25 Jan A loft conversion for less – 5 ways to keep the costs down
A loft conversion can offer incredible potential for a home. It could be a new bedroom with en suite of course, somewhere with a view over rooftops and separated from the rest of the family, a floor to yourself. It could be a studio for the hobby you’ve taken up during lockdown, somewhere for you to create, get messy, be awash with natural light or have a little peace and quiet. It could be a home office –something that’s much in demand today as increasing numbers of people work from home or quit the rat race and start their own business. Or it could be a den for the kids, their own space to have friends and go wild (in a socially distanced way), while you enjoy a glass of wine (a large one) in the reclaimed living room. While this may all sound idyllic, the problem is that loft conversions are not cheap, so we’ve put together our top five tips for keeping the costs down in order to help you to make the whole process that much more affordable and within reach.
Way 1: Avoid costly misunderstandings
One of the most expensive mistakes we’ve seen people suffer from is to agree what needs to be done with their builder but then change their minds as they go along, sometimes many times. This can result in planned work changing at the last minute, having to cancel subcontractors or materials that have already been ordered, redesigns becoming necessary, and even completed work requiring removal. Every change will have a cost associated with it, whether to the budget, the schedule or the reputation of the building firm. To avoid costly misunderstandings, front end your decision making, spend all the time you need at the outset with your builder to determine exactly what you want and allow them to help you to visualise what this may look like so you do not need to make costly changes once work has begun.
Way 2: Standard conversion vs spacious conversion
There can be a significant cost variance between different types of conversions. The more complex a conversion, the more structural change is required, and the larger the space, the higher the cost. So, while a loft conversion which maximises head-height through the use of dormers may be ideal and enable you to utilise all the floor space in your loft, it will cost more than a standard conversion that can fit in the existing pitch. A conversion within the existing pitch may sacrifice some useable room space, but the money you save can go into making your loft conversion that much better, with Velux windows to wash the space with light, built-in wardrobes to optimise storage space, and so on.
Way 3: Avoid the opportunistic builder
Not everyone who calls themselves a builder is as good as they claim to be or as honourable. Most builders are lovely blokes – dedicated, honest and skilled at their craft – but a few bad eggs give us a bad name. Opportunists who play on a homeowner’s desire to get the best possible deal by quoting low, only to add ‘unforeseen expenses’ later on once the work has begun and you’re emotionally, and financially committed to them completing the project. Always ask your builder to provide you with references (which you can check up on), proof of insurance (they should be able to supply you with a copy), and a detailed written quote which itemises all of the primary elements of the project so the possibility of surprises along the way is minimalised.
Way 4: Interior design mistakes to avoid
An interior designer may be costly, but so too can be mistakes from DIY enthusiastic homeowners. The costliest part of the interior design of your loft conversion will be the cupboards/wardrobes and storage. Loft conversions often have sloping ceilings and tight spaces where standard ‘off-the-shelf’ storage solutions may not work or may take up more space than they should. The most cost-effective solution is to call in a local carpenter to build you some bespoke storage furniture, from perfectly fitted wardrobes to window seats with storage and dressing table and drawers.
Way 5: Fun with light
Windows and doors are where people tend to go a little crazy. The idea of floor-to-ceiling windows, balconies and massive skylights may be the stuff of dreams, allowing you to look up at the stars at night or out over the surrounding rooftops or parkland, but they come at a cost. Limiting your aspirations a little will save you a pretty penny or two. Just ask your builder what they would recommend for your budget.