First of all, not all houses can have a loft conversion. You should make sure beforehand the space you want to convert is 100% suitable. A good inspection of the roof space is needed. The factors one has to take into account are three:
- roof structure (the so-called “traditionally framed” type is the most suitable)
- pitch angle
- head height (the part of the roof you can use should exceed 2,3 metres)
Unless you are an expert, the best option is to hire a professional to do a good inspection. Many companies offer free inspection/consultation, so no problem here. Once you get the approval, it is possible to start.
It does not take a structural engineer to understand that the roof will carry a heavier weight. Additional joists are required to make the new floor feasible. Of course, you do need an engineer to calculate exactly the new weight distribution and the structural changes needed.
Step by step
You will need a staircase to connect the new room to the existing part of the house. Building regulations usually specify a minimum height requirement of 2 metres above the pitch line. Make sure your staircase also complies with step size and maximum number of steps.
Where is the light?
Do not forget that your brand new loft will require a means of getting good ventilation and natural light. A rooflight is probably the best solution to create a naturally lit environment. You can also have a dormer: this is a good way to add headroom and windows to the roof space. They are used especially when the pitch angle is high.
There are several requirements on insulation as well. A Building Control inspector is probably the only person to trust, and he will suggest the best option, namely either “cold roof” (filling the space between the rafters with Celotex) or “warm roof” (using an additional covering capping).
In case of fire
In houses without a loft, the spread of fire to the roof is delayed by the upper rooms’ ceiling. This changes radically when a staircase is introduced. It is good to be aware of the risks and to know how to make the house fire safe. An escape window is required, and its dimensions vary according to the size of the loft. Also a smoke alarm can help reduce the risks.