Frequently Ask Questions
What is a Velux conversion?
Velux loft conversions use Velux rooflight windows, which are installed in the pitch of the roof to allow sunlight to flood the newly converted attic. An attic conversion that relies on artificial lighting can feel oppressive; Velux roof windows are specifically designed for maximum daylight and plenty of ventilation, whenever you want it. They fit any gradient of roof slope – with windows available for flat roof conversions – and because there’s no visible extension of the loft beyond the existing roofline, there’s no need to worry about planning permission for the loft conversion.
As experienced Velux window installers, you won’t find anyone better placed to advise you on the perfect products and ideal positioning for your loft conversion.
What is a dormer window?
A roof dormer window adds living space to a loft conversion with a pitched roof. It’s the exterior part of the conversion; a square or rectangular section, providing headroom beyond the slope of the ceiling and finished with a vertical window.
Discussing the cost of a dormer window is all part of our initial quotation phase, where we will also discuss the proportion of the dormer conversion against the size of your roof and the width and height of your house. It’s a fine balance getting more floor space and headroom in the attic conversion plans, while still maintaining an original and natural appearance from the outside.
What is meant by hip to gable?
A hip to gable loft conversion gives you a much larger living area in the existing loft space. We find hip-end roof conversions can provide enough extra space to accommodate a shower-room, introduce the best staircase positioning and increasing standing space in the loft conversion.
A hip end is the sloping end to a roof. A gable is the triangular section of wall which stands between two sloping roofs. A hip to gable loft extension extends the roof’s ridge line from the existing hips – where the existing upward ridges of the hip end meet the very top of the roof – to the furthest vertical wall.
Can any loft be converted?
Nearly all lofts or attics can be converted, as long as it does not breach planning or conservation guidelines.
However, the height of your roof ridge is crucially important. If you were to stand in the centre of the roof and measure from the top of the existing ceiling joists to the top of the ridge board at the apex of the roof, and there’s a minimum of 2.2 metres, the loft is suitable for conversion. If the measurement is less than 2.2 metres, even though the regulation on height has been relaxed in loft conversions, it’s unlikely you’d have enough headroom clearance.
Where will the staircase go?
The positioning of the staircase is one of the most important considerations of any loft conversion – it’s a fundamental part of loft conversion design. In most cases we find that the best place to put the new attic stairs is above the existing staircase.
By starting at the side of the bedroom door and climbing upwards along the flank wall of the house, no extra space is needed or taken away from the first floor living area to accommodate the new loft staircase. The existing floorplan of your house is usually the defining consideration but depending on the scale and type of loft conversion, other options may be available, especially if you are considering a hip-to-gable conversion.
Do we require a third-party wall agreement?
Loft conversions for terraced and semi-detached houses always require a Party Wall Agreement. That’s because various RSJs (steel beams used to support the structure) will rest on and inside the party wall. Even though the beams will rest only on your half, a Party Wall Agreement must be entered into to avoid any disputes arising once work has started.
Party Wall Act 1996
The Party Wall Act provides a building owner who wishes to carry out various sorts of work to an existing party wall with additional rights going beyond ordinary common law rights.
The most commonly used rights are:
- To cut into a wall to take the bearing of a beam (for example for a loft conversion), or to insert a damp-proof course all the way through the wall
- To raise the height of the wall and/or increase the thickness of the party wall and, if necessary, cut off any projections which prevent you from doing so
- To demolish and rebuild the party wall
- To underpin the whole thickness of a party wall
- To protect two adjoining walls by putting flashing from the higher over the lower, even where this requires cutting into an adjoining owner’s independent building.
If you intend to carry out any of the works mentioned, you must inform all adjoining owners. In fact, you must not even cut into your own side of the wall without telling the adjoining owners of your intentions.
The Act contains no enforcement procedures for failure to serve notice. However, if you start work without having first given notice in the proper way, adjoining owners may seek to stop your work through a court injunction, or seek other legal redress.
An adjoining owner cannot stop someone from exercising the rights given to them by the Act but may be able to influence how and at what times the work is done.
The Act also says that a building owner must not cause unnecessary inconvenience. This is taken to mean inconvenience over and above that which will inevitably occur when such works are properly undertaken.
The building owner must provide temporary protection for adjacent buildings and property where necessary, and of course is responsible for making good any damage caused by the works, or must make payment in lieu of making good if the adjoining owner requests it.
It is obviously best to discuss your planned loft conversion works fully with the adjoining owners – although a professional adviser can do this on your behalf – before you give notice in writing about your loft conversion plans. If you have already ironed out possible snags with your neighbours, this should mean that they will readily give consent in response to your notice. You do not need to appoint a professional adviser to give the notice on your behalf.
While there is no official form for giving notice, your notice must include the following details:
- Your own name and address (joint owners must all be named, eg Mr A & Mrs B Owner)
- The address of the building to be worked on
- A full description of what you propose to do (it may be helpful to include your attic conversion plans but you must still describe the works in words)
- When you propose to start (which must not be before the relevant notice period has elapsed).
The notice should be dated and it’s advisable to include a clear statement that it constitutes a notice under the provisions of the Party Wall Act 1996. You may deliver the notice to the adjoining owner in person or send it by post. Where the neighbouring property is empty or the owner is not known, you can address the notice to “The Owner”, adding the address of the premises, and fix it to a conspicuous part of the premises. You do not need to tell the local authority about your notice. The notice should be served two months before the planned starting date for work to the party wall. The adjoining owner may agree to allow works to start earlier but is not obliged to, even when agreement on the works is reached. The notice is only valid for a year, so do not serve it too long before you wish to start.
