Loft conversions and party wall agreements

When you’re preparing to undertake loft conversion work, there’s a great deal you need to consider. It is essential, in particular, to take the relevant rules and regulations into consideration. Most loft conversions don’t require planning permission, but they do have to be compliant with the Building Regulations. If your property is a terraced or self-detached house, another factor to bear in mind is the Party Wall Act.

What is the Party Wall Act?

Basically, the clue is in the name – the Party Wall Act ensures that any work on a party wall (or ceiling) shared by neighbouring properties has to be subject to a party wall agreement. Loft conversions in terraced or semi-detached properties are therefore subject to the regulations laid out in the legislation. The legislation also grants property owners the right to carry out certain work (governed by the act) including:

  • Underpinning the thickness of a party wall
  • Demolishing or rebuilding a party wall
  • Increasing the thickness of a party wall, or raising its height
  • Cutting into a party wall to insert a damp proof course

The main function of the Party Wall Act is to prevent disputes arising once work has begun.

What obligations does the Party Wall Act impose?

As we’ve already touched on, the Party Wall Act means that if you live in a terraced or semi-detached home and you want to have your loft converted, you’ll need to obtain the consent of the other party or parties concerned. This is what is known as a party wall agreement, and it needs to be put down in writing before work starts. Prior to reaching a party wall agreement, the homeowner who wishes to undertake the loft conversion will need to serve a party wall notice on those neighbours who will be affected by the work.

Homeowners are required to give two months’ written notice in advance of work affecting a party wall. Again, all neighbours who are set to be affected by the work must be notified in this way. A lot of people fail to do this, which can cause serious complications further along the line. Neighbours issued with a party wall notice then have 14 days in which to respond.

There are no formal enforcement procedures where homeowners fail to submit a party wall notice (or submit an inadequate one) before commencing work. However, neighbours may be entitled to stop this work by seeking a court order if they have not been properly notified. If you seek the assistance of a specialist loft conversion firm, you’ll be guided through this process step by step. The Econoloft team have years of experience in dealing with the regulatory requirements of loft conversions – get in touch today to find out more.

Turning your home into an oasis of calm

In case you didn’t know, September 14th is the first-ever National Quiet Day – an event which aims to raise awareness of the importance of quiet. Of course, everywhere we go we’re confronted by all sorts of noise, hustle and bustle; those of us who live in towns and cities can find it particularly difficult to get some peace and quiet. All too often, even our homes don’t really provide us with the sanctuary we need to recharge our batteries.

There are, however, steps you can take to make your home a more relaxing place to be – and everybody needs that. Here are just a few suggestions.

  1. Deal with clutter; don’t leave it hanging around. It’s really easy for junk to pile up, and after a long day at work you could be forgiven for simply wanting to forget about it. The trouble is, this only makes matters worse and makes the whole home seem that bit more cramped and unpleasant. The sooner you dispense with your clutter, the more pleasant it’ll be.
  2. But don’t worry about being obsessively tidy all the time. It should go without saying that any family home is bound to look somewhat ‘lived in’ – so keeping things absolutely junk-free is probably not possible. It might be worth creating a dedicated space for junk – at least then you’d be able to keep it compartmentalised so it doesn’t clutter up everywhere else.

  1. Bring nature into your home. This can really help to create a more relaxing, laid-back vibe around the house. Placing potted plants and colourful flowers in different parts of your home can make a big difference to its overall atmosphere. It’s also worth thinking about using natural tones in your home’s décor – so, for instance, greens and blues.
  2. Set aside a room as a chill-out space. If you can, it’s worth dedicating a room to nothing except relaxing. This could be your little sanctuary for when you need to have some time and space to yourself. Naturally, this isn’t always easy, especially for those who have boisterous young families to think about. But it could be the ideal solution to your relaxation needs.

If your home is somewhat short on space, then there is a solution which could be perfect – a loft conversion. Lots of families across the UK have had their loft spaces converted in recent years, thereby adding thousands of pounds to the value of their home as well as valuable extra room. A converted loft space could be used for a variety of purposes, such as a study, office, hobby room or bedroom. It could also be used as a spacious chill-out sanctuary for when you need some quiet time.

