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Loft conversion- should we?... (sorry, long and rambly!)

(35 Posts)
Erebus Tue 13-Sep-11 10:25:36

Or would you say, like my mum did 'Why on Earth do you need another room?' grin

We have a 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom detached, 12 years old, and 2 x DSs, 10 and 12.

The problem, such as it is, is we 'only' have one, large living room with what we use as a study area at one end. It opens into a dining room (kitchen opens onto it so it serves as 'the kitchen table', really) that opens into a conservatory. This works fine now as the DSs do their homework at the dining room table whilst I cook dinner, for instance. However, the dining table is constantly covered in crap books, papers drawings etc etc.

We have an integral garage but it too is filled with rubbish bikes, tools, paint, mowers, camping kit and so on. BUT that'd have to stay as we have nowhere else on the property to conveniently store all that.

Though we have a 'spare room', it isn't very big and it is filled with detritus books, games, toys, 2 set up sewing machines, a keyboard, a guitar, most of which is housed on the biggest size Ikea Expedit unit. Both boys actual bedrooms aren't very big. They hold: A single bed, an Aneboda (ikea) wardrobe and chest of drawers, a chair and a bedside table. The remaining space on the floor is, essentially 3 foot alongside their beds. I had considered cabin beds with a desk beneath but it struck me that though they are a very good idea, they are perhaps more for a 'really stuck for space' house which we shouldn't be (-We so have been in the past!).

Guests bunk down on the living room sofa bed which is a bit daft in a 4 bedroom house!

THING IS: We could probably afford a loft conversion to a single big room and plumb for if not install a bathroom up there now but not for much longer (we are both knocking 50). We wouldn't need to borrow and have no mortgage. In this area we should get its cost returned in added value. The reality is that there is every probability that the boys will be at home til they're well into their 20s. They will probably go to college from home rather than live in digs. Neither are 'friend mad' so I'm not looking to create a hang-out space for all the neighbouring kids BUT I am being told that it would be good for them to have a place to study other than the dining room table, a place where currently Lego could be upended and not picked up every evening; a place where the football table could be erected etc etc. It'd also be our guest room and would possibly have another TV in it. I anticipate that siting the stairs would chop out space in the current smallest bedroom so that DS would move into the 'hobby' room, leaving us with his old room as a small 4th bedroom BUT with a big loft space above.

Would you? I have a bloke quoting right now on the job but I anticipate it'll come in at £25,000+.

My reservation is/are:
Are we 'unbalancing' the house having essentially 5 bedrooms but still only one conventional living room and a single garage? Whilst you don't know my family, do we risk creating an environment where we never see the boys as they're up in the loft? Will I tire of 2 sets of stairs (though a tall, narrow 3 storey town house we rented for 6th months was a lot less hassle than I thought it'd be!). Or will I trill will delight each time I go up there (to sew, probably!) as the light floods into my spacious, airy sanctuary?!

If someone gave me £25,000 I think I'd do it in a trice but... should we be putting that sort of money into retirement funds?!

I don't know!

ChitChattingWithKids Tue 13-Sep-11 10:31:29

DO IT!!!!

You could easily spend more just on stamp duty and moving costs to upgrade to a larger house, let alone the price of the other house.

You will NEVER regret having the extra space. As you said, DC are far more likely to be at home for longer than they ever used to be.

It would be worth trying to work out if you can get extra off road parking, even if it is not in the garage. It won't be long before your DSs will want to have their own cars I suspect!

pantaloons Tue 13-Sep-11 10:37:00

We had ours converted, but that was to use as a 4th bedroom when our 3rd arrived.

It is a lovely space, but not what we initially intended. This is mainly due to building regs, the floor had to be reinforced and lined, the roof had to be insulated and this ended up taking over a foot of the overall height, meaning it went from being our new room to a room for our eldest. You also have to consider where to put the stairs, we wanted to run the new set over our existing stairs, but the head height was 2" short at the top so they ended up coming up in the middle of the room and taking a good 6ft of our bedroom.

