How Long Does a Loft Conversion Take?
Is there such a thing as an average timeline for a loft conversion? To an extent, say our experts. Here’s what to expect
Here, three experts reveal eight factors that can lengthen a job, as well as the decisions that should help to keep it moving.
Professional advice from: Cat Hoad of Absolute Project Management; Fiona Duke of Fiona Duke Interiors; James Bernard of Plus Rooms
Also in this series: How Long Does a Bathroom Renovation Take?
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“It really depends on what you’re doing,” Cat Hoad says. “However, allow a minimum of three months unless you’re just boarding out an existing space with a floor – and, of course, ensuring that floor complies with Building Regulations.”
James Bernard concurs. “I would recommend people allow between six and eight weeks for the build, obviously depending on the scope, with a further two to three weeks for decoration and tiling,” he says.
“You can do it quicker… maybe. But it’s better to plan for it to take longer,” Cat continues. “As project managers, we do a lot of looking for things that might happen, and planning for them. If problems do arise, we have the experience to suggest a range of solutions and know what each will involve in terms of time, money and compromises.”
1. Not allowing sufficient time for the planning phase
The aforementioned timescales are only for the work itself. “You also need to allow three months for Planning Permission, if required,” Cat says.
It’s likely you will need permission if you’re in London and are changing the roofline or adding windows. Wherever you are, though, you’ll at least need to check. And if you do require Planning Permission? “The prep and planning stage can be really long, so it’s much less stressful if you allow a sensible timescale,” Cat says. “This also gives you time to make decisions.”
Aside from Planning Permission, if you’re in a listed building, you’ll need to obtain Listed Building Consent. Similarly, properties within a conservation area may require permission for unexpected details. “So the very first stage,” Cat says, “is to do your research.”
It’s possible to have informal chats with the local council about these issues, but Cat warns against setting too much store by what you get from such conversations. “These may seem really helpful, but people interpret things differently and, when you put in an application, you may get someone far more conservative.”
This shouldn’t be an issue if you have professional plans drawn up, as any reputable designer will know the relevant regulations.
“You would really have to know your regulations and know the right questions to ask to consider doing this yourself as a homeowner,” Cat says. “It’s far better to get a detailed design done and then send it to Building Control before works start.”
- Fire safety
Before approaching your local Building Control department, it’s a good idea to speak to a project manager, an interior designer or an architect and get plans for your design – they will know what it will need to pass. Ideally, they’ll also communicate with Building Control on your behalf.
“One of the hardest things for people planning a loft conversion is being able to visualise the space,” Fiona Duke says. “Plan drawings will show the overall area, but it’s a good idea to get an interior designer to draw up a few 3D visuals. I do this for every loft conversion, as it really helps clients to see where the roofline is and what space they actually have.
“On a plan drawing, you can get a bit carried away thinking you have more space than you actually do. Once the roofline is factored in, it’s often far more restrictive than it looks on paper,” she says.
Once you have these visuals, you can work out how to arrange storage, sleeping and showering in terms of head height and access.
“Layout is key in these early stages and you need to get it right early on,” Fiona says. “If you don’t and you start to make changes down the line, these can create more issues and reworking may be necessary, which can cause delays. Get the layout right early on and it will be easier to stay on track with the build.”
- “Party wall issues can vary from property to property and there can be a variety of reasons why issues occur,” James says. “While design can sometimes play a part if neighbours have concerns, it tends to be more about communicating the proposal early on in the pre-build stages.
- “You can minimise the issues by having an informal conversation well in advance, rather than presenting consent letters when time constraints can cause unnecessary pressures,” he says. “Neighbours can often feel bombarded, so I recommend giving lots of notice.”
- James also suggests appointing a party wall surveyor to mediate – particularly if your neighbour is asking lots of questions, has numerous concerns or you have a tricky relationship with them.
If you’re putting a bathroom into your loft conversion, the project is likely to take longer. A designer or architect will need to plan how to get water and waste pipes into the new space, and this might also involve additional labour.
Browse loft conversion specialists in your area in the Houzz Professionals Directory.
“Building dormers or any major extension to the physical volume of the space can take a lot longer,” Cat warns. “You’d be unlucky for it to take more than six months, but six months is not a mad timetable to have in mind.”
“This is an important factor and, combined with the design and expectations for the space, it dictates whether this is a bigger job or a simple conversion,” James says.
“For example, steels might be required and, if you’re extending to the rear out over the outrigger, then a full roof construction might also be needed,” he says.
“Generally speaking, what adds time is not necessarily building works, but renovations – for example, if lowering the first floor ceilings is required to create adequate head height,” he explains. “This is a simple building process, but it can add a month to the project, as this work impacts the first floor, so that will need decorating as well as the loft space.”
Good news! “Provided you can access the loft on first inspection, you’re usually able to assess what you’re up against right from the beginning,” James says.
Even bad weather doesn’t have to stretch your timeline. “We insist on installing a tin hat roof,” he continues. “This is a comprehensive scaffolding design that shelters the property for the duration of the works and avoids any delay.”
However, there can be unforeseen issues. “Bats are occasionally an issue, as they’re protected,” he says, “so if we discover them in the loft, we may have to get a licence before any work can be carried out.”
Are you planning this type of project now? Let us know how it’s going in the Comments section.