Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Pre-commencement meeting.

Once all the documentation is in place concerning building regulations and planning if required we arrange a meeting with our clients. These meetings are held at a time to suit the clients, quite often late evening so any young children are tuck up in bed and the parents can concentrate.

The details we discuss will include:
*confirming the start date that would have already been allocated upon placing an order with us.
*time working day will begin and end. 
*scaffold position and any access required. Also skip positions, could be on the road or maybe a driveway.
*where our materials will be stored on site, normally below and on the scaffold area.
*what will happen on the first day and access required. Getting power lead into loft and removing loft access from the house, also carpet protector to hallway.

We will go on to chat about the exterior items such as;
*window sizes, designs and positions to re-check what is shown on the plan is correct and you are happy with them.
*any new roof covering that may be required, colour of tiles/slates. We try to match the existing type of materials as close as practicable.
*type and colour of guttering, again usually to match the existing.

The inside of the conversion requires most discussion;
*door designs to new floor and any fire doors to lower levels if required. We often send web links of various types of doors that are available.
*door handles, normally to match the existing although sometimes we fit new throughout the property.
*skirting and architrave type and material. We can supply standard profiles or machine details to match.
*stair bannister's and spindle design, as with the skirting, standard or machined to match.
*any additional timber moulding we need to match.
*radiator and towel rail positions.
*electrical sockets, light and switch positions. This is normally a tough one for the clients having not planned a room before. We offer advice using our knowledge of the past conversions completed. 
*sanitary goods. Such a personal choice that we let our clients to either source their own good, or visit our suppliers which we then arrange for delivery when items required. Which ever choice we always like to check that the goods client would like are fit for purpose.
*wall tiling or waterproof panels. Again a personal choice, so we point clients in the direction of various tile suppliers. Respatex water proof panels are also very popular.
*floor coverings to en-suite and room areas. This could be floor tiles or often a interlocking floor such as Aqualock. We sometimes fit engineered or laminate flooring to main rooms as well.

Most clients will have made a list of question that we normal drop in and out of as we proceed with the meeting. Lots of tea drinking later all the meeting notes will have been pencilled onto a set of pre-commencement plans.

The meeting is normally followed up with an email of various links and points that need to be thought about in order to make final chooses on the various items.

Over the next few weeks the clients would normally be making their choose's of sanitary goods and tiles plus confirming other options that are outstanding. Most of the time this is done via email. A follow up meeting is scheduled if required. With all the details from these meetings and emails etc we will add notes to the working plans to create a build set of plans. All trades will have colour coded items on the plans so we will all be aware of such details as electrical socket positions, size of doors are required etc etc.

This means the client can continue with their daily life whist we go about building their loft conversion.
You can learn more about our services at Attic Designs Ltd

Friday, 21 February 2014

Full Planning Permission Application

Having established whether your proposed loft conversion required a full planning application, various considerations should be made. Please read our previous post on permitted development-PD rights- no planning application is required.

To be successful in obtaining permission the proposal should ideally be subservient to the property plus neighbouring properties and the general street scene should be considered. Most loft conversion dormers and gable would not pass a full planning application. This is due to their bulk, position and setting a precedent for neighbouring properties. Try to put your self in an un-biased position when considering what is appropriate.

Large flat room dormer boxes, great as they are for creating space, seldom sit that well in design terms on roofs. The same can be said for raised gables or hip-to-gable prevalent on 1930s semis. They remove the hip end feature of the roof and alter the appearance hugely. Also dormers that sit on the outside wall, either flat roof or a pitched roof design tend to have a large vertical surface. Most of these types of loft conversions and the conversion we carry-out have been carried out within PD rights. Now some people may say these types of construction are fine in designs terms. We carry out huge numbers of these conversions to our clients satisfaction but generally speaking they do not tick the full planning box.

As a general guide, keep the dormers set back into the roof, have pitched roofs that mirror existing roof pitches and if possible position dormers symmetrical to roof and windows below. Use materials to match existing designs and colours. Obviously that's a very sweeping statement and many factors can influence the final design, We will happily discuss options
that your property needs and how that relates to a planning application. This gallery shows all the different types of dormers that are possible.

