A major change in Building Regulations in 2007 could mean that homeowners may have to tear down their new loft conversions and start again.

Alternatively, when you come to sell your house you may experience difficulties if an unauthorised loft conversion comes to light when the property is being sold and obtaining approval for building regulations at this late stage will mean that you have to open up parts of the work for the inspector to examine. You will also have to provide all necessary structural design details to prove the work meets relevant regulations and either remove the conversion, or
carry out any remedial works necessary to bring it up to standard.

There are a lot of people, including building contractors, who are in the dark about the new legislation and this leads to work being done by less scrupulous builders being potentially life-threatening.

Fire resistance

One of the biggest changes to the building regulations that relate to loft conversions is that the conversion changes the house from a two storey into a 3 storey house. This means that all the doors (except doors to a bathroom) that open onto hallways and stairs must be fire resisting to FD20. To be effective in protecting your family in the event of a fire, these doors should be closed at night. As well as doors, the Building Regulations require that floors and certain walls resist fire for a specified period.

Hopefully your home already has smoke alarms, adding a loft conversion will mean that additional alarms will be required. These must be to an appropriate standard, mains wired and interlinked to alarms on each floor level.

Weather resistance and energy conservation

In addition to keeping out the elements, the walls and roof of the loft conversion should also keep in the heat. They have to be constructed of materials that reduce heat loss and, of course, this can help to reduce your heating costs.

Ventilation and Light

In order to prevent unhealthy living conditions, ventilation has to be provided, failure to control condensation can affect areas that cannot be seen, such as roof spaces, where it can cause serious problems. Ventilation of these spaces is vital.

Any alterations to the roof structure to form roof lights (skylights or solar tubes) or dormer windows need careful consideration so that they do not adversely affect the overall stability of the roof. The rules for windows on loft conversions are now the same as for new three storey houses.

Getting Advice

Generally the best advice if to contact your local council for advice, their local building control department is often happy to give free advice before work starts. You should also use reputable contractors and not part with your money until you have a certificate of completion from the buildings inspector from the local council to say that the work complies with the regulations. After all, the last thing you want is to have to tear it down and start again, this will cost you time, money and a lot of heartache.