The Econoloft team will guide you through every step of the loft conversion process. Just get in touch with us today to find out more.

Why your kids need space to themselves

In case you missed it, earlier this month (August 2nd) was Playday 2017 – ‘the national day for play’ – an event which both celebrated children’s right to play and highlights the importance of play in the lives of young people. There are many reasons why play is so important to children, in terms of assisting their personal development and growth, and so on. But kids need adequate space in which to do this – and finding this space can be tough for growing young families.

More and more families are choosing to have loft conversion work carried out, using the converted loft space as an additional bedroom, kids’ playroom or simply to free up space elsewhere in the home. Here’s why it’s so important that young children have the space they need in which to develop and express themselves.

Sanctuary from the outside world

Growing up isn’t easy – kids are constantly encountering new challenges whether at school, at home or elsewhere. They’re always expected to be developing new skills and capacities. But it’s even harder to do this if they don’t have a private space they can retreat to when they need it. As kids grow older and head towards adolescence, the need for this kind of sanctuary becomes even more acute.

Not only is it important to provide children with somewhere private where they can unwind, but it’s also good for their personal development to have a space where they can socialise with their friends with a degree of privacy as well. No growing youngster wants to have their parents looming over them all the time (and everyone has the right to some time and space to themselves). A converted loft space could provide them with the space they need to hang out with their friends and let off some steam.

A space for creativity

When kids have the time and space they need to express themselves, all sorts of fascinating products can emerge. Of course, not everybody’s little one will go on to become the next great artist, musician, poet or author – but it’s a healthy part of their own personal development, and their process of self-discovery, to explore and indulge their creative side. Of course, finding the space in which to do this can often be a problem in cramped family homes.

A loft conversion, as mentioned above, could be the perfect solution. Loft conversions can be very versatile, and converted loft spaces are suitable for a wide range of uses – whether as hobby rooms, studies, bedrooms or dedicated kids’ playrooms. As kids grow they need more and more space – space that often isn’t there. But a loft conversion can add valuable extra room to your home, as well as adding tens of thousands of pounds to its price tag.

If you’ve got a young family and you need more space, the team here at Econoloft will guide you through every aspect of the loft conversion process. Get in touch today to find out more.

Completing the perfect loft conversion: getting to work

So you’ve familiarised yourself with the ins and outs of building regulations and planning permission, and you’re just about ready to get started on the work. But there are still a few questions you need to ask yourself first – including, most importantly, how to find the right firms to help you get the job done. Given you’ll be investing a considerable amount of money on your loft conversion, it’s essential that you have everything in place to complete the work to your total satisfaction.

Knowing if your loft is suitable for conversion

You need to be absolutely sure that your loft space is actually suitable for conversion. Your chosen loft conversion expert will go through this with you and discuss any structural work that might need to be done to make sure the space is right to accommodate a loft conversion. However, there are three main aspects to consider when assessing whether or not your loft space is suited to a loft conversion – the internal height of the loft, the footprint of the loft space and the pitch of the roof.

As a general rule of thumb, the internal height – the space between the ridge timber and the top of the ceiling joist – will need to be in the region of 2.5 metres to be able to convert the loft. The footprint needs to be around 750m to 550m as a minimum. If the pitch of the roof is around 30 degrees or more, then you should have plenty of headroom for your loft conversion.

Choosing the right specialist

Rather than attempting the work yourself if you have no prior experience of a project of this sort, we would strongly advise you to seek the assistance of a loft conversion specialist. There are three main options open to you here – you can appoint an architect (who will then help you find a loft conversion firm to actually carry out the work), you can go straight to a specialist loft conversion company or you can hire a builder to do the job.

The best choice is to go straight to a firm that specialises in loft conversions. This way, you get the best of all worlds – your chosen loft conversion experts will help you draw up the plans for your project, ensuring that your loft conversion has all the features you want and need from it, and they’ll also go to the trouble of obtaining the necessary permissions and meeting the required regulations.

At Econoloft, we understand fully that there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all loft conversion – every client and every property have their own specific needs. Our experts will help guide you through the loft conversion process from inception to completion.

