Ask the Expert: is my loft suitable for a conversion?

Bradley Quesnel from ExtensionPro on the ins and outs of loft conversions.

What head height is needed?

Surprisingly, there’s no minimum ceiling height required for a loft conversion when it comes to building regulations. In fact, the only requirement you do need to fulfil is allowing two metres for your top of stairs height. You could crawl around in your new bedroom and no one would stop you (but they may judge you!).

On the whole, most designers will recommend you undertake a conversion if you’ve got over 2.2m of head height available throughout most of the room. If you don’t have that much height available, it doesn’t mean your loft conversion can’t go ahead. There are ways to increase head height, though things could get pricey. We’ll get on to this in just a moment.

What is the pitch?

Pitch is a form of measurement used to calculate the angle of a roof. If you’re converting a loft, you’ll hear the term being thrown around a lot. When converting your loft, you’ll want a high level of pitch so the centre of your space gets decent head height.

Does the age of a property make any difference?

When it comes to structure, there’s one question most people should be asking: was my property constructed before or after 1960? The reason for this is that roof construction changed dramatically after 1960. Previously, homes were built with a traditional framed roof, where the components were cut to size on site and then assembled. After 1960, this method was replaced by the use of factory-made roof trusses, aka the framework of the roof. These factory trusses are thinner (and therefore cheaper) and made stable by other diagonal timbers. The difference between these two structures is that the post 1960 spaces will usually require extra structural input in order to convert. That’s not to say converting is no longer on the table, but you will need to get a structural engineer on board, and skilled contractors.

What if the loft is already being used?

Just because you’re not living in your loft at the moment, doesn’t mean it’s not in use. You might have water tanks already using that space, maybe even sat in the middle with a network of pipes going this way and that. If so, you’ll have to arrange for this to either be moved or removed altogether. Other obstacles you might have to contend with are chimneys or other structural features of your home. Obstacles don’t mean your loft can’t be converted, managing them will require a larger budget.

How complicated is a loft conversion?

The time needed and complexity of your loft conversion will all depend on the factors we’ve touched on. More importantly, the work needed can have a dramatic effect on your budget, so before you go into this, make sure you’re going to get more money than you’re putting in. Here’s what you could be in for…

Basic Conversion

£15,000 - £25,000

Known as ‘room in roof’ loft conversion, this project will be the easiest for you to undertake and cost the least. As the nickname suggests, you’re taking an unused room and kitting it out, with no dramatic structural work needed. If you don’t already have them, getting stairs installed will be the biggest part of your conversion. Having an architect on board will help you accommodate this into the rest of your house and will also help you maximise space, so you get the most for your money. You’ll be surprised how much space can be saved through clever design.

Adding a Dormer

£25,000 - £45,000

Though more expensive, a dormer loft conversion is one of the most popular with homeowners. Why? Because with a dormer you’re adding an extension onto your roof, creating more floor and head space for a truly impressive new room. Not only that, the extension eliminates those slanted walls, traditionally associated with lofts. Prices can vary with a dormer extension, as the extra room might tempt you to add two rooms into your loft, instead of one. If going for something like a bedroom and ensuite combination, your budget will need to stretch up to the £40k marker, though this can vary from region to region. However, you might see double that in value from these much sought-after additions.

Changing Roof Structure

£15,000 - £25,000

If you want a loft conversion, but you don’t have the head height to make it possible, you could think about going big and actually rebuild your roof to raise the height. First things first, you’ll need to get planning permission in order to make this happen, you’ll also need to find a good architect and structural engineer to make your new roof not only look nice, but stay standing up. You may find these professionals charging more than other loft conversion designs, as more work will be required.

At ExtensionPro we offer all these services in-house! Victorian properties tend to cost between £5-£10,000 more than other homes, while bespoke builds can add an extra £10-20,000 to the costs.


Bradley Quesnel Extension Pro

Bradley Quesnel

More info: ExtensionPro