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Attic Conversions

How to Convert an Attic

Planning Out Your Attic Conversion

For those of us who wish to carry out attic conversion or extension, but either are not able to or do not wish to engage the services of a professional architect, there are a number of things to take note of. We know that planning out your own attic conversion is definitely not an easy task, especially since most of us are not architects by profession, but with the guidelines provided in this article, we aim to help you have a much easier time in planning out your own attic conversion.

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The Critical Initial Steps

Before you dive into the actual planning of your attic conversion, there are a few things that you should do.

The most important factor is of course your budget. Whether you are employing an architect or a specialist attic conversion company or not, budget is always an important factor to consider. Plan out what you can do with your available budget, to maximize your value for money.

Of course, engaging the services of a professional architect will ensure that your attic conversion is well planned and architecturally sound, but do note that this will come at a price. The same goes for specialist attic conversion companies. They will be able to guarantee that your attic conversion is done professionally and efficiently, as compared to if you were to do it by yourself, but this will also come at a high price.

Another thing to do is to take a tape measure and note the ceiling height in your existing attic. Note the amount of head room that you have in your attic. This allows you to have a rough idea of the possibilities and limits of your attic conversion.

One other factor is space. This is an extremely important thing to take note of, because it limits the possible uses for this new room. For instance, if your attic has only a small area, would it be practical to use the newly converted attic as a bedroom and have a double bed in there? And even if you could squeeze a double bed in there, is there enough head height or floor space on both sides of the bed to make getting in and out of bed comfortable?

The First Step

  • Deciding on the Usage of Your Converted Attic

The first thing you want to do is to decide on what you are going to use your converted attic for. This determines what type of attic conversion you will want to carry out, and also your design of the attic. However, when deciding on usage, it is extremely important to keep space and budget constraints in mind, because you can’t have an overly elaborate plan if you only have a small attic and not enough funds to extend it. For instance, you can’t use your converted attic as a bedroom if it isn’t even big enough for a bed.

The following are some possible uses for your attic:

  • Television Room

It is very common nowadays to convert the attic to a television room or any other entertainment room that you desire to have. This is especially ideal for those households that have rowdy teenage children, and a television room isn’t all that hard to set up. Any qualified electrician will easily be able to install a TV point for you at an affordable price, so sorting out the power supply will not be a problem at all.

  • Guest Bedroom

Another popular choice for attic conversions, building a guest bedroom is a great way to use your converted attic, especially since most middle income family houses do not already have a guest bedroom. Besides, having a bedroom in the converted attic will help to absorb some of the heat loss from the rooms on the lower floors of your house. The size of the average attic is also ideal for a basic guest room, with adequate space for necessities such as a regular sized bed, some storage spaces, a wash basin, and a walk-in shower.

  • Children’s Playroom

It can get rather rowdy and noisy when young children are engaging in play, and they also require quite a bit of space to roam around in as well. So for those who want to have a bigger space for your children to play, without disturbing the peace in the rest of the house, why not consider converting your attic into a children’s playroom? The biggest advantage of doing so will be that your attic conversion will not cost much, since there will not need to be much structural change. All your child needs is a lot of empty floor space where he or she can run around or sit down and play with their toys. If you add in sound insulation, you can even enjoy peace and quiet on the lower levels of your house whilst your children have a ball of a time in the attic. The converted attic can then even be used as a quiet place for your child to have an afternoon nap.

  • Bathroom/Shower

One practical use for your converted attic would be to use it as an extra bathroom, especially if you are a person who is living with many others and are constantly having to queue or fight over the bathrooms. Having an extra bathroom is also ideal if you have a family member who is notorious for spending lots of time in the bathroom. If you do decide to go with a bathroom, the plumbing works will be a piece of cake for any certified plumber. One thing that you might want to take note of before starting would be to ensure that you have sufficient water pressure in the main system of your house to support carrying the water up to a higher floor since your attic is at the top of your house. Also, do make sure that you have enough headroom in the shower, or you will have to stoop down while taking your showers in future! That could be really uncomfortable.

