Our homes are no longer simply a base we leave every morning and return to every night. Increasingly they are more and more central to our daily lives: we spend time together there, we cook, eat and rest there as before, but we also work there, we socialise there, even if only online. All these different activities can put a premium on space and privacy within the home. As the ways we use our home vary and increase in number, so too make the demands that we place on the space.
There are many reasons it may be necessary to adapt your home as you and your family’s needs change over time. You may require extra space for storage or study, or perhaps additional bedrooms may be required as you welcome new arrivals into your family, or your children grow older and need their own space and privacy. In recent years there has also been a growing trend for flexible working with more time spent working from home. This, of course, has become much more common during the challenging periods of lockdown endured during 2020.
There are several ways a house can be extended to provide more space to suit your needs, but one of the simplest and easiest to achieve is via an extended upward into the loft space. A loft extension can often provide the most cost-effective and least disruptive way of adding useable space to your home. The primary benefits of a loft extension are:
- Avoid the disruption and expense of moving home: By adapting and extending your home, you can achieve the extra space you need without having to go through the stressful process of finding, purchasing and relocating to a new home. Often the extra space you need can be met by extending into the loft space in your roof. Whilst this may require some remodelling of your roof space, it will be less disruptive to your day to day life.
- Extra Useable Space Adapted to Suit Your Specific Needs: loft conversions can often provide sufficient space to accommodate an additional bedroom and a bathroom or ensuite. Other options you may consider for the use of the additional space are to incorporate a home office, a private den or study, a games room or a home cinema.
- Maximise the Use of Space: A loft conversion will allow more efficient use of all the space available within your house as it incorporates previously unused, closed off or dead spaces. If there are areas of reduced head height that would otherwise be unusable, these can be formed into additional storage space.
- Avoid loss of Amenity: Converting a loft space into habitable accommodation will have no impact on the overall footprint of your building, unlike extending to the rear or side of your property. This means that you will not lose any garden or amenity space.
- Add Value to Your Home: a recent survey by the Nationwide Building Society found that converting a loft space to accommodate an extra bedroom and ensuite can add up to 22% to the value of your property.
- The Simplest Way to Add Extra Space: Work within the loft space will be less disruptive than adding significant extensions to your property. There will be no excavations for foundations and less material stored on site. As the work is broadly confined to the loft the work can, in most cases, be undertaken while you remain at home and with less impact on the rest of the house from construction traffic, dust and noise.
- Speed of construction: Loft Extensions can be significantly quicker than other remodelling options with programmes to complete the work typically taking between 8-14 weeks depending upon the complexity of the job.
- Make Your Home More Energy Efficient: As heat rises through a house, it can be easily lost through the cold roof space, particularly in older houses where there is likely to be little or no insulation at ceiling level. More than half the money spent on domestic energy bills in the UK goes towards heating and hot water costs. It, therefore, makes economic sense to upgrade insulation at roof level where most of the heat is likely to be lost. This is easily done as part of a loft extension and will benefit heat retention within the whole house.
- Bring More Natural Light into Your Home: The roof of your home allows bringing additional natural light inside. A room in the loft can be brought in extra natural light through the addition of roof lights and dormers, making the room light and airy. Natural light can be brought further down into your home with a roof light over the staircase, allowing daylight to flood down to the lower floors.
- Improve Your Home’s Natural Ventilation: As with daylight, incorporating opening roof lights and dormer windows into your loft space can allow natural ventilation of the new room(s) created. Additionally, if an opening roof light is incorporated over the new loft stairs, this can help draw fresh air up through the upper floors of your home creating an effect called stack ventilation which can help cool your home in summer.
- Good views: because of its high elevation a loft extension can, with careful positioning of windows and dormers, help to maximise the views from your home.
- Permitted Development: For most sites loft conversions meeting certain parameters can be undertaken through permitted development rights, thereby avoiding the need to gain planning permission. Sites within Conservation Areas and Listed Buildings will still require planning permission.
- Less Impact on Your Neighbours: Loft conversions are particularly appropriate for tight urban sites, such as those prevalent in London, where the extended space will have less impact on neighbouring properties both in terms of the finished building and in terms of the construction process.
The benefits noted above have made loft conversion one of the most popular ways to extend domestic accommodation in the UK. If you are thinking of extending your home in this way the key point to consider at the start of the process is to appoint a competent and experienced professional to determine the feasibility of extending into your existing roof space, develop a brief and plans for the project that addresses your needs for the extended space and provide a clear and costed construction plan for the project.
In determining who is best to take your project forward, a key consideration is experienced in this type of construction. It is also beneficial if your construction team have experience in delivering the type and quality of the development you are looking for in the area in which you live. They are more likely to be able to call on the knowledge of the predominant local housing types and local materials as well as have existing supply chains in the area. This can save both time and cost and help dovetail your extension into the local area so that it sits comfortably with its neighbouring properties. If for example, you are considering a premium loft conversion with a high-end design in say Chiswick, London, then you would be best advised to appoint a professional team that has experience in operating in that area and in delivering that level of quality.
An architect should certainly be considered if your home is a listed building or in a Conservation Area. In other areas, you may consider an experienced builder who offers a full design and build package as part of a transparent and seamless process. A trustworthy and competent professional team who are proactive should be able to assist you as the client in fixing all the key decisions upfront. This is key as this will restrict the likelihood of your project going over budget. It will also ensure that you get what you expect from the project both in terms of quality of finish and in the performance of any building or servicing systems incorporated. This type of packaged deal can help ease the building process for the client and ensure more certainty in the final cost of the development.