Attic Conversions: What to look for?
Value for Money
Attic conversions do not only provide extra living space but they also increase the saleability of your home. According to Estate Agents, Hamilton Osborne King “as far as actual price, there are no hard and fast rules as to how much exactly an attic conversion will add to the price of your property but it will certainly complement it when it comes to selling.” (Note: while you can highlight it in the sale you cannot describe it as an extra bedroom – although you may use it as such – because of building and fire regulations governing floor to ceiling heights of habitable areas).
Most conversions will not require planning permission, however a pre-discussion of plans is always advisable. Planning permission must be sought if you intend to make alterations to a ‘protected structure’, or if you wish to install dormer windows which will change the buildings character and perhaps overlook neighbouring property, say Dublin Corporation’s Planning Unit. Roof windows at the back of a property will not require planning permission. Alterations that do not comply with building regulations can prove costly especially when it comes to selling your house, and in the case of unauthorised alterations to a ‘protected structure’ you may be liable for prosecution.
The road to conversion is not an easy one, and definitely not a DIY job. Conversions should be carried out by a reputable company or persons who fully comply to building, as well as health and safety regulations. Check out the Services Directory of MyHome.ie to find a builder or home improvement expert to help you with your conversion.
This can be costly but it means the floor can adequately support the new load being placed on it without suffering collapse – the strength of the floor being a key issue in attic conversions. All work is carried out under the supervision of a structural engineer and once the conversion is complete, proud attic converts receive a Certificate of Compliance – beneficial when it comes to ‘The Big Sell’.
The essential element in any successful conversion is light, helping to transform your attic into a bright and airy living space. With conversions, as a general rule you need to provide glazed areas (ie windows) equivalent to 10% of the room’s floor area, though increasing this to 20% is highly recommended. Roof windows let in more light than dormer and have a certain unobtrusive quality and low visual impact from street level. Velux windows are ideal and offer windows to suit the pitch of your roof – the lower the pitch the longer the window needs to be to get the best possible view. Velux also provide a tailor made blind service for their windows in a choice of over 200 colours and styles; Siesta, pleated, Venetian and roller.
Good ventilation should also be factored into the equation, essential in preventing unpleasant living conditions. And with conversions you will also need to consider rewiring for extra light sockets and switches, possibly plumbing if you are going to convert to a bathroom, moving your water tank under the eaves – in most houses this sits somewhere in the middle of the attic – and with that probably installing a new pump to remedy the loss in water pressure. Finding the best possible access into the attic is also up for consideration (which should usually involve minimum fuss) and choosing between structural stairs or pull down ladders.
At what cost? This of course depends on what you want to do with your attic and how much work is involved.
Another considerable factor affecting cost is the ‘stair issue’ – structural or pull down. Structural stairs give a more finished look but add greatly to the overall cost. Pull down stairs, such as Stira stairs are an option, though they’re not recommended for use in attic bedrooms, and can be fitted in an hour and a half provided a new opening does not have to be made. They are completely self contained and simply unfold by pulling on the trap door with the pole provided, and fold up to close guided by the pole.
Confused? You needn’t be. Leave the dizzying number of decisions up to the experts while you carry on your business as normal. The whole job will take between two to three weeks and you won’t even have to move out of the house. The first two days breaking into the attic are the messiest and after that disruption will be at a minimum. So what are you waiting for? Convert and be happy.