Please click on
a topic below to find out Our Advice about Attic Conversions
For the vast majority of attic conversions it is not necessary to engage an architect or engineer. In fact we would see architectural drawings for only about 3% or 4% of our contracts.
However, if your house is unusual in design or layout you may need to consult with a professional. An architect will design the layout of the new spaces for you and an engineer will design the structural elements.
BATHROOMS IN ATTICS
Traditionally, bathrooms in attics have consisted of an electric shower, a wash
basin (with small immersion heater for the hot tap) and a toilet. Usually in a
cubicle with a Velux window.They are normally located on the back wall of the
attic room where an easy connection can be made to the existing bathroom waste
pipes on the outside back wall.
Because it is almost always impossible to position the cold water tank in an
overhead location, these bathrooms are usually fed from the ‘mains’.
Technically, this is not allowed under current regulations; nevertheless it is
the way most of them are done.
The alternative is to install a ‘negative head’ pump, (pricey), which pumps both
hot and cold water from the hotpress to the attic. The disadvantage is that you
must have hot water in the cylinder before you can take a shower, unless of
course you are a masochist who likes cold showers. Sometimes when mains water
pressure is not great, there is no other option. And these pumps can be quite
If there are two electric showers in a house it is necessary to install a switch
so that only one shower can operate at once. The power used by two showers at
the same time is too great and will blow the fuses.
Any reputable builder will be covered with Employer’s and Public Liability
insurance. But it’s not compulsory!
Public Liability insurance protects you, the householder, should any accidents
occur that cause damage to your property, or your neighbour’s property, or even
to members of your family.
Employer’s Liability insurance protects you, the householder, from any claim
against you should any of the builder’s employees suffer an accident while
working at your house.
Your house insurance company will insist that anyone carrying out work at your
home have these insurances in force.
The old bylaws were replaced by the Building Regulations which now govern every
aspect of construction.
The full regulations can be seen online at
www.environ.ie under the headings ‘What we do’ and ‘Building Standards’.
It is essential that all regulations are adhered to when converting your attic.
This is to protect you, your family, and your property.
Unfortunately, it is an undeniable fact that a great number of the attic
converters operating today do not fulfil their obligations in this regard. There
are two reasons for this.
- They are ignorant of the regulations.
- If they did observe all regulations their prices would be no different
to those of the established companies.
CERTIFICATES OF COMPLIANCE
When you are selling or re-mortgaging your house a certificate of compliance is
required for any structural work carried out in your home.
It may be issued by an architect, an engineer or a chartered surveyor.
The certificate should state that the work in question complies with current
building regulations, and that it is exempt from planning permission, if
planning approval has not been obtained.
The certificate should be obtained on completion of the work, so that any issues
can be resolved before your builder rides off into the sunset.
On the front.
If your house is a bungalow out on its own, or in an area of mixed style houses
it should be possible to get planning permission.
However, it’s very rare for a two story house in an estate to get permission for
front dormers. In fact, if you make an application you probably have a 5% chance
of success. You would need to catch the planner on an ‘off’ day, or asleep at
On the side.
Side dormers are built on hipped roof houses for the sole purpose of enabling a
stairs to be installed on the landing above the existing stairs. The alternative
is to change the roof completely to a ‘gable end’ roof, or ‘apex roof’. This is
the more expensive option. Individual councils will usually favour one over the
other. None of these roof alterations are prohibited. However, decisions are
made by individual planners based on their personal interpretation of the
regional development plan. It is not uncommon to have one application approved
and another rejected just a few minutes walk away. This has happened to us
On the back.
Usually there should not be a problem getting permission for a rear dormer.
However, there is one particular council who shall be nameless, who will only
give permission very reluctantly, when pushed.
However, guidelines for dormers have been adjusted in recent years. Planners
will no longer grant approval for these huge dormers spanning the full width of
the house and reaching out to the back wall of the house. They want dormers to
look neat and tidy, and not dominate their neighbours. So the new rule of thumb
is that a dormer shall not be wider than half of the house width, to be centred
on the roof if possible, and not to extend out to the back wall.
Having said all that, it is not unknown for an ‘outsize’ dormer application to
slip through the net, perhaps with a busy planner not paying attention to the
detail. But the chances are slim.
FIRE REGULATIONS IN A NUTSHELL
When you have planning permission for ‘habitable’ status for your attic room you
must observe the fire regulations.
- Fireproofing the bedroom ceilings
- Changing all the doors in the house for ‘fire’ doors with auto closers.
- Installing a dedicated fire escape window.
- Installing an interlinked smoke alarm system throughout the house.
And, you may need to create more space for a ‘regulation’ stairs.
When your new attic room is a ‘storage’ room, as most of them are, then it’s up
to you how far you wish to go with providing these precautions.
FITTED WARDROBES, CABINETS, SHELVING, DRAWERS etc.
- Steve Byrnes (Carpenter): 086 390 3911
STORAGE ROOM OR HABITABLE ROOM? What’s the difference?
