With house prices high but the market stalled, many homeowners are turning to their existing property for upgrades and renovations. A loft conversion is a popular way of utilising the space within your property – and can also add at least 10 to 15 percent to the value of your home. There are some key considerations to make when developing your loft conversion, from practical features like ceiling height and planning permission, to fire protection and building regulations…
One of the first considerations to make when looking to convert your loft into an open plan space or set of rooms is whether it is actually suitable. Depending on when your property was built, the loft may be a traditional cut rafter and purlin roof (pre-1965) or a modern trussed roof (post-1965). Although it is best off speaking with a builder or architect for bespoke advice, the latter is considered more suitable for conversion than the former for a loft conversion as it carries less weight. Therefore, if your home is newly built, you may stand a better chance of creating a new space in your property.
Depending on when your property was built, the loft may be a traditional cut rafter and purlin roof (pre-1965) or a modern trussed roof (post-1965).
You’ll also need to ensure there is enough ceiling height for a loft conversion – there should be a minimum in a traditional roof of 2.2 to 2.4 metres, while in a modern trussed roof, it is 2.4 to 2.6 metres. You’ll also need to check whether anything inhibits the space in your loft, such as a chimney or plumbing.
Another consideration to make is the type of conversion. An internal loft conversion is one of the most cost-effective options due to the minimal changes that need making to the existing loft space (aside from windows, insulation and a strengthened floor). For something more substantial, and to increase space further, you could consider a dormer loft conversion, opting for either a full-width dormer, single dormer, side dormer, L-shape dormer or hip-to-gable.
When deciding to convert your loft, one consideration to make is how you will store the items currently residing in your attic. High levels of clutter, as is often seen in lofts and sheds, can make it much easier for a fire to start and also create a greater risk of it spreading. It can also make rooms difficult to escape. Therefore, it is important that you have enough space in your home to store everything that would need to be moved from the loft, and that it won’t impact the fire safety in your home.
You will need to get building regulations permission for any conversions that are creating a room in the roof space, even if it is only for storage use.
You will need to get building regulations permission for any conversions that are creating a room in the roof space, even if it is only for storage use. You don’t need to make an application if only a small proportion of the space is being boarded – either for access to water tanks or for light storage. This type of space should only be accessed by a retractable or portable ladder. If you have a built-in staircase to your upper roof space, this will be considered in the same manner as a loft conversion and be liable to the same rules.
There are some key guidelines that you will normally need to adhere to when building an open plan living space. You may need to make your ceilings and doors on the lower floors fire-proof and may need to have a fire resistant door to the stairs. You will need to have a means of escape in the event of a fire, and appropriate access for fire crews. Ventilation and insulation must also be to standard. For properties that are new or converted into four-storey houses, there must be two separate escape routes between the upper floors (unless an Automist® Smartscan® sprinkler system has been fitted).
You may need to make your ceilings and doors on the lower floors fireproof, and may need to have a fire resistant door to the stairs.
Most projects stick close to Approved Document B, the government’s free Building Regulations guidance document on fire safety, but more adventurous projects can deviate from this, either by turning to a fire engineer for advice and backup, or by following the very comprehensive BS 9991:2015 Standard, titled ‘Fire safety in the design, management and use of residential buildings – Code of practice’. Expensive, 176 pages long, and occasionally confusing, this document is not for the faint of heart, but provides extensive examples for professionals of what is and is not permissible.
In Wales, fitting a sprinkler system into new homes was made mandatory in 2016. In England, however, fire suppression is primarily used to allow homes a greater flexibility of floor plans under the building regulations, for example, to preserve safe escape routes in open plan layouts or for firefighter access.
When building a loft conversion, access is important – not just in terms of whether you can get in and out of your new space, but also in relation to fire safety and prevention. It is always best to have a fire prevention plan, especially when your property is laid out over more than one storey.
Fire protection is especially important in open plan living, and there are specific fire safety regulations laid out that must be followed. When you are forming a room in the roof of a two-storey house, there is an increased risk to the occupants of the new floor should a fire occur. As such, regulations require a protected escape route to be formed from the new rooms on the second-floor level that leads to a final exit at the ground floor level, i.e. a front door. There must be a structure forming this enclosure with a 30-minute fire resistance rating, as well as fire doors included in the build.
