London Loft Conversions: Is my Home Suitable for Conversion?

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Published: 14th June 2010
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London Loft Conversions are an increasingly popular way for homeowners to expand the useable space within their house without going through all of the hassle and expense of moving. But how do you know whether your loft is suitable for conversion?

The easiest way to check whether you can have a London loft conversion is to see whether anyone else in your street has already added a dormer or VELUX windows to their roof. If nobody else has had a loft conversion then there may be tighter planning restrictions in your area (for instance, a conservation area) or the height within your loft may be too low.

You should not necessarily be put off entirely even if there are no other loft conversions in your street. By making use of an architect who specialises in loft conversions it is often possible to persuade the local authority planning department to allow you to sympathetically convert your loft, even in a strict conservation area.

If existing height is low in your loft then there are a number of options that may allow you to overcome the problem. In general, it is possible to convert a loft with as little as 2 metres (approximately 6ft 7) of existing height without making any major alterations. This dimension would be measured from the bottom of the ridge beam to the top of the existing ceiling joists. However, even if there is less height than this it is still possible to make some other alterations to increase space.

One option is to lower the existing top floor ceilings to the top of the existing windows. Whilst this work will add to the disruption of having a London loft conversion, it can often be completed in stages over the course of a few days to allow you to stay in your house during the build. To see whether it is feasible in your home, you should measure the distance from the top of your existing window frames on the top floor to the ceiling. In general this space is between 200-300mm, allowing you to gain around 300-400mm of height in your new loft conversion. This can mean that a property with only 1.8m of existing height could achieve a finished height of around 2.2m in the loft.

Another option is to raise the existing ridge height. This always requires planning consent and is usually only permitted where there are significant variations in the ridge heights amongst your immediate neighbours. You should always consult with a professional before submitting a planning application to raise the roof ridge.

Assuming that the height is suitable and permission is granted, most existing lofts can be converted into a new bedroom and bathroom by adding a dormer or mansard to the rear roof slope. An average dormer loft conversion in a three bedroom terrace house can add between 300-500 square feet of space. Larger semi-detached and detached houses can usually far exceed this figure.

Certain properties have existing rear additions, often called 'L-shaped' houses, that can allow an additional bedroom or bathroom to be created over the roof of the rear addition. This is a very cost effective way to add space when undertaking a dormer or mansard loft conversion of the main roof. Alternatively, the roof over the rear addition can easily be converted into a terrace, which is always a great options in top floor flats or maisonettes with limited outdoor space.

As when undertaking any building work, you should always make use of a company that is a member of the Government Backed TrustMark Scheme and ensure that you go and look at some of their completed work. Some specialist loft conversion companies now offer packages that include architectural plans, structural specifications, and professional project management throughout the build. It is often worth looking into these packages rather than going straight to a builder as it can reduce the overall cost and hassle whilst offering better customer support and build quality.

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