Costs of adding a loft conversion with low headroom
Some houses by their very type are limited in terms of loft conversion potential. Listed properties or houses in conservation areas are often restricted in this regard or it could be something as simple as your location in the middle of a terraced row. However, what if low headroom scuppers your plans?
The best way to find out your options when it comes to low headroom loft conversions is to fill out the form below and a loft conversion specialist can advise you on your options.
Many Victorian houses feature high ceilings in the upstairs rooms but small lofts that can lack the recommended headroom – 2.2 metres – to make a loft conversion viable. Building regulations stipulate 2.2 metres head height but builders often recommend going a little higher to 2.3 or 2.4 metres. However, a loft conversion is still possible if your loft space falls short of that and there are steps you can take to achieve that dream.
Loft conversions retain their popularity even amongst the new trend of basement conversions and the enduring appeal of side and rear extensions. But what if your house has already been extended to its maximum limit or, you don’t want to extend because it means losing valuable garden space or car parking?
How to convert a loft with insufficient headroom
There are a number of options which you can discuss with a loft conversion company to create that extra storey. Here are some of the choices:-
- Lower the ceilings – a Victorian property may often lack the roof height for a loft conversion but happily will usually have high ceilings in the upstairs rooms so you can pinch some of that space without compromising on your existing accommodation. This is a significant and expensive job which will require new floor joists as well as new connections to prevent any impact on the structural integrity of the house and the walls from spreading. There will also be a lot of disruption as work will be required in every upstairs room in the house. Modern houses tend to have lower ceilings than some older properties, the British standard is 2.4 metres, so if you were to lower these in the rooms below the loft, then this could prove detrimental to the upper floor of the property
- Raise the roof – this structural change is also called a ‘roof lift’ loft conversion and will require planning permission so can be a ‘no go’ for listed properties and those situated in conservation areas. However, raising or elevating the roof pitch is likely to be far less disruptive internally than lowering the ceilings. If raising the roof is a possibility then you might also want to look at a Mansard loft conversion as this opens up the usable space in the roof void like nothing else. Raising the roof is not always structurally possible and planning permission is often declined for certain types of properties such as terraced houses as it is not possible to make the alterations without significant impact on the adjacent properties
There are styles of loft conversion which work well for properties with low headroom in the roof void and these include:-
- Dormer loft conversions – dormers are popular with many homeowners not just those with low loft spaces as they create the maximum headroom and usable floor space. A dormer loft conversion is the most popular type of loft extension universally and can easily make the loft the largest room in your house. It creates straight walls on the inside of the accommodation instead of the slanted ones you will see in other types of loft conversion.
- Hip-to-gable conversions – this is where the sloping side of the roof is replaced with a vertical wall called a gable wall. This gives you the same height throughout the room adding extra headspace.
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Let us know the details of your property and how much headroom you have and we can provide a more accurate quote for a low headroom loft conversion.
How does raising the roof height work?
A roof lift loft conversion is when the ridge of the existing roof is increased in height through the installation of new attic trusses at the desired pitch and height to facilitate the loft conversion. The existing gable walls are built up from brick to match the property and meet the new ridge height or they can be finished in a render. This type of loft conversion works well for detached properties and bungalows; the latter often have large loft spaces but with insufficient standing room.
What is involved in lowering the ceilings?
Lowering the ceilings is a pretty disruptive job which may well require you to move out of the house whilst it is taking place. Lowering the ceilings works well in period properties particularly Victorian properties where the loft headroom is often inadequate but the height in the upstairs bedrooms is good. If the house is not listed and is not in a conservation area then it can be possible to lower the ceilings and convert the loft within Permitted Development or PD providing that the overall conversion is within 50m³ in detached or semi-detached homes and 40m³ in terraced homes.
What are the costs associated with increasing headroom in a loft conversion?
Typically, raising the roof or lowering the ceilings or opting for a complex dormer or mansard conversion will come in at the higher end of the cost scale due to the complexity of the works. A simple roofline Velux loft conversion where there is existing headroom requiring just a few skylights and some enhanced flooring and insulation could cost as little as £15,000. Compare this to a large dormer roof extension which on average will cost between £35,000 and £45,000.