We have sold up recently, but comments were made by potential buyers that although the house is 4 bed, there is still only a standard size lounge and average kitchen diner downstairs. I also agree with you about seeing the children, I like having mine in the kitchen doing their homework where I can keep an eye, but know this won't last when they grow into their teens.

£25000 is a lot of money for something technically non essential, but at the same time it could create a lovely space for all the family to use.

Sorry, not much help am I?

pantaloons Tue 13-Sep-11 10:39:04

Meant to say, I wouldn't hesitate to do it again and my daughter is gutted to be leaving her little sanctuary behind. Also everyone viewer who went up there said what a lovely airy space it was despite the lack of head room!

Ealingkate Tue 13-Sep-11 10:41:45

Do you have space to extend downstairs?

Erebus Tue 13-Sep-11 11:35:13

Thanks all very much for your input. What you said was helpful, pantaloons!

The bloke who came (local and recommended- this whole estate is of broadly similar type houses and he's converted loads!) inevitably waxed lyrical about the fab amount of space we'd have up there (a L shaped room with the taken-out bit being a bathroom, where the biggest 'body' of the L would be 4.2 x 6m). The 'loss' would be to the smallest room, leaving a room 2.2m square.

My only 'reservation' about the plan is the new stairs wouldn't rise up straight out of the upstairs landing, there's be a new short corridor with the stairs coming off that. I am also beginning to think it's going to cost more than £25k! He confessed he wasn't the cheapest but wants me to go and look at his other local estate work so he's obv. happy that the owners will wax lyrical!

Any other ideas and experience very welcome whilst I wait for the quote which I'll post on here.

Erebus Tue 13-Sep-11 11:40:59

Re extending downstairs, no, sadly, not really. The back garden is 12m wide and 6m deep as it is, the conservatory cost £8k and is 2 years old (put in before we bought the house) - it's plonked where you'd extend BUT we have found we use it loads; there is no front garden as such, just a triangular hard standing for at a push 3 cars (was are the end house of a cul de sac).

jasminerice Tue 13-Sep-11 12:09:58

We had a loft conversion done and have 2 double bedrooms and a bathroom up there. It had made a huge difference for us, we love it and it was well worth the money.

But we also need more space downstairs and are going to do a ground floor extension. We only have one large living space downstairs, and the house is top heavy with 5 bedrooms and two bathrooms.

thereinmadnesslies Tue 13-Sep-11 12:25:37

If you did the loft conversion I'd consider the house unbalanced. Sorry blush. We live in an estate of similar age houses and lots have had loft conversions but still lack downstairs space. It might work for teenagers but to appeal to younger families I think you need more space downstairs.
Could you do a garage conversion - I know you said that you store a lot in the garage but could you keep half as storage and the other half as a family room? or replace the conservatory with something slightly bigger? Or get a luxury garden shed with a sofa bed?

Erebus Tue 13-Sep-11 12:39:08

Yes, I am a bit worried about the 'unbalanced' aspect, and really, we would be throwing good money after bad as it were to demolish the conservatory and build out there. Ideally I would 'do' the garage, but that'd have 'light problems' if we left the front, door end 1/3 to 1/4 as storage- any side window would open onto a wooden fence and the sheer, windowless wall of the neighbour's. Oh for ownership of 1m more of what's council land to the other side of the house!

Our plot is a slightly elongated right angled triangle with the pointy tip lopped off. You enter the plot through the narrow tip (where the triangle's point has been taken!). The front of the basically square house is right in front of you, garage (and neighbour) to the left, council 'nature strip' to the right (3m of tree and shrub; then pavement, grass strip, then road). There's access to the back alongside the left of the house, about 1m wide; but at the point the right hand side front of the house comes close to what is the hypotenuse of the triangle, there's a 60cm gap which widens to 2m by the back right hand corner of the house, in the back garden. I can get around there cos the 'barrier' is just council shrubs, no fence or wall there). There is a 7 foot by 5 foot shed in that area which could make perfect storage for all the garage stuff IF the access gap from the front of the house were 1m, not 60cms!