The next step could be a worthwhile one. Create a pre-planning enquiry. This can be sent to the local planning office to get a feel of what the planners think of the proposal. Whist any reply should be taken as advice, it can give an indication of how an application will proceed. Ideally a scale drawing, floor plans and photographs should be include. We often chat to planners at length before any application is made to get a close feel what will be possible and be approved. On a note, planners do not consider any social issues you may have for the conversion, purely the design.

The application process itself is quite straight forward. Four sets of application forms, plans, design & access statements, site location maps, all of what we provide along with the relevant fee. All our application are emailed via the Planning Portal web site but can be sent direct to local planning office by email/post. Once application has been checked as complete it will be validated and a notice with various information posted/emailed to us acting as your agent.. Date council will work towards to issue a  decision of eight weeks, case officer and reference number will also be included

The council will start making checks to see if their are any planing enforcements relating to the property such as conservation area, area of outstanding natural beauty etc. Also they will issue neighbour planning notifications to local properties that mat be effected as well as posting on their web site.
  This allows time (21 days) for local residents to list any objections they may have. We strongly advise that in the early stages of design you think about your neighbours to the point of chatting to them. This means the notification comes as no surprise and they hopefully appreciate what you are trying to achieve. No local objections is always a bonus. On completion of the 21 days its over to the case officer. The mains thrust of the application is what does the planner think? You could rally neighbours for support and request letters of positive comments. This could all be in vain if the council considers it to be a poor design and they seek to protect the local street scene and amenities for future generations.

We normally touch base with the planners at this stage to see how things are progressing, etc. Sometimes material samples are requested and its a good to time discuss the proposal again. Maybe officer sees some minor changes that will help the application in being successful. The application can be tracked on line listing all the documents involved. At the end of the eight weeks, hopefully a successful decision will be granted. If not, then the planning inspectorate office offers and means in which the decision can be appealed. but that's a blog for another day..Good design will normally be approved.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Application for certificate of lawfulness for proposed development.

This type of application does not concern itself with the design but rather, to confirm that the proposed loft conversion work fall within the general permitted development order of October 2008 or GPDO.  

Certain types of roof space conversions will not require a full planning application and there is no legal requirement to apply for a Lawful Development Certificates (LDC). More commonly known as a certificate of lawfulness for proposed development. Some examples of the types of conversion that normally fall within PD rights could be flat and pitched roof dormers and hip-to-gable loft conversions.

Flat roof dormers
Pitched roof dormers


The planning portal has very useful guide called the interactive house. You can compare your own property and what type of loft conversion you have in mind.

However if you contact your local planning authority and perhaps fill in a "do I need full planning form". At best, their reply will be along the lines of. “We consider your application to be permitted development and will not require a full planning application based upon the information provided. However for a formal determination please apply for lawful development certificate.”
Therefore for conclusive proof that a full planning application is not required we will apply for the LDC on your behalf. This document is also invaluable in any future house sale as one of the first question and purchases solicitor would ask is the loft conversion require planning permission. This will answer that question immediately and avoid any other confusion should planning laws change in future.
The main criteria to be within permitted development rights for a loft conversion are as follows.
  • A volume allowance of 40 cubic metres for terraced houses
  • A volume allowance of 50 cubic metres for detached and semi-detached houses.
  • No extension beyond the plane of the existing roof slope of the principal elevation that fronts the highway.
  • No extension to be higher than the highest part of the roof.
  • Materials to be similar in appearance to the existing house.
  • No verandas, balconies or raised platforms.
  • Side-facing windows to be obscure-glazed; any opening to be 1.7m above the floor.
  • Roof extensions not to be permitted development in designated areas*.
  • Roof extensions, apart from hip to gable ones, to be set back, as far as practicable, at least 20cm from the eaves.
*Designated areas include national parks and the Broads, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, conservation areas and World Heritage Sites.

The application takes the format of an on-line form on the planning portal too which we attach our Architectural plans.

