In a previous column I talked about ways of creating usable spaces in small apartments or houses. One of the opportunities I mentioned was building inside your existing roof space. This concept has great potential for providing additional floor area without increasing the overall envelope of your home. Increasing the size and shape of the external envelope is often one of local council’s main concerns, so this is definitely a simple renovation to get through council.
The first thing you need to work out is if your roof actually has the required space for use as a room. The main issue is height. It is impossible to create a useable space in your attic if the ridge is too low. You need to aim for heights above 2.1 metres. Even so, 2.4 metres is the minimum acceptable for ceiling height for habitable spaces, 2.1 is okay for a bathroom or laundry, and you can get away with even less for storage. If you want to put a study or bedroom upstairs though, you’ll need to achieve an average of 2.4 throughout. If the ceiling is sloping you can get away with having a lower ceiling height around the edges.
Once you have confirmed that you have enough height, think about materials and finishes. What look do you want? Generally the lighter the materials the easier it will be to build. Think timber structure and floorboards, plasterboard walls and ceilings. Two other important considerations are insulation and ventilation. As the top-most room in the house the attic will tend to get hot. Even on sunny winter days you’ll find the heat difficult to live with if you don’t install adequately rated roof insulation. If you have enough ceiling height, think about installing a ceiling fan.
Unless you intend to use the space purely for storage, you’ll definitely need windows for light and ventilation. Think about installing louvres with insect screens that you can leave open all the time. This will benefit your whole house in summer, as heat will be drawn up from below. Each evening open up the downstairs windows as well as the door to the attic to allow your house to cool down.
Access is the last main issue. A loft room used only for storage can be accessed using a ladder or collapsible stair. However, if it is to be a habitable room a proper staircase must be installed. Think about how often you will be using the room, and whether a staircase will take up too much space below. It’s worth thinking about how to use the space below the stairs for storage too.
Many people have already discovered how useful roof space can be. With good planning it might even become your favourite room.