Erebus Tue 13-Sep-11 14:58:29

Anyone else with any thoughts, please?

Terpsichore Tue 13-Sep-11 15:10:22

We had our loft converted (in a classic London terrace), and were very happy with it. We didn't want a bathroom up there as it was always going to be used as an office/sitting-room space, not a bedroom. When we sold it, everyone commented on what a great space it was. No real down-points in those terms.

I'd just point out the amount of hideous mess involved, though. I'm sure you've factored that in, but if you're going to be living there while it happens, there will be dust everywhere. It's not for the faint-hearted or house-proud. I'm not really one of the latter but it did get to me far, far more than I'd ever expected!

Erebus Tue 13-Sep-11 15:19:03

Yes, re the mess!

We had our 2 big downstairs rooms Artex sanded and skimmed. I had so steeled myself to the horror and the plaster dust for evermore but in fact, though I did have to wash the wooden floor four times, literally, one time after the next, that was it, so we got away with it lightly.

Am awaiting the quote with interest!

ChitChattingWithKids Tue 13-Sep-11 18:36:09

No, you wouldn't be throwing good money after bad by demolishing the conservatory. You need to cost up how much it would cost to get everything you want in a new house (difference in house value, cost of moving, stamp duty, etc) and then decide whether it is worth spending a proportion or all of that doing up your house to how YOU want it. Just because you might be spending more on it than you might get back if you sell it now, that isn't the point of it, you are not a property developer. You are making the house fit for YOUR purposes. As long as you don't spend more than you would buying a new house, you would be doing fine.

Erebus Fri 16-Sep-11 10:33:53

I am cheating here in that this isn't my house, however it is identical to mine as there are rather a few like it in and around Eastleigh!


Look at the floor plan, first floor: look at the top left bedroom (4). See where its doorway is? Well, that would now go and a wall would be built across from the front of the bathroom to the outer wall (obv. with a doorway in it for access!), making bedroom (4) 2.2m square. Instead, you'd walk along this (new) short corridor, then turn left and double back on yourself to walk up the loft stairs that would rise up over 'W' and 'C' (W is the built in wardrobe in bedroom 2 and 'C' is a cupboard off the hall). The loft bathroom would go in above bedroom 4 and the rest would be open space.

I still 'get' the 'unbalanced thing' though Rightmove reveals some 'interesting stuff' around here, eg five bedrooms/one sitting room

what do you think?

I have also asked the council IF there is any possibility of buying a 1m wide strip of land off them to make access to the right hand side of our house to the shed which MIGHT make doing a garage conversion viable, but I don't like my chances! Bear in mind the plot of the 'identical' house is different to mine.

tyler80 Fri 16-Sep-11 11:55:20

You're not really gaining a bedroom if the conversion turns one room into something that's 2.1m by 2.1m.

Your house is already top heavy as the garage eats into the downstairs floor area.

I think loft conversions can work really well in older properties, they generally have a lot more roof space. Modern properties don't tend to have the height to create spacious rooms once you've added floor, insulation, cladding etc.You're not really gaining a bedroom if the conversion turns one room into something that's 2.1m by 2.1m.

Your house is already top heavy as the garage eats into the downstairs floor area.

I think loft conversions can work really well in older properties, they generally have a lot more roof space. Modern properties don't tend to have the height to create spacious rooms once you've added floor, insulation, cladding etc.

Erebus Fri 16-Sep-11 13:35:38

I see your point but in some ways I am thinking we will be gaining more than another bedroom. I actually intend 'sacrificing' that 2.2m square 'new room' as a room as it is too small to be Arthur or Martha- I am thinking I will leave it as an open space that you will access from the existing landing and off it will come the stairwell to the loft. I would 'desk' around the walls and make it into a study and book storage area. This would free up the 'study' area currently taking up one end of the living room (look at photo 2 of the 'identical house'- see where the door swings open and the sofa is under the window? That's a big area!)

