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Grand designs: attic room or shiny kitchen?

WHEN deciding what renovations to undertake, focus on needs first. You might like the idea of a swanky new extended kitchen, but if your growing family needs another bedroom, perhaps converting the attic is a better idea.

The first thing to decide is whether any proposed work requires planning permission.

Michael Gaynard of ArdCo Construction Ltd, which has carried out a number of projects under the HRI scheme, says many extensions don't require permission and are classed as 'exempt developments', generally those under 40 sqm.

"There are certain criteria that such an extension must meet, for instance it cannot exceed the height of the house and the garden space remaining cannot be reduced below 25 sqm", he says.

It's always a good idea to let the neighbours know of your construction plans, too, and find out whether they might object.

The time frame for conversions or extensions depends on the project. Gaynard says that while home owners can remain in the house, this will affect how long it will take.

"The design and finish detail can also have a bearing on dates but on average a standard kitchen extension or attic conversion will be completed within a period of four to 10 weeks," he says.

"A survey needs to be carried out by a competent professional to ensure that the existing roof is structurally sound and to confirm whether structural supports are needed at various stress points in the attic conversion.

"There are a number of options available regarding finish. If space is at a premium, stira or spiral stairs may be installed but full or custom-made stairs will make it look like part of the original structure.

"Regarding flooring, it is important to bear in mind that although every inch gained in head height is a bonus, flooring should be of a high density build up, with adequate solid sheeting and sound proof membrane to reduce sound travelling to the lower levels. Maximum insulation should be installed at eaves and joist level for a higher energy rating."

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Attics can be insulated with rigid sheeting, spray foam or rolls of insulation.

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