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Need 2 know – loft windows

When planning a loft conversion, choosing the right windows and doors isn’t just about aesthetics and practicality – it’s also important an important step to ensure the safety of both your family and your home.

As the famous saying goes ‘Eyes are the windows to the soul’, in the case of conversion projects, however, it may be more accurate to say, ‘windows are the key to the loft’. Presenting incredible views of the world outside your loft and serving as a pivotal component of the external aesthetic for your entire property, it is vital you pick the right loft windows.

Of course, the ideal loft should combine aesthetic beauty with practicality and, above all, a guarantee of safety. With this guide, we hope to help you make a decision about the right windows for your loft. Here’s what you need to know:

What to consider

Any loft room will tend to be one of the largest rooms in the house and, being at the very top of the home, usually offers the best views of the surrounding area – no matter if you live in the city centre, quiet suburbs or the rolling hills of the countryside. So, it’s important to consider your window options carefully. In general, the wider and more spacious window you can go for the better views you can expect to see. It’s important to bear in mind though that too large a window may violate planning restrictions if they offer unobstructed views into a neighbour’s property.

All new rooms will need to be ventilated. As a rule of thumb, this is achieved by providing an opening window or opening roof light at a ratio of one-twentieth of the room’s floor area. In bath or shower rooms, an extractor fan should be fitted too, especially if there are no opening windows. As well as helping you abide by building regulations, installing a window that will adequately ventilate your space is a must in terms of your own enjoyment. We can think of nothing worse than going through the entire loft conversion process only to discover the completed space is hot and uncomfortable.

Exactly what windows you can install will depend on your planning permission, type of loft conversion and the layout of your home. We can offer a decent guess of what rules you will have to follow with this guide, but to get a full understanding of the entire set of regulations that will affect your own loft project, it is vital that you consult an expert. Furthermore, each type of window has its own merits, so it is a good idea to consider each and decide which would be best for your conversion. Here are some of the options you may have for your attic.

Dormer Windows

Dormer windows are probably the most common type of window you see in British loft conversions. They are a type of raised box cut out of the original roof of the home, allowing for extra headroom within the converted space. These types of window are, as a result, particularly suited for properties that have low-hanging ceilings in the attic.

This type of window may or may not require planning permission, depending on the specifics of your home. Some local authorities place restrictions upon the addition of dormer windows to a home, requiring them to be rear facing and constructed out of materials that match the rest of the property.

Since your loft room will command the highest viewing point over your neighbourhood, a dormer window will offer a perfect place to fit a window seat. If your dormer is large enough, you may even be able to fit the head of a bed right up against the window, letting the natural light from the morning sun gently wake you from your slumber.

Skylights

As many rooms in a loft tend to be relatively compact spaces, maximising the amount of natural light becomes even more important, making the environment feel bright and airy. This not only contributes towards a lighter feel throughout the loft but also creates the illusion of space.  Because of their upward facing angle, sloping loft ceilings are a perfect place to add skylights. These let in far more light than a regular window at all times of the day.

Skylights (or roof lights) are fantastic way to flood a room with as much natural light as possible due to the way they slope with the roof. However, as roof lights are sky-facing, they are not the best choice of window if you’re looking for one that allows you to admire the surrounding landscape of your property. This type of window sits within the ceiling, so they do not protrude either inwards or outwards, meaning they will not alter your ceiling’s height. Due to this, skylights can be a particularly useful installation if you live in a conservation area or have an especially strict council as they do not make any structural alterations to your property.

A particularly impressive sub-type of skylight are ‘roof lanterns’, which cut out a portion of the home’s existing roof and replace it with a glass box, giving you a ‘mini’ glass ceiling – creating a feature window all of your neighbours are sure to be envious of! Marcus Shirley, a loft surveyor with Opun, is a particularly big fan of roof lanterns: ‘these windows are really incredible, he notes, ‘they are sure to add something special to any loft conversion’.

Gable-end windows

Gable-end windows are probably the most impressive type of feature window that you can add to a loft conversion. The term ‘gable’ refers to that triangular upper portion of the wall you find at the ends of properties that have ridged roofs. The gable is formed by the intersecting of various pitches of the roof, creating a unique individual gable depending on the materials used and the surrounding climate of the property.

It may even be possible to have a floor-length glass wall at the gable end, or a set of Juliet balconies, giving you unrivalled views of the surrounding area. This means that you will be getting a feature that not only offers incredible views from the inside of your property, but also adds a lot to the aesthetic qualities of the exterior. One of our favourite projects in recent months used gable-end windows to provide incredible panoramic views of the Southampton harbour and New Forest –  our customers ended up watching the views form the window more than the TV in their new loft lounge!

Gable end windows are subject to building control and planning permission; you could have a particularly difficult time getting permission for these windows if you live in a conservation area. Depending on the precise regulations of your area you may have to settle for more traditional casement or sash windows instead.

A Lofty Decision

The windows are a vital part of any loft conversion so it’s important you don’t take this decision too lightly. Make sure to find out all your available options and consult an expert before making a decision. An expert will also be able to advise you about the planning regulations in your area. Often, these can be the most important factor influencing your choice of loft window.

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