Most lofts can be converted into extra living space. It all depends on the height of your loft space, the pitch (angle) of your roof and the type of roof structure, such as whether its is a traditional frame or trussed roof. Loft conversions also depend on whether there are any physical barriers in your loft space, such as a chimney or water tank.

Is the loft space high enough?

The higher the pitch of the roof the greater the head height. The addition of dormer windows or changes to the roof such as a mansard roof conversion, will extend the head height and create more useable space.

In practice, head height of 2.1 to 2.3 metres for much of the room will deliver a useful space. To meet building regulations the critical number is 2 metres clearance at the top of the stairs, although a slightly reduced head height of around 1.9 metres can sometimes be allowed through building control.

Where the head height in your loft space is not great enough it can still be possible to convert your loft, albeit for a greater budget, by raising the roof or lowering the ceilings of the room below.

Traditional or trussed roof?

If your roof has a traditional frame where ceiling joists, rafters and timbers were cut to size on site to suit your property, then its relatively simple to add extra supports and open up the space.

Homes built since the 1960s often feature a trussed roof. This type of roof comprises ‘W’ shaped trusses usually made of thinner timber and prefabricated off site and then supported by additional diagonal timbers once on site. More work is required to create usable space with this type of structure, for example installing steel beams.

Chimney stack encroaching on space?

Chimney breasts often encroach into loft space. But it’s worth remembering that chimney stacks not only provide a vent for smoke from downstairs fireplaces, they also provide structural support to the building. Removing a chimney stack from your loft space can free up additional space. For semi-detached properties you need to first check that your chimney is your own to remove and not shared with your neighbour. And because of the stack’s structural role the works must be cleared by the building control department.

Water tank in the loft?

Water tanks in the loft can also take up a large space. They can be moved under the eaves or more likely, the space freed up altogether by switching your heating and hot water to a mains-fed sealed system which requires less space.

Abbey Building Services and Maintenance can advise you whether your loft is suitable for conversion and outline the options. So long as the new loft space falls within the criteria of a Permitted Development no planning permission is required.

Take a look at our quick guide to loft conversions: Does my loft conversion need planning permission?

For more help with your plans to convert the loft of your Hertfordshire home ask Richard Bamforth at Abbey on 07818 061505 or by email.