  • Home Office

Having a home office in your attic is ideal, especially for the entrepreneur working from home. The converted attic can be a great place for a quiet, conducive working space. Getting a phone extension and electrical wiring to your attic can be easily done by any qualified electrician, and broadband installation should not pose a huge problem. If you are using a wireless internet connection in your house but the signal is not strong enough to reach your converted attic, simply invest in a repeater to help extend the signal to your attic. It is a cheap and effective solution. Besides, home offices do not require much renovation work to your attic apart from installing some storage spaces, so a home office is really a practical option which is really not all that expensive.

Important Issues

  • Electrical Wiring and Plumbing

Consider how electrical wiring can be installed for your converted attic. Things that you need to do would be to decide on where your electrical points will go, and how the electrical wires will be run. Carrying out meticulous planning in advance can save you a lot of time and money in future, in the long run. For example, you would not have to have your electrical points taken out and shifted in future if you planned to have them installed on either side of your bed in advance, instead of having them installed at an inaccessible location behind your bed’s head board. This could save you a lot of time and money, and you wouldn’t have to be so inconvenienced.

Another necessary system to take note of would be water storage and dispensing. In the case that you decide to install an extra bathroom in your attic, or even if you are just going to have a simple wash basin, you need to take note of available space, and also of the water storage system. Check if your water system will be able to cope with the extra pressure needed to supply both hot and cold water to a higher floor. It will also be a good idea to take note of the prices for installing a new bathroom in your attic.

Heating will be another issue, especially if you are going to be spending a lot of time in your new attic. This would be the case especially if you are converting your attic into an extra bedroom or home office. It is important to have a working heating system to keep yourself warm in the winter. However, if you intend to install extra radiators in the newly converted attic, it is advisable to check that your current boiler is big enough to cope with the extra radiators. If it is not able to cope with the extra radiators, seek out some alternative methods to keep yourself warm. Just make an inquiry with your local attic conversion company. They will have a lot of experience under their belts with dealing with such matters. They will know what exactly you should do.

You may also want to look into whether your newly converted attic will have adequate ventilation, especially if you intend to use it as a bedroom, or any other type of room that you, or other persons living in your house, will be spending significant amounts of time in. It will not be pleasant if the attic does not have proper ventilation and the air is stale. That could lead to health problems in the long run. Also, it is easier to install proper ventilation during the construction process, rather than having it done after the entire construction process is complete. Again, planning ahead in this aspect could save you quite a bit of time and money.

Other Important Considerations

When you are intending to carry out attic conversion or extension, one integral issue would be how you would gain access to your converted attic in future. This can be achieved via two common methods – ladders or stairs. While the traditional stairs are often considered by many to be much safer, especially in the area of fire safety, they do take up quite a bit of space in both your attic and on the lower floor. In fact, some dwellings may not have enough space to support a full traditional stair.

In such events, you may want to consider having ladders, or even retractable ladders or stairs, which are all great for conserving space. However, retractable ladders and stairs may not be acceptable for some types of fire safety rules since they may hinder your escape in the event of a fire or some other type of emergency.

You may also want to consider the acoustics of the newly converted attic. In most types of houses, the building control body may require at least some degree of sound insulation between the converted attic and the neighbors attic, and also between the converted attic and the existing room below the converted attic. This not only helps you ensure that you comply with your local building authority’s laws and regulations, but also benefits you as you will be able to enjoy peace and quiet in your newly converted attic whenever you wish to do so.

Dormer windows are another addition that you may want to include in your attic conversion project. Dormer windows extend out of the existing roof of your house, thus providing extra head room. This could make your newly converted attic a lot more spacious and habitable. Or if you only intend to use the attic as storage space, a dormer window could provide you with a lot more additional space and even some natural light during the day time. However, you should make sure that the exterior of the dormer blends in with the façade of your building. This is for aesthetic purposes, which will benefit not only yourself and your family, but also anyone else living in the building as the dormer window will not be sticking out like a sore thumb.

