Below are list of questions (and our answers) that we have been asked about over the last 20+ years.
If your query is not listed here please email us and we’ll do our best to answer it.
Most attic conversions are exempt from planning permission because the ceilings are not high enough to qualify as “Habitable Accommodation”. However, if you wish to erect a dormer window, or to put your Velux windows to the front, then you will need planning permission.
With very few exceptions, attic conversions are carried out as “non habitable storage rooms”. In reality, however, they are used as bedrooms, offices, studies, games or computer rooms, and emergency guest bedrooms.
That’s correct. If you offer your house for sale you simply state that the attic has been converted. Prospective purchasers will recognise the value of the extra space and it won’t matter to them that you can’t officially call it a bedroom. However, please note that if you have made structural alterations you can’t sell your house without an architect’s “certificate of compliance”. This certifies that the work has been carried out in accordance with the new building regulations.
Well, you have two choices. The more economical option is to proceed as above for non habitable storage room. Or, you can engage an architect, have plans drawn up, submit them to your local authority for planning approval, and then have the job done. It’s a little more costly, and takes much longer.
Not all roofs are suitable. The first requirement is a reasonable height in the centre of your attic. Measure the distance between the top of the ceiling joist (the beam you’re standing on) and the bottom of the ridgeboard (the horizontal plank above your head, or, in the case of a trussed roof, the bottom of the square metal plate above your head). Deduct five inches and ask yourself if you would be happy with a ceiling that high (or low). Alternatively, take your courage in your hands and ask your neighbour, who has a conversion, if you can take a look at theirs. If your roof is too low, you should consult an architect or engineer for advice. (Click here for alternative suggestions.)
Most timber framed houses can have the attic converted successfully. However, it is essential that the roof be inspected first by a qualified structural engineer who will specify the support structure to be used, and who will issue the certificate of compliance afterwards. It adds a little to the cost, but it can save you from destroying your house, endless heartache and years of legal problems.
We have successfully converted many timber framed attics and will continue to do so using qualified structural engineers to ensure you get the very best and safe job you deserve.
There are two main roof shapes, a hipped roof and a gable, or apex, roof. A gable roof is very straightforward to convert.
The main problem with hipped roof houses is finding a suitable location for the new attic stairs. A “hipped” roof is one with a slope at the side instead of two block walls facing each other in the attic.
You have four options.
- Convert the attic with a folding attic ladder for access. (suitable as a home office)
- Convert the attic with a new stairs in either of the bigger bedrooms. A corridor is created between the bedrooms to accommodate the stairs.
- Build a dormer on the side to accommodate the new stairs which will be out on the landing above the existing stairs. You need a reasonably high roof for this.
- Convert the roof to a full gable or dutch hip. As above the new stairs will be on the landing. Planning permission is required for both these options. We provide a full planning service.
It all depends on the use you intend for the new attic room. If it is to be an adult’s bedroom then yes, a dormer will make a great difference, but remember, the higher the roof, the less benefit a dormer will be. The greatest benefit is achieved when the roof is low. However, if the new room is to be used mainly by the kids then it’s doubtful if it’s worth the money, They won’t notice the difference. A rear dormer does not increase the ceiling height, and it rarely increases the floor space, and when it does, it is by a very small amount. Those very large rear dormers are a thing of the past, planners will no longer approve them.
Most professional contractors are happy to work from your drawings, if you have them. In reality however, the vast majority of conversions are carried out without them. Drawings are not necessary for standard conversions carried out by professional contractors who have the expertise and experience to know exactly what’s required to comply with “building regulations”. However, if your house is any way unusual, it would be recommended that you consult an architect or engineer.
A suspended floor or a floating floor is one that is not resting on the ceiling. It has its own separate set of flooring joists between the ceiling joists. Most ceiling joists are very light and not suitable for supporting a floor. Sometimes a suspended floor is called an “independent” floor.
Most attic stairs are slightly narrower and steeper than normal, see photos, but occasionally it is possible to get a similar stairs to the existing one, it all depends on the available space on your landing.
The attic room is often the biggest room in the house. Even in the smallest of houses it will be far bigger than the boxroom. For a rough guide, measure the distance from gable wall to party wall; this is the length of your available space provided your roof is not “hipped”. Now measure the distance from front to back and divide by two; that is the width of your available space. (This is generally accurate, but not always.)
Most people don’t really want to move to a bigger house for obvious reasons, yet they need more space. An attic conversion the most economical extra space you will ever get.
By law approval was replaced in 1991 by the new building regulations. The situation now is that you have to have a “certificate of compliance” issued by a qualified architect, a structural engineer, or chartered surveyor whenever you have any work of a structural nature carried out in your home. You don’t actually need this certificate until you sell your house, or re-mortgage it. But it’s as well to have it from the start, because it’s proof that the job has been done correctly.
