Loft conversions have long been used as a way to increase the space in UK homes while also adding value to these properties. But how much red tape is involved in converting your loft? David Knight, Digital Manager at Roof Windows 4 You, explains all.

Many homeowners want more space, but they like where they live and don’t want to go through the hassle of moving. A loft conversion is a great way to get around this problem, allowing you to ‘build up’ and utilise the extra space available in your roof area. Whether you want an extra en-suite bedroom, a place to study, or even just a nice storage space, a loft conversion is a great way to get the most out of your current home.

According to some estimates, a loft conversion can increase a property’s price by around 21% across the UK, increasing to 24.5% in London (On The Market). And, with the average UK house price standing at £226,798 (Land Registry), this means a loft conversion could increase the value of your home by up to £47,500. In this article, I’m going to explain the rules and regulations you need to know before you consider converting your loft.

Most loft conversions don’t require planning permission

Whether you need planning permission for your loft conversion depends on what you plan to do, but it won’t be required for most projects. You will only need to seek planning permission if you are extending or altering the roof space beyond certain conditions, which are:

  • The loft will be larger than 40 cubic metres for terraced houses and 50 cubic metres for detached and semi-detached houses.
  • The loft extends beyond the sloping plane of your existing roof slope at the front of the house (the side that faces the street).
  • The loft extends higher than the tallest part of the existing roof.
  • The loft includes a veranda, balcony, or raised platform.
  • The loft uses materials that look different to the rest of the house.
  • The loft overhangs the outer wall of the house.

There are also conditions in relation to the placement and installation of roof windows. You will need to seek planning permission if you want to install transparent windows on the side of the loft, or side windows less than 1.7m above the ground. If your home is in a special area, such as a national park, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, conservation areas, or World Heritage Sites, you will also need to seek planning permission.

To confirm whether you need planning permission, it’s always wise to contact a local builder for advice.

Do you need building regulations approval for a loft conversion?

Whether your plans require planning permission or not, you will still have to seek building regulations approval for any work that is carried out. The purpose of building regulations is to make sure that any structural changes to a building have been carried out in a safe way, with the correct supports and safety features. Here are some of the main points you will have to take into consideration for a loft conversion.

  • Load-bearing walls: Loft conversions add weight to the top of your house, and this needs to be supported by your existing structure. You may need new floor joists to support the extra load.
  • Rafter removal: To install roof windows, you may need to remove rafters from the roof. This will alter the support and new timber may need to be installed for support.
  • Floor joists: Existing joists may not be able to support your loft conversion, so stronger ones may need to be installed to provide adequate support.
  • Fire safety: To comply with fire regulations, you’ll need to install fire protection, including smoke alarms in the stairway on each level of the home. You’ll also need an escape window at least 45cm wide.
  • Staircase: Habitable loft conversions require a staircase that can be used as a fire escape. You can install a smaller, space-saving staircase, but retractable ladders do not meet the regulations for a habitable room.

Converting a loft is a big job but, when done right, it can add thousands to the value of your home, while also providing you with extra space. Follow the advice above and you’ll be well on your way to getting the process started.