Interior design trends for summer 2017

In case you hadn’t noticed, the summertime is finally here. Just a couple of weeks ago, most of the country basked in soaring temperatures and sunshine – only for that to be pretty rapidly replaced by the more familiar grey skies and driving rain we’re so used to in Britain. But there’s still two-and-a-bit months of the summer left to go, and here at Econoloft we haven’t given up hope that it will deliver some more decent weather.

So if you’ve got a converted loft space and you’re wondering how you can make it look a bit more seasonal, we’ve got a few ideas for you. Here are some of the key interior design trends for summer 2017, just in case you’re looking for some inspiration.

Natural touches are in

One trend that’s very much in this summer is the use of natural tones and materials. Wooden touches have been popular for some time now, but that trend is starting to diversify somewhat with the addition of darker, more charred colours in many interiors.

It’s not just about wood, though. Terracotta shades have also enjoyed something of a revival in popularity of late, not so much because of the material itself – though this is widely popular too – but its deep, rich and warm colour that instantly adds a dash of summery sultriness wherever it’s used. It can be made to work particularly well with bare red brickwork, as the two tend to complement each other very effectively.

Powerful blues and greens

Perhaps fittingly given the recent revival of natural shades and tones in interior design, there’s also been a revival in the use of striking blue and green colours around the home. This can lend any interior space a distinctly natural feel, combining marine shades and colours drawing inspiration from forests. More neutral magnolia and cream tones have bowed out – for the time being, at least – to make way for this more rugged look, bringing the power of nature and its dramatic colours into the home. Floral patterns and botanical prints can also be used to complement these natural shades, helping to create a consistently lush effect and diversifying the textures around your home.

Bold base colours

As we’ve already touched on, creamy magnolia tones have been the base colours of choice for many years. But what we’re seeing now is a shift away from these rather conservative and unadventurous shades to riskier base colours – pale greens, in particular, are now a popular choice. It’s all about creating a harmonious interior design effect, and a bolder base colour allows you to broaden out the overall effect by experimenting with new tints and shades.

Completing the perfect loft conversion: planning permission and red tape

Before you can start work on your loft conversion, you’ll need to think about the appropriate regulations and whether your plans abide by them. The planning regime is pretty relaxed when it comes to loft conversions, but it’s important to do your homework properly. Most loft conversions don’t need planning permission but you will need to make sure that the project complies with the building regulations. This part of our step-by-step guide will help you through the regulatory process.

When you need planning permission

There are a number of circumstances in which you will need to seek planning permission for your loft conversion. If the area of the extra space exceeds 40 cubic metres for terraced houses or 50 cubic metres for semi-detached houses, you’ll need planning permission. This is also the case if your property is located in a national park, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a World Heritage Site or a conservation area.

Planning permission is also required if the materials used in the work are dissimilar in appearance to the rest of the house, if the conversion exceeds the highest part of the roof in height or if it reaches beyond the existing roof slope at the front, if it overhangs the outer face of the original wall, or if there are balconies or raised platforms.

At our first home visit, an Econoloft specialist will advise you if you require planning permission and can look after the process for you.

Building regulations

All loft conversion projects must be compliant with building regulations regardless of whether or not they need planning permission. Turning a loft into a livable space will require a number of alterations. Therefore, the regulations are in place to ensure safety standards are met across a number of areas. They are intended to make sure that the stability of the overall structure is not adversely affected by the work, that access is adequate (particularly in the event of a fire), that the new floor is strong enough to bear the increased weight and that there is sufficient sound insulation.

However, the exact application of the regulations will depend on the specific project at hand. New walls will need to support the roof where other supports have been removed, and new floor joists will probably be needed to bear the additional weight. A fire-resistant door will also be required, and you’ll need to ensure that your chosen staircase provides easy access to and exit from the converted loft space.

Once you are confident you want a loft conversion from Econoloft we will prepare a quote for you.  If you are happy with the figures, our internal draughtsmen will work with our designers to produce your plans to the the highest standard and specifications.  As Econoloft offer a one stop shop, you can be assured that our experts manage your bespoke loft conversion from start to finish.

The work will be inspected at various points by a building control officer, who will issue a completion certificate once it’s done.