Radiators don’t always work well in attics. The older the system, or, the more radiators you have, the less chance you have of successfully extending the system to the attic. If you have a fairly new, pressurised system then a radiator should work. However, we need a simple connection in the hotpress on the first floor for a successful radiator in the attic. Some older houses have the hotpress downstairs and this is a non runner.
Some of the newer houses have no visible source of connection to the heating system. Rather than tear the walls and floor apart trying to find a connection we will install electric heating instead.
If you have an older system and you want to be absolutely sure, then install electric heating. A high spec electric heater with timer and thermostat will give you instant heat more effectively, and more economically than a troublesome radiator.
We believe it is best to leave it down, it will help with your BER rating. Some people take it up to allow heat to rise up through the bedroom ceilings. Others leave it down to act as a form of sound insulation. It’s a personal choice.
Generally no! The roof needs to be supported front and back, usually at the halfway point (between ridge and eaves). The stud walls at these points are supporting the roof, as well as forming the shape of the new room.
Modern flooring grade chipboard, and OSB, ( google it to see what it looks like) are ideally suited where you intend fitting carpet or laminated wood floor. Otherwise, t & g flooring looks very well sanded and varnished. But, you have to do the sanding and varnishing yourself.
A standard conversion will take about ten working days. An en-suite or dormer window will extend that by two to five days. A bungalow conversion could take up to four weeks.
Send us an email with your address. We’ll take a look on google maps and send you a report with estimate. A personal visit to survey is required to produce a proper quotation.
The re-location and/or replacing of water tanks is all part of the job. As is the installation of lighting and plug sockets.
The short answer is ‘Yes’. However, the cold water tank must be positioned higher than the hot water cylinder. It’s the weight of the cold water that forces the hot water out of the cylinder when you turn on a hot tap. So, the higher the better.
But, where in the attic do you put a high level cold water tank? You don’t want to have it in the attic room with you, it’s usually tucked away at floor level in the storage area.
If you haven’t got a really high roof the only alternative is to pressurise the system. This means installing a new pressurised hot water cylinder with a pump to fill it from the low level cold water tank. You won’t get much change out of €2,500 to do this. Moving the hotpress to a bedroom will cost about half that.
Ask the following three questions!!!
1. Are you a registered building contractor? Do you really want the local handyman to do this job for you? His estimate will be the cheapest because he doesn’t know how to comply with the building regulations.
2. Have you got employers and public liability insurance to work on my house? Who foots the bill if he causes damage to yours or your neighbour’s property? Ask to see the insurance certificate!
3. Can you provide a certificate of compliance when the job is completed? You can never sell your house without one.
But these are no guarantee you will get a great job done. Look for references and reviews, plenty of them, not just from his friends and relatives!!!
If your roof is very old it is probably near the end of it’s useful life. Ideally you should have the slates replaced, together with new battens and felt before thinking of converting the attic. It has been our experience that old roofs often have leaks that go unnoticed for years because the damp is soaked up by the accumulation of dust and debris lying around the attic. These leaks have a habit of showing up immediately the attic is converted and will need the attention of a roofing contractor to fix. If you have any doubts, you should get a reputable roofing contractor to inspect with a view to replacing the slates.
Unless your house is a bungalow or a very wide two storey, the short answer is no! Most attic conversions consist of a landing and a decent size room. Sometimes people will ask to divide the available space in two, with a large landing for a desk and possibly a settee; with a door to a small bedroom.
There are two considerations to look at. Have you enough space for the en-suite? There’s no point in having one if it’s going to leave you with a pokey room. What is the water pressure like in your house? If it’s weak, then you are asking for trouble putting in an electric shower. Instead, you will need to install a pumped shower with negative head pump from the hotpress.
Trussed roofs were introduced in the late sixties. They are simply a cheaper way of building roofs. Builders buy a set of prefabricated triangular frames, with a “W” insert, these are lifted onto the new house and a roof is built in a few hours, instead of a few days as had been the case. You can recognise a trussed roof by the “W” framework and by the square metal plates at each join of the timbers. There’s no problem converting a trussed roof provided you have two concrete block walls opposite each other in the attic, ie. an apex or gable roof. Hipped, trussed roofs can be converted, but not as easily.
Any work you carry out that increases the value of your home, (extension, porch, sun room, conservatory, attic conversion etc., should be notified to your insurance company BEFORE work commences. Otherwise they can refuse a claim for any damage to that part of the house.
3 storey houses have far stricter fire regulations than 2 storey. However, the vast majority of these attic conversion rooms are non-habitable, which means that strictly speaking, your house is not a 3 storey building subject to the stricter fire regulations.
This is how most architects view the situation.
You can, of course, voluntarily opt to comply with these regulations, but they do add considerable cost to the job.
- Fireproofing the bedroom ceilings
- Changing all the doors in the house for ‘fire’ doors with auto closers.