99% of attic conversions are classified as ‘storage rooms’.
the roofs are not high enough.
50% 0f the floor area needs to be 2.4 mtrs high (just under 8 feet) in order to
(See Duncan Stewart's article below)
If your roof is over 8 feet high you could achieve habitable status by adding a
flat roof dormer to the back.
Otherwise your roof would need to be greater than 11 feet high to get the same
result (without the dormer).
So, what if your roof IS high enough? What’s the procedure?
First of all you need to apply for planning permission for habitable status.
Cost around 1k to 3k. Next you need to comply with fire regulations for 3 storey
houses. This means: Fireproofing the bedroom ceilings Changing all the doors in
the house for ‘fire’ doors with auto closers. Installing a dedicated fire escape
window. Installing an interlinked smoke alarm system throughout the house. And,
you may need to create more space for a ‘regulation’ stairs.
Will it add value to your house?
On selling, will you get more for your house than your neighbour whose attic is
a ‘storage room’? Probably! Will the extra gained be worth the initial added
Architect Duncan Stewart writing in CONSTRUCT IRELAND magazine.
“To comply with building regulations in terms of habitable space, 50% of the
floor area should be at least 2.4 mtrs. That usually doesn’t apply with attics.
In my view this regulation is restrictive and unfair. This requirement came in
from an old building bylaw, introduced in 1848, influenced by old health acts
because of congested buildings and living accommodation. It’s an outdated
concept. 8 feet in the attic is not necessary and 7 feet gives most people
We strongly urge you to notify your insurance company of your intentions BEFORE
They will expect you to insist on your contractor having Employer’s and Public
liability insurances in force. If you don’t, there could be problems with future
We sent the following email to five insurance companies.
“I am considering converting my attic and wondered how that will affect my house
Here are the responses:-
Thank you for your email. In relation to your query, there are no specific terms
and conditions for attic conversion. However if it is been converted to a
bedroom and you classify it as an extra bedroom you will have to notify the
insurance company. You would also need to increase your contents sums insured if
the attic is going to be fully furnished. This will add an additional premium to
Aviva Direct Ireland
Thank you for your email.
We request you to provide us with your policy number, In order for us to further
We request you to provide us with your contact number and convenient time, In
order for an advisor from our Customer Service Department to contact you.
Thank you for your email.
There would be no change in cover if the attic is converted. However you would
need to revalue your house after same to ensure that the insured sum is adequate
and you are not underinsured.
Converting the attic will not affect your insurance in any way. Once completed,
however, you may wish to re-assess the buildings sum insured to reflect any
change in the property's rebuilding cost.
Please contact us on 1890 247 365 if you have any queries.
Many thanks for you email. Please be advised for us to discuss your query
further we will need to speak to you. If you could please forward your home
insurance policy number along with a contact number for yourself.
INSULATION AND ATTIC CONVERSIONS
As everyone knows, insulating the floor of your attic is the most cost effective
way of preventing heat loss in the home.
All you have to do is lay out the required thickness of insulation between the
ceiling joists (the timbers you walk on trying not to go crashing through the
However, when you intend converting your attic into a usable room this becomes a
The space between the attic room floor and the bedroom ceiling is very limited.
The same goes if you are simply flooring out the attic for storage.
Using a high thickness of fibreglass and packing it into a space half the size
reduces its effectiveness
The air trapped inside the fibreglass gives it its properties, Squeezing the air
out of fibreglass is not on.
Quilted foil insulation seems to be the answer to a lot of insulation
difficulties in walls and ceilings of attic rooms. However, its effectiveness is
totally dependent on the skill of the person fitting it. For it to work properly
there must be a completely sealed pocket of air trapped between it and the
plasterboard. Should any air be able to escape through light and plug socket
fittings, or through any gaps left by careless fitters, the insulation is
The manufacturers of these foils themselves have certified the effectiveness and
U values of the products. But they have not been independently certified by any
of the usual bodies, a fact which casts some doubt on their acceptance by
However, I can’t believe that large firms would go to the trouble of
manufacturing a product that does not ‘do what it says on the tin’.
If your home is an apartment, duplex or a normal house in a compound with a
management company you usually need their permission before converting the
A further complication can be that in the case of an apartment or duplex the
roof is often owned by everyone in the block, and you may need the other owners’
A further complication can be that the roof insurance is covered by a block
policy so how do you protect your interest in the new attic conversion?
In these instances you need to consult with the management company, and secondly
consult with the solicitor who carried out the conveyance when you purchased the
In our 25 years in business we have been in negotiations with at least a dozen owners who wished to convert their attics in apartments and duplexes and every one of them fell through because of the above complications. However, recently we have had some successes with a few conversions in duplex apartments.
- Nicola Fagan: 087 297 7699
A standard attic conversion with Velux windows at the back does not need
However, if you want windows on the front; or if you want a dormer; or to make
any change to the roof profile; then planning permission is required.
