If you are looking for beginners guide to loft conversion, you've come to the right place. In this loft conversion guide, you're going to learn everything that you need to know about the following:

  • Is a loft conversion possible for your property?

  • Things to consider before you start

  • Designs to consider for your loft conversion

  • Potential costings

  • All about planning permission

  • Building regulations information

  • Loft conversion design ideas

  • How to begin with your loft conversion

A loft conversion is an excellent way to expand your home; whether you need an extra bathroom, a guest suite or an additional study, a loft conversion is a fantastic way to provide your home with the space you want. Extending the space is often the best option over moving to a new property, too, and if you have space that is unused, building into it yourself could make that space functional.

Whether you need an extra bathroom, a guest suite or an additional study, a loft conversion is a fantastic way to provide your home with the space you want

Regardless of what you choose to turn your loft into, you will need to think deeply about so many things to do with your loft conversion; planning permission included. For every load you intend to build onto the existing floor, you need to ensure that it's capable of withstanding it. 

Calculations will have to be made to check it will work for your home, and you have to be aware of the safety regulations, too. A loft conversion in your home could be life-changing for you, and it can also be a cost-effective solution to your space issues; especially if you're not up to the challenge of buying a new house!

A stylish loft conversion used as a sitting roomA stylish loft conversion used as a sitting roomA stylish loft conversion used as a sitting roomA stylish loft conversion used as a sitting room

What will you use your loft conversion for?

Can I Convert My Loft?

Knowing your property is suitable for a loft conversion is a great way to get started on assessing the type of loft conversion that you could have

It's a valid question to ask; most people aren't aware of whether their home is going to withstand the changes of a loft conversion. A lot of houses come with allowances for development with permission, and this can mean you can go ahead and do your conversion without planning permission. 

There are other times, though, that planning permission is required for your house. If you are living in a conservation area, for example, or you have a roof space that doesn't meet the height requirements it can become a little more challenging to get that permission that you need.

You can seek the help of an architect or surveyor to confirm whether your roof space is tall enough, or you can do some of the checks yourself. Not every loft works with a conversion; so don't get too carried away about the process until you have it confirmed that yours is! 

A survey before you go ahead with your project is a smart idea, and it's an excellent way to ensure that you have a successful conversion in the end with fewer costs. Some of the things that should be included in your survey include:

Structure of the Roof

Is your roof one that is traditionally cut rafter and purlin? Is your roof trussed?

Roof Height

You need to know the height on the inside of your loft before you go ahead and start finding designs on Pinterest. The minimum roof height for a traditional roof is 2.2-2.4m. It's a little higher for a trussed roof at 2.4-2.6m.

Amount of Space

The loft space that you want to convert needs to be enough to provide a usable room; otherwise, you're going to end up with a very pretty cupboard.

Any Chimneys?

Chimneys don't go through the loft space so won't need to be moved.

Once you've done these checks, you can start moving things along with your loft conversion plans. Knowing your property is suitable for a loft conversion is a great way to get started on assessing the type of loft conversion that you could have. 

Some of these points may bring up some issues for you, but don't panic yet! It doesn't mean that you have to throw out your loft conversion plans; it just means you need to think over your next steps carefully.

Considerations Before You Get Started

Where would the staircase go? This is an important question to ask yourself

As we previously mentioned, there are a lot of things to consider before you get started on your loft conversion project. Some of the main things that should be ticked off before you get going include the following points:

Neighbourhood Conversions

Have a look around your neighbourhood. If your house is very similarly built to the others on the street and those people have loft conversions, you can feel pretty confident that you'll be able to, too. Not only will you be able to tell that a loft conversion is a possibility for you, but you'll also be able to draw inspiration from what they look like! 

Drop around to the neighbours' house and ask to have a look around if you know them enough. This can provide you with invaluable information that you need to know.

Get Out The Tape Measure

We've previously mentioned that the minimum height on the inside of the loft should be 2.2m. This is something that you can easily measure yourself. Run a tape measure from the floor to the ceiling at the very tallest piece of the room. 

