INTERIORS Over your head: attic conversions

Red couch in attic conversion

The only way is up

Need more space? Rather than taking precious square metres off your garden with an extension, why not convert your attic?

Sometimes, the most obvious things in life are sitting just under our noses and yet we still miss them. Even when they come with great big flashing neon signs and a full marching band. It’s bizarre, but nevertheless, it happens to us all at some point or another.
How many more of us are not just missing the obvious solutions, but sitting right under them? Attics! All that space and we’d rather put all our time, love, energy and money into building onto our precious back gardens rather than look above us and toy with the idea of extending up, not out. So, why not think about some of the following if you’re looking to increase the floor space of your home.

Building regulations
Make yourself aware of the various building regulations that relate to the conversion of an attic. There are restrictions and planning implications in relation to height, windows, floor loads etc. Make sure you do your research prior to starting any work so that you’re not caught at some future date, when, for example, you’re looking to sell, but the works don’t comply.

The most common option for bringing natural light into a converted attic space is to install one or more roof windows. Given their angle to the sky, they are the No 1 choice for getting the optimum amount of light in. They can come in various different sizes, so choose carefully when buying. Keep the dimensions of the room in mind when installing them. Going for the biggest to get the most amount of light is not necessarily the right way to go about it. Dormer windows can be useful where there is limited head space available.

Insulation and ventilation
It is of utmost importance to both insulate and ventilate your attic well. The winter months can bring bitter conditions so insulating well is of paramount importance otherwise you’ll be wearing your entire wardrobe in one go in order to keep warm. Equally, adequate insulation will help to keep the attic cool during the summer months, when the tiles can heat up to 50 or 60 degrees Celsius on a hot day. Roof windows on both sides of the roof help with ventilation and a flow of air to come through.

If you have the space for it, then a proper stairs to your attic is the best choice. These can be done in a number of different styles. Traditional type stairs, if you’re not short of space at all. Spirals stairways are great for taking the least amount of floor space away from your attic, but they can eat into the lower floor space when installing. A pull-down stairs can also be used if absolutely no space is available. They can come either with a manual pull down system or by remote-control making access that little bit less troublesome.

While initially it might seem like only 50 per cent of your attic space is actually functional, this is not the case. Being habitable and functional in this case are two very different things. Space to the side under the eaves can be great areas for storage. Never underestimate the amount that these areas can hold!

Planning ahead

You may or may not have the space for an en-suite. If you do, but your finances won’t stretch to installing one right now, plan ahead and put in the groundwork for one – plumb and wire for a small shower-room/WC so that all pipes and ducting are there for a future date when the money IS to hand!