Obligations Visual Impact on Your Home

Any loft conversion creating living or sleeping accommodation within the roof space will of necessity need some form of window for light and ventilation. Although you may escape these requirements for a simple bathroom or toilet, even in these latter cases the need for ventilation by extractor will result in some form of additional vent pipe or grille in the roof or gable end.

Before dealing with specific requirements concerning planning approval for your proposed conversion, the likely impact of the alterations on the architecture of your house must be carefully considered. The type of window installation - dormer, roof window or roof light - will depend very much on what is seen to fit in architecturally with the style of your building. It would hardly be appropriate, for instance, to install a steep-pitch dormer with a small gable on a relatively low pitched building.

Conversely, flat roof dormers will look totally out of place on a steep-pitch cottage roof (see Fig. 3.17 for dormer styles and Fig. 9.14 for further examples).

To gain the maximum amount of full-height room area within the attic, there is a temptation to settle for very large dormer windows which by their very size will have to carry flat or monopitch roofs; if this is the only solution then they should be kept to the rear of the property where they may well prove more acceptable to the planning authorities, simply because they will bring about no major visual change to the character of the main facade of the building. The degree of change to the building acceptable to the planning authorities will be dependent very much upon the building location. For instance, a loft conversion proposed in a house on a small development of architecturally similar dwellings will be viewed differently to the same proposal on a similar individual house in a street of mixed architectural styles or on an isolated country cottage.

Every effort, therefore, should be made to design new roof architecture which is in sympathy with the style of the existing property and that of the surroundings. The fenestration, i.e. location of windows in the facade, of the existing building will almost dictate the lateral location of dormers and roof windows, and this in turn may have some effect on the positioning relative to the rooms created within the attic.

Figure 10.1 illustrates unsympathetic dormer location, possibly decided by a desire to locate the window centrally in the rooms converted within the attic. This dormer, in addition, has a flat roof which is not in keeping with the style of the house; and the style of the window itself, whilst it may be regarded as desirable by the occupant, is not in keeping with the style of the existing windows. If the age of the house means that standard windows of that style are no longer available then special windows should be purchased to match the existing.

Figure 10.2 presents a better facade. There are numerous examples of loft conversions in which relatively cheap, double glazed, large paned, UPVC windows have been fitted in Georgian- or Victorian-style houses, and do nothing for the character of the dwelling, probably reducing the value of the property.

It may have been detected that people are receiving considerable encouragement here to consider professional architectural advice at this relatively early stage. Indeed it is strongly recommended. It is unusual for the layman to be able to appreciate and produce style, and it is worth employing a professional, but do find an architect who can show examples of loft conversion work already undertaken. Use the architect for planning only at this early stage of the proposed conversion as it may well be better, if planning approval is obtained, to employ a qualified builder to examine carefully the structural implications of the proposed loft conversion. Again, select a builder with great care - one who has a proven track record on loft conversion work. With the greatest respect to architects, whilst many can produce an aesthetically pleasing proposal, they are not necessarily the best profession to make practical and therefore economical proposals where major structural alterations to a roof construction are involved. Ideally, a combination of both professions should give the best results.

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Fig.10.1 Poor dormer design.

Fig 10.2 Good dormer design.

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