It's fine for your roof to be over 2.2m, but any lower and you may not be able to make your conversion work. Victorian houses are often those that are lower and won't have a sufficient head height, but it's always worth checking.

Your Roof Type Matters

Take a look through your loft hatch. Doing this, you should be able to see whether you have roof trusses or rafters. Converting your loft - if it has trusses - is possible, but you'll need to give your roof extra structural support, too. Rafters will leave a triangular hollow under the roof, providing you with the space you need to convert.

Think About The Below

When you change your loft, you don't just change the roof. Many self-builders forget to consider the floor below their feet. Where would the staircase go? This is an important question to ask yourself as even a staircase that has been well-designed could take a considerable amount of space. 

If the floor below is too narrow for a decent staircase, you need to get creative. Make sure that you have the area that you would be willing to lose.

As soon as you've made your assessments as to whether you will be able to go ahead with your loft conversion, it's time to start looking at costs.

A roofline of houses with roof lights installedA roofline of houses with roof lights installedA roofline of houses with roof lights installedA roofline of houses with roof lights installed

Have your neighbours already had their lofts converted? 

Types Of Loft Conversion

Most of the time, a dormer loft conversion is added to the back of the house, but they can be added to the side or front with the right planning permission

Now you can get started with your project; you need to know the various choices you have in front of you. The type of loft conversion that works for your home is under the influence of three separate issues:

  • The budget you have to play with

  • What you plan to convert your loft into

  • The type of roof you are working with

There are also three different types of loft conversion that you will need to mull over before you pay for anything:

Internal Loft Conversions

Usually, these are the cheapest option and require the least intervention with the building.

Full Conversions

This type of loft conversion requires complete removal and building, and these give you and your home the most flexibility but are the most expensive. They are also the most challenging.

Dormer Loft Conversions

These are the most common type of loft conversion around because the building work behind them is simple and yet the space created is incredible.

So, what options for loft conversions are out there for you?

Roof Light Conversions

This type of loft conversion is the cheapest, the least disruptive and doesn't require any changes made to the shape or the pitch of the roof. This conversion is just merely adding skylights, laying a floor and adding a staircase to get there in the first place. 

For this loft conversion, you'll need to have the roof space there already, and enough of it to make the extension worth it. As you will be working on loft space that you have already, it makes this project very cost-effective. Your roof space doesn't require you to make any alterations.

Dormer Conversions - Continued

If you've never heard of them, a dormer conversion is an extension that will project from the natural slope of the roof. Flat roof dormers are a popular conversion type, and they work for any home with a slope in the roof. 

Dormer windows are built into the roof, increasing the amount of space in the roof while also allowing space for you to stand up without bumping your head. Most of the time, a dormer loft conversion is added to the back of the house, but they can be added to the side or front with the right planning permission.

Single Dormer

The homes in conservation areas that struggle to find a way to complete a loft conversion will love a single dormer, as these can add symmetry and space to the home.

Side Dormer

Hipped rooftops don't provide a home with enough head height. Side dormers can do this instead.

Full-Width Dormer

For those who want to maximise space in a big way, a full-width dormer is a way to go. They're less expensive than the hip-to-gable options, and they make the whole space feel very different than other conversions. You can add significant amounts of headroom and floor space with this option.

L-Shape Dormer

Victorian properties with an extension to the rear are best suited for an L-shape dormer loft conversion. It gives a significant amount of space, which can provide massive value to your home. 

This is the most popular conversion type for the Victorian-style homes, and it requires the construction of two dormers: one over the main home roof and a second dormer over the extension at the rear of the property. 

Most of the time, the second dormer sits over a bathroom or kitchen at the back of the house, and the two dormers meet for that L shape. The most significant advantage of this type of conversion is you can mirror the floor below for the shape and space, which can allow you to envision the design perfectly.

Hip-to-Gable

For some rooftops, there is a sloping hip roof at the side of the property. With a hip-to-gable conversion, you can create more space in your loft. This is a conversion that will only work on detached or semi-detached homes, and if your neighbours you should ask them the work that was involved in its creation.

