Your guide to loft conversions

Speaking with one of my friends recently, she said something that I think many of you would agree with when it comes to starting a family. “We spent nine months readying ourselves for everything to change. And still I was surprised that at how different our lives are!”

A truer word spoken you’ll struggle to find, and the changes actually start taking place even before you welcome your bundle of joy into the world. The house becomes baby-proofed, the car gets bigger, space needs to be found for the strollers, the clothes shopping is relentless and, of course, sleeping patterns descend into disarray. Of course, it all takes some adjustment, but as a parent it’s all part of the experience, and the sorts of things that you easily get on top of.

But as your family increases in both quantity and size, one of the big questions that burns is: Do we need to upsize our house?

The case for (and against) loft conversions

It’s the ultimate cost-benefit analysis, and one that is entirely subjective and personal to you as a family. But deciding whether to upsize or move isn’t just about increased living area. It’s also about adding value, and getting the most you can from what is ultimately a very important investment.

Furthermore, it isn’t necessarily a choice that’s in your hands. Space to make extensions sideways isn’t always a possibility for many existing homes, which is why expanding families are looking upwards through loft conversions instead. There are three main types of loft conversion:

Velux/Skylight: Involves simply converting existing roof space, and adding lights to the roof. It’s the least disruptive and cheapest option, and is ideal for smaller loft conversions.

Dormer: This involves adding an extension to existing loft space in order to increase headroom.

Mansard: This is the biggest and usually most expensive undertaking of the three, which involves extending roof space to the rear, and sometimes the front too; typically with brick sides and vertical windows.

Loft conversions are undoubtedly a cheaper alternative to moving home entirely, although as an investment, may warrant some careful consideration first. After all, for an outlay of anywhere between £5,000 and £50,000, you want to be sure that it is adding value to your property too. Bear in mind though that if your loft was formerly a major place of storage, the reduction in storage space could hinder the enhancement of your home’s market value.

You’ll also need to make sure that you have the necessary planning permission or permit from your local planning authorities before going ahead. In addition, it’s well worth asking yourself if your loft really is big enough. How much space will you actually be able to squeeze out of your existing loft? Both in terms of floor space and height? It may even be worth getting an architect in for advice.

Handy loft conversion tips

Nevertheless, if after considering the above you decide to go ahead, here are some tips which may help your cause in terms of maximising the value you get from the conversion…

Avoid shortcuts: The complexities of loft conversions are such that you don’t want to cut any corners in terms of finishing. For this transformation to be worthwhile, and to get the most bang for your buck, make sure you do this properly, and keep the finishes to a high standard.

Regulations: Crucial to being classified as a ‘living space’, it is vital that the new room has a proper staircase and windows, and meets health and safety regulations – otherwise there won’t be any value added.

Get quotes: Loft conversion is a highly competitive industry, so shop around in terms of quotes. Four or five should be the absolute minimum you aim for. Be sure to research their reputations too.

Good-value loans: Similar to the above, if you need help financing your loft conversion, you’ll be pleased to hear that the market for personal loans is hugely competitive, especially with the emergence of alternative finance. Be sure to check out some price comparison sites to find the best deal out there.

Make it a part of the house: You don’t want the conversion to feel like an add-on that appears as a blatantly separate addition to the house. Keep the style in line with that of the original house, and ensure that the stairway is a natural continuation so that the transition from the lower levels to the new room is seamless.

It may all seem like a lot to consider, but if a loft conversion fits the bill of what you’re after, it has the potential to be a great success. They’re increasingly popular in this country, especially given the current housing situation. As long as you stay the course, get all your ducks in a row, and keep smiling, there’ll be plenty of benefit to be had from it for you and your family for years to come.