The last but by no means least important factor is fire safety. As we have already mentioned earlier on in this article, stairs are an integral component, providing you with an easily accessible escape route in the case of fire or other similar types of emergencies. However, there are other possible elements that you can choose to include in your attic conversion, such as fire-resisting doors and smoke alarms. You may also include escape windows in your attic. These could make all the difference between life and death in the event of fire or other emergencies, where every second counts. So do plan ahead and in detail, to safeguard yourself and your loved ones.

Types of Attic Conversions

There are many different types of attic conversions available. Each type of attic conversion is suitable for different uses. So, do ensure that you choose wisely, according to your own specific needs and of those you live with. Also, make sure that the style you have chosen complements the original style of your house, or risk having your house look like a patchwork of different types of houses. The following are some types of attic conversions and their features that you can consider:

  • Dormer Attic Conversion

A dormer attic conversion is an extension that projects vertically from an existing sloping roof. Internally, a dormer attic has vertical walls and a horizontal ceiling instead of the slanted type of walls that you will usually find in the typical converted attic. Because of this, the dormer attic conversion is the most common and popular type of attic conversion, as it helps to add the maximum amount of additional space, creating additional floor space and headroom. This can be very useful especially if you intend to use the converted attic as storage space, as the dormer attic conversion will enable you to have even more space for your items as compared to if you have chosen another type of attic conversion.

However, dormer attic conversions are often not as aesthetically pleasing on the exterior as compared to other types of conversions. This can be easily fixed, though, with a small compromise on internal space. By installing gable fronted and hipped roof dormers, you can enjoy the benefits of some extra internal space as compared to if you had chosen another type of attic conversion, but at the same time also have an attractive exterior. However, do note that these types of roof dormers are more complex and hence will cost more to build.

Four different styles of dormer attic conversions

  • Flat roof dormer (as can be inferred from its name, the flat roof dormer type of dormer attic conversion comprises having your roof flattened out)
  • Gable fronted dormer (as can be inferred from its name, the gable fronted dormer type of dormer attic conversion entails having a flat gable end created on the front portion of the roof of your house)
  • Hipped roof dormer (the hipped roof dormer type of dormer attic conversion entails having the installation of a hipped roof, which is in layman terms, a sloping roof)
  • Shed dormer (the shed dormer type of dormer attic conversion entails the installation of a single planed roof, pitched at a lesser angle as compared to the main roof)
  • Mansard Attic Conversion

Mansard attic conversions are conversions to the rear of your property. It typically entails the construction of a flat roof with a back wall that is sloping inwards roughly at an angle of around 72 degrees. Mansard style attics also usually have small dormer windows installed. The upside is that since it takes place at the rear of your property, you do not need to invest too much in aesthetics since it is not clearly visible to the public anyway. This could save you a lot of money, and that money could be put to better use to better furnish the interior of your converted attic, since that is what you will be facing everyday anyway.. The downside is that mansard attic conversions almost always require planning permission since there will be significant changes to roof shape and structure. This will probably cost you some money and trouble.

  • Hip to Gable Attic Conversion

A hip to gable attic conversion is the most practical solution for houses with hipped roofs. It involves changing the hipped side (which in layman terms is the sloping side) of the house to a flat gable end, hence creating a much larger attic space for you. This often also gives you the additional space you need for your staircase for access to the attic. The only downside to hip to gable attic conversions is that since this type of attic conversion involves changes to the roof structure, you may need to obtain planning permission, which will take up time and money.

