The main reason for converting a loft is to create a functional space. For some households, at the time of the conversion this space might be just that – undefined space – with no specific plans for how it’s going to be used, but giving options for its actual function to emerge later on, perhaps as the family grows or working from home or hobbies take over other living areas.
However, most of the time, the newly converted room has a specific function it becomes known by, for instance if it’s a games room, study, household ‘breathing space’ or playroom. But when it comes to being a bedroom, a converted loft room cannot be called a bedroom merely because it offers enough space to fit a bed in, or because one has been put in there: a loft needs to be converted for the purposes of being a sleeping area, and in accordance with building regulations, in order to be called a bedroom. This is one of the reasons why some property sales particulars have that enigmatic ‘potential third bedroom, subject to regulations’ statement alongside the dimensions of a boarded and insulated loft space.
“Even if the loft has been converted in accordance with general loft conversion building regulations, the appropriate building control completion certificate demonstrating the conversion complies with the regulations which make the room suitable for use as a bedroom are also required.” says Guy Beaven from Abbey Lofts.
General building regulations for loft conversions mainly require attention to be paid to structure and safety elements which will create a new space which is fit for non-specific household use. Such regulations will generally set out minimum requirements to ensure:
- Structural integrity of the new floor and ceiling;
- Structural stability of the existing roof and changes made to party walls;
- Structural suitability of any proposed changes to the exterior of the house, in the context of the local area and any special factors relating to the property, such as being a listed building or part of a conservation area;
- Safety in the event of fire, including escape route;
- Appropriate stairway access;
- Soundproofing between the proposed space and adjoining areas, such as rooms below or through party walls.
Extra bedroom, extra regulations
So far, so good but if your loft conversion is going to be used as a bedroom, additional regulations and requirements need to be adhered to, in respect of:
- Headroom: part K of current Building Regulations will apply here as, despite the fact that the room will be mainly used at a horizontal level for laying down and sleeping, the room itself must offer sufficient headroom for movement around the room. Current stipulations require adequate headroom along the complete length of one side of the bed, without the hazard of hitting the ceiling. If the roof needs to be lifted and altered, to ensure compliance with headroom requirements, then additional planning permission may be needed.
- Insulation: important for all loft conversions, insulation to make the space thermally efficient forms Part L of current Building Regulations which apply to property conversions. These regulations apply to walls, floors and the roof itself and, particularly when using the room as living space such as a bedroom, these regulations require roof insulation to be a minimum of 50mm, something which needs factoring into the available headroom calculations.
- Fire and escape safety compliance: the regulations in respect of fire vary according to the number of storeys in the property, so it’s worth checking very carefully with your loft conversion specialist and building control as to which ones apply to your particular conversion. Along with Building regulations part K, which applies to escape route headroom, parts B and P (relating to fire and electrical safety respectively) will also apply. Generally, the higher the new loft room is going to be from ground level, the stricter the requirements. In all cases, an escape route must lead from the loft room all the way to the front door and include:
- A proper staircase, definitely not a ladder. If a spiral staircase has been proposed as a space-saving or aesthetically pleasing design option, it’s worth checking with your loft professional, architect or building control that the proposed design and its location will meet with fire safety regulations. If there is any uncertainty, opt for a practical staircase.
- Headroom of 2m (minimum) along the whole escape route. This may be permissibly reduced to 1.8 towards the edge of a stairway (for instance if the roof slopes at the edge) but only if there is a full 2m headroom at the centre of the flight.
- 30 minutes of fire resistance from all materials along escape route. Meeting this regulation may involve upgrading the materials in the walls alongside the escape route, particularly in older residential or period properties;
- The fitting of a fire safety door, which can be opened fully, as access into and out of the new loft bedroom. Any doors on other floors which are along the loft room escape route must also be upgraded to fire doors.
The value of the official bedroom
In most cases and areas of the UK, converting a loft room will almost certainly add value to your property – even if the space has only been converted in accordance with basic regulations and is used as a general storage space. But when a two bedroomed property is converted into a three bedroomed with a fully signed off, regulation-compliant loft conversion providing the additional bedroom, the property can then be fully valued as a three bedroomed home. So when you have a fully regulation-compliant conversion, it’s fine not only to call a loft room an extra bedroom, but also to enjoy the extra value, as well as accommodation, it could bring to your property.