Health and safety

Since 2015, homeowners have been charged with responsibility over seeing health and safety on building projects. This includes loft conversions. You should therefore ensure that an adequate health and safety plan is in place before starting work. Make sure you ask your chosen loft conversion specialist about this. Of course, they will have a lot of experience when it comes to health and safety in loft conversion work, so should have no trouble in implementing a robust safety plan.

How a loft conversion could bring your family closer together

In case you don’t already know, May 15th was the UN’s International Day of Families, a global event intended to celebrate the role played by families around the world. This got us thinking – what do loft conversions do to bring families together and strengthen family life? British homes are among the smallest and most cramped in Europe, and families with young children often find themselves struggling for the space they need. So what are the benefits to families of loft conversions?

Giving the kids the space they need…

Having a loft conversion carried out is one great way of giving children more room. Not only could a loft conversion serve as a spacious playroom for young infants, but it could also make a spacious and private bedroom for a teenager. This all helps to ensure that kids have the space they need to be themselves, as well as some privacy when that’s required – whether they just want to be alone or they’re hanging out with friends – as well. The importance of this for their social development shouldn’t be overlooked.

…and giving everyone else more space, too

It’s also worth noting that when kids have enough space to themselves, it means that their belongings don’t clutter up the rest of the home – which makes it a more relaxing place to be for everyone else, too. Family homes can quite easily get crowded and cluttered. This is particularly true for those who have young children and who also spend at least part of their time working from home – it’s so easy to find yourself short of the required space.

Another advantage of having a loft conversion rather than having an extension built on to your home is that it doesn’t force you to compromise. An extension might deprive you of space in your garden, for instance. There’s no need for this with a loft extension, as you’re simply making more use of space that was already there, but underutilised.

No need for upheaval

Many families, upon finding that their home doesn’t provide them with sufficient space, take the decision to move to pastures new. Moving home can of course be a highly stressful experience – there isn’t just the challenge of searching for a new property that’s right for your family, but the whole rigmarole that comes with moving day itself. Then there are the costs to consider. These are substantial, and in fact stamp duty alone can cost thousands.

Loft conversions, on the other hand, can provide your family with valuable space minus the hassle of moving house – which keeps stresses and strains between you all to a minimum. What’s more, loft conversions also add more value to your home than any other home improvement, so they effectively pay for themselves.

Top tips for de-stressing your home

If you’ve got a busy and bustling work and family life to contend with, no doubt there are times when you’ve felt worn down and stressed out. As April is Stress Awareness Month, now seems like a good time to look at what you can do to make your home a less stressful and generally more pleasant place to be. After all, a more spacious and relaxing home environment can do a lot to help you rejuvenate and recharge yourself after a tough day.

Here are our top five tips for de-stressing your home environment.

  1. Think about whether you have the space you need. If you’ve been living in the same place for a few years, you’ll have noticed how easily the home can become cluttered – particularly for those with young families. If there’s a fundamental lack of space in your home, then you should consider addressing it. A loft conversion or extension can provide valuable additional space, thereby giving you more room to unwind.
  2. De-cluttering is key. Of course, it’s easy to let those little chores around the home slide – procrastination is particularly tempting when all you want to do is recharge your batteries. Nevertheless, it is important not to put this sort of thing off. If you’ve got items scattered around your home that aren’t serving any particular purpose, it is worth thinking about either getting rid of them or at least storing them out of the way until you need them again.
  3. Décor is also important. The decoration of your home can have a major effect on its overall vibe, and this in turn can have an effect on your mood. If you’re looking to create a relaxing and mellow atmosphere, it’s best to stick with muted, natural tones. Greens, blues, whites and greys are well suited to the purpose. You should also give plenty of thought to flooring. Soft rugs on hardwood floors are great for creating a relaxing vibe.
  4. Consider lighting. A dark and gloomy room is hardly likely to set you at ease after a challenging day at work. This is why it’s so important to harness natural sunlight where you can. If you’re having a loft conversion carried out, you should give careful consideration to the placement of skylights. Not only will this bring natural light into the converted loft space, but it’ll also provide some impressive views looking up towards the sky. A Juliet balcony could also help to make the space lighter and airier.
  5. Create a dedicated space for quiet relaxation. Sometimes it’s hard to get away from the demands of work and family, and make some much-needed time for yourself. If you’ve got a spare room, it’s a good idea to set it aside as a dedicated space for relaxing in. A converted loft can serve this purpose particularly well, providing a spacious sanctuary where you can read, listen to music or just chill out for a spell.

