Six ways to convert your loft
Before your dream becomes reality, there are a lot of practicalities to face up to. The age of your house, its location and – of course – your budget can all determine the kind of conversion you choose.
Internal loft conversions are not suitable for all properties. While many homes can benefit from this straightforward kind of conversion, it relies on the loft being already large enough to comply with building regulations, which dictate after the conversion there is a minimum ceiling height of 2.2m from the floor. If there would be less than this you will need to carry out another form of loft conversion to gain sign-off.
Mention a loft conversion to most people and this is what they’ll think of – an opened-out loft with Velux windows set into a sloping roof, with a new staircase linking it up with the house below. Just because this is the go-to solution doesn’t make it a dull or predictable choice, though.
So many choose this option as it’s often the most cost-effective way to unlock the untapped space above. An internal loft requires the fewest alterations to the existing roof, can be almost endlessly configured into a room or set of rooms and, since it barely alters the exterior appearance of your house, raises few, if any, planning objections with local authorities.
Pros & Cons
+ One of the cheapest forms of loft conversion
+ Quick construction
+ Rarely require planning permission
– Require your loft space to already be relatively large
– Other types of loft conversion can add more space
– Will add less value to your property than other kinds of loft conversion
Dormer conversions are suitable for most types of homes from Victorian town houses to modern semi-detached properties. They are also relatively inexpensive compared to mansard and hip to gable conversions, however some people consider flat-roofed dormers in particular to be less aesthetically pleasing than other kinds of conversion.
Dormer windows protrude from the existing roof line, offering some extra standing-up space to a loft area that can sometimes feel constrained by its sloping roof. By ending in a more conventional flat window, a well- placed dormer can frame an elevated view over your neighbourhood that you might have been completely unaware of.
The space in front of a dormer can be an ideal spot for a comfy chair, making the most of the extra light, or even the head of a bed to let you be woken up by the dawn’s first rays. For older houses in conservation areas, single or double dormer conversions that are in keeping with the aesthetic of the property usually gain planning approval.
Pros & Cons
+ Relatively inexpensive
+ Create a versatile space
+ Suitable for most properties
– Some people find flat-roofed dormers less attractive than other forms of dormer
– Gable-fronted dormers and hipped
– Roof dormers can be expensive
L-shaped dormers are a large kind of conversion, that can add a huge amount of space to a property, and are ideal for Victorian and Edwardian properties that have a back addition. Providing the dormer does not exceed 40 cubic metres it is still counted as Permitted Development.
An L-shaped dormer is recommended for Victorian-era houses and terraces, as the sheer amount of space they open up can mean that these homeowners can almost replicate their first-floor space up in the loft. In this way, it’s possible to have a small landing leading one way to a main room – or even rooms! – and off to the other for one more bedroom or bathroom. L-shaped dormers construct one dormer over the main body of the house, and another connected one over the rear extension that’s common to Victorian terraces. These dormers meet to form the L-shape, with the second one adding the necessary head space to the lower extension.
Pros & Cons
+ Add a huge amount of space
+ Don’t necessarily need planning permission
– More costly than some types of conversion
– Only suitable for certain property types
Full-width dormers are almost like a mini-mansard conversion, they typically have a flat roof so there’s plenty of head height and you can add things such as Juliet balconies facing out towards your back garden. They are suitable for many types of property no matter when they were built, however they are more costly and take longer than other types of conversion.
By extending a dormer to the full width of your existing roof – typically at the rear of your house – it’s possible to create a much larger room. With the frontal appearance of your home virtually unchanged, you will gain a dramatic space with a sloping ceiling at the front and a squared-off, full-height ceiling to the rear. Such a space can be left as one wonderful area, big enough to house multiple sofas and the biggest wall-mounted TV you can buy! The dormer could be an impressive wall of glass or, by carefully mapping out all this space, you could even create a self- contained flat.
Pros & Cons
+ Add a large amount of space
+ Allow you to add large windows and Juliet balconies
– More expensive than other kinds of dormer
– Take longer than other kinds of dormer
Mansard conversions are typically added to terraced properties or semi-detached properties. They add tonnes of space, essentially allowing you to add an entire extra floor to your home if you so desire. Therefore they can add a considerable amount to the market value of a property.
When you aspire to the sort of space a full-width dormer could offer but there isn’t enough headroom in your loft, it’s time to consider a mansard. This is where the ‘A’-side or parting walls are built up and a roof projection is added within these higher walls. A double mansard goes even further, building on both the front and back of the house to effectively add an extra storey.
Unlike dormers, mansard walls are steeply tilted rather than vertical, while the roof has a slight pitch too, giving a different appearance than the box of a dormer. As a major structural change, mansard conversions can be expensive – and since they alter the building’s height, they also require planning permission.
Pros & Cons
+ Add a lot of space to a property
+ Considered by some to be more attractive than dormer conversions
+ Can add considerable amounts to the value of a property
– Requires planning permission in most cases
– Involve relatively long construction time
Hip to gable
Hip to gable conversions are most suitably carried out on 1920-30s semi- detached houses. A nice thing you can do with this type of conversion is to turn the entire newly created gable into a beautiful full length window giving you a stunning view of the surrounding area, and flooding the space with natural light.
Some properties, particularly semi-detached houses, have roofs that not only slope from the middle to the front and back but also off to one side. This sloping side is called a hip and it can limit the headroom in your loft to such an extent that it is impractical to even install a staircase. The solution is to convert the hip or hips into vertical gable walls, allowing any loft conversion to match the footprint of what’s below it. Be aware that – as with mansards – since this work will affect the exterior appearance of your house, planning permission will be required.
Pros & Cons
+ Create a versatile new space
+ They’re an aesthetically attractive option
+ Allow you have vertical facing windows as well as horizontal roof lights
– Require planning permission
– Can be expensive
– Construction time can be long