Part of the thrill of creating new living space from a loft conversion comes from bringing light into that space with the installation of windows. However, when it comes to choosing the type of window to be installed, there are many aspects to consider…
The view of the council
The primary things to consider are whether there are any planning restrictions or building regulations which apply to the neighbourhood in general, the property specifically and / or the type of roof and loft conversion.
Restrictions which may be in place include aspects such as the placement of windows (to avoid looking into neighbouring properties), access points which may or may not include the window (if it offers access to outside space such as a roof terrace) and the safety aspects in respect of opening restrictions in respect of the height.
Other restrictions may specify that windows of a certain type only can be installed – this may apply if the property is a listed building or is part of a conservation area, in which case it may be necessary to install a window type which is in keeping with the existing windows, for example fitting a Victorian sash window to match the rest of the house or leaded light casement windows. Architectural or structural engineers can be involved and will be able to advise on what types of windows will comply with any regulations which apply to the conversion.
The view of the room
Considering the conversion type, potential use of the room and the amount of natural light that will be available can also help to inform you of the types of window that may be best suited to the room. For example:
- A small room can be opened up by using a frameless glass panel, which can also make a feature of the view.
- Vaulted ceilings and conversions which make the most of the character of the roof space, such as with gables and beams can be enhanced with casement windows or balconied window spaces.
- A conversion which does not increase the volume roof space will require roof-light windows as these do not expand the roof space, in contrast to the way a dormer window extends the head room to add full height space to a loft.
- Gable-to-gable conversions build up one side of the pitch to create a ceiling height wall reaching up to the ridge of the original roof space. For these conversions, windows are usually added along this side to make the most of views and light.
- The ventilation and safety requirements of a loft conversion may depend on the use it will have: a children’s play room will be different to a master bedroom with en-suite wetroom and both may require specific types of windows to address safety, light and ventilation issues.
The room with a view
The view is also important and can help inform on the type of window that is ultimately chosen. It’s important to consider the view from all angles – the idea of reclining with breakfast in bed with the French doors to a Juliet Balcony open and curtains dancing in the breeze is fine, but if the view is of the next door neighbours kids’ trampoline, then a roof light view of the stars at night might be preferable.
It can help to look through your window options with the potential pros and cons in mind.
- Dormer windows: set into the roof slope, ideally situated well in from the eaves, the advantage of dormer windows is that they can be large and allow a lot of light into the room. One of the disadvantages is that this increases the actual roof space which makes a less simple conversion – something which may not fit if the budget is tight.
- Roof windows: literally set into the roof of the property, these have the advantage of being straightforward in terms of planning. Velux types are particularly popular and feature windows can be created by aligning a series of rooflights in a grid, to allow plenty of light. However, with some types of Velux windows, there can be some issues of accidents from bumping into corners of open windows where ceiling height is low and it’s also surprisingly easy to accidentally leave a Velux window open and be caught out by rain coming in if the weather changes.
The roof window alternative, a frameless glass panel can make the most of the view and add light and a sense of space to the roof but might be a poor choice for ventilation as cannot be opened. In older properties, conservation rooflights may be needed to stay in keeping with the area, which can be more expensive.
- Casement windows: Usually installed to be in keeping with the rest of the house, casement windows usually offer plenty of light and opening options. However, restricted openings may be necessary for safety reasons and to be building regulation compliant.
- Balcony door windows: often seen as sash windows or French doors with a Juliet balcony, balcony doors are a way of opening up the room to the outside, maximising ventilation and light. To enhance light and safety further, the balcony could be constructed from a protected glass balustrade. These windows are ideal for making the most of views, but the downside is that they are a specialist fitting which can add to the expense of a loft conversion.
Although they are useful for ventilation, as the doors or window can be flung open wide, it’s not the type of window that can be opened (or left open) just a little way for ventilation throughout the day. Another disadvantage is the amount of space these take up, as often furniture or a radiator would be placed under a window – this option is lost with full size windows. Child and pet safety concerns can be an issue, depending on the proposed gap size between railings, but these concerns can be eliminated by installing a toughened glass or laminate balustrade instead.
For metal balconies, it’s worth considering that good quality metal is a necessary expense, otherwise maintenance and upkeep can be difficult as poor quality metals are prone to weathering and rust. High quality, low maintenance metals such as aluminium and wrought iron can be harder-wearing, but very expensive.
It’s certainly worth considering all aspects by visiting and viewing loft conversions similar to the type you have in mind and taking advice from the experts, so that you can see clearly your window choices and how these can help make your loft part of your home.