Requests for information about attic conversions are one of the most common queries we get from customers wanting to improve their home. Converting the roof can be a convenient way of obtaining additional space in your home, however, attic conversions are not always as straightforward as they seem. Many people believe that attic conversions have no planning implications, but this is often not the case especially in situations where the converted room will act as a bedroom. Below we have put together a simple guide of what must be considered when converting the attic space in your home.
1. TYPE OF USE: HABITABLE VS NON-HABITABLE
Before embarking on an attic conversion, you must consider the type of room you want to create as certain regulatory standards have to be achieved depending on what the room will be used for. Attic conversions have two classifications ‘Non-Habitable’ and ‘Habitable’. 95% of all conversions fall under the category ‘Non-Habitable’. This type of conversion cannot be used as a bedroom or living space and while it does not require planning permission, compliance with building regulations must still be achieved. The second type, a ‘Habitable’ attic conversion requires planning permission and can be used as a bedroom or living room. If you have an attic conversion which is used as a bedroom and in future wish to sell your property, certification and documentation will need to be provided to show that the conversion meets regulatory standards and planning requirements.
2. ROOF HEIGHT
When choosing to convert your attic, the first thing you should check is if you have sufficient height available for the type of conversion you’re hoping for. If you want to convert your attic to a habitable space i.e a bedroom or living room, more than 50% of the roof space must have a ceiling height of 2.4m. This is to allow enough room to comfortably stand up and walk around the room. If you do not meet these requirements your attic can still be converted, but, it must be used as a non-habitable space i.e. storage. In some situations the installation of a dormer style window can satisfy the height requirements to allow a conversion to be used as a ‘habitable’ space. A downside to dormer installation is that it may require planning permission and has significant extra costs.
The existing structure of your floor will also influence whether your roof space is suitable for conversion. The floor of the attic must be strong enough to support the change of use to either a habitable or non-habitable space. Attic floors often need to be strengthened, especially in homes built after 1970. It’s important to get advice from a Structural Engineer if any structural alterations need to be made.
When you choose to convert your attic, you will need to build in a stairway to access the space. In a two storey home, conversion of the attic to a habitable space means the house is reclassified as a three storey dwelling. This change from two storey to three storey triggers a new set of fire safety obligations which have to be achieved to comply with building regulations. These regulations include the need for a fire protected staircase and installation of fire doors. There will also need to be sufficient space for the stairwell on the floor beneath the conversion. Compliance with these regulations can seem awkward and costly but they have to be met to make sure everyone in the property is as safe as possible.
Light and ventilation will need to be factored into a habitable attic conversion. Skylights and dormer windows are both potential sources of natural light which can be considered for your conversion. Skylight installation is far less invasive than a dormer and if only located at the back of a property skylights doesn’t require planning permission. Dormer windows require planning but have the added benefit of increasing the volume of the loft outwards.
In most homes where the attic isn’t converted, the top floor ceiling (the attic floor) is usually the highest barrier of insulation. If the attic space is now going to be used, the roof must be insulated to slow the heat escaping from the attic room and the rooms below. Making the small change to insulate your attic has considerable benefits when it comes to reducing home energy bills and can positively impact your properties overall BER rating. Insulation at rafter level is another element of an attic conversion that must comply the Irish Building regulations (Part L).