Unused space — whether a spare bedroom that’s never used or an attic that has been collecting dust for as long as you can remember — can be put into efficient use with a dormer conversion in both traditional and contemporary homes alike.
From how the construction is done to the required planning permissions and pros & cons, we’ve rounded up all the details you’ll need to get started with a dormer conversion.
What is a Dormer Loft Conversion?
"A dormer loft conversion is when a pitched roof is converted into a box shaped structure, creating walls that sit at a 90 degree angle to the floor," states Robert Wood, Director of Simply Loft.
To put it out simply, a dormer conversion is done by adding a tiny structure called a ‘dormer’ to the top of your house’s roof. This helps expand the headspace and floorspace, along with creating room for installing windows that provide sufficient natural light to make the area feel spacious.
What are the Pros and Cons of a Dormer Conversion?
Windows and doors maximise natural light and airflow
Increases living space
Is a complicated process and involves hiring and hiring a contractor
Requires structural changes to a roof
What are the Types of Dormer Conversions?
There are four types of dormer loft conversions, each with its own unique characteristics.
Flat-Roof Dormer Loft Conversion:
Credit: Pro Lofts Essex
One of the most popular styles
Add lots of extra useable space
Can be full-width or single
Allows in plenty of light
A small balcony and French doors are sometimes added
Shed Roof Dormer Loft Conversion:
Credit: Charles Grosvenor
Similar to flat-roof dormers
Made of a roof sloping down at a slight angle
Good choice for houses with a gable roof
L-Shaped Dormer Loft Conversion:
Combines two dormers to create an L shape
Common in semi-detached and Victorian terraced houses
Gable (or Pitched Roof) Dormer Loft Conversion:
Credit: Absolute Lofts
Normally located at the rear of the house
Made of full-height glazing
Expensive compared to flat-roofed dormer conversions
How to Know if a Dormer Conversion is Fit for Your Home?
"The main ‘pinch-point’ with loft conversions can be summed up in a single word — headroom," suggests Ian Rock, a chartered surveyor. Although the normal height for a traditional roof is 2.4 to 2.6 metres, the available space shrinks when a new floor structure is added, and rafters are lined with insulation. Therefore, to see whether your loft is up to the mark for a dormer conversion, stand beneath the highest point of the roof (typically the central point of the loft) and measure whether there is a minimum of 2.8m of clear vertical space.
Pro Tip: If the height is lower than the optimal level, you could consider stealing some space from the rooms underneath by lowering their ceilings. However, this will add to the costs and the disruption incurred, so it is better to view your budget beforehand.
How to Know if A Dormer Conversion is Fit for You?
To decide the answer, ask yourself the following questions:
Is your home made of low ceilings? A dormer conversion can raise the height.
How much will it cost? This depends on the location you choose and the contractor you work with.
Where will the loft stairs go? If you need to sacrifice space from an existing bedroom, it may not be worth it.
Are you comfortable with the process? A dormer conversion might disrupt your daily routine for an extended period of time.
Does your attic have enough space for a bedroom, bathroom, or lounge? If not, consider some other type of conversion.
Why do you need a dormer? The type of dormer you opt for varies according to your lifestyle requirements.
Do You Need Planning Permissions for a Dormer Conversion?
"In most cases, dormer loft conversions don’t need planning permission as long as they stay within the permitted development (PD) rules for your type of house," says Robert Wood, Director of Simply Loft.
Since most dormer loft conversions are deemed permitted development, you will only need planning permissions if your project exceeds certain conditions and limits, such as:
You live in a conservation area or it is a listed building.
The height of the dormer conversion exceeds the height of the original roof.
The conversion affects neighbours through overshadowing or overlooking.
Bats reside in your loft. As a protected species, you need permission before disturbing their habitat.
Pro Tip: It is always best to consult an expert before initiating a project. You can chat with one of our chartered architects for expert advice and personalised guidance, and can even get their support with planning permissions.
What are the Best Dormer Conversion Ideas?
While what you do with your dormer conversion is fully up to your preferences and needs, we’ve compiled some practical ideas to spark inspiration for your upcoming project.
Create a home office - For people who need a well-designed workspace to promote productivity when working from home, a dormer loft conversion is an excellent opportunity to build a beautiful office.
Convert it into a bedroom: Whether you need more space for guests or your kids, a dormer bedroom conversion could be the perfect solution.
Add extra living space: A dormer loft conversion could serve as a lounge area where you can chill with family and friends.
Include a kitchenette or bathroom: Depending on the space available, you can enhance your space with more functionality, for example, including a kitchenette with a living room, or a bathroom with a bedroom.
Use it as a meditation space: Being a well-lit room, a dormer loft conversion presents a great space to de-stress, relax, and enjoy peaceful meditation.
Although dormer loft conversions can be expensive, their innumerable benefits make them a potentially worthwhile renovation. If it's something you've been considering, list down what your family’s requirements are, analyse your budget, and use the above guide to start thinking about whether or not a dormer loft conversion is right for you.
Chat with one of our Architecture & Planning Gurus to get some expert help to decide whether a dormer loft conversion is right for you. They can share personalised ideas and tips along with guidance on what to look out for in the process, to ensure that your project is successful. They can even support with planning permissions if needed.