It is important that your home has clear escape routes, that effective fire safety measures are in place from restricting or preventing fire from spreading to neighbouring properties, and that any fire is restricted or prevented from spreading within the home. There should also be essential access for the fire brigade should they be required to attend. It is always worth checking with your architect, builder or a planning official if you are unsure about any regulations that you must comply with.
With an open plan layout, in particular, as well as buildings spread over multiple floors and houses in multiple occupation, fire prevention is crucial.
With modern open plan properties, building regulations expect really high standards of fire safety to ensure residents never experience a serious or dangerous fire. Extra features such as fire suppression systems help to ensure homes remain safe, and by adding water sprinklers to an open-plan property, it can then become even safer then the traditional closed-plan approach.
By investing in Automist®, the design options for open plan living increase and you can opt for a more elegant look and feel to your space, as well as increase the way in which you can utilise the rooms. It allows you great layouts while also helping to protect you and your loved ones.
Having a firefighting system in place should the worst occur can be life-saving. In less than 30 seconds a small flame can rapidly turn into a major fire.
While a smoke detector, fire alarm and carbon monoxide alarm can all be crucial in raising your awareness of a fire, they are unable to tackle the blaze itself, meaning your property and belongings are at risk of ruin. A fire crew can be with you in minutes, but by then the flames will have taken hold and potentially spread.
With the Automist® Smartscan® fire suppression system, developed by Plumis, you are able to protect yourself far more efficiently and effectively with minimal damage to your home. By integrating this fire sprinkler system into your property, it will scan your home to identify any potential fires. When it spots one, it will shoot high-pressure, targeted water mist at the area until the fire has been completely extinguished. It is just as effective as a traditional sprinkler system but uses 10 times less water, meaning a reduced risk of water damage after a fire.
In an emergency, whether you are in your home or not, Automist® can help to quickly eradicate fires. With a wall-mounted position, it is discreet and stylish and won’t require you to find space for a large tank to fit it – this is especially beneficial when space is at a premium, such as in cities like London or Brighton. You can add the Automist® Smartscan® as a retrofit on a property, which is cheaper to do than installing a traditional water sprinkler system. Alternatively, you can integrate the modern firefighting system during a renovation, such as a loft conversion. It is a highly intelligent fire suppression system that will location a fire within around 6 to 12 seconds, quickly bringing it under control and usually completely extinguished.
It is a highly intelligent fire suppression system that will location a fire within around 6 to 12 seconds, quickly bringing it under control and usually completely extinguished.
Type of boiler
When building a loft conversion, you’ll need to think about what type of boiler you have and whether it will be able to cope with an additional storey. If your boiler is old, now is the perfect time to consider changing it. Most homeowners opt for a combination boiler, which is one of the best-selling varieties on the market. It is efficient, robust and can supply hot water instantly without needing to wait for the water tank to refill.
A poorly fitted or maintained boiler can be a serious hazard in the home, and when left unchecked, can result in fires, explosions and carbon monoxide poisoning. Corgi reports that within the last three years, around one in eleven homes that were inspected by the Gas Safe Register were found to have an unsafe boiler. If you are unsure, it is always best to get a professional to check your boiler – especially if it is old or you have recently moved into a property. You should always get regular maintenance visits scheduled to keep on top of your boiler.
A poorly fitted or maintained boiler can be a serious hazard in the home, and when left unchecked, can result in fires, explosions and carbon monoxide poisoning.
Typically you can expect to spend between £25,000 to £40,000 on a loft conversion, depending on the exact size, requirements and specification. However, this investment can pay back substantially, adding between 10 to 15 percent to your property’s value. In areas such as London, Brighton or Colchester where space is at a premium, this can be a big advantage. Converting a loft space can also be the ideal time to make other home improvements, such as adding a retrofit sprinkler system. While this is another investment, it can significantly benefit your property valuation.
For more information about Automist® Smartscan®, get in touch with Intelligent Mist now on 01206 544 223. With offices in London, Brighton and Colchester, we are one of the leading experts in the South-East of England for installing this cutting-edge firefighting system within residential buildings. Contact us today.