 Fee is a half planning fee. This will have existing and proposed elevations, floor plans and roof plans.  Also a site location map for confirmation of property location. Different authorities do seem to treat these applications in different manners. However the main trust being that the planners are not there to comment on design, purely to confirm that the proposed conversion. As shown on the detailed and scaled plans does in fact fit within the PD rights criteria. Once application has been validated we are issued a planning reverence number and the application information can be viewed on-line.  The process can take up to 8 week as a full planning application. However generally as we provide detailed information we often receive earlier certificates earlier.
The certificate will have an on-line record plus a copy you can lodged with your deeds.  

So, let’s us take care of the form filling and get your COL. Contact us for more information

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Submission of Plans to Building Control

After the Architect and the Structural Engineer have finished the designs and calculation they are then handed back to us for submissions off full plans building regulation application, certificate of lawfulness for proposed development or full planning application. We will discuss the latter two in our next blogs
Let’s start with building regulations. In short they are there for, and I quote 
The "Building regulations are about making sure all buildings are habitable, safe, dry and warm, when building or making alterations to your home.
Getting building work approved by your local council’s building control team, guarantee that the work is safe and up to building regulations standards as well as protecting you against rogue builders. So you should seek their advice before starting any building project.

We at Attic Designs Ltd have for a number of years now have enjoyed a close working relationship with Exeter Building Control via the LABC partner scheme. Head of Exeter building control invited us to partner as they felt we would benefit from the service they, and the LABC partner scheme provide. 
Exeter checks most of our plans regardless of what council area the property resides in. The passing of plans decision notice is then handed to the local authority to continue the procedure of inspecting the work as it progresses.
Benefits of LABC Account Management
• A single point of contact for all your Building Control work in England and Wales
• Clear, honest and consistent advice and reporting
• Site inspections from a local professional team with invaluable local contacts and knowledge
• A Building Control Surveyor in your Design/Development Team who can provide unique access to the planning department, the highways engineers and local fire service
• Strong and historical links with the Fire and Rescue Service
• In-depth expertise on structure, fire, noise, warranties, access, contamination, energy and sustainability from LABC specialists and our business partners
• Access to Building Control Surveyors based near the project to ensure fast response times
• By using local Building Control Surveyors you improve your projects carbon footprint by reducing travel miles
• National policy and consistent technical standards
• Simplified correspondence, faster resolution of queries and reduced paperwork
• Simplified fees and invoicing arrangements
• Electronic submissions and e-working
• The use of the LABC Partner logo on all of your marketing materials
• Access to LABC Registered Details*
• House Types as LABC Registered Buildings*
• Access to bespoke LABC Training packages*
• LABC Consult* 
Our entire CAD (Computer-aided design) plans are emailed to our point of contact at Exeter Building Control. The plans along with Building notes and various specifications we add are then checked for compliance.
The three types of applications that can be made are;
Full plans application
This requires the submission of drawings with details showing how you intend to comply with the regulations. We have a minimum of 5 weeks to check the plans for compliance that the applicant can request to be extended up to 2 months. The plans are checked and if any Building Regulation issues are found the applicant/agent is informed and given a chance to correct them. Once the application shows compliance, a Building Regulations Approval Notice is issued. Work is checked during construction and a Completion Certificate is issued when we are satisfied that the work has been completed satisfactorily. Where The Regulatory Reform [Fire Safety] Order 2005 applies, a Full Plans Application must be deposited.
Building notice (we do not recommend this application type)
This is suitable for works to dwellings, however not all works can be carried out on a building notice; there are restrictions for situations such as building over or near a sewer. Work can start once we have registered the building notice.  Inspections are carried out during the construction and a Completion Certificate is issued as per the Full Plans procedure. The fees for a Building Notice will be higher than a Full Plans Application. 
Regularisation. (this also is the route some illegal loft conversions try when "found out")
If you have carried out works without building control approval, a retrospective application can be made to certify that the works are within the regulations. There is an additional fee for a regularisation application. You may be asked to expose elements of the work in order to prove they comply.

All of our loft conversion applications have full plans applications made however two difference stand out using the partner scheme. 
1. Working together as close partners for the end result of a fully compliant loft conversion.
2. Prompt replies to applications, correspondence and site visits.

