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A loft can be one of the easiest rooms to convert in the house, depending on its architectural structure and planning restrictions. If you are looking for extra space, another bedroom, or maybe just a quite room for you to unwind, then converting your loft can be a very rewarding process.

Many home owners have absolutely no idea where to start with converting a loft, so to help out, we have provided some basic DIY loft conversion tips for you to get started on that home improvement:

Is the Loft Suitable to Convert?

Before buying any tools, hiring contractors or even clearing the loft out, you need to make sure the loft is actually permitted to be converted. There are three main types of assessment needed before converting a loft. Head height, pitch angle and type of structure.

Head Height: when assessing the loft, the first step you need to take is measuring the head height. Measuring from the bottom of the of the ridge timber to the top of the usable roof, your measurements should be 2.2m or greater. If your roof does not happen to be 2.2m, you have two options: raise the roof in the loft, or lower the ceiling below. Both of these methods would require planning approval, and we highly recommend bringing in an expert to assess the situation.

Pitch Angle: the pitch angle of your loft is the area that the roof is sloping. The higher the pitch angle, the higher the central head height generally is.

Type of Structure: there are two main types of structure: traditional framed and truss section. Both of these structures will have an impact on how you construct your loft. The traditional frame, designed in houses pre 1960s, is made up of rafters, ceiling joists and supporting timbers. This type of house is perfect for conversion, due to the ease of opening up and strengthening using supports.

Truss section on the other hand, made post 1960s, makes use of factory made cheaper timbers for its support structure, and incorporate braced diagonal timbers for additional support. These kinds of structures are much trickier to open up, and will often require a lot more work put in, including the use of steel beams for support, and most likely permission to do so.

Once you have assessed your loft area and are happy to go ahead with the conversion, there may be a few things to take into consideration.

Roof Structure

There are many different ways to restructure a roof for a loft conversion, however they each have one common factor - the ceiling joists. Ceiling and floor joists are not made the same, and therefore the ceiling joists in this particular loft area will not be adequate to support the weight of the conversion. This being said, you would need to install further floor joists at a depth of around 200mm to 225mm, above the ceiling plaster board to form the structure of the converted floor. These joists should be supported by the existing wall plates of external and internal load-bearing walls, or on to newly installed steel beams.

Stairs

The design and the position of the staircase can be a tricky instalment to figure out. You won’t want to lose too much available space in the floor beneath, yet you want a sufficient enough space to comfortably climb up to your newly converted loft. As well as this, you have to take into consideration that the beginning of the stairs must have a head height of 1.9m, and 1.8m at the sides.

Another thing to take into account is the angle of the staircase, which according to regulations can be a maximum pitch of 42 degrees, and you should be looking at a width of no less then 65cm. You may want to opt for a spiral staircase, as these prove to be very efficient both space wise and in terms of comfort.

Insulation

Insulation is needed in your loft for both heat and sound. If your loft, like most, has a sloped roof, then insulating can be slightly more difficult than for any other room. The sloping ceiling will need insulation cut and fitted both between, and on top of, the rafters. When fitting this insulation, it would be beneficial to try and make it as thinly cut as possible, due to the plasterboard needing to be fitted to the rafters between the bottom layers of the insulation. We recommend choosing insulation materials with high density, such as foam board, for this job. 

As well as your ceiling, you will need to insulate the floor in your new loft conversion. The floor is less tricky than the sloping ceiling. This can be easily achieved by using a mineral fibre quilt between the joists. Using denser materials, rather than lightweight insulation, reduces the amount of sound exposure from the rest of the house. You should also make sure you are insulating any parting walls against heat and noise.

Windows

Windows don’t often require a massive change to the structural development of the property. To avoid needing to get planning permission, we recommend opting for skylight windows, as oppose to dormer windows. Skylight windows are much easier to fit, as well as being generally cheaper. They also require less support than a dormer window.

Fire Safety

In structures where a loft conversion would mean a third level to your house, there are certain factors you need to take into account regarding fire safety and regulations. First of all, new floors require at least 30 minutes of fire protection, which could mean having to fully re-plaster the floor ceiling below. As well as this, the new conversion will most definitely need a fire door, as well as an escapable window fitted, which luckily most skylights are.

Mains powered smoke alarms should also be fitted on each floor of the home, including the newly converted loft. Each of these fire alarms should be intertwined, meaning if one goes off, they all do.

Electricity

Finally, the last thing you will need is electricity in your loft. This is for both heating and the use of electronic devices. Rewiring for the loft can be a complex process, especially if you want to install new radiators. We recommend using a contractor for this particular job.

So there you have it, the basics of any loft conversion. All that is left now is the interior aesthetics, such as flooring, wall paper, furniture and interior decoration, which would come down to your personal preference and creativity.