As a cost-effective way to increase living space and add value to a house, many people are choosing to convert their loft area. It can add up to 20% to the value of a property if done properly, so you can understand why many families are choosing to go down this route to create more room and add value to their home.
One of the first considerations to make when choosing to convert your loft space would be to decide on what type of loft conversion would be best suited for the project. With both modular lofts and traditional lofts being two options for a loft conversion, there are a few considerations to make.
A modular loft is a type of prefabricated loft conversion that is built off-site. The loft structure is built in a factory in different sections known as modules. These are then delivered by lorries to the property. Modular loft conversions require the entire existing roof of a property to be removed so that the new pre-built structure can then be lifted into place.
One of the main differences between a modular loft and traditional loft is the design. Typically with a modular loft installation, it does not give the opportunity for a bespoke or tailored design to be created that fits the character of the property. Whereas with a traditional loft conversion there will be more flexibility with this side of the project. Especially as most houses are out of square, and not level, therefore a traditional build can accommodate this.
A modular loft will also require everything, including all parts of the design, to be agreed on up-front. Therefore tweaks here and there as the project goes on cannot be done. This makes the whole project very different in comparison with a traditional loft conversion, where you would have the opportunity to review the conversion as the project progresses and change the layout. It means that in a modular loft things such as plug points, bathroom walls, size of windows, positions of bathroom fittings etc, cannot be moved in the future as the structure is made of metal beams.
In terms of the roof structures, a modular loft requires the whole roof of the house to be removed in order to fit the pre-built structure. This means that there is often more mess and dust created with the build and fit, compared to that of a traditional loft as this only requires half the existing roof to be removed as the front main roof will not need to be changed.
When a traditional loft conversion is taking place, a temporary “tin hat” scaffold roof may be put in place to fully cover the roof area in order to prevent damage from adverse weather conditions. In the case of installing a modular loft, it is not possible to have a tin hat roof because it would prevent the new structure from being lifted onto the house. This means that there is a possibility of damage to ceilings as the roof will not be fully covered with a temporary structure. Therefore if the project is put on pause due to bad weather, it would be particularly of concern as there is a risk of weather damage to the open house.
There is also the issue of the modular lofts being constructed with metal. Although this is typically very stable, as the whole structure is made it metal it can often block both phone and wifi signal. The structure almost replicates a faraday cage, blocking signal from reaching the loft area of the house.
The process of installing a modular loft typically begins with the roof of the house being removed and then the loft being delivered and lifted into place. During this time the house can be left vulnerable to all weather conditions, as rather than using a “tin hat” temporary roof structure, it will only be covered with tarpaulin.
When it is time for the modular parts to be lifted in place by crane, the measurements have to be completely accurate as the pre-built loft cannot be rectified as it will have already been built. Once in place, the house will still not be watertight as the roofing work around the sides will need to be complete. This again leaves the structure vulnerable to leaks during periods of bad weather.
An example of a “tin hat” structure from one of our traditional loft conversion projects.
Road closures will also need to be taken into consideration with the installation due to the amount and size of the lorries delivering the modular loft. It can usually take around 6-13 weeks to obtain a road closure permit, which is only valid for one day. The permits are normally granted for the road closure to take place on a Sunday, which is not always convenient for neighbours.
On the occasion that it is raining or too windy for the loft to be lifted into place the road closure permit will have to be re-applied for, which may mean another 6-13 week wait. The reason permits take so long to obtain is that all emergency services must be made aware, as well as any bus routes that could be affected.
It is also often the case that a lot of neighbouring houses may have to have their telephone cables temporarily removed from their houses back to the telephone pole in order to allow the lift to place the pre-built loft in place. This means for at least 6-9 hours your neighbours will be without telephone and internet access.
At the start of the project, accurate measurements will need to be taken. For these to be taken, modular lofts will involve the loft area to be cleared, which means that the loft has to be cleared out completely up to 8 weeks earlier than a normal loft would. This process is the start of the behind-the-scenes part of the project where the modular loft is being built in the factory.
As the modular lofts are built off-site and installed after, they can often be quicker when it comes to actually fitting them, but there are many external factors that can hold up the build. Things such as planning permission (if required), road closure permits and weather permitting factors can all stack up to lengthen the process of actually getting the project complete.
Another consideration to take into account with the timings is the staircase build. With both traditional and modular loft installations, fitting a staircase will take around the same amount of time on both projects. This involves the hallway ceiling being cut out and removed to ensure that the company making the staircase is able to accurately measure the opening, and also take the floor to floor measurement. Once these measurements have been taken, the staircase then can be constructed and delivered to site. It usually takes a minimum of 2 weeks, with an added three to four days to install and complete the additional plasterwork underneath the staircase.
Modular lofts are often branded as eco-friendly because of the fact that they are built in factories to exact measurements, which means there is little waste. However, you do need to take into consideration the environmental impact of the four lorries that have to drive from the North of England to deliver the loft to its location.
Another environmental consideration would be the roof replacement. As the whole roof of a property would have to be removed to make way for the modular loft, there will be a considerate amount of waste produced from this part of the project, from a roof that may not have otherwise needed replacing with a traditional loft conversion.
As the entire roof of the house will have to be replaced, it is often the case that a modular loft conversion will be more expensive than a traditional loft conversion.
While modular lofts might seem like the quick and easy way to convert your loft space, they can often be really restricting in terms of what they can offer, while also being more expensive than a traditional loft conversion. They are also very reliant on external factors like the weather, which can severely hold up the project.
Traditional loft conversions allow you to have full control over the design requirements throughout the project and also allow for future work to take place in the loft area. These can also be restricted by weather at times, but throughout the project, there will be a tin hat scaffold roof to protect the loft while it is being converted. Therefore this type of loft conversion is going to be much more suited to many looking to convert their loft spaces.
Having built close to 5,000 lofts conversions, we feel the traditional way is still the best option, as the customer has a much more hands-on role. From our experience, we have found customers struggle to visualise what they are getting from just looking at a drawing, whether it is in traditional or 3D format. They need to physically get inside the loft area to understand things like where the different head heights are, if the bed is going to fit where they want it, if fitted wardrobes work where they want them and if the windows are the correct size and in the right position. It is at this point that the customer can see what they are actually getting, and at a time when it is not too late to alter things. This is something that happens in the majority of all loft conversions, as it gives the customer the chance to express their vision and requirements for the loft conversion.