We will not start work without all plans being passed for building regulation compliance. This is to give you peace of mind that what is being built is legal, safe and has been thoroughly check,

The council inspector will then go on the check work as it commences that it is being built in accordance with the passed plans passed under our LABCagreement.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Architect Survey

In order for us to produce working drawings/plans plus structural calculations the next step in the loft conversion process is for our Architect to visit your property. The architect will follow on from the sketch design we provided you with but will go into far greater detail. Upon the architects visit all aspects of the property will be considered.
                 First stop will be the loft space.

Truss rafter roof

Traditional cut roof
A traditional cut roof as shown on the left will require a different design approach to a truss roof on the right.
Items noted will include timber sizes and spacing's of Rafters, Ceiling Joists, Hips,Vally's & Ridges. Also party walls and their construction, services and roof covering. 

                 Next step is the first floor..

All walls, windows, chimneys and door positions will be noted. Also the type of construction of the internal walls. Are they solid masonry, could they be used for load bearing capacity for the new floor above? The location of new staircase will also be considered and check.

                Down to the ground floor...

Again all details as listed above will be checked along with confirming relative wall positions to those above. Not all properties have solid masonry walls that line up. Also some will have masonry walls to lower levels but timber walls above. A fire escape corridor is required in house conversions so any implication concerning those regulations will be noted as well.

                 Finally to the exterior....

Property type, terrace, semi-detached etc. Overall design, age of property and construction,  drainage, access, and planning implications. The planning implication could be concerning the overall design in fitting in with the surrounding properties and area (full planning), or considering cubic volumes, principel elevations. (certificate of lawfulness, COL). We will go on to discuss both in a full planning and COL in a future blog.

The Architect will then go on to produce CAD plans (computer aided design).

These plans will show the exterior if required for planning. All existing floors plus all floors with the proposed changes shown. New loft conversion floor plan and elevations will show the room layout, wall, window, dormers, en-suites and staircase etc. All details as we agreed prior to the contract signing. Along with the plans will be a specification of details such as insulation and their U value (heat loss), fire regulations, ventilation, heating, electrical works etc.

When we have confirmed that all details are correct the plans will then be emailed to the structural engineer. He will use the details from the plans plus any further notes by the architect and ourselves to design the major elements holding new floor and roof. These could be steel beams, glulam timbers, flitch beams plus new floor joists, rafters and lintels.

The working plans, notes and structural calculation are now complete and ready for submission to planning if required and for building regulation full plans approval.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Contract & Order

Once a client has decided to employee our services we will prepare a written contract.  To have reached this stage we may have re-quoted  for different options, had additional meetings and maybe show house viewings.
Were more than happy to sit down and discuss all detail of your conversion.
This avoids any mis-understanding or what the conversion will cost and look like before we "put pen to paper" as the old saying goes.

Once the final design and fixed price contact has been posted to client we simply await the client further instructions. Upon receipt of a signed contact and a deposit which will be suited to the conversion type we will allocate a schedule start date along with a confirmation of order and receipt.

We have now completed a partnership agreement with our client and will move forward to the next stage of the schedule. 

Saturday, 13 April 2013


Following on from our quotation we can offer clients a chance to view examples of past conversions. This can be very useful on three counts.

1. To understand how a conversion looks and fills in terms of space.
2. To chat to past customers to understand how work effected the homeowners.
3. To view the standard of our work.
All important factors to consider our when looking to appoint a contractor.

Point 1 is often the choice between going ahead with a Veulx/Fakro roof window conversion as shown below. A usable room but is it large enough?

Maybe a dormer style conversion to gain more room and perhaps allow for an en-suite.

Both example show a double bed and the space around it. Often a viewing will confirm how much space the prospective client requires.

The people on our show house list have approach us to say that they would be more than happy to show other people around the conversion. Usually we put the the homeowner and prospective client  in contact and allow them to make the arrangements. We rarely attend a viewing as we like the person viewing to ask any question to the homeowner and not feel any pressure from us. 

After a viewing we hope you will feel confident in making your decision.