- Installing a dedicated fire escape window.
- You may need to create more space for a ‘regulation’ stairs.
- Fireproofing the walls of the hall, stairs and landing.
- Installing a linked smoke alarm system.
Everybody’s favourite household chore!!! I’m afraid so, you will have to be ruthless. Keeping all the kids old toys is not a good idea, your grandchildren will assume you are mad if you think they will want them. We need the attic completely cleared before work starts.
Great idea. Are you talking about now and again? Or all the time? We could put a barrier across the bottom of the stairs to keep them away from you. It might be worth considering changing your name too, so you don’t have to answer when they call you.
If you have a very good height in the roof then there’s no reason why you can’t turn it into a master bedroom. If the roof is low then I advise you to forget about it. Bumping into the ceiling a few times when you get out of bed will soon send you packing to your old bedroom downstairs. So, a good height is a must. A dormer on the back will make it much more usable, and an ensuite is also a must if you want to feel totally comfortable living in the attic.
I’m afraid not, under any circumstances. Picture him using the ladder when late for school and half asleep. Or, God forbid, after a couple of pints. (it will happen, you know). Ladder access is only suitable if you are going to use it for a home office, or similar.
That’s not a good idea at all. Entry to the stairs would be far too cramped. There’s also a good chance your forehead will be black & blue from knocking it against the top of the door frame. And it would make it much more difficult to bring furniture up and down.
They probably cost roughly the same. It all depends on what you want the extra space for. A garden room will take up space from the garden (obviously). An attic conversion is making better use of wasted space within the house. If the kids will be sleeping in it occasionally or permanently,the garden room is not a good idea for, safety reasons. I don’t think one is a substitute for the other.
Yes, of course it will. At the very least it will increase the house value by at least the cost of the job. Unless you get a cheapskate builder to do it for you. Then it will probably detract from the house value because of the easily recognisable shoddy work.
Yes. It’s very rarely necessary to move out. But if there’s a very young child in the house (infant) the noise might be distressing for them, so it would be a good idea to be absent during the day. We never leave you without water or power during the night, and we tidy up every evening before leaving.
Paying over the money, I suppose , is the only downside I can think of. Once the job is done correctly, by professional people who know what they’re doing, and properly certified, then there’s no downside. On the other hand, if you go with a cheap builder there’s no end to the troubles you are storing up for later.
Yes, that can be done. But it’s pricey enough, as scaffolding has to be erected.
Ah now! That’s a tricky one. You can put some sound proof material under the attic floor which will help. And you could cover all the walls and ceiling with the same material if your budget will stretch that far. It won’t eliminate the noise but will suppress a good amount. You could always ‘unplug’ him, unless, God forbid, he’s a budding Ringo Starr/Larry Mullen, then you’re really in trouble.
We are asked to do several of these every year, and I’m afraid there’s no simple solution. Usually these old conversions have no steel beams or suspended floor, and little or no insulation. The only answer is to bite the bullet and strip out everything and start again from scratch. We recently did one of these that had been converted only a few years ago by a cheapskate builder.
Sometimes a spiral stairs will fit in a space where a normal stairs won’t. That could be your answer, but not everyone is enamoured with spirals. Otherwise you are going to have to take some space from a bedroom, or use a drop down folding ladder for access. That might be okay for an office, but you can’t have smaller kids using it.
All attics have a water tank in the attic, usually right in the middle. We will move it into the eaves behind the new low wall, with an access door close by for maintenance. If it’s quite old or bulky we will replace it with a new coffin tank. If the tank was replaced already, the old one will still be lying around up there. We will take that away for you.
The new radiator in the attic is fed from a connection in the hotpress. If the hotpress in on the ground floor you would be strongly advised to forget about it and install a good electric heater with timer and thermostat, instead. They can be just as economical. Taking a connection from a downstairs hotpress would be extremely difficult. And taking the connection from a bedroom radiator is not a good idea either.
This often happens. Attic conversions companies are reluctant to move these because it would invalidate any warranty you have with the installer. You should get the original installer to move them for you, usually lower down the roof near the gutters.
You often see these massive dormers in the older areas. But they are not allowed any more.The planners decided they were too intrusive into neighbouring gardens. The new rule for rear dormers is that they can only be half the width of the house, that they should be positioned in the centre of the roof, and they should be stepped back a good distance from the gutters.
Usually it will. The only exception is when the roof is quite low. There is also a new rule for side dormers. Planners are now insisting that the new dormer should be about a foot lower than the main roof. If your roof is low to start with you might not be able to stand up in the dormer. The solution then is to apply for a full gable or dutch hip.
Usually no! Not unless you live in a field out in the country. But, if you live in an estate with lots of front dormers, then why not, you should get permission.