A roof lift loft conversion or what is known as ‘room-in-roof’ trusses can be made off-site and lowered into place by a crane so although this is a major job it is cost-effective on one level and time-efficient. Most of the work is done in advance in the factory including the electrics, plumbing, windows and doors. This will take on average a month to complete including the removal of the old roof and the tiling of the new roof which is done on-site and will cost on average between £50,000 and £60,000 depending on the size of the new roof and the choice of interior accommodation for the conversion.
What if you are just a few centimetres wide of the mark?
If your current loft headroom is not far off the required 2.2 metres then there are steps your loft conversion contractor can take to create that little bit of extra height to avoid the disruption and cost of extensive structural works.
Ask your contractor to use thinner insulation boards on the floor and ceiling to shave off those precious few centimetres. Standard insulation can take up a lot of space, sometimes as much as 27cm, but new materials combined with modern technology mean you can still create the same benefits with lighter weight and thinner materials.
It’s not all about the height
The roof height is only one factor you should be looking at when you are assessing the suitability of your loft for conversion. The others include:-
- Consider other obstacles like water tanks and chimney stacks
- The angle or pitch of the roof
- The construction of the roof
The requirement for large water tanks in the loft is rapidly fading into a thing of the past with the advent of mains-fed combination or combi boilers and pressurised unvented hot water systems. If a water tank does still have to be present then it can be hidden away in a specially created new eaves cupboard occupying the dead space under the lower roof slopes.
Will the loft conversion add value to my home?
Data from lending institutions confidently forecasts that a loft conversion will create an uplift in the value of the property by around 20% to 25%. It is important that what can be a significant investment does represent value for money and that you create a usable space which is not too small or cramped otherwise you could just be throwing money away.
A loft conversion specialist will advise you of the options for your loft and seek to strike a balance in terms of both spend and the usability of the finished accommodation.
How can I lower the final bill?
If your costs are rising because you need to undertake major structural work on the roof to create more headroom then one of the biggest impacts on the final bill is the choice of finished accommodation in the new conversion. If you avoid kitchens and bathrooms then you can significantly reduce the charges as these are one of the biggest impacts on the overall cost of the loft conversion.
Will a low headroom loft conversion require planning permission?
There are certain trigger points which take a loft conversion into the domain of planning permission and these are:-
- The overall size of the conversion
- How much development has already taken place at the property
- Whether the house is listed or in a conservation area
- Is the structure of the roof changing in terms of pitch, height or appearance?
- How far do the dormer windows project out from the roof plane
Each loft conversion has to be viewed on its merits. A simple roofline conversion with Velux windows where the ceilings have been lowered internally will not usually require planning permission unless the house is listed or in a conservation area. A dormer loft conversion may not require planning permission either but some more significant dormer conversions or a mansard conversion will. Your loft contractor and architect can guide you through the options and which designs are likely to be successful at the planning stage if consent is needed.
Even if your loft conversion does not require planning permission, it will need to comply with building regulations and the work in progress checked by a Building Inspector from the local authority. This is especially true for low headroom loft conversions.
Funding the works
Substantial loft conversions which add rooftop bathrooms or kitchens will cost figures heading northwards of £40,000 so unless you have this sort of money tucked away in savings, how can you raise the finance needed for such a significant project? There are a number of options.
Equity Release – this is usually only an option for older homeowners who have paid off their mortgage and wish to raise funds on the strength of the equity in the family home. This money can be used for home improvement projects but does not have to be solely earmarked for work on the property
Home Improvement Loan – some homeowners approach their current lender for a further advance often called a Home Improvement Loan if they have sufficient equity in the house to support the borrowing. You will have to meet your lender’s eligibility criteria and satisfy them that you can afford to repay the new monthly payments which typically run for the remainder of the mortgage term
Re-mortgage – if you are moving lenders looking for a better fixed rate deal then this can be the right opportunity to seek more funds for home improvement works if you have equity in the property to support the borrowing
Finance packages from your loft conversion company – some loft conversion contractors offer finance subject to status from a link with an independent financial provider, similar to the type of arrangements offered when you purchase white goods or a new car. For the best and lowest interest rates, a good credit rating is necessary and you may also be required to contribute a significant deposit. The advantage with these arrangements is that the term of the repayments is much shorter than if you add them to your existing mortgage
Low headroom does not have to be a deal-breaker in terms of a loft conversion but it will require thoughtful and professional advice to ensure the right design is agreed upon and that the finished product will provide you with the extra accommodation that you need. An experienced loft conversion company will have the knowledge and expertise to help you reach the right decisions. Click here to see bungalow loft conversions costs.
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