A step-by-step guide to converting your loft
1. This bungalow project is used as an example to understand the process of conversion of an unused loft into habitable accommodation, be it a bedroom, playroom or office.
2. An inspection of the inside of the roof space will provide information as to its suitability for conversion. The main features to initially consider include height, access and obstacles. Here, a water storage tank and chimney stacks formed the main obstacles, but the height and pitch suggested that conversion was possible.
3. An architect or surveyor will confirm the loft’s suitability for conversion. It is also necessary to take into account whether the building will be adequate to take the added load of a conversion. Architects and structural engineers use their expertise to establish these two aspects of the project.
4. With Building Control approval, work can be started by clearing the loft space. In this example the water storage tank was redundant because a new combi boiler was fitted. If this is still required then it will need to be moved to a convenient space to the side. Two chimney stacks were removed.
5. The electrical wiring and other services that are attached to joists and binders must be removed and rerouted. It provides a good opportunity to replace and improve the original wiring. This requirement is likely to mean that some services may not be available until the new wiring and any pipework can be replaced
6. The new floor joists can now be fitted onto reinforced structural joist beams. The actual sizes will depend upon the spans, but might typically be 50mm x 220mm C24 or C16 timbers spaced at 400mm intervals.
7. The spaces between the joists are filled with insulation to a depth of 100mm. Following Building Control inspection, the joists can be covered with floorboards. The roofing struts and hangers are temporary but securely reinstalled until suitable replacement arrangements are in place.
8. The tongue-and-groove chipboard floorboards are held in place with screws. A water-resistant grade is a good choice, and essential in the bath or shower room.
9. Work can now be started in rafter reinforcement in accordance with the structural requirements, so that the purlins, struts and collars can be safely removed. This will open up the area.
10. Dormers can now be installed. This will involve opening up the roof, so dry weather is desirable to avoid the risk of water damage. The Building Control officer will inspect to ensure that the roof structure reinforcements are as specified.
11. Two end dormers were fitted, and a mid-dormer that is destined to be the shower room.
12. Roof windows are an effective way of letting in natural light. In this project a roof window was fitted above the stairwell. These require the surrounding timbers to be reinforced but are easier to fit than dormers.
13. The point at which the staircase is fitted will depend upon individual circumstances, but when in place will give easier access to the loft area. In this example the hallway was widened by knocking down a non-loadbearing front room to the hallway wall and rebuilding the wall 450mm into the front room
14. The dormers are tiled and clad to fully weather-proof them. The end dormers in this example have tiled roofs and tile cladding, whereas the shower room has a felted flat roof and tile cladding. Scaffolding will be required for safe working. Ridge and soffit vents are fitted at a convenient stage.
15. The windows are fitted in the dormer openings previously accurately measured. uPVC Class ‘A’ windows were fitted here with an egress hinge on the side-opening sash to provide a good fire exit.
16. Insulation is placed between the rafters, with a 50mm air gap between the roofing felt and the insulation, for ventilation purposes. Over this is further insulation giving a total of 100mm. In the roof space above there is 300mm of mineral wool insulation. Building Control inspection is required before the rafters and insulation are covered.
17. The partition walls are erected. These use 47mm x 100mm timber studs at 400mm centres, with additional noggings. A quilt is placed within the spaces between the studs as the plasterboard is attached
18. Wall plates fitted between studs will provide a secure fitting to items like radiators; they can also be used to secure the boxes required for electric sockets and switches. This is an ideal time to do the first fix electrics and plumbing.
19. The new electrics must conform to Part ‘P’ of the Building Regulations and the 17th Edition Electrical Regulations. It may be necessary to fit a new consumer unit, or additional unit if the existing one has no extra capacity.
20. Access panels are a useful addition. Here, water supplies and central heating feeds can be connected to the loft conversion. All metal pipework is earth-bonded together.
21. Plasterboard attached to the studs and rafters with drywall screws will provide the basis for the decorative plaster skim. Following this, the area is painted as required, and door architrave, skirting etc. fitted and painted.
22. The shower room walls are best clad with a cement-based aqua-board, first ensuring that all the required wall plates are fitted, and that all the required services are accessible. The shower room also requires an extractor fan.
23. With wall and floor tiling complete, the shower room items can be positioned and fitted. Second fix electrics and plumbing is progressed at a suitable time. The radiators are fitted in place, and connected to the central heating system. This picture also shows cupboard doors fitted to make use of the area behind for storage. Finally its time to decorate.
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