I know, it’s daft, you have to apply for planning permission if you want them on the front. It’s particularly nonsensical when you consider that you can put up an ugly front porch without permission. I fail to see any sense in that.
To get that you need two things: A very large landing, and a very high roof. If you have both of these the answer is yes! Otherwise, like 99% of the population the short answer is no! We will do the very best we can with your new stairs, and they will never be uncomfortable, but slightly steeper and slightly narrower than your own stairs.
You can, of course. However, the new stairs will be expensive because every part will need to be custom made. There’s no going into Chadwicks or Buckleys and buying everything off the shelf as we normally do.
It all depends on what you want to use the attic room for. If you want it as a master bedroom with en-suite, you will need a good finished height of at least seven feet and a big dormer on the back, to make a comfortable adults bedroom. I know most ladies would not want to sleep in a bedroom that’s shaped like a tent, but all kids would be delighted. If you want to use it as a home office, well, how much head height do you need sitting at a desk? Teenagers don’t care about low ceilings, they love the privacy of an attic bedroom. A low ceiling means nothing when it’s a young child’s bedroom or playroom.
Please remember that whatever the height is before work starts, it’s going to be 5 or 6 inches lower when it’s finished. This is due to the suspended floor and high standard of insulation in the ceiling. The lowest ‘finished’ height we have ever produced was 5 feet 9 inches, and that was just in the highest point. That would be unacceptable to a great many people. But for those whose houses are bursting at the seams and desperately needing the extra space, it can be a lifesaver.
Older houses have a ridge board, sandwiched between the rafters overhead. Measure from the underneath of this board, to the top of the joist you are standing on. Modern houses have trussed roofs. There is a metal plate joining the rafters overhead. Measure from the underneath of this metal plate, to the top of the joist you are standing on. Deduct six inches and that is the maximum height of your attic room.
BUT IT’S NOT THE SAME WORK!!
Let’s say the old family car is near the end of it’s life and you are now in a position to upgrade. You pop into the local garage and spot one that fits the bill. Nice looking, low mileage, good and roomy for all the kids gear. The salesman tell you it’s for sale at 25k. Your heart sinks, you can only afford 20k. “Sorry” he says. “This is what these cars cost” You go to another garage and see one exactly the same. The salesman tell you it’s for sale at 25k. “My neighbour has one, it’s lovely, but I can only afford 20k,” you tell him.
“Okay” he says. “I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll take this car around to our workshop, our mechanics will take out € 5k worth of parts, and you can have it for € 20k. It will look just the same” “Are you sure?” you ask dubiously. “Yes, of course, nobody will be any the wiser, it will look exactly like your neighbour’s. Shur it’ll be grand!” “Right, I’ll take it” you say jubilantly, delighted with the nice salesman’s reassurance. “But, tell me, what parts will you be taking out?” “I’m afraid I can’t tell you that, it’s a trade secret”.
The only difference between this story and the cheap attic conversion is that the cheapskate builder will never admit he is cheating you. On the contrary, he will assure you his standards are even higher than everyone elses. Shur, it’ll be grand, missus.
You take your son into Louis Copeland’s to buy a new suit for his graduation. There’s one suit for € 250 and another one for € 500. Do you honestly believe there’s no difference between the suits only the price?
You have saved up to buy the dining room suite you have always dreamed about. You have seen it in Arnotts for 5k. But your neighbour tells you there is an identical one in Des Kelly’s OR Bargainown for 3k. Do you really believe there’s no difference?
YET, SOME PEOPLE ARE PREPARED TO BELIEVE THAT THE WORK OF CHEAP BUILDERS IS THE SAME AS THAT OF PROFESSIONALS.
No. A standard conversion will not affect your neighbour in any way, apart from the noise during construction. You might advise them about this in the interest of good relations. However, if you are having dormers built it is sometimes necessary to put a couple of scaffolding legs on a neighbouring property, and you will need to ask their permission for that.
Well, you will need to engage an architect to prepare a full set of drawings and submit the application. He will put the notice in the newspaper, and hand you a laminated notice which must be displayed in your front garden. This can take up to four weeks to organise.
Eight weeks after the application goes in you will get the decision. You must then wait another four weeks for the final grant. Anyone can object at any time within that twelve weeks.
CHI ATTICS OFFERS A PLANNING SERVICE TO OUR CUSTOMERS.
N.B. A planning official will call out once only to make sure the notice is properly displayed in your garden. If, for any reason, he is not able to read the notice from the footpath your application will be cancelled and you must start all over again. We have had two instances where the family were away on holiday and local kids (we assume) accidently knocked it over when retrieving a football. Both families had to re-apply again from scratch.
Yes, anyone can object to anything they like, on payment of a small fee. However, if their grounds for objection are not valid it will be thrown out. They can’t object just because they don’t like something. There must be a compelling reason why your plans will affect their comfort, privacy, or the value of their property.