Loft conversion….first instalment – Home Guide Expert and P R Henry Builder

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For the past few weeks we have been undergoing loft renovations to our property.

We decided not to use a loft conversion company because we have an experienced builder. If you know of a reputable builder you could cut costs by following our experience.

1. Find a Contractor/Builder/Scaffolder

Before you commit to this route we suggest you get a quote from at least three builders and three loft conversion specialists to weigh up which option would be best for you.

If you have already sourced a builder, they may be able to recommend a scaffolder that they have worked with previously.  You have many options here.  You can ask for a recommendation from someone having works carried out locally or you can find a scaffolder on the National Access & Scaffolding Confederation site.  We recommend Scafforce*, they were fantastic from start to finish on our build and highly recommend them.  *Please note that we are not paid by Scafforce for this endorsement.

2. Inform your insurance company

You will need to inform your insurance company of your intention of carrying out renovations to your home in advance of the works commencing. Check your policy wording.

In our case, our insurance company wording states that we would only need to advise them of the works if they “exceed £50,000 or which necessitates you vacating the home or the home not being adequately furnished to be lived in normally”.  With an experienced builder in residence, this was not an issue for us.

3. Find an architect

We found an architect to provide us with drawings and give us guidance throughout the project.  You could start by contacting your local building control department of your local council for assistance with this or check the Register of Architects to find one in your area. We found ours by google searching “planning permission applications London”, London being our local area.  After a little digging around you will find contact details of agents of local builds.

Once you find an architect, you will be given an approximate cost to provide a set of drawings for the relevant project and receive guidance throughout.  Your architect will visit your property and go over ideas with you.  Once a design is agreed, your architect will provide drawings that may require modifying until both parties are happy with it.

4. Structural Calculations

Your architect may advise you that you may need structural calculations for any steels required for your property.  Your architect will have worked with someone prior so you could ask them for details.  If this is not possible, you should check with the Institution of Structural Engineers.  You/your architect should supply the drawings to the structural engineer and the engineer will then generate his calculations on a drawing.

Always double check the steel calculations from the Structural Engineer with your Architect paying particular attention to ceiling heights and the placement of steels.  Ensure that the Architects drawings and the steel calculations reflect what you want in the original drawings.

If you do come across a problem in the building phase (i.e. the steel calculations do not comply with the original drawings after checking them), then it is the responsibility of the Structural Engineer to pay to rectify the problem.

5. Planning Permission

At this point, you need to apply for planning permission.  Your architect may apply for the relevant permissions for you from your local authority but you must always double check this yourself to ensure this has taken place.

Your drawings and structural calculations will need to be submitted with your planning application.

If your architect has done this for you:

Wait a few days, then in a google search type “planning permission applications [your local council]“.  Ours is in Waltham Forest so we typed “planning permission applications Waltham Forest“.  Click on the link to your local council, select “search for planning applications”, enter your address and you should find your application.  Thoroughly check that the correct drawings are there and they have all the relevant documentation in place.  If they do not, you should contact the planning permission department of your local borough.

If at any time if you find that the planning department do not have the relevant permission in place, you MUST NOT start building until this has been sorted out.  You should contact them first, then proceed with your build if all is okay.

If you are doing this yourself:

Contact the planning permissions department of your local council, they will guide you through it.

At any time if you find that the planning department do not have the relevant permission in place, you MUST NOT start building until this has been sorted out.  You should contact them first, then proceed with your build if all is okay.

6. Arrange borrowing or have funds in place.

  • If you have fully researched the steps above, you will now know whether you will need to borrow funds or whether you have enough to pay for the build.
  • Either way, you need to have a contingency fund before you start in case something goes wrong.
  • If you need to borrow to fund the build, it is wise to first check how good your credit score is.  If it is low, you may be refused borrowing from a lender.
  • If it is low you can:
  • If you need to remortgage to fund your build, follow this guide on how to remortgage your property.
  • If borrowing from a family member, always ensure that you can afford to pay them back.

7. Check whether you need a Party Wall Agreement with your neighbour.

If you are carrying out works on or near a party wall that you share with your neighbour(s), then you need a Party Wall Agreement.  Click here for guidance on how to do this.

8. Whilst you are waiting for planning permission, you should clear out the area in which the works are carried out.

9.  Once you get planning permission and you have a party wall agreement in place, you now need to apply for building Control.

Click here for guidance on Building Control.

10. Now you are ready to build!

Follow this guide on how to manage your build with Building Control site visits until completion.

With all of this in place, you should now be ready to start.

With the help of a great scaffolding company Scafforce, a fantastic builder PRHenryBuilder assisted by Cap Carpentry, we are off to a great start.

We decided on getting a tin hat (below) due to the great British weather and we have not been disappointed.  The construction of it took a few days but it has meant that work has been uninterrupted by the weather.  We are now ahead of schedule which means we can get on with the task at hand quickly and efficiently.

Footage of a tin hat from the inside.

The roof was stripped and one skip filled.  The loft floor was covered in temporary MDF boards to protect the ceilings below.

We found the beginnings of a wasp nest that was thankfully empty!

A few days later, the steels arrived and were put into place by four people.

The steels went in and were inspected by building control after installation. This is the first building control inspection you would need to arrange.

To find your building control online just type your council name (ours is Waltham Forest), then type building control visit”.

We dropped one of the floor beams in order to gain maximum floor to ceiling height.

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We purchased the bulk of our materials from a company called Lawsons. They gave us a great deal and the delivery was on time and spot on.

The shell is starting to go up.

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To view the second instalment, click here.