Agreements must always be put in writing.
If you cannot reach agreement with the adjoining owners, the next best thing is to agree on appointing what the Act calls an “Agreed Surveyor” to draw up an “Award”. The agreed surveyor should NOT be the same person that you intend to employ or have already contacted to supervise your building work. Alternatively, each owner can appoint a surveyor to draw up the award together. The two appointed surveyors will select a third surveyor (who would be called in only if the two appointed surveyors cannot agree).
In all cases, surveyors appointed under the dispute resolution procedure of the Act must consider the interests and rights of both owners and draw up an award impartially. Their duty is to resolve the matters in dispute in a fair and practical way. Where separate surveyors are appointed by each owner, the surveyors must liaise with their appointing owners and put forward the respective owners’ preferred outcome. However, the surveyors do not act as advocates for the respective owners. They must always act within their statutory jurisdiction and jointly prepare a fair and impartial award. The surveyor (or surveyors) will prepare an “award” (also known as a “party wall award”). This is a document which:
- Sets out the work that will be carried out
- Says when and how the work is to be carried out (eg, not at weekends if the buildings are domestic properties)
- Specifies any additional work required (eg any necessary protection to prevent damage)
- Often contains a record of the condition of the adjoining property before the work begins (so that any damage to the adjoining land or buildings can be properly attributed and made good)
- Allows access for the surveyor(s) to inspect the works while they’re going on (to see that they are in accordance with the award).
If this hasn’t answered your query, or you’d like to discuss the best way to talk to your neighbours about your planned loft conversion, please do give us a call.
How long will the loft conversion take?
Typically, a rear dormer loft conversion on a terraced property will take four and a half weeks to complete and a gable-end and rear dormer conversion on a semi-detached property will take five and a half weeks to complete.
These loft conversion timescales are an accurate guideline; because we directly employ our full-time tradesmen, we’re not reliant on subcontracted labour, and that means complete reliability and no last-minute let downs by outside trades.
This means, barring exceptional weather conditions, we are extremely confident of all projected loft conversion timings, and your own loft extension timescale will be detailed in our initial quotation.
Do loft conversions need planning permission?
Unless the loft conversion is over 50 square meters, planning permission for is no longer needed in most cases.
On 1st October 2008 the planning laws for loft conversions in England and Wales changed significantly. Prior to this, a Total Permitted Development (PD) allowance was granted on a property to allow it to be extended before it would require planning permission: a maximum of 50 cubic metres for a terraced home and 70 cubic metres for semi-detached. A loft conversion could be constructed up to a volume of 40 cubic metres for a terraced property and 50 cubic metres for a semi-detached before it required planning permission.
These maximum figures still apply to loft conversions. Before the law changed, if you already had a ground floor extension, the volume of the extension would be subtracted from the loft conversion allowance, which meant that in a lot of cases seeking planning permission for attic conversions was inevitable.
What’s more, obtaining permission was always a minefield, since different local authorities had different criteria on planning regulations. Under the new simplified planning laws, only a few loft conversions need planning permission.
There are some restrictions with the new planning rules, however:
Loft and roof conversions
- Must not exceed the highest part of the existing roof (its ridge line)
- Dormer windows are not allowed to be front facing a highway
- There is a maximum volume limit of 40 cubic metres for terraced houses and 50 cubic metres for semi-detached and other dwellings
- Planning permission must be sought in conservation areas.
- Materials shall match as closely as possible or be of a similar appearance to those used on the exterior elevations of the existing house
- Other than in the case of a gable end, the rear dormer of the attic conversion shall not be less than 200mm from the edge of the original eaves
- Side windows in gable end loft conversions shall be obscure-glazed and either non-opening or have the opening sash positioned more than 1.7 metres above floor level
- Any other alteration to the roof of a dwelling house must not protrude more than 150mm beyond the original roof plane or be higher than highest part of the original roof.
For more information on the new planning laws that came into effect after 1st October 2008 governing England and Wales you can view the government’s Planning Portal.
Alternatively, contact us now for a free, no-obligation loft conversion suitability survey and quotation for your home
Is the Local Authority involved after agreeing planning permission?
The local authority is involved from the start to the finish of the roof conversion. But don’t worry – we take care of it all for you.
First of all, the local authority receives the plans from the architect and checks all the structural calculations through the borough engineer’s department.
Once these have been confirmed, along with all the relevant building regulations for loft conversions, an approved set of plans are returned, and we can start converting your loft.
During the various stages of loft conversion construction, a building’s inspector from the local authority arrives to make sure all the structural work adheres to guidelines and building regulations are being carefully followed. Once we’ve finished the loft conversion, a final inspection is carried out.
Once the project is confirmed as meeting all the requirements, a completion certificate is sent to you, the homeowner, confirming that your loft conversion complies with the building regulations covering England and Wales.
What insurances & guarantee do you give?
These are vital questions to ask of any loft conversion companies or general builders you speak to.
At Able 2 Build Ltd we have employer’s liability insurance of £2,000,000 and individual public liability insurance of £1,000,000. Both are available to see on request.
We also offer a 10-year structural guarantee on our loft conversions.