Bungalow Attic Conversion

If you are living in a bungalow (be it detached or semi-detached), there are a number of options available for your attic conversion. The following are your possible options:

  • A velux conversion, which will give your attic one or more bedrooms, and one bathroom.
  • A pitched dormer conversion, which will give your attic one or more bedrooms, and one bathroom.
  • A flat roof dormer conversion, which as its name suggests, gives you a dormer style attic and a portion of flat roof.
  • A roof-lift conversion, but this option is viable only for detached bungalows, and is usually only used if height is insufficient.

The Internal Structure of Your Converted Attic

Now comes the time when you have to decide on the internal design of your attic. When doing this, it is important to take your budget into consideration, as some features may cost a bomb while others are relatively inexpensive. Of course, the internal structure of your converted attic is usually largely fixed according to your chosen usage for your attic, but there is still some degree of flexibility for you to experiment with different types of design.

The following are some possible features you may want to consider for your converted attic:

  • Have A Mezzanine Room

One popular attic design concept is a mezzanine, especially so for attics that are small and have issues of space constraints. If this applies to your attic, why not consider taking out majority of the ceiling and creating a mezzanine room where your bed can lie? This will create a lot of extra space below to be used for other purposes, such as a small home office or other living spaces, hence helping you to convert your attic into a versatile, multi-purpose room.

  • Have Built In Storage

Especially for those of you who have been using your attic as storage space prior to conversion, you will certainly need some storage space in your newly converted attic. One possibility would be having built in storage. You could have some bespoke storage units made to cater to the unique shape of your attic, especially in tight spots. Of course, if you have chosen to go with the dormer attic type of attic conversion, then you won’t need to have bespoke storage units made, you can just go for the regular ones.

  • Have A Bathroom

Having a bathroom in your attic is an excellent choice for improving your home’s value and saleability. This is especially so if the bathroom is built alongside a bedroom. If you intend to have a bathroom in your attic, whether it is an attached bathroom or the sole purpose of your attic, it is a good idea to choose fixtures that are suited to the proportions for your attic. In other words, if your attic space is limited, choose relatively more compact pieces rather than large and unnecessarily extravagant ones.

  • Have A Home Office

Nowadays, it is common for people to use their attics as home offices. If you intend to do so as well, we suggest that you have bespoke shelving and other storage furniture made, since it is unlikely that conventional ones will fit due to the unique shapes of attics. Of course, this will not apply to you if you have chosen to go with the dormer attic type of attic conversion, in which the interior of your converted attic will be like any regular modular type of room (i.e. no weird shapes and corners). Lighting and electricity will also be an important factor since you are likely to be spending a lot of time reading, writing, and on the computer.

  • Have Outdoor Spaces Such As A Balcony

If your attic has a lot of extra space, or if you are looking into building a attic extension, one feature you can consider is outdoor space. You could put a flat roof onto your extended attic area and create a decked area or a garden outside of your attic room. Even if you are not building an extension, indoor space can also be converted into an exterior area easily, if you have more than enough space and are willing to sacrifice some, making it a great place for you to hang out and relax with a cool drink.

  • Have Multiple Rooms

Having multiple rooms is a great way for you to get the most out of your attic room. One common combination is home office plus guest room. If you require privacy between rooms, use partitions. This will turn your converted attic into a very practical, versatile and multi purpose room. One other tip that will be useful in the design of your attic would be to install space saving doors. One common issue in the design of attics is the lack of space. Most attics aren’t that big, or at least in most cases, people simply want to make the most out of their attic space. An easy way to do this is to use space saving doors. Sliding doors are great for this purpose. This applies both to doors for outdoor spaces and doors for storage units.

The Attic Conversion Process

Confused about the attic conversion process? Fear not, we are here to tell you what exactly goes on during a attic conversion, and to give you a brief idea of the construction process so that you will be fully aware and informed about what will happen during your own attic conversion process, or if you intend to carry out some of the construction works on your own to save some money.

Floor Works

Firstly, in the event that you do not already have access to your attic area, an opening will be created to allow for entry into your attic space. Next, some steady beams will be put firmly into place and secured, following by sound insulation and fire protection work.

