Most homeowners want a loft conversion because they want to create more room - and of course, to create a room which provides comfortable, even luxurious and elegant accommodation, there must be plenty of headroom for moving around and making the most of the new space. So what do you need to know?
Get the measure of your space. There are minimum practical requirements for headroom, which the designs for your loft conversion must be able to meet: a ceiling height of 1.9 – 2.0 m, once the conversion is complete.
To assess whether you have the space to accommodate this, measure the clear headroom of your existing space, from the top of the joists to the bottom of the rafters. You’ll need at least 2.2m as the existing measurement, to allow for insulation and the construction of internal ceilings without impinging on that 1.9 m practical headroom.
But what if your roof space falls short of that 2.2m needed to get the best practical use out of the room? It certainly doesn’t mean you can’t create a loft room, it may just mean you have to create some headroom along with it. Thankfully, there are several design options which can solve this:
#1: Raising the roof
The maximum height measurement usually runs to the ridge of the roof. If this maximum space falls short of the minimum requirements, it can be possible to extend this by literally raising the ridge of the roof or by creating space with other roof-side alterations.
Designs which raise the roof will always require planning permission because the design will change the shape and height of the existing building. As applying for planning permission involves fees, there are a few ways to make preliminary inquiries to see if it may be possible, before actually making an application:
- Some councils don’t allow ridge raising in certain areas of the locality, so a quick call to your local planning office with your postcode should reveal if there’s an outright ban on this type of application where you are.
- It may not be possible to raise the roof for some types of terraced or semi-detached properties due to the impact it would have on neighbouring properties. If you have this type of property, it’s worth enquiring with the local planning office, before getting any plans drawn up.
- An experienced loft conversion company which knows the local area well will be able to tell you straight away if raising the roof is likely to be a problem or a possibility for your address.
If it seems that making a planning application may be worthwhile, then it’s time to consider possible designs. Generally, roof-raising options include:
- Removing part of the existing roof and rebuilding it with a design which creates the additional headroom, such as a Dormer loft conversion. As well as creating additional headroom, dormer conversions also bring the added benefit of usable floor space. Because this does not technically affect the ridge line of the roof, it may be possible to have a dormer loft conversion design which can be carried out under Permitted Development, rather than requiring planning permission. However, building regulations will still apply and you should always check with your loft conversion specialists, architect or local planning office, as there are lots of variables here, which make it impossible to generalise – every home, design and local authority are different!
- Removing the whole of the existing roof and inserting a ready-built room onto the space, such as a Mansard loft conversion. Essentially, a mansard conversion is an extension across the entire plane of the roof, effectively adding a new storey onto the property. Because of the complex construction work involved, and the impact of this type of conversion to the roofline, planning permission is required and building regulations will apply.
#2: Lowering the ceilings
If the roof cannot be raised, for instance if the property’s a listed building, is in a conservation area or there’s an issue with a neighbouring property, then lowering the ceilings of the rooms below the loft could be the answer. Essentially, the ceiling height of the rooms on the storey below the roof space is lowered, to create the space needed above.
Many properties in conservation areas are older properties which often have the taller room heights (around 3m in some period properties), so this process could be a viable alternative to raising the roof. It is a highly technical process, but one which most loft conversion professionals will be familiar with:
- The ceilings of the storey below are removed and a plate added at the appropriate level for the new floor to be added above. From here, the new floor is constructed above and ceilings renewed below.
- This method can also be used to help incorporate a stairway which complies with the height requirements of building regulations.
It’s really important to note that there are complex structural aspects to this process and it is not something an enthusiastic DIY-er should take on.
#3: Using thinner insulation
If the loft room height is almost tall enough as it is, another solution for maximising the height is to use thinner layers of insulation during the construction of the loft conversion.
Traditional methods for insulating a loft conversion can be around 25cm thick, something of a space-stealer when measurements are tight. However, modern techniques provide thinner but very effective alternatives for maximising space and thermal efficiency at the same time.
Installing thinner insulation across both the ceiling and the floor of the loft conversion can be an easy way to gain the extra centimeters needed without having to go back to the drawing board if you have a favoured design. These alternative options could include thin multi-foil insulation or foil-backed rigid foam and your loft conversion professionals should be able to make recommendations, depending on your loft design and budget.
It’s also an ideal way to use the ‘trigger point’ of major construction work in your loft to take the opportunity to improve the overall energy efficiency of your home (as recommended by
So that’s the heads up on your options for creating headroom. However, every situation is different and if you have specific concerns about headroom, or feasibility based on the existing dimensions of your loft space, do contact us to ask the team for advice or a no-obligation quote.