Also, if you want your attic room to have ‘habitable’ status, then you need
99% of attic rooms are classed as ‘storage’ rooms and are therefore exempt.
CHI Attics offers a full planning service at a very keen rate.
RADIATORS IN ATTICS
The success or failure of attic radiators depends on two things.
Whether the system is ‘open’ or ‘closed.’ (Pressurised or not) And
Whether your boiler is capable of supporting another radiator, but on a 3rd
If your heating system is an ‘open’ one then it needs to be ‘closed’, or
‘pressurised’. That’s not a big deal, it adds a bit to the cost but not a lot.
However, if you have a back boiler system as well, then you can’t pressurise.
Sometimes people have already added extra radiators in an extension or sun room.
Or they may have one radiator in the house that continually gives trouble. In
these cases adding another radiator in the attic is asking for trouble. You may
be better off with a wall mounted convector heater with timer and thermostat.
Unless of course, you intend upgrading your heating system anyway.
RECESSION & PRICES
Before the recession the established professional conversion companies were charging
an average of 20k to 22k for a three or four bed house.
So, what has happened in the meantime?
Building prices have fallen by between 10% and 15% (See Irish Times article
Surely they have fallen by more than that?
Look at the facts.
- Building industry salaries have not gone down.
- The cost of materials has not gone down, in fact some have gone up.
- Insurance costs have not gone down.
- Transport and vehicle costs have gone up.
The only element to fall has been the bottom line for builders.
So, how is it that so many attic conversion ‘specialists’ are charging much less
Well, I am going to leave that to your imagination. BUT remember!!
- Traditionally, the building industry has had more than its fair share of
‘dubious’ operators. Nothing has changed in that regard.
- Some have impressive websites, many give themselves grand titles and great
pedigrees. However, at least 75% of current attic conversion ‘specialists’ would
not recognise a building regulation if it jumped up and bit them on the nose.
- So, beware of those people who guarantee their price is the cheapest. It is the
cheapest because their work falls far short of acceptable standards.
- There’s currently a very prominent website whose wildly exaggerated promises are
the joke of the industry. To honour even some of the promises they make, their
quotations would be the highest of all, yet they are among the cheapest.
- Should you ask us to conduct a survey (free) I will sit down with you and show
you how cheap conversions are carried out. You will not like what you see.
Hugh Moore, Managing Director, CHI Attics
Some Articles from the Media
THE IRISH TIMES
John Nolan, surveyor with Austin Reddy & Co.
“The biggest price falls have been on the large volume work, but when you get
back to the smaller, domestic jobs, the room for builders to manoeuvre on price
is much more limited. Most people are prepared to pay a premium for peace of
mind when it comes to their own homes.
Nolan says that while tender prices for large scale projects has fallen by over
30 per cent, the domestic market has fallen by closer to 10 and 15 per cent.
If you tender you will get much lower prices than you anticipated but I can
guarantee that the price at the start will not be the same as the price at the
finish. He also warns people to
be wary of a builder cutting costs to such an
extent that they don’t have the capacity to finish a job”
SOCIETY OF CHARTERED SURVEYORS
Ken Cribbins, President,
“Contractors and sub-contractors are now bidding well below cost just to secure
work and keep cash flowing, a practice which is unsustainable. He warned that if
activity failed to pick up, more firms would go out of business.
His fears were borne out almost immediately by figures from the Central
Statistics Office showing that 86,800 construction workers had lost their jobs
in the last twelve months”
Solar heating in most houses usually means two roof panels providing around 70%
of a family’s hot water needs for personal and laundry washing. For optimum
effect these panels need to be positioned on a south facing roof which can
sometimes conflict with roof windows for attic conversion.
The house also needs extra hot water storage capacity so your hot water cylinder
would be replaced with a much bigger one (2 metres tall).
These systems are best left to professional installers.
We recommend: Ecologics Solar Solutions Ltd.,
If you are talking about noisy teenagers in the attic room the best insulation
is a carpet on the floor.
Timber floors can be a nightmare in this situation.
If you intend using the new room for music practice or the loud playing of music
there are specific products available for minimising the transfer of sound from
house to house, or from attic to bedrooms below.
But this is not cheap. To provide sound insulation to the floor and to gable
walls could cost between €1,500 and €3,000. And it is not foolproof. The best result you
can hope for would be to ‘dampen’ or ‘muffle’ the sound.
The same solution applies to incoming sound from outside the house.
To provide complete soundproofing would require the services of professionals in
Steel beams are required in the vast majority of attic conversions. The size of
these beams varies according to the span from wall to wall.
Timber beams cannot be used instead in any circumstances unless the span is 12
feet or less.
In some older houses it is sometimes possible to omit the steel and bridge the
gaps from front to back wall plates with new flooring joists, but only when the
centre wall is a ‘supporting’ wall, and the spans are not too big.
The size of the new flooring joists also varies according to the span to be
Some new houses have been constructed with structural timbers already in place
to facilitate an easy attic conversion.