Loft conversions are a great way to increase space in your house without adding a traditional extension – which can be costly, eat up garden space and be time consuming. If you know what you’re doing, lofts can be converted cheaply without missing out on essentials.
Andrew Birch, Regional Sales Manager GBI at Dakea, has answered some common questions about achieving a cheap loft conversion and converting on a budget.
What is included in a basic loft conversion?
“I would say that in general, a basic loft conversion (in the UK) would consist of a staircase leading to a single attic bedroom with one roof window.
“A loft conversion like this typically wouldn’t require planning permission, unless your house is within a conservation area or is a listed building. There are some additional exceptions, like if your existing loft has a low roof.
“Even with a basic conversion model, you need to take into account the cost of insulation and think about energy efficiency. Poorly insulated attics easily become too cold in winter and too hot in summer, making them unusable!”
What are some key areas that can quickly become expensive?
“In my experience, there are three key things to look out for if you’re trying to stick to a cheaper conversion: roof type, stair access and decor. These can quickly sink the budget if you’re not prepared.”
“Depending on the type of roof you have, there may be some extra work included to achieve even a basic loft conversion. Trusses and rafters are the two types of roofs in the UK. Rafters are supports built along the edge of the roof and don’t cross into the triangular space below.
“While trusses, on the other hand, cross through the space of the loft. You can easily identify which you have by having a peek into the space and seeing if beams cross into it.
“With a roof truss, additional supports will most likely be needed to convert the space. It will involve a structural engineer having to complete calculations and draw up plans, making sure the roof retains its structural integrity.”
“Every loft conversion needs to be easily accessible, so stairs are an essential. However, on occasion, water pumps are located where the stair access needs to be built. Adding stairs then goes from a standard job to a big one as the water pump will need to be moved and reinstalled.
“Builders should be able to assess this when providing a quote.”
“Decorating needs to be factored into your budget! When you’re looking for a cheap loft conversion, it’s easy to forget to budget for paint, furniture and décor – which can be expensive.”
Do you have any recommendations for selecting traders for a cheap build?
“Having worked across a lot of different projects, I would always recommend paying money for reliable builders. It’s better to get a simpler, more basic conversion with reliable traders than a bigger conversion by inexperienced traders for a cheap price. Quality of work is important if you want your room to be comfortable, well insulated and built to last.
“I would also say check that quotes are inclusive of all the work involved and ask if there are any common problems that incur additional costs. Making sure you understand what you’re buying is vital for sticking to your budget.
“Of course, read the contract to make sure it includes everything you’ve agreed over the phone or in previous communication before you sign it.”
What are the best ways to reduce the price?
“If you’re experienced with projects, or you have the time to learn, you could try managing the project yourself. It’s not a small task, but it could save you a considerable amount of money. The key skills involved are time management and communication so you can chase deadlines, organise the logistics and control the budget.
“When adding an ensuite, position it above existing plumbing for a much cheaper conversion. If you want it on the opposite side of the house to your existing bathroom, it’s going to cost a lot more in plumbing, setting up pipes and adjusting the water pressure than it otherwise would.
“I would suggest, where you can, try to save money on the décor and furniture rather than the build. You can find second-hand furniture from charity shops that you can replace at a later date when you have a bigger budget. If you want to change anything about the build at a later date when you have more money, it’s going to be a big job and much more expensive than getting it right the first time around.
“Finally, be flexible with how much light you want. Working for Dakea, I’m a specialist in roof windows. While they can be affordable, tactically placing one window is going to be cheaper than using multiple windows. You can use other lighting techniques, like including mirrors, to increase the light in the space. You’ll always need at least one window, however, but placing it south-facing, for example, will help you to make the most of it.”
What corners shouldn’t be cut?
“As I’ve already mentioned, choose reliable tradesmen. Paying more for quality work will serve you better in the long run, even if you have to save money on your furniture or other décor to start with.
“Along a similar line, don’t cut corners when it comes to the electricity or plumbing. Any savings you make here could cost you down the line or make living in the room once it’s converted much less comfortable.
“Window quality also shouldn’t be underestimated. Keeping attics warm in the winter and cool in the summer will be much easier with a good quality window. It’s possible to find windows that are insulating without having to spend a fortune too. Make sure you talk to your builders about what window options you have.”
Do you have any extra tips for converting a loft on a budget?
“I would say, consider what your priorities are. What are the features you don’t want to compromise on and what are your ideals that are more flexible? Knowing this will help you to make decisions that reflect your budget while still achieving a final result you’re happy with.
“Energy efficiency is important too. Triple pane on your windows might cost more initially than double pane, for example, but can lead to long term savings on energy bills. Ultimately, a better energy rating can also help with selling your house in the future for a better price.”
Dakea manufactures roof windows and skylights, supplying primarily to tradespeople including roofers, window installers, house builders, architects and more. Find out more on their website.
If you enjoyed this article and are a thought leader, like Andrew, then don’t hesitate to get in touch!