These are just some of the measures you can take to render your home more relaxing, more welcoming and, well, more homely. We all deserve some respite from the hustle and bustle – and, by taking a few simple steps such as those listed above, you can ensure that your home provides it.

Choosing the right stairs for your loft conversion

When you come to have your loft converted, there’s quite a lot that you need to think about. Obviously budgeting is essential, and above all you need consider just what you use your converted loft space for – because this will have a major bearing on the entire project. But you also need to make sure that you comply with the relevant building and safety regulations, and one aspect of this is ensuring that there is adequate access to and from your loft.

So how should you go about choosing stairs for your loft conversion? This concise guide will provide you with the pointers you need.

How much space is needed?

If you’re installing a traditional flight of stairs, then the Building Regulations state that you need to have at least two metres of headroom. However, there is some leeway here – for a loft conversion, this minimum can be reduced to 1.8m at the edges to accommodate a sloping root and 1.9m at the centre of the stairs. In terms of width, the standard is around 800mm although space-saving stairs may require less. You will also probably need to ensure that there is a landing at either end of the staircase.

Think about how you’ll be using the space

You’ll need to consider how you’re going to use your converted loft before you decide which type of staircase to install. If you’re intending to use it as a child’s bedroom or playroom, you might want to consider installing banisters that take account of this and thereby reduce the risk of accidents. On the other hand, if you’re planning to use the loft conversion as a musical practice space, it might be worth having a door installed at the top of the stairs so as to reduce the amount of sound that escapes. This should help you avoid getting into trouble with the neighbours!

Bespoke or pre-made?

Another question you’ll need to think about is whether you opt for bespoke or pre-made stairs for your loft conversion. Most people go for the former option, and there are a number of advantages to doing so. The main one is that it gives you more control over the overall design, allowing you to specify it according to your practical needs and your aesthetic preferences.

That said, pre-made stairs may well be an option depending on the measurements of your loft conversion. You will have to ensure that the measurements match absolutely so that pre-made stairs can be fitted in to place. While it is a convenient option when those measurements do match up, it’s relatively rare to find pre-made stairs which are an exact fit.

Costing and planning your loft conversion: essential tips

If you’re looking to add more space and value to your home, then a loft conversion is the ideal solution to your needs. Not only do loft conversions make homes that bit more spacious – ideal if you’ve got a young family – but as they make such a great selling point, they’ll also add more value than any other home improvement. But before you press ahead with your loft conversion, you need to make sure it’s properly planned and costed. Here are some key areas to think about.

How much does a loft conversion cost?

The exact cost of your loft conversion will depend on the layout of your property, the size of the loft space and the type of loft conversion you’re choosing to have carried out. You can expect your loft conversion to cost you in excess of £20,000 and perhaps as much as £50,000. This might well sound like a lot of money – and it is – but it’s important to remember that you are highly likely to recoup this investment and more when you consider the value it adds to your house.

Getting light into your loft conversion with sky lights

Working out whether it’s worth it

Given the amount of money your loft conversion will cost you, it is of course very important to think carefully about whether it’s a worthwhile investment. It’s worth looking at the value of other homes in your area which have converted loft spaces in order to find out whether you’re likely to recoup the money you’ve put into the work. Of course, if you want to have your loft converted purely for the additional space it gives you at home, then the value it adds to your home is a less important consideration. However, the Nationwide study referred to earlier found that on average, loft conversions add more than a fifth to house prices.

What about regulations?

One good thing about loft conversion work is that it generally doesn’t require planning permission, as in most cases this work is classed as permitted development. It is worth asking a loft conversion specialist whether this is definitely true in your particular case, though. Your chosen loft conversion firm will give you a clear idea of what you will and won’t be able to do.

You should also be aware that your converted loft must comply with the relevant building regulations – this is a separate matter from planning permission. These include accessibility (including easy escape in the event of fire), electrical safety and insulation. Your loft conversion firm will guide you through this process, so that the project complies with the appropriate regulations right from the outset and you’re thereby spared any unnecessary hassle further along the line.