As your existing ceiling joints are most likely not able to withstand the weight of an extra conversion floor, you will have to have new ceiling joists installed. To deal with this, the workers will remove the existing ceiling plasterwork and position BS joints and steels that run alongside the existing joints for extra support. These are completely independent from the existing ceiling and ceiling joists. When these new reinforcements are done, new moisture/film coated floor boarding will then be laid to form the floor of your attic.

Rafter Works

Next, the existing rafters in your attic will be upgraded. Dwarf walls will be formed, and additional ridge beams will be added to ensure that your entire roof structure is secure enough. Once all these are done, any purlins and trusses rafters will be removed and cleared.

Roof Works

It is a rather common process in attic conversions to create some extra headroom, since a huge proportion of people’s existing attics do not provide adequate headroom and it would be extremely uncomfortable if one had to stoop down perpetually in that room to avoid knocking his or her head on the ceiling. One way extra headroom is created is by raising the roof. This is done by removing part or whole of the existing roof and then rebuilding it higher, hence allowing for more headroom in the attic. A covered scaffold structure will also be built so as to protect your house from weather elements such as rain during the construction works. Whilst your roof is off, heat insulation will also be added, in the form of slabs of foam insulation over the rafters. However, if your attic conversion does not involve the removal of your roof coverings, insulation will take the form of foam insulation filling the space between the rafters. This is equally as effective as foam insulation over the rafters.

Another method for creating extra headroom is to lower the ceiling in the room below the attic. However, this method is only viable if the room below the attic has more than enough ceiling space and some of that extra space can be sacrificed. For this method, the entire ceiling will be removed, and a plate bolted to the wall using rawlbolts or shield anchors to allow the new floor joists to hang securely. A suitable tie will be put in place between the roof structure and the formed dwarf wall to prevent the roof from spreading.

Window Works

Once your floors and roofs are complete, dormer windows (if you are going to have them in your converted attic) will be constructed. A section of roof will be cut away and the dormer window will be constructed bespoke, on site, following instructions from your structural engineer or the structural engineer of the attic construction specialist firm that you have engaged the services of.

The completed dormer frame will be secured, and its sides and front will be ply-lined. This ensures that your dormer window is indeed firmly in place and will be able to withstand strong winds and other weather elements. The entire dormer window will then be covered in a breathable membrane before it is cross battened and tiled. Following that, external features such as fascia board, flashings and gutters will be fitted on.

The process of the installation of Velux rooflight windows is somewhat similar to that of dormer windows, with the portion of the roof removed, the window frame being constructed bespoke and secured in its place.

Wall Works

After the dormer windows or any other types of windows you have chosen to have are constructed, wall works will begin. The internal walls of your attic will be erected, together with any openings you may need for your windows and doors. How this process works is that the basic wooden frame will first be built. Once this is done, the actual Dormer windows or any Velux windows you are having will be put in place.

Electrical And Plumbing

There are two rounds of electrical and plumbing works. The first occurs after the works on your room partitions and windows are completed. New electrical cables and pipes will be laid, forming the first fix electrics and plumbing. The second fix will take place after the walls have had plasterboard installed, and doors, door casings, skirting boards and other elements are installed. In the second fix of electrics and plumbing, power points and other external fixtures will be completed.

Staircases

Staircase installation takes place after the first fix of plumbing and electrical works. The ceiling will be cut away to make space for the staircase if there isn’t already enough space. Following that, the main frame of the staircase will first be formed and put into place securely. After that, the hand rail and spindles, and other partition walling around the staircase will then be fitted in. Your staircase will then be completed.

In closing, there are many different types of attic conversions, extensions and designs that you can choose from. The possibilities are endless, really. If you are intending to have your own attic converted, choose wisely, so remember to take your budget into consideration. As a general rule of thumb, the more complicated and extensive your conversion works are, the more it will cost. Most importantly, do also remember to comply with your local laws and regulations for building planning and renovation works.

References


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