Mansard Conversions

For loft conversions that involve the slopes of the roof being replaced. Almost all flat roofs are placed over the top. And it's a design that is used with a lack of headspace. The Mansard conversion requires planning permission in most cases, and the extension mirrors the whole length of the current roof while altering the roof slope angle. 

It's an expensive option, but it's worth it for space! The Mansard conversion works for almost all property types.

A bathroom in a loft conversion with white walls and bathA bathroom in a loft conversion with white walls and bathA bathroom in a loft conversion with white walls and bathA bathroom in a loft conversion with white walls and bath

This bathroom looks stunning beside those roof lights

The Cost Of A Loft Conversion

On average, a hip to gable conversion will cost between £30,000 and £35,000

The amount that you pay out for a loft conversion project will depend on the type of loft conversion that you choose. It'll also depend on the materials that you need. And what it is that you need to do to the roof, too. Let's explore some of the costings of your loft conversion project.

Changes To The Roof Structure

These changes can be the most expensive part of the loft conversion - they're also the most difficult changes to make! This is because changes to the roof structure require the rebuild and removal of a whole roof - not a small job! Sometimes, this is necessary for a loft conversion, especially if the roof that currently exists is not the right shape.

This is also something that needs to happen if the roof isn't structurally sound. This is a loft conversion that will require planning permission, and it's another cost to add to the list. To change your roof structure, you could be looking at costs of upwards of £40,000.

Hip to Gable

We've written about the hip to gable option, and this involves the conversion of the sloped side of the roof to make it a flat edge. This will give the additional home space to work with inside the loft - and the price will very much depend on what else you have done. On average, a hip to gable conversion will cost between £30,000 and £35,000

Dormer Lofts

Again, we've gone over the various dormer loft conversion types, which is a conversion that will extend outward from the side of the house or the back. Their prices vary greatly and depending on how many dormers you add to the home you could be looking at prices between £19,000 and £30,000.

Room Loft Conversions

The prices to put a room in the roof of your home range around £15,000. And this is the cheapest option as well as being the most straightforward. You'll need to consider added insulation, a staircase to get into the loft, skylights, lighting and heating and fire safety. 

Costs will relate to the quality of each of these options, and you should map out what you want and price it up before you get started.

A loft conversion interior with white walls and wooden flooringA loft conversion interior with white walls and wooden flooringA loft conversion interior with white walls and wooden flooringA loft conversion interior with white walls and wooden flooring

The light really shows the colours of this beautiful timber flooring

Getting Planning Permission

Did you know that no additions to the roof are allowed at the main elevation point beyond the existing roof that slopes?

When it comes to planning permission, you need to be very sure on your own home and loft conversion needs before you get going. Without the right planning permission, you could be court-ordered to undo all of your hard work. 

Under Permitted Development Rights, you can extend your roof space up to 50m3. This falls a little for a terraced house, at 40m3, and you won't need official planning permission which saves you a lot of hassle. However, the limits on these numbers are, and you have to follow them to remain within the law.

For example, did you know that no additions to the roof are allowed at the main elevation point beyond the existing roof that slopes? No, most people don't! Others also don't realise that you must only use materials that match the rest of the existing house. Of course, you may not be able to get an exact match, but it does have to be close to remain uniform with the rest of the street.

If your conversion exceeds the space allowance, the permitted development rights are removed, and planning permission is also required. You should also be aware that if you are in a conservation area or an area that remains in a designated zone, full planning permission will be needed. 

Knowing if you need planning permission is something to handle before you even get started; otherwise, you're going to get started on work that you won't be able to keep.

So, let's explore some of the common planning permission questions.

Do I Need Planning Permission?

An architect or an experienced builder or surveyor can confirm for you whether you need planning permission. In the main, the following conditions must be met to bypass the planning permission process:

  • Terraced homes cannot exceed 40m3 for additional space, and detached or semi-detached houses cannot exceed 50m3. 

  • You should be careful to remember that this includes extra space you made with the loft as well as any conversions or additions made by previous owners. 