The loft room, in total would be 8.5m long and 4.7m wide with a corner removed for the bathroom. It'd be a play room/teenagers retreat/spare room/hobby room. I am not entirely sure how high the the headroom up there would be- the apex is 2.3m above the rafters but I don't know how far to the L and R of the apex you'd go before hitting a 6 foot 'head'! (We're both 5'6" so less of a problem!).

Thanks for the input.

tyler80 Fri 16-Sep-11 13:50:00

2.3m is about the minimum, does your apex run along the short or the long length you quoted?

Not sure what you mean about the open space where the stairs are, fire regs mean you're likely to have to have a fireproof door to that room or second flight of stairs.

If you see this as an investment for your family then spend the money, I'd be wary of seeing it as an investment you'll recoup further down the line.nimum, does your apex run along the short or the long length you quoted?

Not sure what you mean about the open space where the stairs are, fire regs mean you're likely to have to have a fireproof door to that room or second flight of stairs.

If you see this as an investment for your family then spend the money, I'd be wary of seeing it as an investment you'll recoup further down the line.

RedHelenB Fri 16-Sep-11 14:14:57

Why not look at some that have been done in your street & then decide as the builder suggests?

Erebus Fri 16-Sep-11 14:19:35

tyler- your posts have an interesting habit of repeating themselves smile ! iphone?!

The apex runs along the long axis of the house!

I know I will need a fire door- it will either have to be at the foot of the stairs as a vestible for the bottom of the stairs (so across the small 'new' corridor if we don't go 'open plan' on the small bedroom left, or at the top of the stairs).

My 'hope' would be that we'd 'break even' in resale which won't be for years as this house is a school-catchment purchase. I am actually watching that other 'identical' house with interest as they're asking £24k more than we paid for this 2 years ago. Regarding resale, I'd hope that an agent could 'sell' the idea of that small room or ease of making the area into a small room as being 'a nursery'.

The -I'd say- 'unfortunate' fact is we are still building houses today that suit an earlier lifestyle- like, to be honest, 'the study' (if it's not an actual 'office', I mean). With wifi and laptops, 'the study' is wherever there's a flat space to open the laptop! But as for space for 2 generational living in big enough homes... (either DCs who can't afford to leave home or older parents needing assistance) And building separate dining rooms?!

tyler80 Fri 16-Sep-11 14:22:09

Phone not i smile

Erebus Fri 16-Sep-11 14:22:12

Out of politeness, I think I'd need to see his quote and be sure I'm serious before we went door-knocking, as it were!

However, I am going to know on the door of the first house in the close which is identical to ours as they have a loft conversion, done by my 'quoting' company but maybe 10 years ago, they say. I really want to know where they put their stairs!

Erebus Fri 16-Sep-11 14:22:34

aye aye, tyler! Geddit?!

Erebus Fri 16-Sep-11 14:23:08

KNOCK on the door, of course, redhelen

minipie Fri 16-Sep-11 15:43:50

I would definitely do it.

I wouldn't worry about the house being unbalanced. You have 2 reception rooms (one living one dining) and a largeish kitchen from the look of it, plus a conservatory. That's pretty decent living space.

There are loads of victorian terraces near me which have a reception, then a second reception/dining, then a large kitchen, all on the ground floor. No They then have 5 beds upstairs (one of which is loft conversion). They work absolutely fine for living space and are much in demand. (And they have no garage or conservatory either usually).

I think you will get lots of use from the extra space. If I were you I would leave the boys' rooms where they are, use bedroom 2 as a lovely sanctuary for guests and your own study/sewing area, and make the loft room into a homework/den area. If you're worried about them being too far away then swap those round and make the loft the guest room/sanctuary.

However, I would get a few second opinions on where to put the stairs. I don't see why you should have to chop off part of bedroom 4. For example why can't they double back on the existing staircase, so effectively you lose the sticky-out bit of bedroom 2 instead.

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