A loft conversion is a significant investment of your money and time - and can also have a considerable impact on your domestic life and well-being. With such high stakes, managing your loft conversion project in a professional way is essential for maximising the return on your investment in your financial, as well as family future.
But having it all turn out right in the end depends on this key choice you make right at the beginning: choosing the right loft conversion specialist…
Looking into loft companies
To start your search, identify local or regional companies who serve your area and appear to be a ‘good fit’ for your project. But, before contacting anyone, do some easy background checks to save yourself some time by shortlisting the right choice straight from the off. To start, check if those potential professionals offer:
- A physical location & landline phone number
A loft conversion company with a premises you can visit is more likely to be an experienced, well-established company. Although most companies do also have mobile numbers, these should be offered as well as a dedicated landline number and premises address, not instead of. If the company offers a mobile number but no other points of contact, then this should raise questions for you about the legitimacy of this company’s practices.
- Company accreditations and certification
Certification across different areas of the work is extremely important as evidence for building control or if you choose to sell the property later on. With big projects such as loft extensions, a loft conversion company should have evidence available of their professional credentials across all aspects of the construction, such as:
- NIC EIC approval – a legal requirement for any construction company carrying out electrical work;
- Gas Safe registration
- Velux or FENSA credentials
- Guarantee and insurance
Although most legitimate companies detail their guarantees and insurance on their websites, it’s also worth exploring just how far their guarantees and insurance go in covering your own project:
- Do guarantees include construction materials, labour and quality of work, so if problems arise you can be assured the company will put things right?
- Does insurance include unexpected events which might occur during the build, such as extreme weather events or accidental damage to other parts of your property?
- Does the insurance cover accidents with any equipment used or stored in your property?
- Is there an independent warranty and assurance of underwriting? This makes it easier to spot more reputable companies, as those who recognise customer concerns may offer these extra guarantees.
- Recommendations and testimonials from people you trust
Before you approach companies for quotes, ask around people you know who may have had loft conversions. These should be people you trust, such as friends and family, neighbours or colleagues.Ask them about their experiences, particularly whether they’d use the company again, as that’s a good measure of how happy they’ve been with all aspects of the work in the context of the price they paid.Asking neighbours is especially useful, as their properties likely to be similar. This can be very relevant if properties are of non-standard construction or are within a conservation area, as knowing which loft specialists managed such projects effectively, on time and on budget can be valuable information.
Face-to-Face fact finding
Once you’ve eliminated the wrong kinds of company and identified a short-list of potential loft conversion professionals, it’s important to get at least three companies round for a site visit.
Site visits are important at this stage to help identify all aspects of your project and will inform both design possibilities and the costs involved. For example, a site visit can identify whether a water tank needs to be moved or whether extra head-room is required. The site visit also provides a good opportunity to check measurements and condition of the roof and rafters, to allow realistic thinking about the design type, finish and likely costs.
When you meet with each company, remember to focus on four key areas, to help with making that final choice:
1. Payments and quotes
Most reputable companies buy materials “on account” through builder’s merchants, so they should not require “money upfront” for materials. However, some reputable professional companies do offer payment plans which may require a small deposit. Any quotes should cover all aspects of the project – so if anything is missing, do check so that you know exactly what is and isn’t included. There should be no hidden extras but you would be wise to check with each company about possible contingency budgets. Each company making the site visit should:
- Provide a fully detailed quote
- Take the time to go through it with you
- Answer all questions clearly
- Not pressure you in any way
2. Ask for references
Good companies should showcase completed projects on their websites, but do also ask if any of their previous customers can provide references or would be willing to let you visit to see the quality of work first-hand. Reputable companies should readily provide references. When reading these, look for comments on:
- Communication and customer-care
- Working to schedule
- Value for money and bringing the project in on budget
- Quality of work
- Attitude – including considerations of noise and cleaning up
- Follow-up, including snagging and providing certificates when signing off the project.
3. Project team
Ask about who will be doing the work so you can ensure that it’s the company’s specialist team, not outsourced individuals. A company’s reputation rests on its team so a conversion completed by an efficient specialist team is what you need for obtaining the best quality for your budget.Remember to also ask to meet with the project manager. If the company doesn’t have one, then think again whether this is the right company for you.
4. Relevant questions
Those face-to-face meetings with each of your potential companies are when you should be asking specific questions about your particular loft conversion, for example the build (if the property is in a conservation area or will involve additional planning consent) or the domestic impact (such as timescales and any potential disruption) or budget contingencies.
If your work looks like being done over the winter (or a typical shower-soaked English summer) do also check with the company to see what steps they take to ensure your home is watertight whilst the roof work is carried out.
Overview to getting organised
Although getting several companies involved and seeking quotes from all of them can seem like a lot of work, when you consider that professional loft conversion specialists manage the project from start to finish, including design, construction and decoration, putting in early effort to choose the right one can actually save you time and money. At the very least, do ensure you:
- Have a clear idea about what you want from your loft conversion and how you want to use the new space.
- Organise site visits as part of getting the quote, but that quotes are offered with no-obligation.
- Always double-check what’s included in the quote.
- Ask questions about each stage of the all-in project, such as who will be carrying out each stage of the work and the nature of their professional qualifications, for example the architect and design team; project / site manager; the build team and specialists within that, such as roofers, plumbers and electricians.
- Ask about relevant certification and who is responsible for liaising with building control, so that if you decide to sell your property in the future, you will have the relevant paperwork for the conversion.
Finally, remember that you should be in control of your decision at all times. A reputable company should answer all of your questions and allow plenty of thinking time without pressure. Never commit yourself or make any payments until you’re happy that all of your questions have been answered, as the best way to help ensure you’ve made the best pick of your potential professionals.