  • Your loft extension cannot go further than the outermost existing roof edge at the front of the home. 

  • Your loft extension doesn't go taller than the highest part of the roof

  • You have the materials that match the house

  • You don't have balconies and verandas

  • There are side facing frosted windows 

  • The same windows have openings that are 1.7m or higher from the bottom floor.

  • Your home is not in a conservation area such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or World Heritage Sites. 

  • Hip to gable roofs is set back as far as possible from the eaves.

  • Your roof enlargement will not overhang the front of the house.

  • Terraced homes cannot exceed 40m3 for additional space, and detached or semi-detached houses cannot exceed 50m3. 

  • You should be careful to remember that this includes extra space you made with the loft as well as any conversions or additions made by previous owners. 

  • Your loft extension cannot go further than the outermost existing roof edge at the front of the home. 

  • Your loft extension doesn't go taller than the highest part of the roof

  • You have the materials that match the house

  • You don't have balconies and verandas

  • There are side facing frosted windows 

  • The same windows have openings that are 1.7m or higher from the bottom floor.

  • Your home is not in a conservation area such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or World Heritage Sites. 

  • Hip to gable roofs is set back as far as possible from the eaves.

  • Your roof enlargement will not overhang the front of the house.

Are you feeling unsure about any of these? Get some outside help. It's great to build your own loft conversion, but you need to get some additional expert advice before you commence work. Planning permission can be a pain to get hold of, but it's something that you need to tick the box for before you can go ahead. 

A loft conversion used as an apartment with sofa and table chairsA loft conversion used as an apartment with sofa and table chairsA loft conversion used as an apartment with sofa and table chairsA loft conversion used as an apartment with sofa and table chairs

Now that is a cosy little apartment in a loft conversion

What About Building Regulations?

A Building Control officer can inspect your work in stages if you prefer so that you can fix any Building Regulations mishaps before you get too far

As your loft conversion project develops, you need to consider Building Regulations. This is something that you must consider, whether your loft conversion requires planning permission or not. 

Having a detailed project that is approved before you get started makes your life a lot easier and bringing in a surveyor to help will be the best decision. Having a design that is approved will remove some of the working risks before you start the build.

A Building Control officer can inspect your work in stages if you prefer so that you can fix any Building Regulations mishaps before you get too far and need to take a few steps backwards. When you have the final inspection, you will be handed a certificate of completion.

Building Regulations: Will They Affect My Conversion?

These regulations are in place to ensure that your loft conversion is structurally sound. It's for your safety and the safety of others. They're there to ensure fire safety, and insulation is sound, too. Some regulations differ per loft conversion, but the general rule of thumb is that the Building Regulations include the following elements:

Fire Safety

We all need to sleep soundly at night, and when our houses are built, they are inspected for fire safety. Your loft conversion is no different. Fire-resistant doors should be installed to ensure the room is fire-safe. You'll also need to plan for and install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

Beams & Flooring

You should consider that you may need new floor joists to support the weight of the new room.

Insulation: Sound

You won't be adding a sound-proof room, but you don't want the rest of the house to hear all the activity loud and clear. Sound insulation is a must for your new loft conversion, as it ensures the room is sufficiently insulated.

Staircase Installation

You need stairs to enter the new loft conversion in the first place, but they're also there to give you an out if there is a fire. A ladder isn't good enough, so you need to do your research.

Support Walls

Installing new walls to support the new roof when the existing roof supports have been removed are a must. You don't need the roof falling in on you.

This list isn't exhaustive as there are so many other things to take into consideration.

A tradesman working on a rooflight during a loft conversionA tradesman working on a rooflight during a loft conversionA tradesman working on a rooflight during a loft conversionA tradesman working on a rooflight during a loft conversion

Ensure you get experienced tradesmen to work on your conversion

Party Walls

It's the Party Wall Agreement that ensures work is fair without causing damage to their property. This agreement follows the delivery of a Party Wall Notice

A party wall is a wall that you share with your neighbours. If you are in a home that links to another, you need to notify the neighbours of your planning proposal. There is an entire law (Party Wall Act 1996) that demand that you do this because if your work is going to affect the wall you share with the neighbours, you have to have a particular agreement before you go ahead. 

