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With the cost of moving home running into many thousands of pounds, it’s not surprising that many families are opting to move up instead of moving on, says the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

Converting your loft is certainly a job for the professionals, but if you get it right you not only gain a fabulous light-filled space, you could also get a handsome return on your investment when you sell. According to the FMB a loft extension can add up to 15% to the value of your property.

Can you stand up?
Is your loft suitable for conversion? The easiest way to tell is to see if you can stand upright at its highest point, as this needs to be at least 2.3m.

Even if you can stand up, a dormer window extension will maximise headroom throughout the space. Planning requirements often mean that this is put at the back of the house so it doesn’t change the house’s appearance from the street.

For this reason, roof windows are commonly used at the front to provide light and ventilation.

Don’t get into hot water
Most people convert their loft to add an extra bedroom and bathroom to their home.

The layout will largely be dictated by the position of the staircase and plumbing arrangements for the bathroom, as Cornwall Loft Conversion Specialists will explain: “It can be difficult to put the bathroom at the front of the house as you have to run a soil pipe to the back of the building where the existing bathrooms and toilets are situated. You’ll also need to consider the hot water and heating system. The boiler may not be capable of heating the extra space or providing enough hot water for the extra bathroom.”

It’s all in the planning
There are also structural considerations. New beams will be needed in the roof and in the new floor to take the floor weight and strengthen the roof when the existing rafters are removed.

If you live in a terraced or semi-detached house this work will probably require a Party Wall agreement with your neighbours. This refers to walls, ceilings or floors which are shared with other properties.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) has explanatory information for householders which is available free of charge (see contacts).

The good news is that planning permission is not always necessary, but as with any extension work, you should contact your local planning office and ask if the work can be done within what is known as, permitted development.


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If the house hasn’t been extended since 1948 this is likely to be the case, but you must find out in advance. Even if your house has not been extended since 1948, you may be next door to a listed building. In some areas this means you will need permission for any changes which affect the appearance of neighbouring listed properties.

If planning permission is required and you don’t apply, the authorities can make you remove the extension and return the building to its original state.

All loft conversions must meet Building Regulations. Your architect and structural engineer should be up to date with these but it is best to submit full plans to your local authority building control department so they can advise on any changes needed before work begins.

One of the key areas when adding another storey to a property are the fire precautions required. Upgrading the fire resistance of existing ceilings and doors is usually necessary.

Recent changes to Building Regulations require high levels of insulation, which will keep your extension warm in winter and prevent overheating in summer.



What do you want?
A loft conversion is a major job and you will need to get architectural plans drawn up.

Make sure you know what you want so that you can brief your architect. Are you considering more than one room? Do you want to include a bathroom and if so are you content with a shower or do you need enough space for a bath? What are the rooms to be used for? Have you thought about storage space?

At this stage it is also worth spending time thinking about lighting and other electrical requirements – if you are going to use the loft as a study you are likely to need more electrical sockets, for example.

Check out the builder
Make sure they are experienced in loft conversion work. Even if you have to compromise on the layout due to structural or cost considerations, many obstacles can be worked round if you really want a particular design.

If you are using a building company specialising in this work they may supply drawings, but you may prefer to use an architect to prepare them and ask three builders to quote for the job against these plans.

This will give you a better idea as to which company offers best value for money. But remember cost and value is not the same thing.

Check out the builder, look at previous work and talk to past clients to find out if they were happy with the quality of their jobs and the way in which they were carried out.

Protect yourself
The cost of the job will vary depending on its complexity and where you live. A straightforward loft conversion for a three bedroom Victorian house in London will start from £30,000 whereas the same job in Lancashire would be around £20,000.

If you are investing this much it makes sense to insure the work. MasterBond is an insurance-backed warranty that doesn’t cost the earth – just £150 per £10,000-worth of work - but does provide the extra reassurance you need if something should go wrong while work is in progress and for 10 years afterwards.
 
 
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