore substantial alterations are often required to the structure to make the conversion possible. The type of house can also make things trickier when it comes to altering the roof structure i.e. it is usually more straightforward to convert a detached house than a mid-terrace. A structural engineer would need to assess all of these things for you.

Fire Escape: If your house has 2 storeys you will need to form a protected route of escape from the top floor as the new roof windows in a typical 2 storey house loft conversion will be too high to allow escape through the window. To do this we need to make sure that you can get all the way from the top floor to an exit at ground floor without passing through another room, and the doors leading to all rooms (except bathrooms) off this hallway need to be upgraded to fire doors. This can be tricky (or upsetting!) if you live in a period property with traditional moulded doors.

Headroom: You will require a clear 2m head height to escape from the loft. This is after the additional structure has been installed and the insulation added – so this can be tricky if space is tight! The formation of dormers can sometimes assist but they will add to the cost of the conversion and would likely require planning permission.

Insulation: As the loft is being converted into a new habitable room it will require new insulation to meet the current Building Standards. This can often take away from the useable space as the head height will be reduced where the insulation is installed beneath the existing rafters.

Furniture: We also need to consider the practicalities of using the space and the Building Standards require us to show that for a single bedroom you can comfortably fit a single bed, drawers and a wardrobe. You also need to be able to manoeuvre around these.

Cost: Last but not least cost is also something to consider. If significant alterations are required to the structure of the roof then a conversation could be as expensive as an extension. We would always advise seeking costs at an early stage to ensure that the conversion aligns with your budget and that the works are going to be worthwhile for you.

It is worth noting that the above list is not exhaustive and every project needs to be considered individually. However, we have found these to be some of the key factors in determining whether a loft conversion is possible. We hope it is a useful starting point if you are considering this type of alteration to your home.

Photos | Completed loft conversion in East Dunbartonshire by Bruach Architects

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Bruach Architects is an RIAS Chartered Practice (The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland) and our architects are registered to practice using the title Architect through the Architects Registration Board (ARB). We are also Chartered Members of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and our team has a combined experience of over 30 years working in the profession. Please send us an enquiry here where one of our team will be back in touch with you as soon as possible to discuss your project, and to provide additional information on the process of commissioning an architect.