It's the Party Wall Agreement that ensures work is fair without causing damage to their property. This agreement follows the delivery of a Party Wall Notice. This notice will detail a summary of your proposal. As well as copies of the plans and these go to your neighbours. 

If you're doing the build yourself, you can find examples of these notices online for free. You then must wait for your neighbour to sign the agreement.

In some cases, your neighbour may choose to request the help of a surveyor to go over the notice and approve the work to the Party Wall, but it's something you have to wait for before you go ahead - and you may also be paying for their independent surveyor. 

They'll check out the plans and make an assessment before they sign the paperwork to go ahead.

Loft Conversion Design Ideas

Character properties often have features that really stand out and make the property what it is. Think bare brickwork and exposed beams

There are many ideas that you could put into your loft conversion plans, and yet it can be hard to settle on an option for your home. The way that the ceilings slop and the angles of the loft space can be a challenge to wrap your head around. However, there are plenty of intelligent designs out there. As well as the below tips that can make all the difference to your plan.

Choose Transparency

One of the best ways that you can maximise your loft conversion is by choosing glass and other transparent materials. This will enable you to bring as much light as possible to really create a sense of space.

Make The Stairs Pop

You're going to lose a lot of floor space on the floor below your loft conversion, so, making the staircase a feature in the home can soften the blow a little. Spiral staircases are a fun, space-saving solution that looks good. You could even choose stairs over a bookcase for additional storage help. The staircase design is essential, but don't worry; we'll cover that in another guide.

Make The Most Of The View

The roof puts you right at the top of the house, and this provides you with a view of the entire area. If you place your windows in the right places, you can really make the most of this first thing in the morning!

Enhance Original Features

Character properties often have features that really stand out and make the property what it is. Think bare brickwork and exposed beams - these are both features that look stunning, help to maintain the originality of the home, and they simply look fantastic. Alongside modern interiors, the characteristics and original features can look stunning and increase the value of your home!

Make The Most Of The Space

So, you have a loft with slanted ceilings, and you have no idea how to design the room. You can make those ceilings work for you by ensuring you choose low options in those corners. Think a stand-alone clawfoot tub right under the slanted roof and skylight; now THAT is a view. Alternatively, you can use the space under a slanted ceiling for built-in bookcases.

Think About The Outside World

You can plan the interior as much as possible, but if you haven't considered the exterior, you're missing out. You don't want to create an eyesore that will stand out like a sore thumb. Think about window frames and window boxes, particularly in a Victorian property.

Choose Your Room

Not everyone chooses a loft conversion as a way to add a bedroom. You can create bathroom space, office space or even a second living area. Your loft conversion doesn't have to be the regular option that you find everywhere. Think outside the box a little with this one.

A bedroom in a loft conversion with a bed and bedside chairsA bedroom in a loft conversion with a bed and bedside chairsA bedroom in a loft conversion with a bed and bedside chairsA bedroom in a loft conversion with a bed and bedside chairs

If you need an extra bedroom, where better than the loft?

So, Where Do I Begin?

Architects can help you to design a loft conversion that can comply with building regulations as well as be structurally sound

You've spent time learning the ins and outs of loft conversion, and now you are ready to start. The whole process is going to start with your design and planning. Daydreaming is what we all do, so decide whether you're going to design it yourself or you're going to use the services of an architect. Use one that has enough experience and who can walk you through the complete conversion.

Architects can help you to design a loft conversion that can comply with building regulations as well as be structurally sound. Checking out the neighbourhood loft conversions can give you a good idea of what's okay! Then, you can get your planning permission and get started.

One of the best reasons to consider a loft conversion for your home is the value that it will add to the property. No one can tell you the exact value you will add to your home with your loft conversion, but any kind of additional space can increase your property value by up to 25%. 

It's the cheapest way to add space to your home, and the best bit is that the design options are many and varied. You have a lot of options to choose from, enabling you to make the best decision for your home.