Converting Your Loft – Internal Space and Layout

In my last loft blog, I looked at the key structural elements that determine the floor area and volume of your loft conversion. This next blog looks at the interior, the space you can create and how you can make it work for you.

What Do You Want?

In converting your loft you’ll want to ensure you achieve the space you envisaged at the planning stage. What you can achieve will be determined by the floor area and the volume you can build (see earlier blogs on the exterior and structure).
If you are converting the loft in a small terraced house in a conservation area you may only have space for one room.
If your property is an Edwardian townhouse and has permitted development (PD) rights you should be able to build a full-width rear dormer accommodating one or more rooms plus a shower. A bigger floor plan could fit two bedrooms
If your home is a large Victorian semi with PD rights you could build a hip-to-gable and full-width rear dormer creating a big dual-aspect bedroom with an ensuite and a dressing room.

What Can You Create?

The Stairs & Landing

At the top of the new stairs to the loft will be a landing and its location will determine how well the loft works. The landing is only required to be as deep as it is wide but needs to be located to give direct access to the rooms in the loft. Corridors lead off the landing use valuable space and should be avoided.

All habitable rooms in a loft need must have fire door. If you only have one habitable room in your loft the fire door could be either at the top or the bottom of the stairs. Where there is more than one habitable room in the loft all habitable rooms must have a fire door directly on to the landing.
Ideally, the new stairs and landing at the top will have natural-light either from a window in the dormer or the side gable or from a roof light.

Usable Space in the Loft

Under the skieling (the sloping ceiling) and beside the dwarf walls in your loft, there will areas of the loft you can’t stand up in. You can use these areas for a chest of draws or for other low furniture. If you ask your loft designer to draw a line on your loft plan indicating where you can stand up (1.8m) you will have a good idea of the usable space in the loft.

Bedrooms or Other Habitable Rooms

You’re likely to be spending the most time in your new bedroom, office or chill-out room. I favour rooms with dual-aspect windows or roof lights, they give light from two directions, allow cross-ventilation and enable you to see out in two different ways. Your requirement may be for more rooms, which may prevent you having dual-aspect rooms.
In a good loft conversion, the new rooms feel part of the existing home. If the new stairs follow the existing this is easier to achieve.

Bathroom or Shower Room

What do you want, a bathroom with a bath or just a shower? The end of a bath can fit under the skieling, showers need full height ceiling but they take up much less room than a bath.
Generally, home-owners want to maximise the size of the habitable rooms and squeeze the bath or shower room in where they can. In an Edward terraced property, you can often fit a shower room behind the staircase.
It is desirable for a bath or shower room to have natural light and ventilation from a window or a roof light.

Dressing Rooms & Storage Areas

A dressing room with fitted cupboards and wardrobes can utilise some of the more awkward spaces you may have in your loft.
Dressing rooms and storage areas are not classed as habitable rooms so they can be inner rooms (not have direct access on to the landing) and can utilise parts of the loft where access and head height is limited.

Fire safety, means of escape

Building Regulations determine the fire safety and fire protection requirements for loft conversions. Whilst the regulations are national standards there are slight variations across Local Authority areas.
Conversion of the loft in a one or two-storey property where there is a protected means of escape from the new rooms should not impact upon the layout of the new loft space.
If the floor of the new loft space will be more than 7.5m from the ground level or the property has an open-plan ground floor or there is not a protected means of escape there will be design implications and limitations on what you can do. In such cases, it would be advisable to have detailed discussions with a specialist or building control before proceeding with plans.

The space you can create will be limited by the footprint of your home and restricted by planning legislation. The floor areas, the volume you can build, your wishes and building regulations will determine how you loft works.
The challenge for your loft designer will be to take these sometimes conflicting elements and come up with something that really works for you and give you what you want.

For details of my other loft blogs please check out my website:

Please note this is a guide and is not a definitive source of technical and/or legal information.

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