One of the main reasons given by people who are considering moving home is to find a house with more space. Whether it’s because of a growing family, the need to bring older relatives into your home, or just generally a desire to have more rooms to enjoy hobbies and interests, space is always key.
However, with property prices continuing to rise and interest rates starting to creep up again, often it makes sense financially to think of ways of extending your existing home, rather than selling up and buying somewhere bigger. In our current home we’ve already had a side extension, as well as converting our old garage, so the last big option available to us would be a loft conversion.
Of course not all homes and not all lofts are suitable for conversion, but often there is space to be found, and potentially money to be made by utilising the space above your heads! We’ve been doing some research into the options and costs and ways to avoid some of the potential pitfalls, so here are five of the main potential mistakes that we’ve found.
Not checking that your loft is suitable for conversion
As mentioned above, not every loft can be converted easily and some would require so much expense to make them functional that it simply wouldn’t be worth the effort. As a general rule, a loft needs to have a minimum head height of 2.2m for it to be successfully converted. So if you check the distance between the top of the floor joist of the loft to the bottom of the ridge beam and it meets that criteria you’re heading for success. If it doesn’t, you might be out of luck, or heading for some serious expense. After all, there’s no point converting a loft if you can’t then stand up in it!
Not doing your research on potential companies
We all know that quotes for building work can fluctuate massively depending on parts of the country, the level of finish required and the size and expertise of the company involved. Whilst those cheaper quotes can seem attractive at first, it’s really important to do your homework!
Loft conversions aren’t an easy project to take on, so ideally you want to choose a company that either specialise solely in loft conversions, or at the very least have good experience in the area. Check websites, look for testimonials, research on trade comparison sites, ask for recommendations from friends and families. Also, have a good chat with the companies to see what they’re like, how long they’ve been going for and what work they’ve successfully done in the past. The last thing anyone wants for a big project like a loft conversion is to choose a cheap company who do a poor job or, worse still, disappear half way through a job!
Failing to plan ahead
So, you know you want more space and you know your loft should be suitable for a conversion. But what exactly do you want to use it for, and is that actually practical?
Obviously whichever company you choose to go with will talk you through the options and help you plan things out, but it’s well worth coming up with your own rough plans well in advance. Have a good think about what type of room you want up there, how big you are comfortable with that room being, where you envisage the walls might go and where you could place the stairs in your existing upstairs layout to allow decent access to your conversion. If you are too vague in what you are hoping to achieve it’s likely you could end up disappointed by what is actually achievable in the space available.
Assuming you don’t need permission
Most of the time a loft conversion would be covered under permitted development rules, so wouldn’t require full planning permission. However, this isn’t always the case, and will depend on any restrictions your property already has in place, but also the extent of the work you are planning.
You may also need to look into party wall agreements, if you share a wall with a neighbour, so again it’s good to look into those things before getting too far into the planning process. Again, a decent company will help you and give advice on these areas, but as people always say, ‘fail to prepare – prepare to fail’!
Not budgeting effectively
This one applies equally to most things around the home, but with a high-cost project such as a loft conversion you really need to make sure it’s cost-effective in terms of what you want to achieve. There’s no point in splashing the cash on a loft conversion if you don’t have any money left at the end of it to pay your bills, or to buy furniture to kit it all out, so it’s essential to make a detailed budget that you’re comfortable with and to stick to it.
Whichever company you use, make sure you have a good chat and get a proper, detailed quote which covers everything you expect it to in advance of work starting. For example, if you’re expecting a plastered finish to your conversion, along with any necessary plumbing and electrics, make sure it’s all covered in the quote to help avoid any nasty surprises later on in the process.
Hopefully the above areas are fairly self-explanatory and will give you a bit of food for thought if you have been toying with the idea of a loft conversion. Roughly speaking, make sure you know what you want, pick the right company and set a sensible budget that you can afford and you’ll be well on the right track to a more spacious and more valuable home!