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Lofty ambitions – attic conversions and what should be considered

08/03/21Lofty ambitions – attic conversions and what should be considered

If you don’t want to move house, and you have the space to do it, loft conversions are a great way to create more living space. There are however pitfalls and drawbacks to doing this. Some people are tempted to undertake projects like loft conversions themselves, without obtaining specialist knowledge. This can leave some nasty surprises in store for subsequent owners – and surveyors must be on their guard when looking in even the darkest corners of a property.

Converted space

Converting existing space that a property already has into a liveable space is one option.

This is why loft conversions are a popular way to create another room in your property, provided you have room to put an access point and the loft has enough headroom. The space can be ideal for a spare bedroom, a playroom or a TV/gaming/lounge room. In the present ‘work from home’ climate, they might offer valuable office space.

Safe space

However, Building Regulations approval and planning permission is needed to convert a loft or attic into a liveable space. They cover a wide range of aspects; such as ensuring the strength of the floor is sufficient to carry the loads imposed upon them, safe escape from fire, reasonable sound and thermal insulation, safely designed staircases to access the space and that the conversion will not compromise the structural integrity of the building or neighbouring properties

The most common problem building surveyors find are floorboards or chipboard have been laid in an attic/loft without the ceiling joists below being reinforced, this could cause structural problems for the rest of the house.

Even when they have been converted by a professional builder, that alone doesn’t guarantee the quality of workmanship, nor does it confirm that the work has been certified by the local authorities building control.

If indeed a property has had a loft conversion and you are in doubt as to its safety and conformity you should always employ the services of a Chartered Building Surveyor or Structural Engineer to carry out an inspection. They will be able to provide you with the correct information and recommendations.

Accessible space

You should also check that the loft conversion was indeed granted planning permission. If it has not been granted this can be very costly to get retrospective approval.

Being neighbourly

Finally, if you are looking to convert a loft space you will also need to consider your neighbours! This of course applies to terraced and semi-detached properties. Before starting the work you must consider notifying your neighbours. The legislation that this falls under is known as the Party Wall Act 1996. This provides a framework for preventing and resolving disputes in relation to party walls, boundary walls and excavations near neighbouring buildings. A building owner proposing to start work covered by the Act must give adjoining owners notice of their intentions in the way set down in the Act.


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