Loft Conversions - Should it be my first choice for a house extension?
nutshell - NO!
Don't get me wrong, loft conversions can offer an easy way of adding space but should it be your first
choice? - I don't think so.
Most homes can often be extended elsewhere first to a pre-defined clients wish list.
Loft conversions are only really suitable for one use - creating bedroom space and many loft conversions have
inherent design restrictions and compromises for the new stair access and the space it takes up so they do need to
be considered very carefully.
Many loft conversions originally intended as a new bedroom simply end up a 'Toblerone narrow tube' with nowhere
to place a bed or any full height walking area to get into the bed. Many homeowners are left deflated and
frustrated at what has been achieved for their hard earned money. Many simply leave it to the kids as a play
room or it becomes a study.
So, what type of extension should you be considering first?
Most homeowners wishing to extend their homes usually start with a set of requirements & it should be those
requirements that come first that will dictate the best options for the scheme. It should not be 'we have a
roof void so what can we convert it to?
If the preliminary design analysis dictates a loft conversion as to the best route then so be it.
Many homes do not have the luxury of 'extension options' for their added space and often the loft conversion is the
only way to get that extra space.
My advise would always be to extend at the side or rear of the property first as that's where most people want
their large family kitchen / dining areas with all bedrooms and bathrooms at the first floor level. A loft
conversion is no good for a kitchen or living room for most situations.
Should your scheme be 'design lead' and the design solution is for a loft conversion then a whole host of other
issues and design challenges will need to be addressed. Here are some of the issues to be considered:-
1 - Dormer windows or Velux roof lights? - Dormers will often provide additional floor walking
areas but they can be expensive. Some dormers do not need Planning Permission while others do - you need to
know right from the start as this can effect the dormer design. Velux roof lights are the most cost effective
option but can have limitations.
2 - Location of the new stairs and what type or design of stairway do I use? - The location of
the new stairs is often a balancing act between maximising the space on the new floor without adversely reducing or
affecting space on the lower level. Often locating the new stairs under the roof slope & over the
existing stair well can work well while other times a slice off an existing bedroom is the only option. If the
conversion is for only one room then you can reduce the width of the new stairs or consider a Space saver type of
stairway (not favoured by the Building Control Dept. & only allowed in certain situations).
3 - One larger bedroom or two smaller bedrooms? - Due to the extent of sloping ceiling area
there will be within any loft conversion, it is better to go for the one larger room and have it as a fully
functional bedroom rather than two smaller bedrooms that are dysfunctional & only usable by midgets.
4 - Is my loft suitable for conversion? - Many lofts are not suitable for conversion. eg
- pre-formed trussed rafter type roof constructions. These often have long clear spans with no internal load
bearing walls or partitions. To convert these type of lofts requires double the structural support work which
can often be uneconomic for the scheme.